Whole Foods Market
There are some great health food stores in Miami, but on the whole, Whole Foods has more and often better stuff. Seems there's always something you didn't see on your last visit: the latest chlorophyll/kelp tabs; a new herb mixture to strengthen the lungs; bricks of dark chocolate from Prague or other distant cities; exotic organic plums, kumquats, and pomegranates; champagnes; soy concoctions you've never heard of. Whole Foods' own brand of vitamins and sauces and teas and frozen veggies, et cetera, are, well, really good. The place makes a chipotle-chili salsa that kills. And the fresh seafood/poultry/meat section is hard to beat for the likes of free-range chicken, hormone-free beef, and fresh sausages that Jimmy Dean never imagined (try the chicken-basil-spinach, or Greek-style lamb). Whole Foods' new store north of its old location is, while giant, very pleasant. Sometimes there's even a masseur stationed near the entrance, ready to properly relax you for a complete holistic shopping experience.

Best Wine Selection In A Restaurant

Indigo

If sheer numbers alone could point out a great wine list, then Indigo easily takes top honors, with more than 700 vintages from which to quaff. But as with most things, when it comes to wine, quality is more important than quantity. Fortunately this restaurant, located in the lobby of the Inter-Continental, proves itself thrice over with wines that range from a 1995 Château Lascombes from France to a 1996 Ferrari-Carano Alexander Valley chardonnay from California to a 1997 Yalumba Botrytis Sémillon from Australia. The wine list highlights a "Southern Hemisphere Selection," from which fans of Australian, New Zealand, and South African fermentations can consume to their palates' content. The restaurant also offers bargains in the form of a featured "wine of the month" and prix-fixe wine luncheons, at which several courses are served and several complementary wines are poured. The latter usually take place in the wine room, a glass-walled area off to the side of the lobby, where serious grape discussions often ensue. Given the eatery's dedication to wine, perhaps the name would have been better served by being called something like Rouge, Blanc, or Plum, rather than Indigo.
Most of the handful of Mexican restaurants in town seem to cater to Mexican-American tastes. El Fogon's fare hails from further south of the border (including the Yucatán), and the difference is reflected in the quality and style of their humble burritos. The chicken is seasoned and seared, the picadillo (seasoned ground beef) is divine, but best of all is the cochinita pibil -- chunks of tender pork stewed in the red, delicately tart pibil sauce. When wrapped in a tortilla with refried beans and enrobed in melted cheese, the cochinita crosses over from sublime to ridiculously good. Oh, and the burritos are huge; a party of two should consider ordering a cup of tortilla soup each, then sharing the monster. That way they won't have to roll you out.

Tuscan Steak
The intentions of Tuscan Steak should be obvious: That T-bone is meant to feed a family. Likewise that serving of three-mushroom risotto with truffle oil, or the herb-grilled rack of lamb with the green apple-basil chutney, or the oven-roasted duck with cranberry chutney. Prices indicate the restaurant's philosophy, as does the credo written on the menu: "At Tuscan Steak all portions are served family style and [are] intended for sharing." But note that the intro also allows that in this eatery, "there are no rules." In other words who says you have to share? So go ahead -- dine singly, order doubly, and make a pig (or a duck or a steak) of yourself.
Berries in the Grove
You're in the office, it's midafternoon, and that sweet tooth starts clamoring for attention. A thick, creamy, fruity drink would quiet the ruckus, but you don't want that artificial stuff the fast-food joints peddle. It's too far to drive to the farms in Homestead to get the real thing. The alternative is this roadside stand just south of U.S. 1. Take your pick of fresh papaya, mango, or kiwi juice, or mix and match to create a new concoction. Nonfat frozen yogurt keeps the calories down, and a scoop of protein or ginseng can be added for a boost of energy. Price is on the high side at $4.25, but think of all the gas you're saving. You can get your fix between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Best Restaurant For The Hearing Impaired

Joe's Stone Crab

Joe's Stone Crab
Photo courtesy of Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant
Act I: The front desk. A middle-age gentleman in a plaid sport coat waits in a ten-person line. He finally reaches the host, who is taking down names.

Host: How many?

Patron: What?

Host (impatiently): How many in your party?

Patron: Oh. Four.

Host: That'll be a two-hour wait.

Patron (disbelieving): Huh?

Host (shouting): Two hours!

Patron (still not sure he heard correctly): Huh??

Host: Two hours! Two hours!

Act II: The bar

Bartender: What'll it be?

Patron: What?

Bartender (impatiently): What do you want to drink?

Patron: Oh. I'll have a gin and tonic.

Bartender: What??

Patron (shouting): Gin and tonic!

Act III: The dining room, five gin and tonics later.

Waiter: Can I take your order?

Patron is silent.

Waiter (shouting): Whaddya want to eat?

Patron tilts sideways in his chair and falls over with a loud thump. The captain is called over. He assesses the situation and then drags the man out by his ankles to make way for the next party. The man's head bumps on the tile all the way to the door: thwack, thwack, thwack, thwack.... And you thought all that noise was from cracking stone crab shells.

Whip 'n Dip Ice Cream Shoppe
George Giampetro's dairy and nondairy creations are simply the best. Making ice cream is more than a business at this mom-and-pop parlor. It's a family tradition. One that Giampetro's daughter passed on to friend Yara Herrera. Since then she's been Whip 'N Dip's magical gelato maker, responsible for the 30-plus flavors in Mr. G's store. In twenty minutes Herrera can whip up two and a half gallons of ice cream. Amazing. She's been doing it for five years, almost daily, right here at Whip 'N Dip. The most popular item on the menu is her famous Mocha Mud Pie, a spumoni swirl of coffee, fudge, and bits of Oreo cookies. Herrera also recommends Barrel of Monkeys -- a blend of banana and peanut-butter ice creams mixed with chocolate-covered peanuts. Oh, and at Whip 'N Dip only the freshest ingredients are used to make fruity ice creams such as strawberry, apple, and key lime pie.
Sure South Beach has all the trendy restaurants, but as any sunburned tourist can tell you, the service there is uniformly slow and sassy. Too many models and would-be-somebodies moonlighting as waiters. At Fishbone Grille the waitstaff actually appears to be enjoying the job. They are attentive without hovering, swift without making you feel rushed, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of the food on the menu and the extensive wines on the list. And they are routinely happy to recommend the best, freshest catch that day, even if it's not the priciest item on the menu. The secret apparently is in the selection: Management tries to hire people with the right mix of congeniality and professionalism. The waitstaff must also take written and oral quizzes during training. It all adds up to an A.
Executive chef-proprietor of Pacific Time Jonathan Eismann goes slumming with this new venture, a remake of Johnny V's Kitchen. And what a pleasant redo it is: The narrow storefront has been converted into a minidiner, complete with blue-and-white tiles, booths for two, and a counter with a Fifties soda fountain. The ideal place for a nosh after a movie or a quickie lunch steps from the touristy grind of Lincoln Road, Westside offers old-timey diner favorites such as meat loaf, burgers, and open-face hot roast beef sandwiches. Certainly it's not the place for a vegetarian (salad options are few and somehow unfetching when paired against grilled barbecue pork chops) but Fox's U-Bet fans clearly have no cause for complaint. The egg cream at Westside is worthy of Manhattan's Lower East Side, and hey, it saves us a trip to the Big A for a simple thirst quencher. Just remember to hit the ATM before dropping by. As it was in the olden days, at Westside only cash is acceptable commerce.
Titanic Brewery & Restaurant
Since opening a little more than a year ago, the Titanic has hopped up the local beer scene. It hosts South Florida's home-brewing competition, the Coconut Cup, which features battles between the Miami Area Society of Homebrewers (MASH) and the Fort Lauderdale Area Brewers (FLAB). It's also received national acclaim at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado, where the Captain Smith's Rye Ale took home a bronze medal in the specialty-beer category, and recently was named a finalist in the prestigious World Beer Cup competition. Closer to home the Titanic has won the hearts of many aficionados with the five house beers brewed on-site (triple-screw light ale, Britannica, boiler-room nut brown, white-star India pale ale, ship-builders' oatmeal stout), plus one seasonal beer that changes every couple of months. And if you want food with your beer, check out the Brew Masters' Dinner. Held about once every six weeks, the meal consists of five courses, each of which comes with a different brew that's chosen to complement the eats. Food also is a major part of the mug club. Membership costs $50 per year and comes with a customized twenty-once mug (four ounces bigger than the usual mug) that hangs in the bar. Membership has its privileges: Besides getting an extra four ounces of beer, mugees also are entitled to special happy hours and free dinner on Wednesdays. Thirsty yet? Oh, and did we mention on the weekend they have great live music? Cheers.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®