Chef Pepin -- no, not the famous one, just a hardworking Cuban cook named Pepin -- has been a fixture at Little Farm Store's diner for the past twenty years. More than a fixture; Little Farm Store cognoscenti prize Pepin's homestyle Cuban dishes. But especially his medianoche. Now what is it that makes Pepin's sandwich a cut above? How would he know? Does an artist know what drives him to the canvas? Pepin throws generous portions of pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mayo, and pickles (amount will vary at your order) on some of that soft egg bread, grills it just right, and there it is. Another masterpiece to go. Invest now while you can get one for $2.50.

Best Restaurant To Reinvent Itself Again

Big Fish

Big Fish
This restaurant has had more lives than Shirley MacLaine. And part of the eatery's perseverance has to do with its location. As one of the only, and certainly just about the oldest, riverfront restaurants in Miami, we almost owe it our patronage. In fact we've seen this place through good times and bad, through Twenties' gas stations and fish sandwiches (courtesy of its first owner), through gondolas and gigantic sculptures of animals standing on each other's backs (courtesy of the previous owner). It's almost like a marriage that way -- love it or leave it. And we love it. We can't help ourselves. Some glitches will always affect this restaurant: It's hard to find; the neighborhood could be better; the river traffic could be less noisy. But as far as landmark bars built around banyan trees go, we'll take this one. And we'll drink martinis here and eat fish sandwiches (okay, maybe just one, since they're currently so big) no matter who owns it, or cleans it up, or installs weird artwork, or dirties it again. That's a promise.
Tart enough. Sweet enough. Mellow yellow filling, almost ecru. Velvety texture. Moist, crumbly graham cracker crust. Outside edge daintily adorned with a ring of whipped cream. Center garnished with more cream and a twisted lime slice. Ideal to serve to your friends, but at close to ten bucks, certainly not meant to throw at your enemies.
Steve's Pizza
All you have to do is walk into Steve's and you know you've entered pizza nirvana. For one thing the whole place, really just a glorified stand, smells like the pizza shops in Milan. Then there are the New York-style pies, wafting just a hint of oregano toward you, that are constantly coming out of the oven. The oozing mozzarella, the tangy marinara, the dusky, charcoaled crust -- it's enough to make you drool just standing there. But we should warn you: Hold on to your patience. Even Steve's isn't worth that nasty blister that pops up when you sink your teeth too soon into a slice. Or ith it? Ith really hard to thay, after all.
It's tough to impress the dates these days but you can do it. You score a reservation at Norman's, pick said date up in your new Lexus SUV, and then nonchalantly toss the keys to the valet when you get there. So far, so good. Once inside you relax with a Cosmopolitan at the bar, and voilà! -- the table is ready. You seat your date, then yourself. You open the menus and begin to discuss the food. Here's your chance, you think. You explain some of the more outlandish dishes, then look around for the waitress. Spotting a female striding around the floor, you beckon to her. When she reaches your table, you begin to order: "My date will have the seared ..." "I'm sorry," said female interrupts smoothly. "I'm not your server. I'm the sommelier. Would you care for a suggestion on a bottle of wine?" Congratulations, you've just insulted Laura DePasquale, one of the only licensed female sommeliers in the State of Florida. Don't feel too bad. Even in Miami, when you can't always tell who's female and who's male, gender barriers are still in place. But not for long, thanks to DePasquale and her like. Go, femme!
Nothing about Kon Chau's appearance screams "good eating." With its generic décor, harsh fluorescent lighting, and obligatory incense-bristling shrine to General Kwan, this could be almost any strip-mall chow-meinstream Chinese joint. But it ain't, and it's the delectable dim sum that puts Kon Chau over the top. You just plain can't go wrong; place the photocopied dim sum menu in front of you, close your eyes, point to something, and prepare yourself for bite-size bliss. From the turnip cake, to the pork buns, to the sticky rice in lotus leaf, to the steamed shrimp dumplings, to the world's most delectable spring rolls, every cooked-to-order item on the list is a hit. All served at reasonable prices, without a whit of hoity, and even less toity.
The exterior of this eatery, located right off a dusty (read: under construction) portion of Biscayne, doesn't look like much: a long, low building with lettering in the windows advertising Middle Eastern food. But don't go by judging the proverbial cover. Inside you'll find wonderful text, not to mention texture -- light, crisp falafel patties, steaming hot in the center and delicately deep-fried. For the best results, get the falafel encased in a soft pita bread with creamy tahini and tangy Turkish salad. The staff also stuffs in some shredded red cabbage and chopped tomatoes for good measure. But don't worry; none of the fillings overwhelm the falafel, which is, after all, the biggest plus of this pita place.
First, the history. Renaissance Bakery, which has scored a bunch of awards from us in the past several years for its outstanding sourdough, olive, and sesame-semolina loaves, was founded by Ron Funt. Now, the present. Funt, along with brother Paul, decided to put Renaissance bread to even better use than selling it out of the back of the bakery and transporting wholesale orders to local restaurants and markets. They opened Upper Crust about a year ago, doing the chic décor -- lots of chrome, glass, stone, and marble -- themselves. So take the name literally. The appearance of this sandwich shop is literally a cut of bread above the rest, as is the Renaissance Bakery itself. The sandwiches are, too, giving a new meaning to portable lunch. Peanut butter and jelly, which is smoothed between two slices of raisin-currant-pecan bread, never had it so good. Now, there really is something better than sliced bread.
And the best part of all, there is always plenty of stuff around to read.
Charcuterie
When it comes to luncheonettes, nobody pays much attention, and that's a darn shame. Some of the best lunch restaurants are downtown and in the Design District, and unless you happen to work nearby, you usually don't hear about them. Such is the case with the Charcuterie, the longest-running restaurant in the Design District. Today the decades-old eatery presents a limited menu with French-influenced deli entrées, such as the salmon mousse and vegetable terrine plate, or the Brie and tomato sandwich. But the real reason it wins kudos is for its hot lunches, posted daily on a blackboard. You just might find grilled salmon with shallot and vermouth sauce, or blackened snapper Louisiana style, or rainbow trout almondine. You get the point: The focus is on fish. Wash it all down with a glass of house white, or an O'Doul's if you're headed back to work. Of course you have to take your chances on the blackboard specials, because what's served depends on what's been caught fresh that morning. But you can bet on the Charcuterie as a hale and hearty standard of the Design District since the days before the renaissance, when the only things caught fresh in the morning were the working girls on their way home.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®