Bored with the Starbucks buzz? Can't do the Dew? Then check out the Bawls, if you've got any. This locally born soft drink combines the fizz of pop with the pep of the guarana berry, an Amazonian plant that exudes a natural substance similar to caffeine (but two and a half times stronger). The nonalcoholic beverage debuted in Miami in 1997, and has since been placed in major market chains like Publix. Not bad for the slightly sweet, slightly spicy little drink that could. The Indians in the Amazonian rain forest use guarana to increase "performance," by the way. Viagra, move over. The men in town finally have Bawls.
It's their hand-rolled pasta specials, such as amaretto and pumpkin ravioli with white-truffle cream sauce, and pappardelle with buffalo-meat ragout. Or those rich risottos ingrained with ingredients ranging from broccoli rabe and foie gras to langoustines and porcinis. Could be the thick, juicy veal chops stuffed with fontina cheese and smothered in truffle demi-glace, or the homemade desserts like a distinctly superior tiramisu. Okay, it's many dishes that make Escopazzo deliciously Italian. Entrées can push past the $30 mark, categorizing the place as expensive. But it's the romantic piazza-style dining room with gurgling fountain, extensive wine cellar, stellar service, and ebullient host and owner Pino Bodoni seeing to it that everything is just right, which make this expanded, 70-seat trattoria the very best. Honorable mentions go to Osteria del Teatro and Bice.

Best Restaurant For Intimate Conversation

B.E.D.

If you weren't already nominally sure that the ol' mattress was the likeliest place to conduct heart-to-hearts, this uniquely decadent restaurant and nightclub just might convince you. In fact it's pretty darn difficult not to go up-front and personal with your dining partner here, given that your table is a modified version of a latter-day sheik's bed. All that's missing, really, is the harem (and depending on the guest list for the evening, sometimes even those appear to be a possibility). Verbal communication, not to mention body language, gets even more confidential when fueled by a bottle of champagne or two. But a word of warning: Beds are built on platforms here, and aren't exactly private. So unless exhibitionism is your definition of intimacy, a hands-off policy might be just the ticket when that sparkling conversation tends to bubble over.
Recipe for a perfect lunch: Head over to Scotty's Landing, preferably by boat. Sit at a humble plastic table shaded from the sun by a canopy of green-burlap umbrellas. Drink deeply an ice-cold beer (or, if you're working, an ice-cold tea). Order the dolphin sandwich, blackened, with a caesar salad side. Watch the boats chug past the outdoor patio. Check out the politicians and lobbyists ducking in from nearby Miami City Hall. When your simple meal arrives, slather the substantial slice of fish in tartar sauce. Enjoy every tender, juicy, flavorful bite. When you are finished, tip generously. For best results repeat often.
That bowl of curly fried noodles on the table at every conventional Chinese restaurant doesn't exist here. The soup at Macau is too good to desecrate. Not going to find duck sauce or that vile hot mustard, either. No, siree. Macau is not hoity-toity. Clean, nondescript, friendly, unpretentious. Granted lunch deals that consist of ordinary yet tasty items such as pork fried rice, egg rolls, and egg drop soup are available. But when owner/chef May Yuen gets cranking in the kitchen and begins whipping up specialties, this restaurant transcends far beyond the mediocre chow mein purveyors. Take the salty pepper scallops: Succulent mollusks are lightly breaded, fried, and served on a bed of crisp flash-fried seaweed and piquant green chilies. Delicately steamed sea bass with ginger and scallions dissolves in your mouth like a substantial, slightly spiced Communion wafer. Tender snow pea tips lightly sautéed with garlic make you forget that dark-green leafy vegetables are good for you. Steamed white rice is so tasty it could be eaten alone. Running through the dining room: that's May's little son, Mackenzie. Running back to this restaurant over and over again: that's you.
This has always been the perfect riverfront location. The view, the feel, are so fine, so Miami: You're practically sitting in the Miami River, but as you lean back and sip your wine, your gaze drifts up to the drawbridges creaking apart to let pass all manner of funky cargo ships. Bright neon lights on the Metrorail tracks point the way through the downtown skyline. Somehow even in the dankest summer heat, Big Fish is just a little cooler and breezier. Or maybe it only seems that way, because you're focused on the pleasures of place and time. Big Fish recently changed hands and its new owners have made it more riverside-friendly, with new decks and roof, and a better view from the indoor dining room. The menu has become more Italian, and the house specialty, tagliatelle Big Fish, receives constant raves. The zuppa di pesce and generous fried calamari appetizer also are favorites.

As all the best Cuban cafeterías do, Oasis has plenty of counter. Most patrons simply go to the window and order. They usually ask for the café con leche. Creamy and not sickeningly sweet, Oasis puts out a concoction that restores balance to even the most addled brain. For 32 years Oasis has served café con leche out of a little store near the entrance to Key Biscayne. That's more than three decades of liquid well-being. Of course once your equilibrium is re-established, it's hard not to notice the place also offers hearty lunches and tasty desserts.

Best Restaurant For A Romantic Dinner

The Strand

The lighting is dim. The doorways are hung with flowing white linen. The banquettes are squishy-cushy. And the tiger skin on the wall makes you long to take it down and lay it before a fireplace. What this adds up to is sex -- we mean, romance -- of the South Beach kind: decadent, seductive, and plentiful. Executive chef-proprietor Michelle Bernstein's classically innovative cuisine only enhances the mood provided by the décor. After all, it's pretty hard to engage in anything other than sex -- oops, did it again, romance -- when noshing on parfait of tuna tartare layered with caviar, or whole boneless squab stuffed with duck breast and duck pâté and sliced over figs. In other words the fare also is designed to stimulate your appetite for sex -- darn it, romance. Who wants to argue with that?
Don't be fooled by the menu, which reads "Autentica Comida China." At this Chino-Cubano joint, only the cook is 100 percent Chinese. Even the statuette of Buddha that sits on a counter is guarded by Our Lady of Charity on one side and San Lazaro on the other. Here the won ton soup is better known as sopa de mariposa, the fried rice is called arroz frito, and the beef with bok choy is really just carne de res con acelga china to most of the Cuban clientele. The house specialty isn't Peking duck but palomilla steak with a side of papitas fritas, and pork chops plus arroz and maduros. For the best of both worlds, try the char sue ding: steamed meat chunks with almonds and fresh vegetables.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®