Every morning Rafat Monem gets up at about 4:00 and heads to work, where he will bake more than 7000 individual loaves of pita bread. By early afternoon they will all be sold. Each loaf is an individual work of art, a light and airy source of comfort, whose gentle folds ply easily apart exposing a soft and inviting interior. Monem, the son of the store's owner, Okashah Monem, has been baking pita bread for seventeen years. What makes it special? "It's the ingredients we use," says Monem, a Palestinian who was born in Jerusalem. And what are those ingredients? "I can't tell you that," he laughs. "It's a secret."
Like any blank canvas, tofu is only as good as the artist who prepares it, and "natural" food can sometimes taste like a form of punishment. Lucky for us Suzanne's chef is first-rate, and her menu is downright indulgent (in a health-nutty, new-agey way). Open since November 1999 for take-out, lunch, and dinner, this meatless wonder offers classy (not stuffy) fare that's kind to animals and your (nonleather) wallet. Although the menu is vegan (no dairy, eggs, et cetera, are used), the results are hearty and flavorful enough to tempt even die-hard flesh-eaters. The organic wines, available by the glass (from $3.95) or bottle (from $17.95), don't hurt, either. An introductory dinner here -- grilled tofu, steamed organic vegetables, and brown rice in tahini sauce ($8.95) -- was a sign of good things to come, including a juicy, robust tofu Reuben with deliciously (un)creamy coleslaw. And hey, if it'll enhance your pleasure, go ahead and pretend you're dining on the deceased. We won't squeal to PETA.
You don't have to know the maitre d' to get a good meal quick from Joe's. The take-out division, just to the north of the landmark seafood restaurant, serves the same menu -- without the three-hour wait (same prices, without the tip). In addition to the standard dinner of stone crabs, coleslaw, creamed spinach, and a slice of key lime pie (a meal we heartily endorse), take-out customers can choose from a wide variety of other wonderful selections, from po'boys to fried chicken to swordfish steaks. Quality, the ingredient that has made Joe's an institution, is dependably maintained. And, we repeat, without the wait. Joe's is closed from May 15 to October 15.

Best Restaurant For A Power Lunch

Bice

The ambiance is one of restrained elegance. The menu is one of distinct priciness. And the clientele is easily of the double-breasted caliber. So there's no doubt, whether you're a long-time lawyer entertaining clients or a Gen X dot.com millionaire meeting potential venture capitalists, you'll want to invest in fine northern Italian fare: delicate seafood and pasta for the fluttery of stomach, hearty meat dishes for the cast-iron all-business body. Whether you're betting on a jury or taking a ride with a pre-IPO CEO, at least you'll be able to keep your chops in fine form by biting down on a, well, chop.
Lucila Jimenez has turned her family tradition of baking festive and inventive cakes into a thriving business. Her two Sweet Art bakeries, with their 50 employees, seem to be able to coax batter and icing into almost any shape, for any event. Mountains, hearts, toys, the island of Cuba -- nearly anything is possible. Her signature "jewelry box" cakes are a true marvel: They look for all the world like oversize Limoges porcelain boxes, complete with gold fittings, and yet, amazingly, they are not only edible, but delicious. Try one of Lucila's cakes for a special occasion, and her tradition will quickly become yours as well.
What sets this Jewish diner apart is the bread, made fresh every day in the adjacent bakery. Three plates of goodies are served with every meal. Besides your traditional soft and chewy rolls, they toss in white toast swirled throughout with sweet cinnamon. Also offered are chunks of raisin bread dotted with the gooey black stuff and covered with a thin coat of sugar. Real butter and cream cheese are served on the side to spread across the delicacies. For diners who can't finish the bread, servers offer a doggy bag to enjoy it at home or the office. Don't feel like waiting for the sometimes slow service or interminable lines? Then walk straight into the bakery, where the selection grows to include buttered toast, pumpernickel, and sticky honeybuns. And don't fret when you get a craving -- they're open 24 hours.

Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

Petrossian

Can you say beluga, sevruga, osetra? Petrossian can: It's the largest importer of Russian caviar in the world. Can you say foie gras? Petrossian can: The company's farms in France produce plump, silken specimens. Can you say expensive? Petrossian can, because it ain't cheap to get all that good stuff over here. Indeed you can ply your senses with twenty grams of sevruga for $23, or beluga for $47. But you should be aware that while for drug addicts, twenty grams is a feast, for caviar aficionados it's barely a snort. And if you're planning on accompanying those sturgeon eggs with champagne, be prepared for some bottles to run over the $400 mark. Needless to say the best time to dine at Petrossian is when you have grateful guests in the house. Allow them to think of the dinner check as room and board, and in the end, everyone -- especially your waiter (what's fifteen percent of $400?) -- is more than sensually sated.

Best Restaurant To Reinvent Itself Again

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.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®