Arline's and Schoolie's
Tender pork chops smothered in gravy with black-eyed peas and rice. Oxtail stew done so tender the meat falls from the bone. Plus steamed catfish, collard greens, okra, and tomatoes. The cooking in this spacious and clean restaurant is so homey you would swear your Aunt Jess was down from 'Bama hiding in the kitchen. If you don't have an Aunt Jess, someone who knows her way around the garden and the stove, then Arline and Schoolie are fine proxies. A reminder: Just like at home, this is no place for late-night dining. It's open Tuesday to Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Miami is a vicious city for vindaloo. A sorry excuse for saag. A bust for biryani. In fact only a handful of Indian eateries offer these traditional specialties in the Magic City, and fewer do them well. Enter Anokha, where a tender touch with tandoori takes Indian fare to the top of its game. This elegant little mom-and-pop place not only plows over the competition, it raises the bar on ethnic fine dining in general. Main courses are served in minichafing dishes to keep them warm. The complimentary chutney, served with rice chips rather than pappadam, is replenished throughout the meal. And the staff here doesn't condescend. Spiciness is adjusted to the customer's palate, and believe us, Anokha will take you at your word. So if you want your curry hot, you better order a sweet lassi or a Kingfisher to wash it down. Terrific Indian fare is plentiful, but sympathy for the stodgy American palate definitely is at a premium.
Lots of Lox Deli
Alex Broadwell
The ancient parable goes as follows: Members of the tribe wandered lost in the wilderness of South Miami-Dade. All of a sudden a voice from on high spoke as if like thunder. "You must build a restaurant, serve the food of your people there, and make it extra tasty!" the voice commanded. Actually that's probably not how Lots of Lox began at all, but the result is just the same. It's all here: chopped liver, potato pancakes, blintzes, herring, knishes, and pastrami. Sandwiches carry names like Schlemiel, which consists of turkey, salami, Swiss, and Thousand Island dressing; or the East Side, with roast beef, tomato, onion, and chopped liver. Open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Lots of Lox covers all the bases. One can order whitefish and cream cheese on a bagel in the morning, matzo ball soup for lunch, and a nice brisket for an early dinner. If only the miracle of food this good appeared more often.
Good baho is hard to get these days, if you can find it at all. One reason is that it takes about eight hours to cook the complicated dish. What the heck is it? Essentially beef brisket, mysteriously soaked in a marinade of tomatoes, onions, and oranges, then wrapped in banana leaves, tossed into a big pot with yucca and plantains, and steamed until very tender. Fritanga Monimbo offers it only on Saturdays ($4.75 per serving) and odds are it will be gone well before sundown. So call ahead and reserve yours if you don't want to miss out. But rest assured people line up for other savory offerings at this cafeteria-style hole-in-the-wall crammed with four vinyl-topped booths. To wit: nacatamales (Nicaraguan tamales with rice, potatoes, and pork tucked inside the cornmeal outer layer), shredded beef, chicken with vegetables (all for $3.90). For side dishes try the cuajada (a tasty kind of cottage cheese) alongside some sweet plantains and red beans topped with sour cream. An array of natural tropical fruit juices completes the picture. A place like Madroño Restaurant on West Flagler provides delicious food in a more elegant dining atmosphere, but its menu omits the coveted baho.
La Palma Calle Ocho
Maureen Aimee Mariano
It would be hard to beat La Palma's take on the torreja: It serves the homemade slices of Cuban-style French toast smothered in honey and maple syrup with a hint of anise. A simple dessert with versions of it going back so far the original is untraceable, La Palma even makes torrejas by the dozens for parties. It's light enough that it won't make you feel guilty, but sweet enough that you'll want to indulge, and keep on indulging.
Bagel Bar East
Aran S Graham
This isn't the kind of bar where you can order vodka, Scotch, or beer. But you've got your choices all the same -- sesame, poppy, onion.... The bagels here are just what the New Yawker yaks about: crusty exterior, chewy interior. Buy 'em by the bag or take a seat at one of the tables, or best yet, the counter. Then you can have a bagel platter, accompanying that garlic bagel with a schmear of cream cheese and a little Novie. Then spread out the latest New Times, refill your coffee cup, and peruse to your pleasure while you munch. Just be prepared to wait in line for your Sunday-morning fix. At Bagel Bar East, the line is always west of the front door.
Casa Juancho
Fresh fish from Spain is mainly what you gain at this urbane Gables seafood spot. One is the dorada itself (sea bream), which, along with sea bass and Dover sole, comes crusted in sea salt and is cracked tableside. That's the most popular dish, and an authentic Spanish specialty, but most of the menu is made up of such rarities. Others include fresh anchovies, baby eels, hake steak, urta, and fried baby whitefish (chanquetes), their unique flavors allowed to shine through simple and impeccable preparations. More familiar fare, like snapper, grouper, and monkfish, also are flawlessly flavorful, and the professional, well-trained waitstaff will artfully filet the fish in front of you. The décor is nautical, the wine list serious, the piano music live -- La Dorada knows how to run a first-class Spanish restaurant, one you can enjoy not only in the Gables, but also in Madrid, Seville, and Casablanca, which have Doradas of their own. Guess it's true: Practice makes perfect. You should probably be aware, though, that the price for a slice of seafood this nice is twice what you'd pay for a slice not as nice.
"We don't joke; we jerk," boast the folks at Jerk Machine, which serves jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk fish, jerk stew peas, jerk shrimp, and jerk crab at seven locations in South Florida. The chain originated in Jamaica where in days gone by the maroons, escaped slaves who established independent communities in the hills, built up their courage by eating mouth-scorching spices. The meat is marinated in Jerk Machine's secret and spicy sauce, then grilled. Hard-core fanatics douse the finished meat with more sauce. For those with more timid palates, Jerk Machine also serves milder curries, ackee and saltfish (cod), mackerel, and callaloo, the Jamaican spinach. But if you are looking for even more kick to your meal, try the rum-soaked fruitcake or a bottle of ginger beer. If you want a fancy ambiance, order take-out, because the décor is strictly fast-food. All the effort here goes into the jerk.
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.
Scotty's Landing
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®