Laguna Seafood Restaurant
You'd think more restaurants in this food capital of the Caribbean would know how to fry a green plantain. Yet all too often, even otherwise outstanding Cuban (or Puerto Rican, or Dominican, et cetera) restaurants produce indifferent patacones. They're always too big, too thickly sliced, not ripe enough. And they're never hot; you find yourself staring at a flavorless, lukewarm pile of plantain pucks. The ones at Laguna always come out sizzling and are made from plaintains just ripe enough to leave the insides tender without crossing the line into plátanos maduros. This bustling, low-priced lunch spot has plenty else to recommend it, but its tostones are without peer. Ask for una tasita de mojo al lado. Mmmm.
Laurenzo's Itialian Market
Laurenzo's is a throwback to the days before hordes of swarming yuppies nationalized the word gourmet by blurring its definition to include a deluded sense of sophistication that's based on a so-so go-go stock market, vast washes of German cars, and upscale grocery shelves crammed with pricey and semiprecious eatable oddities. Instead Laurenzo's is a no-nonsense mom-and-pop Italian market that caters to cooks and diners who want to buy fresh and interesting ingredients that can provide robust yet subtle meals. In addition to the wares of Laurenzo's first-class butcher, baker, and fishmonger, you can buy homemade, tricolor tubetti pasta or the fresh mozzarella that employee Ralph Perrota has been conjuring in plain sight on the premises for the past twenty years. If you are intent on grandly spreading around the big bucks, well, yeah, they've got them small bottles of Extra Old Modena balsamic vinegar for $169. But we recommend blowing your wad on the battarga, a traditional dried fish roe product that goes for a hundred bucks a pound, and tastes great when grated on nearly naked pasta.
Cafe Ragazzi
Alexandra Rincon
Judging by the nightly crowd of people milling about outside Ragazzi, sipping wine and chatting away while waiting for a table, it appears most of you don't need us to tell you how good this petite 52-seat trattoria really is. Seems you've heard about the homemade bread; delicious risottos and pastas; freshly prepared Italian seafood, chicken, and veal dishes accompanied by brightly cooked greens; and the perfectly poached pears for dessert. In which case it's probably unnecessary to remind you just how hospitable the cozy room is, or how popular the prices. Where else can you get salmon carpaccio drizzled with truffle oil over a bed of mixed greens for $7.95? Cafe Ragazzi is the best, and you know it. Honorable mention and a tip of the capellini to Tiramesu for their great homemade pastas.
The black embroidered shawl of a flamenco dancer drapes down from the arched entrance of this cavelike tavern. The air inside is misty, lanterns hang over the bar, and the waiters are dressed like toreros. Here the tapas are eaten medieval style: standing while chugging down an ice-cold Estrella Galicia (Spanish beer) or sitting at a wooden barrel. To really get into el tapeo, try the bandeja de tapas variadas, an assortment of six tapas for two or more people that includes Spanish sausages, pan tomaca (toasted bread dipped in a tomato and garlic sauce), fluffy Spanish tortillas, ham-and-cheese croquettes, and fried crabmeat. Feast on fried calamari a la andaluza (soaked in aioli sauce and lemon) or shrimp sautéed in white wine and garlic; both will bring out the duende in you. The seafood-stuffed mushrooms and the roasted red peppers bursting with calamari will have you, as the Spanish say, entrando en calor.
The curative properties of honey are legion; this sweet, dark elixir is not only heavenly to taste but may very well be the healthiest honey for miles around. Ray Chasser founded a farm in Little River 22 years ago and called it The Earth 'n Us. Today Chasser is still farming, right in the middle of the city. For twenty years he's been selling raw honey from his own beehives. Just within the past year, though, the bees have come under attack from mites and beetles, insects accompanying the feared Africanized bees, who have begun to invade South Florida. Chasser says he's been able to control the mites, but the beetles are destroying his non-Africanized bees, who don't realize the beetles are predators. The only way to kill the beetles, according to Chasser, is to use a highly toxic insecticide that inevitably gets into the honey. He won't touch it, and contends he's the only beekeeper in the region who doesn't. "So I've gone from 50 hives to 20 hives in eight months," Chasser laments. "But I've been watching, and the bees are beginning to recognize the beetles as their enemies. I saw a beetle fall into a hive, and the bees killed it. They're going to start fighting [the beetles] off." Even before this crisis, honey wasn't profitable for Chasser; he keeps bees because he's fascinated by the industrious creatures. He just raised the price for a quart of honey from six to seven dollars -- still a very sweet price.

Best Restaurant To Die In The Past Twelve Months

Al Amir

This self-labeled "Mediterranean" restaurant, more Lebanese than anything else, was chef-owner Ali Husseini's second attempt to crack the dining code in Miami. His first, an eatery of the same name on South Beach, gave way to this particularly welcoming oasis on Biscayne Boulevard. Unfortunately Al Amir II eventually also bowed out, exiting in an understated manner a few months ago: One day it was there, the next day it was Ponte Vecchio, an Italian restaurant (because Miami really needed another pasta palace). Al Amir's extinction makes it that much harder to find tangy labneh, a yogurt dip; or fried kibbeh (ground beef and wheat balls), or chicken breast stuffed with coriander and sautéed in butter. But we're Miamians. If there's anything we know how to do, it's wait for what we want. So when (we will not say if) Husseini comes back with round three, we'll be ready.
So what if the 99-cent special at this Caribbean-style eatery was slashed from the menu early this year? The same simple meal -- two eggs any style, toast, and a portion of butter-saturated grits larger than anyone should ever eat -- has become the $1.99 breakfast. It is still the best deal in town for anyone looking for a no-frills stomach-stuffer and a slice of real Little Haiti life. Often Johnny himself does the cooking. Along with your food, the proprietor, a Miami native, can serve up some pretty spicy Liberty City lore, when he's in the mood and not too occupied. Still too steep a price? Try the $1.49 special -- two eggs on a buttered roll with a cup of coffee -- and listen to the city west of Biscayne talk.
Moshi Moshi
"Moshi moshi!" bellows a voice as you cross the threshold of this oddly decorated Japanese restaurant. That's manager Annop Lasongyang, a.k.a. Nick, greeting you. Often he throws in a "meow, meow!" for good measure. Moshi moshi means hello in Japanese. "Meow, meow?" Well, that's the sound a cat makes. And if anyone knows about great fish, it's finicky cats. Formerly known as Sushi Yama, two-and-a-half-year-old Moshi Moshi, an outpost of the Boca Raton-based sushi house, changed its name a while ago to avoid confusion with a certain similarly named restaurant down the street. The décor mutated a bit, too. Big blue beach umbrellas, a disco ball, and myriad rubber sea creatures and origami birds hanging from the ceiling have been added to the sedate blond-wood room. The thumping disco music, big televisions, and rubber lizards guarding the top of the sushi bar remain, though, as does the friendly service and consistently fresh fish. On the menu: a mouthwatering array of ordinary sushi à la carte, everyday rolls (spicy tuna, smoked salmon), exotic special rolls (e.g., salmon, tuna, yellowtail, avocado, and scallions wrapped in buckwheat noodle), and even what they call super rolls (e.g., chicken katsu, lettuce, avocado, cucumber, and mayo), always expertly prepared and temptingly tasty. Leaves little question that Moshi Moshi is the cat's meow.
The "dining" part might be a bit of a misnomer, given that this restaurant is more of a good place to snack on caviar and sip champagne. But you can't argue with the seductive nature of the fare: caviar, lobster, crab, smoked salmon, Kobe beef carpaccio. Ply your sweetie with some of these luxury foodstuffs and no doubt you'll get quite a return on the investment. And make no mistake -- investment it is. Black truffle soup can run you $45, and a platter of beluga, osetra, and sevruga can cost you $195. Plus, since all of these gourmet items are served with little more than toast points, expect your appetite to be stimulated rather than sated. But that, after all, is the point of aphrodisiac dining: to leave you wanting, craving, desiring more.
This 24-hour eatery offers a full menu of sandwiches and seafood (fried and otherwise), and the chicken is without peer. The crunchy, peppery batter on the wings and drumsticks keeps the meat inside perfectly tender. As the menu says: "Puts the Colonel to shame.... Is cooked to order. Please allow eight minutes for wings, thirteen minutes for drumsticks." When your plate of steaming poultry arrives with a side of batter-dipped fries, you'll know it was worth the wait. On a menu full of combos named in honor of local high schools, the best lunch value is the "Booker T. Washington Lucky 2 Special": two wings, two drums, "two wonderful onion rings," and two vegetables -- choices include fries, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, collards, and macaroni and cheese. (Any place that considers macaroni and cheese a vegetable is okay with us.) Wash it all down with a "flop" (half lemonade, half iced tea), and taste why Jumbo's has been a fixture in the Northwest since 1955.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®