We're not saying anything we didn't already say back in 1999, 1997, 1996, and 1994. And our deciding factors -- freshness, consistency, selection, reasonable prices, and, truth be known, free samples -- are probably nothing you don't already know about Biga, which, like bread itself, has become a staple in South Florida. Whether you live near the Coral Gables, South Miami, South Beach, Key Biscayne, Dadeland Station, Coral Way, Kendall, Boca Raton, or West Palm Beach shop, the hearty country breads and Latin specialties are trucked to you daily from Biga's 20,000-square-foot baking commissary in Hialeah. Besides, Biga is a bakery that knows how to have fun: How about a loaf resembling a cluster of grapes, a bunny bun for Easter, or a heart-shaped brioche for Mother's Day? Heck, if you've got the dough, you can even buy your own Biga franchise.
Ah, breakfast, the most perfect of all meals: sweeter than dinner, healthier than dessert, earlier than lunch. A shame we can't have it more often.... This terraced café on the ocean is the answer to our prayers. Granola is served with strawberries, kiwi, mango -- whatever's in season -- and bound with a refreshing dollop of yogurt. The thick French toast is four-star. While others sup on the Front Porch's steaks, pastas, and offerings from the sea, be not abashed by your eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit, and the aforementioned crunchy cereal and battered bread. In this just and cozy place, all meals are created equal -- and in generous portions for reasonable prices -- daily until closing time at 10:30 p.m.
Between 6:00 and 11:00 a.m., a cross section of Miami's working stiffs -- from car mechanics to Design District dandies -- jostle for a spot in this efficient little sandwich shop. Not because it's typical chaotic Miami, but because of the morning draw, the desayuno especial. For $3.15 one gets two eggs, bacon or ham, Cuban toast, café con leche, and the pièce de résistance: a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice. For $3.15. It's unmatched anywhere else in the city. The service, by the way, also is a Miami anomaly, swift and friendly.
A little slice of Mexico across the street from the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner. Not that that has any significance, other than Los Tres Amigos certainly has been a welcome addition to the lunch possibilities for all the hard-working medical types in the Jackson Memorial Hospital area. Tres Amigos is the kind of place you virtually never see in Miami: It really looks Mexican inside, Selena plays on the jukebox, and the food really is Mexican/Tex-Mex. You can order the usual varieties of burritos -- chicken, beef, refried beans and cheese -- as well as the superdeluxe burrito Los Tres Amigos, a fat package of beef, pork, and chicken. The best part is ladling on the red or green sauce, or both.

Caesar salad has become such a mainstay of contemporary cuisine that even fast-food joints offer a version. But we like places where the salad is tossed fresh and made to order with whatever you want put into it. The friendly salad makers at Perricone's serve a hearty and delicate caesar at the rustic restaurant's deli counter. With or without anchovies, this salad is a winner. The crisp romaine leaves are coated in a creamy egg and garlic dressing, accented with a perfect hint of Parmesan. Have it with a nice chardonnay and your lunch in Perricone's tropical garden beneath the banyans becomes downright dreamy.
It's Wednesday, hump day, and the morning is closing in on you like a python around your neck. You sidle up to the counter at Enriqueta's and order the café con leche, wondering how in the world you're going to get through the next eight hours. The waitress calls you "amor" and sets down a steaming mug of milk and a little stainless-steel pot with espresso coffee in it, so finely brewed there's a delicate foam on top. Yeah, that's the stuff. You mix just the right amount of coffee into the milk. Today it's full-on, dump the caffeine in. You're going to need all the help you can get. You sip. The coffee is sweet and strong, the milk is warm and comforting. Suddenly things don't seem that bad. There's that cutie on the second floor you want to ask out, and you just remembered your boss is gone half the day. You take another sip. Yeah, things are looking up. You smile. The waitress smiles back. Best damn dollar you've spent in a long time.

This mini-empire of restaurants and cafeterías would have been cerrado a long time ago if the most basic ingredient to any Cuban, let alone Miamian, repast missed the mark. One could say La Carreta's success is founded on a thimbleful of thick, dark, sweetly bitter coffee. The restaurants are able to consistently produce cafecito that is neither too sweet nor too watery. If you don't cheat on the amount of grounds used for each brew, your customers will happily return. "The secret is to use the best quality coffee and buy the whole bean," explains Felix Jimenez, manager of the chain's flagship Calle Ocho locale. La Carreta buys from different suppliers, primarily Pilon, and grinds the beans fresh each day. Jimenez adds: "The other secret is to use a ceramic cup. This is what gives it the special taste. If you use a paper cup, it won't taste the same." Hmm, there's a certain coffee chain from Seattle that might want to know this.
The main body of the White Lion Café is nestled in a converted Twenties-era Florida bungalow-style home. Constructed of Dade County pine, the house is warm and hurricane-sturdy. Placed around the rooms are touchstones of a bygone time: a wooden wall phone, a metal icebox, a Fifties-era Coca-Cola machine. Even the prices, which happily feel a few years behind the times, seem faithful to the antique ambiance. There is no corresponding stuffiness, either. Intermixed among the pieces are whimsical notes that help set a light tone. On the wall of one room is a mounted jackalope (a rabbit with horns, for those who have never seen one). Attached to the side of the house is a covered patio where animal-shape Christmas lights are strung from the rafters, picnic tables stand ready, and cats lounge underfoot. In contrast to the antique theme, the food is prepared with fresh ingredients. Simple fare like fried chicken and grilled snapper is tastily cooked to perfection. Sometimes though, the old ways still are the best. No new-fangled instant mashed potatoes served here. Delightfully seasoned, they are made by hand.
Sango's has won our hearts before as the best Caribbean take-out -- but why stop there? Rosie Hollingshead's jerk is so good, her little counter in Perrine can take on all dining-room challengers. If the huge portions don't fill you up, the Arawak-inspired pepper pot and pumpkin soup will. Or do true honor to Jamaica with the national dish of ackee and codfish. If you're carrying a meal home for a little romance, be sure to order the home-brewed love juice, Sango's planter's punch. If that's not enough to get in the mood, stop in at Aquarius Records next door while you're waiting for your order and pick up some deep luvy dub to listen to back home while you tickle your honey's lips with coconut drops.
Nobody denatures raw-fish proteins in citrus juices like the Peruvians. So it should come as no surprise that this low-key restaurant that calls itself Chabuca's Place, dedicated to the memory of famous Peruvian composer Chabuca Granda, serves some damn good ceviche for $12. Get it Chabuca-style and you'll get to try an unusual starchy corn from Peru. If you must have your fish tempered with heat, there are plenty of dishes from which to choose, including an excellent mixed seafood platter that comes as a mound of rice loaded with shrimp, mussels, scallops, squid rings, and itty-bitty octopi. The restaurant is open from noon till 10:00 p.m. most days, and until 11:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®