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.
The name sounds like an Argentine steak house, but the Gaucho Room in the landmark St. Moritz Hotel, part of the oceanfront Loew's complex, really is more an Argentine-theme restaurant. Family portraits on the walls and plush faux-steerskin dining couches instead of chairs feed the fantasy that you're eating in the living room of a wealthy pampas cattle rancher, while twentysomething Boy Wonder chef Frank Randazzo more literally feeds fantasies. In fact while the Gaucho has never hyped its steaks, the all-American cuts beat any in town (assuming you're looking for quality rather than quantity), and the superbly flavorful beef, grilled on a traditional parrilla grill and served with three garlic and chervil-spiked chimichurri salsas of varying heats, is even better. But inventive South American/Southwestern fusion specialties such as savory wild mushroom tamales, queso fresco pulled duck empanadas with smoked chili sauce, or annatto-glazed Chilean sea bass with a crunchy jicama/spinach sauté (not to mention desserts like poached fresh exotic fruit with bittersweet chocolate-coated coconut mousse and Malibu rum consommé), would tempt even a genuine gaucho to bag the beef.
Epicure Gourmet Market & Cafe
Alejandra Cicilia
Certain places may do certain foods very well, but Epicure has it all, and does it all well. And what especially sets this gourmet shop above not just most in Miami but in the world is personnel who are both extremely knowledgeable about the store's products and astonishingly friendly, even on days like New Year's Eve, when checkout lines stretch to, roughly, Fort Lauderdale. Not sure which melon is ripe or whether those $37-per-pound wild mushrooms are really worth it? Charlie in produce will give you the skinny. The guys behind the fish and meat counters share recipes and timing tips for everything they sell. The prepared-food folks dispense generous samples to the undecided and advice to unaccustomed party hosts. And if by some fluke you ask someone who doesn't know the fine differences between the store's dozens of different olive oils or cheeses or chocolates, that someone will immediately, and cheerfully, locate someone who does. Absolutely the best thing about Epicure, though, is the bag packers, who are to standard supermarket baggers what Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel is to Hello Kitty. Never a broken fancy free-range egg! Never a squished heirloom tomato! Never a wasted half-inch of bag space! You may not think bag packing is fine art -- but it is at Epicure.
Chevys Fresh Mex
We thought proprietor Alejandro Garcia and chef-wife Lorena Vega-Beuggie were completely nuts when they reopened Divina. They'd formerly operated this Mexican haute-cuisine restaurant for only seven months a couple of years ago, and while they got great reviews and built a loyal clientele, landlord problems forced them to give up the space. But when they saw that Divina's successor, Chow, had gone out of business, they decided a little resurrection was in order. Can't say any of Vega-Beuggie's fans were dismayed; that corn torte with poblano cream sauce she makes produces a powerful craving, and, admittedly, we also were suffering without our regular fix of squash blossoms and cuitlacoche. Our goal now? To let everybody in on the secret of their success, so the duo will have no choice but to expand their hours to include a divine lunchtime.
Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop
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.

Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House
The best Jewish deli in South Florida is the Rascal House, of course. Need we say more? Of course. This isn't some sissy Southern-belle category like Best Sorbet. This is the real thing. You got your pastrami and corned beef, both as fatty as you could get at the Carnegie, or even Katz's, in Manhattan. (If you don't like it fatty, maybe you should move to Califrigginfornia.) You also got your blintzes, which at the Rascal are homestyle, meaning that the cheese -- or blueberry, or whatever -- filling is enclosed by delicate French-type crêpes rather than the thin but tough layer of pastry cement you're probably used to. You got your genuine grated-not-mashed potato pancakes -- oniony, crisp, and reasonably thin -- not those fat squashed potato puffs many establishments sell to those of you who don't know their latkes from their tushies. You got your clientele at surrounding tables that's a typically Miami mix of Cuba and New York: "¡Mira! Oy!" And Rascal House's very firm waitress-dominatrixes will make sure you return often enough to keep your soul filled. If these mother figures make you feel guilty about not calling your own mom lately, you can FedEx a Rascal cheesecake home. Strawberry is best. In short you got somewhere not even a visiting New Yorker could complain about. So, what's not to like? Come! Eat!
Café Demetrio
George Martinez
Café Demetrio has everything we demand in a coffeehouse. The atmosphere, with its blond wood and tall windows, is comfortable and pleasing to the eye. Regular art shows keep the walls interesting. The food and beverages are exquisite. Demetrio's has an extensive coffee selection that runs from plain old espresso to caramel lattes. While the food tends toward sandwiches, the desserts are more adventurous and include an amaretto tart and linzer tortes. Finally Demetrio shares that great legacy of the modern coffeehouse: music. Generally Friday evenings feature romantic pop, and Saturdays are devoted to jazz.
The Pit Bar-B-Q
The barbecue is the best at The Pit, but there's no law against also frying up the best catfish this side of Lake Pontchartrain. After all, The Pit's wood shack and tiki huts on the edge of the Everglades have a definite swampy, boggy feel. That special touch with the barbecue somehow carries over to The Pit's catfish-frying technique. Certified barbecue gourmands have been converted to a more diverse diet by only a few bites of the scrumptious fish, which comes out so crunchy and tasty on the outside and so moist and succulent on the inside, you just may never order those ribs again. Or maybe not so often.
Shorty's Bar-B-Q
Anais Alexandre
Since Miami no longer is the nation's southernmost city but Latin America's northernmost, a yearning for Old South Florida cuisine rarely becomes urgent. But after a day gaping at gators in the Glades, nothing hits the spot like cracker cuisine, primo of which is barbecue. And the primo place at which to get it is the Pit, conveniently situated at the outskirts of the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail, miles before the road morphs into Calle Ocho. The décor in this small spot is perfect for a Florida barbecue joint: rustic wood booths inside, tiki-hut-covered picnic tables outside. And the food is even more perfect. This is genuine you-can-smell-the-smoke-for-miles pit barbecue, cooked slow over smoldering blackjack oak. The tender yet toothy ribs are terrific. But hard-core classicists order the $3.95 triple-winnerer: juicy pulled pork topped with crunchy, slightly sweet chopped coleslaw right on the sandwich, just like in North Carolina. And for noncarnivores, there's elegant fried fresh catfish. Among side orders, lightly floured crisp real onion rings are required eating, as are tangy-sweet barbecue beans. For dessert skip the overly sweet key lime pie and order another beer, since the Pit has imported Beck's and some Hank Jr. (or Senior) on the jukebox.
The name means "Russian ravioli sold here." Scoop up your fill of pale meat dumplings, pierogi stuffed with cheese, potato or cabbage stew, and cherry varenikis for about four dollars a plate. A variety of soups includes Moscow-style borscht. Communication with the staff is limited if you don't know Russian; they do, however, speak the universal language of grunt and point. The little bistro is situated inside the Driftwood hotel, in a second-floor overlook bubble. The front window looks out over Collins Avenue, with its pedestrians blithely ignoring traffic and lines forming outside Wolfie Cohen's Rascal House across the street. The view out back is of the hotel's innards and a small tiki bar and, beyond that, sparkling Biscayne Bay. For some reason the modest dining room is divided into "bistro" and "café," with signs proclaiming that patrons are expected to tip ten percent if they sit on the bistro side of the room and fifteen percent if they sit on the café side. They claim to be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Those wacky Slavs.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®