Los Tres Amigos
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.

Best Inexpensive Italian Restaurant

Macaluso's

The Big Cheese of Miami
George Martinez
This wonderful little joint answers the question Can man live by meatball alone? with a resounding yes! Of course there's plenty of other fare here, including some really good pizzas, homemade sauces, and a variety of dishes inspired by chef-owner Michael D'Andrea's family. Check out Grandma Lena's soup, Josephina's asparagus purée, or Vito's ricotta cheesecake. Whatever you choose, it's not only namesake; it's guaranteed authentic, made-on-the-premises, primo stuff. Naturally we can't get past the garlic-studded meatballs quickly enough to have any room left for cannoli, but that's why we're repeat customers: We have hope for the future.
Sango Jamaican and Chinese Restaurant
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.
There's an old Cuban proverb: "The shrimp that falls asleep is sucked away by the tide." No one is really sure what that means, but this much is clear: If it's seafood you're looking for, go to the source. Situated at the water's edge on soon-to-be-overdeveloped Watson Island, Casablanca features the freshest seafood in the area. Just-caught yellowtail, grouper, dolphin, and snapper, still surprised to find themselves out of the water, stare up from ice-filled trays. Lobster claws and shellfish are piled high next to what appear to have been entire shrimp villages. And goodies from the sea flow in throughout the day, thanks to Casablanca's location. Just don't fall asleep. You'll get sucked away by the tide.

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.
It's been said before and will be said again: There is nothing, nothing, nothing like a warm fresh-from-the-oven Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut. The other varieties at Krispy Kreme are luscious, better than any doughnut has a right to be. But the fresh glazed -- the ones that simply are too amazing for human taste buds -- are the last word in doughnuts.
To be honest we tried really hard not to love this place so much this year. After all, while Anokha pretty much is responsible for bringing ethnic food back to the Grove (and keeping it there), spicy Indian contenders are hot on the restaurant's well-shod heels. But just when we got to the point where we weren't craving the rogan josh or chicken vindaloo for dinner, Anokha did something really evil: It added a lunch buffet. Now, with an assortment of expertly seasoned goodies for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, we had little choice but to rename Anokha numero uno.
Monty's Sunset
Miami, not known for its raw-bar diversity, nonetheless has had a stalwart purveyor in this restaurant and its sister in Coconut Grove. But the South Beach locale usually plays second fiddle to the Grove location in the popular imagination. We don't know why. The South Beach spot is wonderfully situated on the water by the Miami Beach Marina, a perfect place to catch a sunset. And this spot doesn't disappoint the tradition of raw bars as a happy-hour destination. From 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. a dollar will get you two peel-and-eat shrimp, or two fresh oysters, or clams. Stone crab legs are two dollars each. And drinks are half-price. The seafood is specially selected for freshness and quality. The raw-bar line can get pretty long, but it's worth the wait. Monty's is open from 11:00 to 1:00 a.m. during the week and from 11:00 to 2:00 a.m. on weekends.
If "There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall," as Colette writes in Earthly Paradise, then surely Atlantic is the restaurant that suits all three states. When solitude is a heady wine, there is Sheila Lukins's modern American menu to savor by oneself, along with some more literal vino. When solitude's a bitter tonic, there's the view from the outdoor dining area of gently rolling sand dunes and clear, bright azure waters -- of the pool, that is. And when solitude makes you want to bang your head against the wall, well, at least Atlantic's walls were designed by the Ralph Lauren team. It doesn't make 'em any softer on your scalp, but it sure makes 'em pretty.
Norman's
As the saying goes, you've had the rest, now try the best. The rest in this case is unsubtle glop: white starchy glop that tastes more like bacon and potato than seafood if it's something like New England-style clam chowder; red starchy glop that tastes more like chili powder and tomato than seafood if it's something like Manhattan clam or Caribbean conch chowder. So now try the best, which you'll no doubt be able to do for a good many years, since Norman Van Aken's regulars would probably kill the chef if he discontinued his conch chowder. Slight variations have occurred over the years (like the current cloud of foam on top), but forever ambrosial is and will be the inventive chowder: panko-crusted pieces of tender conch plus garnishes of citrus, shaved coconut, and a few vegetables floating on a slightly hot, slightly sweet, rich yet refreshingly reduced (not starch-thickened) shellfish stock flavored with saffron, star anise, Scotch bonnet peppers, orange juice, coconut milk, and a generous dollop of cream. The rest simply can't compare.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®