A nice big bowl of hot chili doesn't require the commitment that a cheeseburger does. To get the full enjoyment from a burger, you have to eat it while it's piping hot, straight through, before the juices seep into the bun and before the cheese coagulates. A bowl of chili can be spooned into your mouth at a leisurely pace, between gulps of beer. It even tastes better that way. A spoonful of chili, a sip of beer, a spoonful, well, you get the point. The beer cuts through the tomato flavor and gives your tongue a fizz. The tomato in the chili makes the back of your throat feel good. If you're doing some serious beer drinking, there is no better accompaniment than an order of chili. With cheese, sliced jalapeño peppers, and onions on top, like they serve it at Tobacco Road, it's a balanced meal in a bowl: protein in the hamburger, niacin in the kidney beans, vitamins A and C in the tomato, calcium in the cheese, and antioxidants in the onions. Sit at the pecky wood bar at the place that boasts the oldest liquor license in Miami and order another Foster's. You all fired up?
Buried in a tiny nondescript minimall, Macau does not look impressive from the outside. And the interior décor is humble, too. But so is the décor in many of China's best restaurants. And Macau's food is Miami's most authentically Chinese. Since Macau is an ex-Portuguese colony and major South China trading port island, people from all over the world have passed through for centuries. So chefs there know how to punt -- and so does Miami Macau's chef/owner May Yuen. If some menu item sounds appealing but not quite appropriate, negotiate; May is happy to improvise for diners with special diets or tastes. Even confirmed carnivores, for instance, will find an unlisted invention of vegetable ho fan (usually called chow fun), chewy broad bean noodles sautéed dry-style with snow peas, bean sprouts, and several other fresh Chinese vegetables. There also are at least a dozen nonmenu specials nightly, often featuring exotic seasonal ingredients. Don't miss delicate sautéed pea shoots with crab or deceptively simple-sounding Maine lobster with ginger and scallion when on the board. But some of Macau's tastiest treats are available always, like salty pepper shrimp. To ensure protection against Macau's only likely disappointment, phone first. Since May is the only cook, Macau closes when her kid has a cold.
This isn't a confection shop; it's a chocolate gallery filled with objets d' cocoa: miniature pianos, magnum-size champagne bottles, and swans, all sculpted out of milk, white, or dark chocolate. Tired of chewing on a dry bird at Thanksgiving? Order a solid chocolate turkey. They make 'em. Don't know what to give the man or woman who has everything? Try an oversize check, made out for a million dollars and printed on 100 percent solid chocolate. It's just one of the many custom-made creations the folks at Le Chocolatier have cooked up over the years. Order anything you see on display, come up with your own chocolate fantasy, or grab for the goodies in the case: chocolate-dipped biscotti, pretzels, fruit, and, of course, truffles -- tons and tons of truffles -- including tropically inspired mango, banana, key lime, and piña colada. Le Chocolatier? C'est magnifique!
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.
Tony's represents Miami-Dade County the way it used to be, with a small-town rural feel. Breakfast at this greasy spoon begins at 5:00 a.m., daybreak being the time farmers usually go to work. Plopped in the middle of each of the two dining rooms are two big tables, one square, one round. These are where regulars who are eating alone but want to chat with their neighbors can sit. A prime topic of conversation is the weather (did we mention this is rural farm territory?). The food at Tony's is basic, but one can usually fill up on a good, complete breakfast for less than five dollars. Still doubt that this establishment isn't just another joint shoveling hash for cash? A toy train motors through the restaurant on tracks built high into the wall -- can't get more country than that.

Owner and chef Philippe Torchut is French and he bakes every morning with that joie du vivre and that je ne sais quoi. What we do know is that these croissants are fluffy in the middle and a little crisp around the edges. What more does one need to know? His staff also serves a proper café au lait (and a variety of sandwiches and entrées, si'l vous plaît).
Let's hear from the Cubans on this one. Although it's won Best Cuban Sandwich three times, isn't this still your favorite place for more than just that? Ask your viejo -- he'll be sitting with us. This particular location was chosen not just because it is housed in an old Arby's with a huge U-shape counter, but because it serves outstanding Cuban food at amazingly reasonable prices. And some form of free entertainment -- checking out the people on the other side of the counter or listening to myriad conversations going on --is always included. The waitresses, though not young, deliver a healthy amount of attitude, no doubt from dealing with all the humanity that pops in after midnight for a batido de fresa, with their homies along for the ride. The staff is made up of seasoned pros; if you're a regular, they'll start your order the minute they see you walk in. Your choices are varied no matter if you're sitting at the counter, the outside dining area, or just picking up something at the ventanita. A breaded steak that hangs over the platter it's so big? It's here. An assortment of sandwiches alongside full meals of fish, beef, and chicken prepared numerous ways? Here. And the place is known for pouring thick, creamy milkshakes in flavors ranging from vanilla to mamey. Mom's house is the only place to get a better Cuban meal, and even she has her days off.
Lunch counters like this, squeezed along a back wall in a little grocery, abound in Little Havana. A lot of them serve up some pretty good meals. Some aren't so great. But the food at Nuevo Siglo is always the best Cuban cooking around. Nothing fancy, just right. You would expect, then, a just-right Cuban sandwich. And you would get it. They don't try to make a gourmet delicacy, maybe slip in too much lean ham or try a fancy cheese. No. It's just a basic Cuban sandwich, the kind you can't improve upon.
Naming yourself after the Big Apple is like setting yourself up for failure, or at least for bitter comparisons. Add moving into the space formerly occupied by a very successful restaurant, and you've set yourself a double challenge. How could you possibly succeed? Well this deli does, and it does so admirably, in the spot where Andre's Diner used to be. Turkey for sandwiches is roasted on the premises and sliced off the bone, not slipped out of plastic. Whitefish salad features big chunks of the flavorful fish. Hot open-face brisket platters can't be beat, unless you're thinking about ordering that pastrami Reuben known as a Rachel. Even the desserts -- rugelach, chocolate layer cake, and carrot cake, for example -- are made daily. For once even the New Yawkers can't complain.
Owner Robert Siegmann has created a virtual dessert oasis in the heart of Lincoln Road. And the former New York caterer has done it by taking classic desserts and giving them a modern flair. Take, for example, the pink coconut layer cake. The color isn't the only thing that stands out. Each slice is immense, a towering testament to days gone by. Indeed the enormous dimensions of his creations are Siegmann's trademark. But size alone doesn't matter. (At least that's what we've always been told. Really.) The true test is in the taste, and once again Icebox doesn't fail. The carrot cake is so fresh you'd swear the carrots were picked that morning. The mouthwatering banana cheesecake will make you want to swing from the trees. And don't get us started on their pound cake. The only problem you'll encounter is whether to order the marble, the coconut, the chocolate chip, or the lemon-poppyseed variety. In every category Icebox offers the widest selection of desserts and pastries of any restaurant in Miami that we've seen for a long time: banana cream pies, raspberry-chocolate mousse cake, and an assortment of ice cream cakes too long to list.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®