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.
Don't be fooled by the name Hanna -- this is the same beloved Gourmet Diner of old. And by old, we mean oldie but goodie. Original chef-proprietor Jean-Pierre Lejeune sold his signature place six months ago to new owner Sia Hemmati, who vowed to keep everything the same. Well, he broke his promise. By adding white linen tablecloths, fresh flowers, and the use of credit card machines, he actually made the stainless-steel diner with its hallmark French-inspired chalkboard specialties better. Not that we're complaining about the most perfectly herb-roasted chicken in Miami, or the meatiest veal Bolognese sauce, or the slickest steak au poivre. And of course we certainly can't bitch about the custard fruit tart, the recipe for which is exactly executed each day with vine-ripe strawberries and fresh kiwis. Call us sentimental if you must, but we're just darn glad that neither new owners nor faithful followers have lost sight of the Diner.
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.
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.

Okay, it's an archaic term. So we'll go with the euphemism and allow that Andre's "sunset specials" are the best in the biz. And that's not only because the restaurant offers complete meals, including soup or salad and dessert and featuring elegant pastas and tender meat dishes, for a measly nine dollars. It's because the let's-make-a-meal deal goes on and on: Monday through Thursday, Andre's offers "between specials" as well, which are full-course meals plus a glass of wine ranging from $14.75 to $16.75. These are so tough to beat because chef-owner Andre Filosa, a legendary local aficionado of Northern Italian fare and French-influenced dishes, puts out a great product. Quite frankly the more you get of Andre's at the cheaper the price, the more you can afford to go. And if that's your goal, as it is ours, then all we can say is, "Score!"
We usually don't rely on anybody's good taste but our own, so the fact that this high-end Italian destination has attracted notice over its decadeslong life span from reviewers ranging from Wine Spectator to Fodor's doesn't impress us all that much. But the fare here, along with the sophisticated stylings from the service staff, speaks for itself: stuffed pastas topped with Béchamel sauce; lamb chops glistening with juice; snapper so fresh it, well, snaps. We also should note that given the rising prices in our South Beach establishments, suddenly this menu doesn't read all that rich. Just richly delicious, and reliable, to boot.
Located just a few blocks west of where downtown Miami begins to get graceful and tree-lined, this little shop has been satisfying Miami's pita, falafel, and baba ghannouj cravings since 1954. Okashah Monem and his sons have stocked the shelves and refrigerators with all manner of Middle Eastern goods, plus music and videotapes and an odd assortment of trinkets. The shop also features a bakery and deli offering a falafel and pita sandwich for $2.50, as well as plates of kibbeh, tabbouleh, shish kebab, and baba ghannouj, for $3 to $5. A small collection of plastic outdoor tables and chairs is crammed into the deli area, perfect for a quiet lunch spent contemplating the comforting piles of nuts, cheeses, and breads. Or spend the time eavesdropping on the teasing exchanges between the Monems and their many regular customers. The Oriental Bakery & Grocery is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Fact of the matter is, Donna's is a market with a restaurant inside. So you can purchase a number of gourmet foodstuffs to take back to your office or home with you to snack on in front of the TV. But if you're smart -- as we know you are -- you'll order take-out from the bistro menu. Summer-yellow cherry-tomato gazpacho travels exceptionally well, even with the addition of the Maine peeky toe crab centerpiece (though you may have to do a little fishing to find it once you get it home). Chef Donna Wynter and sous chef Philip Brock also pack up a delish "mosaic of Montrachet," goat cheese seasoned with roasted vegetables and then wrapped and baked with thin slices of potato, that beats the chips you pour out of a bag any day. Sturdier fishes like the salmon steak with Creole mustard survive beautifully, and even sweets like the Bahama Mama -- a mélange of sautéed mango, papaya, and pineapple in clarified butter and dark rum -- give the phrase "home-replacement meals" a whole new (and truly valid) meaning.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®