Have it your way -- a real tuna sandwich. Broiled, blackened, sautéed, it's this big thick tuna steak that dwarfs the roll on which it sits. You can pile on the lettuce and tomato and tartar sauce, or go with a simple squirt of lemon juice, whatever rows your boat. It's a lot of fish for $7.99.

The Cracked Conch is not to be confused with the Cracked Conch Café further down on Marathon Key, more expensive and not as down-home-tasty. The Cracked Conch also is not to be found by street address; it may have one for official reasons, but, the attitude about official stuff being what it is in the Keys, the address is not visible as drivers whiz down the Overseas Highway. Just look on the left side of the road, around Mile Marker 105 in Key Largo, for a small overgrown wooden shack with lots of hopeful cats on the roof licking their chops. Relax. You're there. Also there are a rustic room with booths, not tables; a terrific country jukebox; an informal take-one-now-leave-one-later bookcase of delicious vacation trash reading; even more delicious always-fresh local seafood and homemade specialties (several variety platters let you sample most everything including -- surprise!-- tender deep-fried cracked conch); a beer list longer than the food menu; and a great sense of humor: A note on the menu states that the Conch is run by "a very close staff and family. Close to broke. Close to insanity." The Cracked Conch is closed Wednesday. But if you begin a Key West weekend on Wednesday, you've been listening to waaay too many Jimmy Buffett songs.
The Idaho potatoes are cut fresh every day, long and thin. The restaurant buys them from a distributor who ensures uniform size and quality. The vegetable oil in which they are fried is changed daily. "And we make every batch to order," says manager Patricia Ferraro. After all, the restaurant has a reputation at stake that precedes its three-year existence on South Beach. The flagship Joe Allen on Manhattan's 46th Street is 35 years old. Sister restaurants in Paris and London both boast more than twenty years. And among them all are certain simple, signature American dishes: the calf's liver, the sirloin, the hamburger, and, of course, the French fry (which, grouped as a serving, costs $3.50). Joe Allen is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. daily.
The boulevard was abuzz when Pascal Oudin opened his eponymous eatery last year, and the place certainly hasn't lost any of its charge. Chef Oudin has crafted a contemporary French menu that's exciting but accessible, leaving the steak frites and escargots to neighbor Les Halles (which prepares those dishes simply and beautifully). Pascal's offerings aren't extensive, but with captivating choices like tenderloin of beef with snails, wild mushrooms, and garlic with Bordelaise sauce; magret duck breast with savoy cabbage; and sautéed yellowfin tuna au poivre (for those who can't do without peppercorns), diners will still need time to peruse and decide. And when the dessert arrives, warm and lovely after all those other courses, you'll be reminded that it's never too early to plan for the future. The 55-seat restaurant is intimate without seeming cliquish, and the waitstaff is attentive and knowledgeable of the menu and the wine list. Prices are reflective of the fare's essence: not over the top. Pascal's is open for lunch, too, where such sensibility is even more obvious.
Incredible but true: Peruse the produce shelves of local markets here in one of the nation's major tomato-growing counties, and can you find a truly ripe, truly red specimen spurting with sweet-tart juice, even during seasons when mouthwatering morsels are nearly falling off the vines half an hour southwest in the Redland? Nah. Not so you can count on it, anyway. What you'll probably find is a "vine-ripened tomatoes" sign over a pile of pinkish orbs hard as billiard balls. Except at Norman Brothers. If the store's buyers can't find truly ripe tomatoes -- local if possible or from somewhere like the Carolinas -- shoppers won't find tomatoes on the shelves. And in addition to carrying a full line of the usual suspects (in an unusual state of peak ripeness) and rare specialty-shop produce, the store is a treasure trove of tropical fruits and vegetables that grow and thrive in our climes yet are almost never seen in our stores, such as fresh tamarind and jicama. There's also a sizable selection of prepared foods, cheeses, fresh fish, and fancy imported items, but pricewise Norman Brothers is no ultra-upscale gourmet shoppe. You won't find a better buy on whole fresh Florida lobsters -- in season, naturally -- anywhere.
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 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.
People's Bar-B-Que, in the heart of Overtown, dishes up comfort food with a smile. They pay attention not only to the way the food is prepared but also to how it's served. And it shows in the soul-satisfying fullness that sticks with you long after you've gone on your way. The iced tea is sweetened the way it should be: while it's still hot. The cornbread has a nice chewy crust. The greens are seasoned just so. The mashed potatoes are made from scratch. And the chicken, dipped in flour and deep-fat fried, is cooked to order. It comes to the table so hot it's still sizzling.

Best Fried Chicken In A Supermarket Chain

Publix Deli

Freshly chopped chicken, coated with flour batter flecked with ground black pepper, deep-fried en masse to a golden crunchy brown, done on the inside but not overdone, and always hot off the serving tray, Publix fried chicken is so good it brings back memories. Serve it cold, and it makes you hanker for a grassy lawn, a shady tree, and a picnic basket packed with lemonade and potato salad. Serve it hot, and you'll long for macaroni and cheese, a heap of greens, and cornbread seasoned with diced jalapeño peppers. Meets the mom bar, which says a lot about a supermarket deli.

At first glance the gustatory enticements on this stretch of Biscayne Boulevard seem flatter than the landscape. The eye gets caught on the bright ubiquitous colors and familiar logos of McDonald's, KFC, Subway, and Taco Bell and sees little else. But the neighborhood also boasts eateries that speak not to the comfort of national fast-food dining but to the richness that waves of immigrants have brought to Miami's cuisine. Within a few blocks there is Honduran, Nicaraguan, Peruvian, and Haitian cuisine served at the kind of down-at-the-heels-looking joints that you pray have great food. Housed in a building with a lime-green shingled awning on the corner of 30th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, Delicias del Mar Peruano offers fresh seafood seasoned with lime, basil, mint, garlic and other pungent flavorings. Portions are large enough for two. The fiery jalapeño salsa with sliced baguettelike bread is worth a visit alone. The restaurant prepares six kinds of ceviche, heat adjusted to order; seafood soup (with octupi, large shrimp, and mussels in a clear broth); and perfect arroz con mariscos (shrimp with yellow rice) with flaky rice and just-cooked shrimp. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, just like a neighborhood restaurant should be.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®