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.

This sliver of a restaurant is in old downtown, which with every passing day seems to gain more and more flavor as a thriving ultramodern Latin-American city of the Sixties. Wednesday is garbanzo soup day. A bowl makes a meal (especially with the complimentary side of hot buttered "Cuban" bread), and it contains four essential food groups: potato, cabbage, chorizo, and, of course, the multifaceted chickpeas, as they're called in El Norte. Sit at the lengthy counter or at a table in back. They also deliver.

"Welcome to Bavaria," the menu reads, and it's true on both counts: You are welcome, and Edelweiss is like a restaurant in Bavaria. By that we mean the homey, old-world décor, coupled with the traditional, finely wrought German fare, gets us salivating for a weis bier every time. We always enjoy sopping up the brew with the bread dumplings with mushroom sauce; the pan-seared trout with sherry sauce; or the grilled pork sausages over sauerkraut. And finishing off the meal with Black Forest torte doesn't suck either. But the part of the experience we think is most essential? Bestowing a pat or two on the owner's shaggy white dog, who is always resting eagerly at the top of the stairs, delighted to welcome you to -- and say goodbye from -- Bavaria.
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.
The wreath of laurel goes to Mylos for the third time. Surely the gods must descend from Mount Olympus from time to time to mingle with mortals and partake in the great feasts offered here. How else can such favoritism be explained? There's the paidakia, broiled baby lamb chops sautéed with mushrooms; the dolmades, stuffed grape leaves with rice and meat; and moussaka, ground beef, eggplant, and potato topped with layers of Béchamel. A favorite of Hermes -- so much that it was named after him -- is the platter of grilled lamb chops, filet mignon, and shrimp. Dionysus prefers simply the plate of grilled filet mignon and shrimp that's named for the god of wine.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®