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.
It's just a simple ground-beef sandwich, dressed with a bit of sauce and the obligatory vegetable matter. Yet somehow it's like biting into a memory of your favorite comfort food Momma used to make. Wash it down with a tropical juice: banana, mango, passion, papaya, guava, or Jus Tropical special blend. About as much lunchtime bliss as you can expect for five or six dollars. There are a handful of other sandwiches -- chicken, tuna, or a daily special-- and some sweet snacks for dessert. Friday and Saturday nights the place stays open until 1:00 a.m. so patrons can lounge at outside tables and listen to the sounds of Haitian musicians like Sweet Vibe play at the front of the shop. During the week Jus Tropical is open from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
If you judge Haitian restaurants as we do -- solely on the virtue of the lambi -- then you'll agree with us that Le Pavillon is tops in conch. The pounded conch, smothered in a tomato sauce and served so tender you know the chef has carpal tunnel syndrome from all that whacking, justifies the honor alone. Fortunately that's not the only qualified dish at this smartly trimmed eatery, which has been open for several years but is under new management. The beef-vegetables stew and the goat with gravy both rule their categories, as does the rice and peas. And while this eatery clearly is Creole to the nth degree, you won't find better fried chicken -- available every day -- served anywhere in the Deep South. Le Pavillon's motto is "home of many cultures," but really we think it's the place for just one: the culinary society.
Kevin Rusk took a risk when he named his brewpub for the doomed ocean liner that sank in 1912, but he's managed to keep it afloat for the past two years. Drawing on his success at Tobacco Road and Fishbone Grille, Rusk has created an eclectic menu that's designed to complement Titanic's handcrafted award-winning beers. Bypassing the uncharted (but tasty) waters of gangplank salmon and steerage skirt steak sandwich, we've found our safety zone in something tried and true: the essential burger. One-half pound of fresh ground Angus beef grilled to juicy perfection, crisp romaine lettuce, and a ripe-red tomato slice sit atop a toasted onion bun and are accompanied by a choice of caesar salad or fries. Extras (add fifty cents to a buck to the ample $5.95 burger) include grilled onion, jalapeños, cheese, mushrooms, and bacon. We'll be enjoying these consistently savory beefburgers until an iceberg forms on the UM campus.
In Miami Beach there are two kinds of happy hours: the ones that begin at midnight, and the ones that begin at 6:00 a.m. But in downtown Miami, where the business people -- yeah, those with day jobs -- play, there's only one happy hour. That's when work is over, the stuffy execs go home, and the unbuttoned professionals come out to play. And there's no better place to relax than on the patio at Gordon Biersch. Located in the heart of the Brickell streetscape, the brewery has even the sharkiest of lawyers relaxing with a homebrewed lager and a plate of fried artichoke hearts. In the end the crowd here, especially on Fridays, may make it tough to negotiate some space for yourself. But if you consider the salubrious effect of a little cheer on a lot of hard-working suits -- those you're likely to be negotiating with come Monday -- then the order of business becomes clear: Drink up, shut up.
Until there is an outbreak of foot and beak disease (or, God forbid, mad chicken) this Anglo version of Pollo Tropical is still a tantalizing investment for a quick healthful meal. The Brickell locale is a favorite lunchtime or postworkout pit stop for the calorie- and cash-obsessed professionals of our shimmering financial district. (You're usually out of there for less than five bucks.) The Kitchen is a pioneer in the merger of salad and entrée: broiled chicken (or beans for the truly health-minded vegetarian) on a bed of rice with fresh tomato, lettuce, and sour cream on top. A clever variety of salsas/dressings make this culinary conglomerate complete.
One of Havana's most beloved attractions for tourists and locals alike is the Coppelia ice cream stand in the Vedado district. There are those who believe Cubans would rather give up rum, or roast pig, than live without ice cream. Thus Miami's Coppelia has quite a reputation to live up to. It does -- even if it looks like any other strip-center storefront in Flagami. In a random survey, one Cuban visiting from Havana pronounced the Miami ice cream "better" than the Cuban Coppelia (which is a state brand sold throughout the nation). The flavors and the special sundaes here all recall those offered on the island, though in greater variety: marvelous mamey and mango, coconut, orange-pineapple, and peach. Of course you can't go wrong with the all-American flavors like chocolate almond, chocolate chip, and cukis con crema (cookies and cream). A high note: the Pico Turquino sundae, an original Coppelia creation named after Cuba's highest mountain peak and featuring clouds of whipped cream raining multiple flavors of syrup over mounds of ice cream perched on a cliff of cake.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®