"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.
Steve's Pizza
Don't get us wrong. Steve's pizzas -- hot wheels of steaming mozzarella on firm, chewy crusts -- are a delicacy any time of day (and Steve's starts baking 'em around 11:00 a.m.). But sometime around 3:00 a.m., when you're on your way home from a long night of bar-hopping or you're already in bed, wishing you had just a little something to nosh on, a slice from this (nearly) round-the-clock pizza stand acquires transcendental meaning: Someone in the universe cares -- cares enough about you to stay up slingin' dough, running the oven, churning out pizza pies (all the way to 4:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays). It's just so beautiful, man.

Norman's
Yes, it's him again. And we might as well permanently retire this category to Norman Van Aken until he retires -- which he shows no signs of doing, possibly ever. While other superstar chefs would rest on their laurels -- especially if they had as many as Van Aken does -- or clean up financially by opening clone eateries, Van Aken remains in his Gables kitchen. And remains energetically, unceasingly inventive. How to equal still-superb old favorites like yuca-stuffed crispy shrimp with mojo and habanero tartar sauce? With Fire and Ice (a combo of warm lobster/boniato hash and cold tuna tartare, with wasabi granite and vanilla sabayon), or sautéed soft-shell crab with pancetta and basil/lemon butter, among many recently invented creations. As for tasting menus, there are always two. One is a weekly changing five-course feast based on seasonal ingredients and events, as well as Van Aken's sense of humor. A recent Judeo/Christian holiday menu, for instance, included both an amusing upscale Easter egg salad (quail egg halves stuffed with lobster or foie gras mousse, with a caviar crema and local spring vegetable accompaniment) and a Seder-ish dish of sea bass on a crisp latke topped with a "Balsamic Blessed ragout of teardrop tomatoes, accompanied by hearts of palm." The other is a tasting menu of signature dishes, for diners who don't want to gamble -- though no diner, no matter how high the bill, ever loses at Norman's.
Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop
Between 6:00 and 11:00 a.m., a cross section of Miami's working stiffs -- from car mechanics to Design District dandies -- jostle for a spot in this efficient little sandwich shop. Not because it's typical chaotic Miami, but because of the morning draw, the desayuno especial. For $3.15 one gets two eggs, bacon or ham, Cuban toast, café con leche, and the pièce de résistance: a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice. For $3.15. It's unmatched anywhere else in the city. The service, by the way, also is a Miami anomaly, swift and friendly.
Tobacco Road
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?
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.
In 1994, back when Lincoln Road was just emerging from its rutted, nearly abandoned phase, Alfredo Gonzalez and his sons Alex and Adrian opened David's Café II. Their original David's Café had been up and running on Collins Avenue since 1977, offering Cuban fare in a diner setting. But the family was looking toward the future, and it looked to be on the Road. They were right. Their business has only grown since then, expanding to add a café to David's II in 1999. But the Gonzalezes never strayed from their roots serving simple, tasteful Cuban dishes -- such as tostones stuffed with seafood, and churrasco steak -- even as all manner of hip restaurants (drag-queen waiters) and celebrity-owned bistros have opened and closed around them. Perhaps their biggest challenge came a year ago, when the weedlike Starbucks set up shop across the street selling $1.50 espressos. Despite it all David's has thrived. Thank God there's still a place on the Road where locals can buy 50-cent cafecitos. The café is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The restaurant is open from 7:00 a.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday.
Ah, the Grove, where people live in trees, bartenders look like clowns, and rickshas run wild through heavy traffic. Like a lot of Grovites, Mezzanotte is a little kooky. But in a good way. Take, for instance, the bistecca pulcinella: steak with peppercorn, brandy cream, and a touch of demi-glace. Kind of crazy! Or the insalata parmigiana: mushroom salad with thin slices of Parmesan cheese, virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Positively flaky! Or how about the calamari della casa: calamari, scallops, fresh tomato, peas, and a touch of cognac. Now that's outlandish! Or the pollo contadino: chicken with sirloin steak, sausage, mushrooms, potato, garlic oil, and white wine vinegar. Absolutely wacky! Even more insane is the fact that, in an area once bereft of good restaurants, Mezzanotte has several fabulous contenders, including Anokha (Indian), Baleen (seafood and steak), Bice (Italian), Le Bouchon du Grove (French), and Las Culebrinas (Cuban/Spanish). But Mezzanotte's prices (beef, chicken, and seafood entrées start at $14.50) are less absurd than most of them.
The old and rather large woman makes her unlikely way through an unruly flotilla of tables crammed with far too many revelers. She tips her ample belly first one way and then the other over each table as she makes the usual rounds. Roses for your lady friend? Perhaps the secrets of her palm are itching to be told? Most ignore her, too busy with wine and plates of tapas that keep magically appearing on the tables. Such tapas! These are appetizers that would make the king and queen of Spain feel welcome, assuming they'd be inclined to while away a humid night in a Calle Ocho tavern. There are some 35 different tapas from which to choose -- from hot, salty, garlic-kissed shrimp, squid, and chorizo dishes, to a cool, fluffy Spanish tortilla or creamy potato salad. The median price hovers around five dollars per plate. It's Thursday evening, so the two flamenco dancers are stomping up on the small stage in time with the guitarist, who is singing Iberian tunes, from fast party music to forlorn Gypsy tales. At eleven o'clock a basket of white candles is passed from hand to hand in preparation for a group sing, a prayer to the Spanish saint, La Virgen del Rocio. Come before eight o'clock on Tuesday and Thursday evenings if you want a table near the action.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®