It is indeed a cozy, homey sort of diner on a bustling corner of Miami Springs' business district. The walls are hung with fancy quiltwork and needlework, old black-and-white photos of the town circa 1930, and antique Coca-Cola paraphernalia; real and fabricated ferns and flowers are everywhere, and delicious-looking cakes, pies, and pastries sit on counters in those covered glass stands. It's plain country-good eatin' here: meat loaf and mashed potatoes, eggs and grits -- even one of the greatest dishes ever to come out of the South, biscuits and gravy. Breakfast is served anytime, and there are many excellent and reasonably priced specials. But the real test of a kountry kitchen is the waitresses. You won't find the actress-student birdbrain type at Cozy Corner. Here the food servers have weathered years on their feet, memorizing prices, and carrying three plates on one arm (if they have to). In other words they're much like the unpretentious throwback the restaurant is.

There is a moment in the night, usually after the clock passes 3:00 a.m., when if awake, the body hits a crossroads. Either go to bed or push on to the dawn's first light. If the choice is to forgo sleep, sustenance is usually a must. For a hot meal there is no better place than the 24-hour 11th Street Diner. Whether it's pancakes or fried chicken, the diner serves quality food at reasonable prices. An added bonus for late-night owls is the possibility of a celebrity sighting. The proximity to South Beach clubs makes the eatery a natural stopping place for the famous. Recent hungry partyers seen chowing down include pitcher Livan Hernandez and rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J. (See, the famous haven't departed the Beach; they've just moved on to better and cheaper places.)
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.

Zesty, refreshing, cool, and minty. Yes, minty. Making lemonade may seem trivial, but at Eat'n Colors it's become almost an art form. Mixed with bits of fresh mint leaves, a tall glass will quench your thirst and offer respite from not just the heat but the overwhelming demands of life. Nature supplies the crew of Eat'n Colors with lemons, and they make wonderful lemonade for us to enjoy. So enjoy!
The late Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer and his wife, Alma, used to visit this soda fountain and drugstore at least once a day, sometimes twice. For lunch Singer often ordered the grilled cheese on white. The prolific short-story writer and novelist was at Sheldon's in 1978 when a courier from the Nobel Prize committee showed up at his Surfside home with the news he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Sent to the drugstore to find the author, the courier interrupted Singer's midday meal. The unassuming writer reportedly replied with characteristic aplomb, "Oh, okay," and resumed eating. Singer probably liked the place, says owner Ethel Spector, wife of the late Sheldon, because the backstore diner treated him like any other customer. A sign printed on typing paper above a table near the coffee station states that Singer learned he won literature's greatest award in 1979 while sitting at "this" table. Even if they got the year wrong and have since moved the tables around, there's something inspiring about eating near where genius dined. In addition to its literary charms, Sheldon's is a soda-fountain aficionado's dream. They serve old-school sundaes with pineapple goo and chocolate sauce; banana splits; New York egg creams; phosphates; ice cream sodas; and thick, rich milkshakes in tall frosted glasses with both a straw and a spoon.
We thought proprietor Alejandro Garcia and chef-wife Lorena Vega-Beuggie were completely nuts when they reopened Divina. They'd formerly operated this Mexican haute-cuisine restaurant for only seven months a couple of years ago, and while they got great reviews and built a loyal clientele, landlord problems forced them to give up the space. But when they saw that Divina's successor, Chow, had gone out of business, they decided a little resurrection was in order. Can't say any of Vega-Beuggie's fans were dismayed; that corn torte with poblano cream sauce she makes produces a powerful craving, and, admittedly, we also were suffering without our regular fix of squash blossoms and cuitlacoche. Our goal now? To let everybody in on the secret of their success, so the duo will have no choice but to expand their hours to include a divine lunchtime.
Many praise the Knaus Berry Farm cinnamon rolls, so tasty not a one has ever lasted long enough to grow stale. Others have noted how heavenly a confection is the key lime pie created by these German Baptists, who share with the Amish a partiality for long beards and dark formalwear. But truth be told (no matter what the cooks are wearing), on any given day the longest line here is for the milkshakes. Smooth, fruity, and flavorful, the shakes come in strawberry, chocolate, raspberry, pineapple, vanilla, key lime, and mango. So sweet and creamy, in fact, that it just might appear these Baptists have a taste for sin after all.

Knaus Berry Farm
Photo by Laine Doss
Many praise the Knaus Berry Farm cinnamon rolls, so tasty not a one has ever lasted long enough to grow stale. Others have noted how heavenly a confection is the key lime pie created by these German Baptists, who share with the Amish a partiality for long beards and dark formalwear. But truth be told (no matter what the cooks are wearing), on any given day the longest line here is for the milkshakes. Smooth, fruity, and flavorful, the shakes come in strawberry, chocolate, raspberry, pineapple, vanilla, key lime, and mango. So sweet and creamy, in fact, that it just might appear these Baptists have a taste for sin after all.

Contrary to the icon stenciled on the door, Irving Fields looks nothing like an iron Granny bent on reforming the eating habits of a decidedly pudgy nation. To look at his round, avuncular shape, one might not immediately guess that he has operated a health food restaurant in downtown Miami since 1971. But just watch him bustle around the restaurant and store. He's hawking vitamins, mixing strawberry-banana protein shakes, and ringing up the bill -- all the while maintaining a constant stream of banter and gossip directed at newcomers and regulars alike. The restaurant is only a short walk from the county courthouse and county hall, so many of the regulars are a mixed lot of Miami's most famous and notorious denizens. "Mayors, commissioners, judges, lawyers, and cops, I know 'em all," Fields declares. One of his favorite customers is former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who he says confessed that she missed coming into the shop while she served out her term up in D.C. "She said, “Irving, I've got to tell you I fantasized about your fresh fruit and yogurt,'" Fields recalls with evident pleasure. "Fantasized -- that's a strange word coming from her." Oh yes, about the actual food. The menu is large, with well-priced items ranging from tasty veggie burgers and spinach lasagna to chimichangas to a variety of chicken or fish dishes and a selection of salads and fresh juices. The restaurant operates on the downtown's bustle-and-bust cycle, Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Was it propaganda? Was it fixed? Was it a given? In order: No, no, and yes. When Pascal Oudin, one of our all-time favorite chefs of Grand Café fame, finally opened his own restaurant in the Gables, we knew it was only a matter of time till Best of Miami named it a winner. That's because the French-trained Oudin, who has noodled around the area with interim projects like the erstwhile Sweet Donna's, has always deserved a neoclassic place in the Florida sun -- and we're determined to keep him here. So simply put, he keeps producing dishes like lobster bisque with fish quenelles or his justly famous soufflés, and we'll keep buying 'em. And giving him the kudos he deserves.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®