Best Place To Dine Alone 2001 | Atlantic | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
If "There are days when solitude is a heady wine that intoxicates you with freedom, others when it is a bitter tonic, and still others when it is a poison that makes you beat your head against the wall," as Colette writes in Earthly Paradise, then surely Atlantic is the restaurant that suits all three states. When solitude is a heady wine, there is Sheila Lukins's modern American menu to savor by oneself, along with some more literal vino. When solitude's a bitter tonic, there's the view from the outdoor dining area of gently rolling sand dunes and clear, bright azure waters -- of the pool, that is. And when solitude makes you want to bang your head against the wall, well, at least Atlantic's walls were designed by the Ralph Lauren team. It doesn't make 'em any softer on your scalp, but it sure makes 'em pretty.
Just north of the bustle and hustle of Little Haiti and just south of the suburban meadow of Miami Shores squats a 28-year-old shrine to past greatness. Various shades of pink and the words "Home of the Zonker" transform what once was a gas station into a place where mere salami, ham, Provolone cheese, and a generous layer of mayonnaise become divine inspiration for less than four dollars. Take your zonker and a beer to one of the outside tables, or lean against the guardrail overlooking the Little River as it flows past the parking lot. But sit inside if you want the real deal. The walls are plastered with posters and memorabilia from Old Hollywood and every major sport in the Western Hemisphere (except soccer -- like that counts). There's a virile young Ronnie Reagan as gunslinger, Jackie Gleason as pool shark, Marilyn Monroe as pneumatic nitwit, the Babe and Joe DiMaggio as baseball icons. Even the Hialeah racetrack has a spot on the wall. But it's Dan Marino who will take your breath away. Really. An artist lovingly drew just the head and naked shoulders of Number 13 rising from a sea of blue, as if he were the Greek god Poseidon. Lightning sparks distantly in an ominous black sky as dolphins leap over Marino's prodigious shoulders and into the water. Eat it up.
Miami, not known for its raw-bar diversity, nonetheless has had a stalwart purveyor in this restaurant and its sister in Coconut Grove. But the South Beach locale usually plays second fiddle to the Grove location in the popular imagination. We don't know why. The South Beach spot is wonderfully situated on the water by the Miami Beach Marina, a perfect place to catch a sunset. And this spot doesn't disappoint the tradition of raw bars as a happy-hour destination. From 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. a dollar will get you two peel-and-eat shrimp, or two fresh oysters, or clams. Stone crab legs are two dollars each. And drinks are half-price. The seafood is specially selected for freshness and quality. The raw-bar line can get pretty long, but it's worth the wait. Monty's is open from 11:00 to 1:00 a.m. during the week and from 11:00 to 2:00 a.m. on weekends.
Never underestimate the power of an old maxim: Power is as power does. If you want to be perceived as powerful, act it. And eat some power protein for lunch. At this Brazilian rodizio eatery, you don't have to be a glutton to prove you're worthy. Order the "executive lunch," a complete meal for $12.99, which includes soup, caesar salad, side dishes, and a main course ranging from sirloin steak to salmon in white wine-caper-mushroom sauce. Or go all out and sample everything on the 30-item salad bar, then give the green light to the skewer-carrying meat carvers, who will feed you until you feel like having a power hurl, for $25.99. 'Course we don't recommend that if you're trying to impress a client or a senior partner. What we do advise: Check out the free valet parking, then tip big. Your power is in the (doggy) bag.

Unlike some of our other more blatant eateries -- Tantra or Touch, for example -- chef-proprietor Kris Wessel's Liaison isn't all about sex. It is, however, all about the sensual: the feel of a large airy dining room with a high ceiling and billowing linens. The look of a sleek bar that has the friendly, open-door ambiance of a corner shop. The taste of Wessel's restrained yet exuberant New Orleans-inspired cuisine that combines classic French technique with local and seasonal ingredients. Don't look for too much blackening seasoning, though. This restaurant doesn't hit the diner over the head with Cajun flavors and drag her off to a cave for a bout of postprandial feasting. Rather Wessel seduces the sophisticate in all of us with items like filé gumbo with blue crabs; grillades of veal served over grits; crêpes stuffed with oysters; or zesty short ribs. Wash it all down with a sparkling kir royale, and you've got the perfect introduction to the main course after the dinner, if you know what we mean (wink, wink).
At all-you-can-eat buffets of the cafeteria-inspired kind, the urge to gorge overtakes most diners. Maybe it's a Thanksgiving-related syndrome. Get it now or your brothers will be asking for seconds before you've taken the first bite. That experience is the opposite of eating at the Brazilian churrascaria Porcao in the Four Ambassadors Hotel. Although porcao is Portuguese for "pig," and one essential element is the same -- you can eat until you decide to stop -- the experience is more like theater for the tongue. You are attended to by a cast of waiters. There is a constant flow of different foods to sample. The tongue remains surprised. A churrascaria is a restaurant that specializes in meat. The style of cooking is rodizio, Portuguese for "rotisserie." Each table has a card, one side green and the other red, like a traffic light. If you flip up the green side, you will be approached by the phalanx of waiters streaming from the kitchen and fanning out through the dining room. Each waiter carries skewers of fresh-grilled meat. One time it will be pork sausages and grilled chicken. The next, buttons of filet mignon wrapped in bacon, perfectly charred roast rump, salmon with mushroom-butter sauce. If you want time to digest all that protein, flip over the card to the red side, order a drink from one of the carts wheeled through the dining room, and indulge in conversation. There's no rush. Or if you just want to give your taste buds a change, take a trip to the salad bar. The array of choices and the quality of offerings are dazzling. And then there is the dessert cart. Yummy. Gluttony never felt so good.
In The Beach, a novel about traveling, the central characters are constantly looking for the next undiscovered Eden, where they can play in splendid isolation. Take that concept, transfer it to dining on South Beach, and The Abbey becomes an oasis of an island. Although it's "undiscovered" by the masses, it's not so far off the Ferragamo-trod path that it's unfashionable. Thus the sophisticated eatery, featuring executive chef Philippe Baguette (can his name be any more apropos?), an eclectic menu, and a darling eight-stool bar, plus an airy but formal Mediterranean dining room and a beautifully landscaped terrace for outdoor dining, offers a temporary escape from the madding SoBe crowd. In other words it's the perfect place to talk about your friends, because while their ears may be ringing, they don't yet know where you are. And we won't tell if you won't.

Best Restaurant For The Hearing Impaired


Perhaps it's the music, spun by DJs who damaged their own hearing so long ago they have ear-practice pads rather than ear drums. Possibly it's the ever-playing Kama Sutra movie, inspiring both moans of delight and screams of "No, not again!" Maybe it's the fashionable crowd, whose very clothing is loud, or the ever-present buzz that follows celebrity diners Jim Carrey or Will Smith like tinnitus. But the requirements for getting past the big boys holding the ropes at Tantra no longer stop at having a reservation. Now you have to be able to lip-read and speak in American Sign Language as well. And it's no use throwing a tantrum -- the only person likely to hear well enough to pay attention is, well, you.
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.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®