Monty's Sunset
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.
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.
Norman's
As the saying goes, you've had the rest, now try the best. The rest in this case is unsubtle glop: white starchy glop that tastes more like bacon and potato than seafood if it's something like New England-style clam chowder; red starchy glop that tastes more like chili powder and tomato than seafood if it's something like Manhattan clam or Caribbean conch chowder. So now try the best, which you'll no doubt be able to do for a good many years, since Norman Van Aken's regulars would probably kill the chef if he discontinued his conch chowder. Slight variations have occurred over the years (like the current cloud of foam on top), but forever ambrosial is and will be the inventive chowder: panko-crusted pieces of tender conch plus garnishes of citrus, shaved coconut, and a few vegetables floating on a slightly hot, slightly sweet, rich yet refreshingly reduced (not starch-thickened) shellfish stock flavored with saffron, star anise, Scotch bonnet peppers, orange juice, coconut milk, and a generous dollop of cream. The rest simply can't compare.

Front Porch Cafe
Ah, breakfast, the most perfect of all meals: sweeter than dinner, healthier than dessert, earlier than lunch. A shame we can't have it more often.... This terraced café on the ocean is the answer to our prayers. Granola is served with strawberries, kiwi, mango -- whatever's in season -- and bound with a refreshing dollop of yogurt. The thick French toast is four-star. While others sup on the Front Porch's steaks, pastas, and offerings from the sea, be not abashed by your eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit, and the aforementioned crunchy cereal and battered bread. In this just and cozy place, all meals are created equal -- and in generous portions for reasonable prices -- daily until closing time at 10:30 p.m.
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.
Cafe Floridita
George Martinez
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.

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Three-radish salad with soy-lime vinaigrette? Crisp oyster rolls? Lobster tempura? Green tea cheesecake? And cold sake on tap to wash it all down? An establishment that treats Japanese cuisine with respectful innovation, Shoji is the latest product to debut from the Michael Schwartz-Myles Chefetz team. Like the partners' other restaurants, including Nemo, it seems Shoji was destined for success from the get-go, thanks to flavorful drinks like the sakatini (like a cosmo but with sake). Indeed we've been waiting eagerly for it to open for almost a year -- and hey, we're not all that patient. So it's all the more satisfying not only that Shoji lives up to its implied reputation, but that we can award it for its high cuisine so readily.
New York's Big Apple Deli
Naming yourself after the Big Apple is like setting yourself up for failure, or at least for bitter comparisons. Add moving into the space formerly occupied by a very successful restaurant, and you've set yourself a double challenge. How could you possibly succeed? Well this deli does, and it does so admirably, in the spot where Andre's Diner used to be. Turkey for sandwiches is roasted on the premises and sliced off the bone, not slipped out of plastic. Whitefish salad features big chunks of the flavorful fish. Hot open-face brisket platters can't be beat, unless you're thinking about ordering that pastrami Reuben known as a Rachel. Even the desserts -- rugelach, chocolate layer cake, and carrot cake, for example -- are made daily. For once even the New Yawkers can't complain.
As one of the original Mango Gang of chefs who put New World cuisine on the serious dining map a decade ago (and the first to win a James Beard Award), Mark Militello is a certifiable culinary star. But at his South Beach eatery, the real star is Militello's almost impossibly well-flavored fusion food -- and it's obvious from the clientele. Although Washington Avenue is South Beach's nightlife central, Mark's doesn't attract club kids but a casually classy twenty-five-to-fiftysomething crowd that knows from noshing. So settle back in the exotic movie-set glamour of the black-enameled, hardwood-paneled Deco dining room (or better yet the balmy, multipooled outdoor tropical terrace) and swoon over the masterpieces: succulent West Coast oysters in a golden-brown potato wrapping, topped with horseradish crème fraîche and osetra caviar; a "millionaire" organic green salad with Maine lobster, foie gras, and truffle vinaigrette; crisp anise and hazelnut-crusted soft-shell crab; spot prawns with silky black truffle sabayon; or a mushroom-dusted pompano with foie gras, warm green lentils and chanterelles, and rich, naturally sweet aged balsamic vinegar sauce. The extensive menu changes nightly, but thanks to the skill of the guy who actually cooks at Mark's while Militello supervises his ever-expanding empire, executive chef Tim Andreola (a protegé of fellow Mango Ganger Allen Susser), one can count on mostly magic.
We're not saying anything we didn't already say back in 1999, 1997, 1996, and 1994. And our deciding factors -- freshness, consistency, selection, reasonable prices, and, truth be known, free samples -- are probably nothing you don't already know about Biga, which, like bread itself, has become a staple in South Florida. Whether you live near the Coral Gables, South Miami, South Beach, Key Biscayne, Dadeland Station, Coral Way, Kendall, Boca Raton, or West Palm Beach shop, the hearty country breads and Latin specialties are trucked to you daily from Biga's 20,000-square-foot baking commissary in Hialeah. Besides, Biga is a bakery that knows how to have fun: How about a loaf resembling a cluster of grapes, a bunny bun for Easter, or a heart-shaped brioche for Mother's Day? Heck, if you've got the dough, you can even buy your own Biga franchise.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®