Miami actually has many great Asian groceries, including a treasure trove on 163rd Street between Biscayne Boulevard and I-95. But big Lucky is best for one-stop shopping. The canned and bottled goods include not just standard soy-sauce-at-bargain-prices stuff for Asian aficionados but Lee Kum Kee's excellent XO sauce, several types of non-oyster oyster sauce for those who don't eat shellfish, and Longevity brand full-cream condensed milk for the ultimate key lime pie. The produce department has a full selection of Asian greens like snow-pea tips, fresh water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots -- even durian, the fruit that tastes like heaven but smells like hell. There's a fish department where you can see some of 'em swimming. Refrigerated cases contain a mind-boggling assortment of prepared dumplings, many in party-perfect mini sizes, and an assortment of Chinese-style sausages including near-legendary Sun Ming Jan brand from Brooklyn, whose secret ingredient is gin. Herbal and ritual remedies are stocked for those seeking health, luck, love, whatever. You'll also find a sizable selection of dishes and eating and cooking utensils. Cookbooks are on hand for those who haven't the vaguest idea what to do with the items they're buying. The clincher: If Lucky's overwhelming bounty renders you too weak to wok home, Miami's best dim sum joint (Kon Chau) is in the same mall.

Norman Brothers Produce
Alex Broadwell
Larger than the sign marking the Norman Brothers name on the front of the store are the red letters just below that exclaim, "The Fresh Approach." Words the proprietors live by. Any doubts? Check out the mouthwatering prepared foods (smoked ribs, rotisserie chickens, meat loaf), impeccable seafood and meat (including USDA prime-dry aged beef), tempting baked goods (pastries, breads, fine chocolates), top-shelf deli items, enticing fruits and vegetables, and refreshing juices and fresh-fruit shakes. A bit pricey, yes, but weekly specials guarantee you won't go home empty-handed.

Ask any number of Cubans if they'd rather sip their coffee sitting down or standing up and without hesitating they'll almost always reply: Standing up, from a ventanita. For all you non-Spanish speakers (and the six of you know who you are), that's a window, specifically one belonging to a Cuban restaurant servicing the caffeine-craving masses on the sidewalk. The reason for this is that the cafecito ritual is as much about socializing as it is about downing the black ambrosia. The ventanita at El Pub, located at the symbolic center of Miami's Cuban exile community -- Calle Ocho -- provides ample opportunity to press the flesh with the locals. The viejos on their way to and from Domino Park. The men leaving Nene's barbershop with fresh haircuts and even fresher gossip. The local politicos. This is a veritable window onto the world.
Miami's Finest Caribbean Restaurant
This delightful Jamaican joint is located in the heart of old downtown. A tall glass of this not-too-sweet elixir, which the proprietors brew themselves, costs two dollars. The (nonalcoholic) liquid is bracingly delicious and a healthy tonic for our stressed-out, urbanized bodies as well. Stop in for a refreshing energy boost between meals or sit down and sip it as you enjoy a tasty plate of oxtail, curry goat, cow foot, jerk chicken, red peas, or numerous other specialties from the island. The menu also features homemade lemonade for $1.60. Open for lunch and dinner.

Take double handfuls of berries, vine-ripened to their perfumed peak under the infinite South Florida sun. Add some of the richest cream available, a touch of sugar so sweet it was worth sacrificing the Everglades, some pure spring-water ice. Churn. What do you get? Only an addiction as powerful as Sex and the City. Give in. It's a guilty pleasure, but somebody has to make it.

Laurenzo's Itialian Market
Modest little tables with checkered plastic tablecloths. Replicas of meats and cheeses hanging from the ceiling. Classic black-and-whites of Sophia Loren, Frank Sinatra, and the cast of The Godfather. Slightly tacky paintings of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and other famous Italian sights. Cheap food available on a cafeteria-style serving line. Sounds like a cliché to avoid, except that this scene is hidden within Laurenzo's, the Italian grocery and deli that's been a fixture in North Miami Beach for nearly 40 years. Here's what to do: Drop in for lunch, sample from the freshly made and delicious varieties of spaghetti, ravioli, and lasagna, then scoot over to the aisle where fresh flour and egg pastas are made several times a day. Maybe now you'll have a better idea what to choose from the impressive array -- fettuccine, tortellini (and oni), ravioli, fusilli, pappardelle, gnocchi. Just deciding among the bright coils of drying linguine is tough. What should it be? Black pepper? Spinach? Wheat? Tomato? Squid's ink? Oh, what the heck. Try 'em all.
A delicate rose fashioned from slender blush-pink slices of tuna. Carefully carved thin strips of cucumber wrapped around crab stick, avocado, masago, and shrimp. Wooden boats bursting with artfully arranged squares of fish. How fresh is it? Take a glance behind the sushi bar. If the huge white tuna slumped across the sink, ready for carving, is any hint, very.
Chocolate is not a bad or dangerous thing. Chocolate is good medicine for the brain, the blood, the sweet tooth. And the Sweet Tooth's chocolate is very good, made on the premises. From chocolate hearts and cherries to truffles and luscious creams, feast your eyes (did we mention chocolate improves night vision?) on the velvety array of goodies at this well-equipped chocolate clinic. The selection is so stunning, especially on holidays, you may be temporarily paralyzed. The Sweet Tooth people know how you feel and have thoughtfully prepared all kinds of beautiful and therapeutic gift baskets and boxes.
If your mother is from Ireland, you know about soda bread, baked daily in many homes both in Eire and abroad. Owners Martin Lynch and John Clarke remember, and that's why with every meal at this venerable pub a basket of the tasty quick bread is set down on the table just after the pint of Guinness. The formula is simple: flour, salt, soda, buttermilk, and a handful of raisins. And you don't have to be Irish. Lynch says people with surnames like Castillo and Cohen come in all the time just for the bread. You can carry some home, too, for $3.50 a loaf.

In theory the cheapest lobster is the one you pluck from the ocean floor during lobster miniseason. But when you factor in the cost of the boat, the gas, the gear, and the beer, the total looks like a $5000 meal. No, the truly frugal eat their bugs on Tuesday nights at Tobacco Road. Just under ten bucks gets you a decent-size, nicely prepared crustacean, potatoes, and all the napkins you need. The Florida lobster is fresh, delicious, and relatively speaking it costs next to nothing. This is a great deal, just slightly better than the Road's rib night. Or the Road's T-bone steak night. Or the Road's....

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®