Despite the fact that conch fritters are a South Florida specialty, diners need to bring their own microscopes to find the conch in fritters served at most seafood eateries. Not at this friendly fish market, which is also an informal restaurant (five Formica tables) and prepared-foods take-out joint. Jim Hanson, a Miami native, makes fritters that are positively packed with super-size chunks of perfectly tenderized conch, as well as onion and both sweet and hot green peppers. The unusually puffy enclosing batter, similar in texture to a light Spanish churro or Seminole fry bread rather than a rough cornmeal hush puppy, is so succulently seasoned you could easily forget to use the accompanying dipping sauce. Don't. The hot-and-sassy concoction, reminiscent of a remoulade, puts the tart back in tartar sauce. With an order of six plump fritters you need only an accompaniment of crisp fresh coleslaw to complete a meal.
Bangkok Bangkok II
Unlike local patrons who vow undying devotion, we've never been huge fans of the original Red Thai Room in Hollywood. Not that we dislike it, but mostly we walk away merely satisfied and color-blinded by the vibrantly scarlet walls. Not so at this tropically designed sister location where no one seems to have discovered the terrific fare. The true character of the restaurant, located in the space that formerly housed a Dan Marino's Town Tavern, can't be glimpsed from the road. So passersby have virtually no idea that a thatched-roof porch is available for drinking and dining and that a multiroom interior yields some very romantic tables. The fare, ranging from excellent versions of standard pad thai and various curries to innovative dried-tofu salads, is also way above par. Come to think, it's been a year or so since we've been back to the original. Judging by the cooking and prompt service at this second locale, perhaps it's time to give the Hollywood joint another brightly hued shot at redemption.
Donut Gallery Diner
Tucked away in the corner of a secluded strip mall on Key Biscayne, this 30-year-old neighborhood hangout is short on elbow room, long on history, and steeped in cholesterol. Think we're exaggerating? The house special consists of ham, bacon, eggs, and cheese on a buttered English muffin. Next time you're in the area, slide in, grab a seat, and slip back to a time when nuts and berries were for the birds.
The Frieze Ice Cream Factory
I'm not a sorbet kinda guy, you say. I drink tap water, not Perrier. Budweiser, not wine. Relax, okay? After a Lincoln Road meal, an aprés-dining stroll over to The Frieze is an easy way to add a touch of culinary sophistication to your diet. And the folks behind the counter here are more than happy to ease you into your new chichi identity. All you have to do is point and they'll gladly scoop you out a free sample of any of their dozen or so flavors of homemade sorbet. May we suggest a coneful of coconut for starters? Smooth, but not too watery; tart but not tangy -- it's just the thing to cleanse the palate and then to keep you coming back for more. Good thing they pack pints to go.

When it's too late for a full meal but necessary to refuel for the last leg of your long night's journey into the wee hours, the take-out window at La Carreta is the perfect pit stop. For a dollar and a half you can order a steaming cortadito (sugary espresso coffee softened with a big splash of hot milk; also available without sugar) and a warm and flaky pastel de guayaba (guava pastry). If you arrive after the window closes at 2:00 a.m., you can still order at the counter inside the main restaurant. This branch of the local chain happens to be the only one open 24 hours.
Les Halles
Among the leisure class in 1789 France, heads rolled. Among the leisure class in 2002 Miami, the rolls get passed -- around a table. Quite appropriately French bread is served during Les Halles' Revolutionary Brunch, which carries the economical price of $17.89, in tribute to the year French peasants revolted. And the little people are treated regally to a multi-course affair. First with an effervescent pink kir royale (champagne with a touch of crème de cassis). Next with one of many savory appetizers including a tasty mélange of warm portobello mushrooms, potatoes, and goat cheese or crêpes filled with ham or seafood. Traditional brunch favorites such as eggs Benedict, omelets, and French toast, along with heartier dishes like steak tartare and salade niçoise, make up the list of main courses. Silky chocolate mousse, crème brélée, and profiteroles are among the rich desserts. In an eminently democratic move, brunch can be had from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Vive la France!

Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop
The Cuban sandwich is an art form. There are a thousand improvisations, depending on the taste, level of talent, and materials available to the maker. But as with any school or period in the art world, there is a certain archetypal Cuban sandwich, the paradigm for anything that would presume to call itself a Cuban sandwich. Where is such a masterpiece found? It is at Enriqueta's. The archetypal Cuban sandwich has to be on pressed Cuban bread, and it must have just the right combination of ham, pork, swiss cheese, and pickles. How Enriqueta's cooks do it, turning out perfect copy after perfect copy, is a mystery of the creative spirit.
The key to being a fine Italian eatery is to effectively deliver high-end cuisine without losing the rustic charm and culture of the Italian countryside. Though some may argue Il Tulipano lost much of its charisma after moving from North Miami to its new digs in the Grove, the same cannot be said for the delectable Tuscan dishes that dress Old World staples with the finest of modern touches. From the exquisitely prepared fresh asparagus and mozzarella-tomato-basil appetizers to the homemade pasta entrées, Il Tulipano specializes in serving up classical sustenance. Not to be missed are the tender veal and the seafood-laden linguine, each perfect examples of northern Italian cuisine. Add stellar wine selections and decadent desserts (an apple tart both rich and savory), and it's clear that Il Tulipano has earned this award.
Bruschetta & Co.
This outstanding eatery just beyond the Doral Country Club delivers a cuisine one would expect in one of those hard-to-find, five-table family restaurants. With a head chef, Iggy, able to cite Milan as one of his training stops, you know you're getting the real deal and plenty of it. From traditional antipasti (dressed just enough to add style but not so much to become silly) and homemade pastas to fresh seafood dishes, Bruschetta covers every Italian base, including its bread namesake, and has room left over to experiment. The specials vary, obviously, but if available do not pass on the sea bass (entrées are usually between $14 and $19). Also worthy of note is the bold and tasty pears with cheese. Of course no Italian dinner would be complete without dessert. And if sweets are your thing bring a healthy appetite -- the after-dinner treats are decadent, original, and well worth the guilt.
What other North American city would be the source of a soft drink with a South American twist? Miami's own Cawy Bottling Company produces a fizzy elixir made with yerba mate extract. (No, those are not marijuana plants in the logo.) Mate tea, of course, is a wildly popular hot drink in Argentina and is on the rise in the Argentine outpost expanding right here in the southern cone of Florida. Among the herb's fabled effects: a healthy gastrointestinal tract, a strengthened immune system, youthful hair, improved sexual performance, and less stress (not necessarily in that order). But one is not always in the mood for hot tea in 95-degree heat. Hence the cold variant in a can. While the sucrose and corn sweeteners in Materva may undermine the medicinal powers of the mate, one must never underestimate the placebo effect. Anyway you'll be doing your teeth and waistline a favor. The most amazing thing about Materva is that it's produced in this sugar-crazed town but is far less sweet than Coke, Pepsi, and their uncola counterparts.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®