The best fried chicken, you think, might be somewhat difficult to determine as it's one of the most common edible items around. But of course we're not talking about merely the crunch, which at Jumbo's is admittedly damn good. We're talking about the whole fried-chicken meal, the booth in which it is consumed, the other crunchers in the room. Located on the corner of one of Miami's more disagreeable streets, Jumbo's is a beacon. Bright and warm and crowded, it begs you to sit down. The combo platters are named after Miami high schools, the various fried foods delivered with a choice of two sides, which makes all the difference. When you order a Booker T. Washington at lunch, and piping hot drumsticks and legs arrive with black-eyed peas and collard greens, for $4.99, you know it doesn't get better than this. The collards are Deep South, cooked forever with bacon and its fat, and they bring out the true essence of the chicken. Not too greasy, the fried batter doesn't cling to the meat, which is ample -- these are no skinny legs. After the umpteenth visit, if you want to try something else, order the fried shrimp and conch. Again, you won't walk out hungry. As your waitress and the owner wish you well, your arteries will wish Jumbo's had never opened, for your next visit won't be far away.
So you need a spirulina fix and don't have lots of time? If you're anywhere near North Miami Beach you'll be well advised to zip over to the fastest little health-food place in town. Okay, so the menu also offers gyros and French fries. Don't worry. You'll find a large variety of smoothies, fresh-pressed vegetable juices, and vegetarian entrées. For thirteen years this roadside stand has been attracting healthy eaters with its ramshackle charm and laid-back atmosphere. If you crave something with a kick, be sure to order Amos's famous "roots tonic," a chilled brew described by one waitress as tasting "like living hell." Despite a bouquet reminiscent of gasoline (and with a similar burn), this mighty elixir -- made on the premises with a combination of roots and barks and served in a shot glass -- will kick you into high gear and launch you back on the highway of life bursting with energy.
First of all, there is not now and never will be anything remotely comparable to a fresh, warm Krispy Kreme glazed. So forget that. But on the local doughnut scene, Donut Connection is making a very important contribution and deserves every one of its many contented customers. The contribution? This cheery little place on busy 163rd Street is about the only remaining doughnut shop in the county that has not been gobbled up by that huge chain that sells good coffee and mediocre donuts. Donut Connection's product is top quality, and the selection of pastries, muffins, and doughnuts can't be beat. The mango- and guava-filled are sinfully tasty, and their cake doughnuts, many varieties, are the absolute best.
There's something invigorating about tree-shaded Coral Way, especially after it leaves the dusty hustle of Miami on its way to the Gables. Just a few blocks from the Brickell financial district, Fresco California Bistro offers a cool, unhurried respite for lunch. And for a refreshingly light summer lunch nothing beats the bistro's crisp caesar salad: fresh romaine lettuce, nicely balanced oil-garlic-egg dressing, Parmesan cheese, and croutons made from Fresco's tasty bread, a hunk of which comes with the salad. Not bad for $5.25. Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:00 to 10:30 p.m. Friday dinner hours till 11:00 p.m. Saturday noon to 11:00 p.m. Closed Sunday.
This cozy and casual café, one of the few locals' hangouts left in the vicinity of Lincoln Road, is more than just a bakery, particularly after two welcome improvements: expanded restaurant hours and acceptance of credit cards. If you're looking to impress the folks at home with pastries you can pretend you made yourself, there's no better place in town to get goods to go. You won't find any of those puffed-up pastries that look so polished yet taste like shoe polish. Here it's just old-fashioned quality. That's not to say everything at the Icebox is basic. Two of the best offerings are pretty fancy: party-perfect petits fours and a remarkably rich yet light almond/praline/butter-cream dacquoise. The pound cakes evoke days when bakers literally meant a pound of butter. Common carrot cake, often far too heavy, is moist but subtle. Coconut cake -- the classic among two or three layer cakes featured daily -- will convert coconut loathers to lovers. And for those whose idea of ice-cream cake has come from supermarket frozen-food cases, the Icebox's namesake masterpiece could well be a life-changing experience.

Scotty's fish sandwich is an ode to simplicity. A slab of fresh dolphin grilled to perfection and served on a bun with lettuce and tomato. Tartar sauce on the side. Eat it while sitting on Scotty's long wooden deck overlooking Biscayne Bay. Just beware the sharks. No, not in the bay. Miami City Hall, right next door.
Supermarket cheese sections often are criticized for their shrink-wrap items, mass-produced and factory-packaged hunks of cheese that taste like so much sawdust. We're not going to lie: Milam's has some of that stuff in stock. But it also has cheese that's been cut from an actual wheel on the actual premises -- Jarlsberg that's still fresh enough to be pliable, bufala mozzarella so new it's still coming together as a curd. In addition the gourmet market carries some harder-to-source products, including white Stilton with apricots and kasseri, a malleable, just-pungent Greek cheese that too often falls under the shadow of its sister feta's salad fame. And then of course there are the cheese-board byproducts: smoked mackerel, sopressata and other Italian sausages, and dips the likes of jerk shrimp with black bean or chicken with lemon-cilantro. So you'll pay a little more for indulging your superior dairy cravings, both in the wallet and in the waist. Talk to the hand. It's wielding the cheese knife.
Enough with the goyim joints. You want bagels made on the premises by people who know what they're doing for people who know what they're eating? Go to Aventura. Specifically this place. Bagel Cove's bagels -- beautiful, warm, chewy, hand-rolled loaves -- are not only the best in town, they're delivered to you by women who care, ladies who'll always tell you that you look too skinny, who can't understand why you don't find some nice man or woman and settle down, who always want you to come back soon. A bagel with a schmeer you can get anywhere, but love like that? Dahrklink, please.
You won't find fresher fish anywhere in town than at this simple, cement-floor shack by the fishing boat docked at Watson Island (except maybe at the fish shack next door, but Casablanca has more variety and takes credit cards). You also won't find bigger crowds, not even at velvet-rope clubs. But this is a pretty pleasant bunch. So dump your friends or family under the trees along Government Cut to watch the cruise ships sailing by, and picnic on Casablanca's fresh seafood salad and fruit drinks. Go in and grab a whole fish from one of the dozens of iced bins packed with many variations on the usual suspects seen in town: black grouper, much more succulent than red; not just yellowtail but mutton, mangrove, and hog snappers. There's also a fabulous shellfish selection. Line up with the other fish schleppers at the cash register, pay, and decide what you want done with your catch: scaling, cleaning, filleting, whatever. Maybe ten or fifteen minutes later your fish will be ready. Tip the flashy filletmeisters in back a buck or two and they'll cheer like you just won an Oscar.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®