Okay%2C+so+Houston%27s+isn%27t+usually+so+peaceful%2C+but+it%27s+often+so+good
Steve++Satterwhite
Okay%2C+so+Houston%27s+isn%27t+usually+so+peaceful%2C+but+it%27s+often+so+good
No, it's not really about the drinks. You've had those before. And it's not really about the décor, which is clean and fine but not spectacular. It's also not about the specials, because there aren't really official hours for happiness here. It's about the only reason people seek out happy hours to begin with: the scene. What? On Miracle Mile in the stuffy Gables, you might sneer? Yup. There's a new dawn in that part of town and it's raising a toast at the new Houston's after work. Good mix of cocktails, ages, ethnicities, sexes, economic positions. The men and women behind the bar are friendly, as are the people sitting next to you. Starting late in the afternoon on Friday often you won't find a stool or even standing room, so the party spills out into the street. If you need further proof this isn't the Gables of old, consider: Once you've downed your after-work libations, you can move on to other attractions. Huh? Life after 8:00 p.m. in the City Beautiful? Yes, truly a new dawn.

Clive's Cafe
This is truly the hole-in-the-wall that has it all. Almost indistinguishable from the other storefronts along this part of North Miami Avenue, Clive's makes its mark at the cozy counter set up with great Jamaican favorites like curry goat, oxtail, and cowfoot. With ample food packed on a five-dollar special, this is a can't-miss deal every afternoon. The chicken is cooked to diner perfection and the curry is a smooth blend that avoids the fire-alarm spices of other native cuisines. The mood is laid-back, with a pleasant Mrs. P taking good care of the customers and a small radio pumping out reggae sounds. You just may catch Clive's fan Lenny Kravitz taking in the scene. Clive's is great for take-out but just as nice for a midafternoon stop to take it easy.
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.

Tobacco Road
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....

Kon Chau
Maureen Aimee Mariano
Translated, dim sum means "touch the heart," meaning this is food that aims to please, by providing a great grab bag of variety; there's a little something for everyone seeking small bites of big flavors. And though this is not the only excellent dim sum establishment in town (or even on the block, as better-known Tropical Chinese confirms), its offerings are the most excitingly similar to those in the top dim sum parlors in the world. Though small, casual Kon Chau serves up over 60 selections, divided into four basic categories: sweet dessert items; deep-fried items; miscellaneous stir-fried, grilled, or stewed variety dishes; and most important, steamed savories such as stuffed breads, various root vegetable and cereal "cakes," and dumplings galore. There's har gau, small steamed cilantro-spiced pork and shrimp dumplings; fun gor, especially a steamed vegetable version filled with spiced shiitake mushrooms; and cheoung fun, tender but chewy rolled rice noodle crêpes filled with barbecued pork, beef, or shrimp, topped with a succulent salty/sweet sauce. Selections are made by menu, less festive than the rolling carts at some dim sum establishments (but, in smaller and slower-turnover tea houses, ensuring greater freshness). At any rate Kon Chau's large proportion of Asian diners confirms the quality.
Deli Lane's Swiss apple melt sandwich ($6.95) takes three ingredients that have no business hanging out together and proves the old adage about the whole being greater, and tastier, than the sum of its parts. The apple wedges are glazed with cinnamon and grilled to gooey goodness. The bacon is lightly fried. Melted Swiss holds them together, between two slices of raisin pumpernickel bread. Eat one and you'll wonder why this concoction isn't up there with the Reuben as an American deli classic.
Little Havana Restaurant
Aran S Graham
It seems odd that a restaurant with three locations (Hialeah and Deerfield Beach as well) and a name like Little Havana can be "unknown," but this Cuban specialty joint in North Miami easily gets lost amid the clutter of shops, banks, and condos on Biscayne's commercial strip. Once you find it, though, you'll know why tourists and locals alike pass on the word about the no-frills cuisine served up seven days a week. From traditional Cuban selections like oxtail in wine sauce and palomilla steak to Spanish omelets and a savory ground beef in Creole sauce, the dishes are basic in presentation (all come with rice, beans, and fried plantains) and delicious in their simplicity. Each course complements the selection of appetizers ranging from fried yuca to the Cuban tamal with mojo. Also worthy of entrée consideration is the baked or fried chicken plate and the broiled seafood assortment. Top off any meal with either the guava with cheese or a sinfully good coconut flan. Prices range from $6.95 to $22.95 and it's open from 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily.
Picanha's Grille
So much has been said about this North Miami eatery and its scrumptious menu of gastronomic delights (including what we said in "Best of Miami" last year, when it also took this award). It has done justice to the former home of Mark's Place, Mark Militello's nationally recognized shrine to New World cuisine. In addition to executive chef Edson Milto's traditional but still exotic feijoada (served weekends), the Picanha menu offers plenty of adventure. The same can be said of the restaurant's festive atmosphere. After dinner you can sip the best caiprinhas in town as you samba into the night accompanied by live bands (call for music details).
Coco Gelato
When it comes to gelato versus ice cream, it's the air, stupid. Gelato doesn't contain as much of it as its American cousin. The result is a denser, richer texture, a creamier, dreamier version of one of life's singular pleasures. Okay, you say, but what about selection? Surely there's no gelato parlor offering 31 different flavors. Well, we didn't exactly do the math, but if Coco Gelato's choices -- which include lemon champagne, almond cream, key lime, mamey, dulce de leche, and a half-dozen varieties of chocolate (to say nothing of tiramisu) -- leave you cold, you've got a hole in your head. Or air between your ears.

BEST ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT LUNCH BUFFET

Every weekday at 11:30 a.m. manager Tom Dalgan throws open the doors on a sumptuous lunchtime feast: daily carving, chicken, fish, 22-item salad bar, and an academic ambiance that may nourish you with ideas as well as food. All this until 1:30 p.m. for a fixed price of $9.75. Drinks and desserts are extra. Enter the parking lot off Red Road just north of Dixie Highway.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®