Steve's Pizza
Where else can you relive your teenage years by playing vintage video games (still a quarter, natch), munching on some of the city's best pizza, and listening to Led Zeppelin? Even Sunset Place's GameWorks has ditched its Galaga machine and tuned into the current Top 40. But in this perennial oasis of simple pleasures (well, at least till the 3:00 a.m. closing time; 4:00 a.m. on weekends) you can blast aliens to your heart's content while remaining safely tucked back in 1985. And should you need a break from conquering Ms. Pac-Man and singing along to "Stairway to Heaven," there's even a New Times rack right in front.
Jimmy's Eastside Diner
Photo by Aran S. Graham
It's got the casual, been-there-forever feel of a neighborhood hangout. The green-and-brown color scheme is oddly appealing, and the place looks bright and friendly. Diner ambiance minus the dinginess. No need to settle for a table and chairs -- it's all booths. And breakfast, naturally, is served all day, featuring monster omelets and refreshing honesty from the waitstaff: "Have the hash browns. The home fries have been sitting all morning." Hey, if this spot's good enough for the Bee Gees, it's good enough for you.
Gourmet Station
We know someone else coined the happy little logo "We deliver for you," but we simply insist that Gourmet Station adopt it. Not only do they actually bring your meals to you, they design them to fit your lifestyle. For instance, high-powered execs can get the "Balanced Plan," ten meals for six dollars each (plus tax) per week that ration the proteins, carbs, and veggies. Body-builders and all-around gym pros can get the "Protein Plan," which for $7.50 per meal provides absolutely nothing but the racks -- of lamb, that is. What's that, you say? You're a normal person with an average life? Well, fill up at the Station by all means. Stop in for a choice of homemade entrée, ranging from grilled salmon with lemon-dill yogurt sauce to grilled Nicaraguan churrasco with chimichurri. In the morning the place teems with coffee and muffins; lunchtime it's wraps and sandwiches such as the Italian club -- prosciutto, tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella. You can even open an account for "hassle-free billing," a status most of us haven't enjoyed with any home-meal replacement products since we lived at Mom's.

Fico Key West Seafood Restaurant
George Martinez
Once you've tried Fico nothing else is as rico. Even if you're one of those purists who used to have to put up with the total lack of seating at the original location on Flagler, it's worth it! (The patience of so many loyal customers, eating while standing up at those narrow counters, has been rewarded with a new section at the Flagler restaurant where you can actually sit at tables and chairs.) Of course the newer South Beach Fico lacks the quirky character of its predecessor, but the seafood hasn't suffered. Fico's always-perfect broiled fish fillets remain the seafood standard, but every variety of fresh seafood -- fried, grilled, or broiled to order -- is consistently scrumptious. Excellent soups too. A special salute to the tostones de platanos Hawaianos, fried green plantains stuffed with little crawfish. Now they're expanding the menu to include chicken and pasta, but who needs that?
El Toro Taco
A first-time visitor to this Mexican joint in the historic district of Homestead may be baffled to see Styrofoam coolers filled with ice and bottles of beer dotting the floor next to most tables. But a quick glance at the menu explains it. El Toro Taco doesn't have a liquor license, so the only way to swig a Corona with your meal is to bring it with you, a secret most of the clientele seems to be in on. The BYOB requirement is no deterrent as the place packs a full house on weekends. As soon as you taste any one of several taco selections, you'll understand why. Choose from soft corn or flour tortillas filled with ground beef, barbacoa (shredded beef), chicken, or refried beans. For a real treat try the tacos de bistec -- corn tortillas filled with marinated, grilled steak and topped with cilantro and onions. Prices are very reasonable, the atmosphere is upbeat (you may be treated to a mariachi serenade), and take heart, margarita lovers: With the money you save on drinks you can spring for an appetizer -- a bowl of zesty bean dip or chili con queso (spicy cheese dip) -- and finish your meal with a traditional favorite: tres leches cake. Next time bring a blender! Open Tuesday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Closed Monday.

The all-American chain offering the quintessential Cuban sandwich? If it's not quite as classic an oxymoron as "jumbo shrimp," it soon could be, provided it survives the taste test. General response we've heard from the general public is that hey, it ain't bad. The novelty quotient is high enough to keep sandwich cubano in stock at the drive-thru for now, but don't look for it to be dethroned by Big Macs at Versailles.
Rusty Pelican
Photo courtesy of Rusty Pelican
You're a high-dollar lawyer in a city that breeds them and business is good. Then one day, that risky, somewhat shady Latin-American venture you got your biggest client to invest in goes rotten -- bloody coup rotten. He's angry and he's outside your office right now. Your mind is blank, your palms sweaty, your stomach growling. Growling? Ah yes, it is lunchtime. Might as well make your last meal a good one. Striding purposefully out of your office, you sweep your client along to your car, promising that everything will be explained over lunch at the Rusty Pelican. The tension begins to leave your shoulders as your silver Lexus climbs the modest curve of the bridge between the mainland and the Rickenbacker Causeway. You spot the restaurant thinly disguised as a rustic shack. A few minutes later, you're walking into the maritime coolness of the place, where you promptly duck into the bar. Your client parks his fat butt at a table by the window and stares moodily at a yacht bobbing nearby. You take the bartender aside and order oysters, escargot with blue cheese, and two very dry martinis. Back at the table you contemplate the city skyline etched into pale blue across the shallow end of Biscayne Bay -- and think, as you always do, how beautiful Miami is from a distance.

Forget about St. Pauli Girl. Switch to San Noy, which means young girl in English. This pilsner is not only more delicious but also "ring gold" in color and "morning fresh," according to the menu notes. It is one of six types of beer brewed at this miraculous eatery featuring indoor and outdoor seating. If you feel like a sweeter exotic taste, try the Thai Woman (Ying Thai), a brown rice bock that is "malty." Also on that side of the spectrum is a Cheers (Chai Yo), a light bock made from corn, and Flower (Dog Mai), an amber-colored wheat. Serious beer connoisseurs will delight in the copper-colored and hoppy Chang Mai, which is named after a city in northern Thailand, and the Rutting Elephant (Chang Baah), a dark bock. If you're feeling really heady, you can order one of the Orchid's beer cocktails, such as the Dancing Lady: brown bock mixed with orange juice and allspice. Taps run till 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

BEST WATERFRONT RESTAURANT YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF

The Commons

The Commons
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How about a dockside patio with an unobstructed view of both the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay? How about a Thursday- and Friday-night happy hour with the stars above, a fresh breeze, and sixteen-ounce glasses of Bass & Co. Pale Ale on tap? Tucked into a science lab and classroom building at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science on Virginia Key, this bar-cum-eatery began life as a cafeteria for students who might have cared more about describing the life cycle of Ocyurus chrysurus -- that's a yellowtail snapper to you -- than eating one. But then the caterer Parties By Pat took over the kitchen, decorated with some palm trees and pastel murals in the dining room, and invited in the public. Open only for breakfast and lunch, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, the Commons specializes in grilled chicken, gourmet pizza, and affordable sandwiches, explains manager José Martinez. The bar is open only Thursday and Friday from 5:00 to about 10:00 p.m.

Forget the goofy name. Roasters, as it's called by most customers, is hard-core, straight-up deli fare. Breakfast is an array of the basics: thick French toast, eggs (or egg whites, perhaps), toast, bagels, lox, and such, all accompanied by orange juice squeezed fresh. The lunch menu features meaty deli sandwiches and the best matzo-ball soup around. The restaurant's owners strive to make their deli a place where locals can gather and feel among friends, sort of what the late lamented Wolfie's was like in Miami Beach in its heyday 35 years ago. Roasters has succeeded spectacularly. It's where Kendall and Pinecrest come to nosh.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®