Many people aren't even aware of the place, which isn't so surprising. This stretch of Collins Avenue, dominated by high-rise condo buildings, hardly seems a likely locale for a classy restaurant. But here is Shula's, tucked away near the back of the Alexander, far from the bustling crowds, the perfect setting for a dining room conducive to privacy. Here there are no clanging plates, noisy diners, or obtrusive music. Here you and your guest can slip into a plush banquette and recede from the world, almost literally invisible. Here the waitstaff is discreet and respectful. Here you won't be thoughtlessly interrupted. Here, as you indulge the decadent menu, you can say what you really think and no one but your intended listener will hear.

True to its origins, this Parisian bistro stocks a healthy number of red wines to counteract all those high-fat cheese and meat offerings. But the so-called French Paradox isn't what Brasserie Les Halles is all about. Indeed the eatery, which highlights different regions of France such as the Loire Valley and Alsace-Lorraine, offers an exceptional number of vins blanc as well. Looking for something appropriately matched to the rabbit roasted in mustard sauce? A cool Chateau de Maimbray Sancerre is a good option. A little bubbly to celebrate a special occasion or maybe just to wash down a bowl of moules marinières? The 1990 Pommery Cuvée Louise is a delicious choice -- and priced at $165 is just a bit less expensive than other lists around town. Of course if you believe nothing fits a French bill like an order of steak frites and a glass of Bordeaux or Burgundy, then at Brasserie Les Halles you'll always be in the money.
When they had their place called Norma's on Miami Beach, partners Delius Shirley and executive chef Cindy Hutson built a reputation as masters of Jamaican cuisine, in part because Delius's mom Norma was their mentor, and the tiny kitchen in the Lincoln Road eatery limited the number of ingredients that could be kept on hand. But when the pair moved their operation to Coral Gables a few seasons ago, the name changed and the menu expanded to reflect the possibilities of a larger work space. Now, says Hutson, liberated from whatever the category of Jamaican bistro might mean, she is giving culinary expression to a wider menu that she thinks of as "cuisine of the sun." That might include dishes with Asian or South American origins. But Hutson's basic culinary education remains Jamaican, the restaurant's coolly elegant décor is still Caribbean, and the food is still divine. Jerked pork and lamb patties are often on the menu, but so too are Thai dishes, or curries, or something from Colombia that calls for coconut milk or ginger. Ortanique, by the way, is a sweet hybrid citrus that comes from crossing an orange and a tangerine, a fitting symbol for a restaurant unlike any other.
We hereby present this new eatery with the ABS Award -- that being Anything But Starbucks. In this coffeehouse-blighted town any signs of new life must be encouraged. So go past the deli counter and up the stairs studded with circles of light. At the top you'll find the bookstore area, featuring regularly scheduled author readings and signings as well as ultrahip black-and-white décor. There are couches and animal-print recliners for lounging, or café-size tables and chairs for lounging and dining. Or sit outside under the umbrellas and watch the world go by. The usual lattes and cappuccinos are offered, and since this place is also a bar, so are Irish coffee and Caribbean Magic (involving light and dark rum). Let the hanging-out commence.
We dare you to call up a restaurant at random and ask how much they'd charge you for bringing in your own bottle of wine. We guarantee you'll be quoted a price of no less than ten dollars and probably at least twenty, all for the hard work the waiter has to do to uncork and pour your chosen label. After all, why should the management let you enjoy a vintage from your private cellar when they can charge you triple the wholesale cost for one you don't really care about? Not Su-Shin. This sushi place simply doesn't care about what you bring in -- Petrus or plonk. They'll still charge two dollars per customer. Let's say for argument's sake you've brought with you a nice Riesling that goes really well with Asian flavors and you spent, oh, $12 on it. For a romantic dinner for two you'll be paying an additional four dollars for the privilege of drinking it with your meal. That's a grand total of $16. (The same bottle, if the restaurant offered it, would probably be listed at $25 or more.) So what does Su-Shin know that its colleagues don't? Only that customers are likely to spend twice that on, say, uncooked tuna.
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.
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?
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.

BEST WATERFRONT RESTAURANT YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF

The Commons

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.

Calling the Pelican a restaurant may convey the wrong impression. It's a thatched-roof, open-air, low-cost, shorts-and-sandals throwback to a different era, perched high above the sand on the Newport's fishing pier (known to old-timers as the Sunny Isles pier). The north side offers table seating. We recommend the south side. Tall cocktail tables attached to the pier railings accommodate three stools each. Grab one to catch the southeasterly summer breeze and behold the sweeping view down the coast. Turquoise water, white sand, deep blue sky, a distant cruise ship heading to sea. It's sensational at sunset. The Pelican's menu favors burgers over seafood, but if you ask for the freshest fish and have it simply prepared you can't go wrong, especially with an Italian pinot grigio or German Riesling (no bottle more than $15). The kitchen is open till 9:00 p.m. seven days a week. You can park at the foot of the pier but it's expensive. Better to use the public parking up the road and across the street.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®