This establishment again reaps kudos (for the third year in a row) for its winning combination of traditional cuisine (with a good selection of fish for the noncarnivores in your crowd), festive atmosphere, and dangerously delicious caipirinhas. Get down with your samba self during the live music and dance shows on Friday and Saturday nights (Picanha's hosts karaoke nights on Thursdays). During the week it's dinner only. Weekends they open the doors at noon to those who come for a leisurely lunch that well may include the traditional feijoada.

Cane Á Sucre's version of the caesar isn't a big heaping mess of lettuce, cheese, garlic, dressing, and miscellaneous other items. It's a straightforward presentation of fresh romaine lettuce chopped into small squares, lightly topped with grated asiago cheese and tasty garlic croutons. A cup of homemade caesar dressing and a remarkably good, buttery piece of baguette arrive on the side. The result is light, simple, and tangy, with the cheese in sharp contrast to the lettuce, and that's before you add the dressing (to taste). In a world of fattening excess, Cane Á Sucre -- a charming combination café, bakery, and European sandwich shop -- consistently produces this classic salad with much-appreciated restraint.

Readers Choice: Christys

This comfortable Cuban restaurant at Galloway and Sunset Drive bears the spirit of La Carreta without the teeming hordes and with a much more refined décor (no grease on the leather booths). Their café con leche is a staple for neighborhood aficionados of this milk-and-coffee combination. What makes it better than other places? Well, for one thing they use whole milk unless you ask for low-fat. That may not do much for the love handles, but it bodes well for café richness. Also the Cuban coffee and warm milk are served separately so customers can mix to their liking. Added plus: The waitresses speak fluent English, so drive up from Pinecrest even if you're an old Cracker and talk like it.

What's the point of Cuban coffee without Cuban conversation? One fuels the other, high-octane caffeine igniting chatter that is usually loud, hurried, and emotional. Versailles's walk-up window, a local landmark if ever there was one, is as close to the heart of the Cuban spirit as you can get without boarding a boat and heading south. It is the quintessential café cubano experience in Miami. And here they know how this volatile catalyst should be served -- black as pitch, lots of sugar, and steaming hot.

Readers Choice: Versailles Restaurant

The best testament to Original Caribbean Kitchen's authenticity is the number of Caribbean transplants who eat there. Far from the rarefied air of the Beach, where ethnic food gains a capital "E" and checks double or triple, Original Caribbean Kitchen -- more lunch counter than sit-down restaurant -- serves the basics at generous prices. Heaping portions of curried goat, oxtail stew, stewed beef, and tripe -- all with peas and rice -- cost between $6 and $7.50. Call ahead and your goat will be waiting for you when you arrive.

Delicias is a delightful little neighborhood eatery housed in an unremarkable building on Miami's main drag. The food is good and reasonably priced. The tables are covered in Peruvian blankets protected by glass tops. A tragic telenovela quietly plays itself out on a television mounted high on the wall. An old man sits at the counter, slowly finishing his fish soup. And you are sitting at a table near a window, about to order a fresh, expertly prepared ceviche. This place has six varieties (all marinated in lemon juice): octopus, shrimp, fish, shellfish, and combinations. Order it and a drink to go. Take the lot and walk east, down to the water's edge. Eat your grub and gaze out onto Biscayne Bay.

There is a secret to serving good coffee that goes beyond the beans, the roast, and the water. Here it is: temperature. And those comical, corporate Einstein Bros. have figured this out. So they start each pot with a blend of Central and South American beans, roasted to a light brown, and they brew the java with water that is between 190 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit. (For those who skipped middle-school science: The boiling point of water is 212 degrees F.) Then, when the coffee is made, specially calibrated heaters under each urn hold the coffee at 175 degrees. That's hot. Oh, and if the brothers' employees are paying attention to company directives, they are also brewing up fresh coffee at least every hour, even if that means dumping out a full 1.5-gallon urn, according to Ron Savelli, the chain's vice president of menu development. Of course bagels, sandwiches, and soups are also available. But the allure here is coffee. Hot and fresh, Mel's Neighborhood Blend is perfection.

Even in a city filled with authentic Caribbean cuisine, suburbanites flock to the reliable Bahama Breeze chain for fine fakin' Jamaican food. Sometimes the wait is more than an hour -- not necessarily a problem if you spend it drinking in the huge outdoor bar area. The draw is the reliable quality of the food, from the goat cheese or ceviche appetizers to the steak or ropa vieja entrées. There are, unfortunately, some of the inevitable chain restaurant gimmicks in evidence; servers aren't waiters, they're "tour guides," and they dress in garish color-coded tropical-pattern shirts (although managers, oddly, have even worse shirts than waiters). One tip: The restaurant is so popular that parking is a serious problem, especially on weekends. Call in advance.

Readers Choice: Cheesecake Factory

Epicure may not be the best-in-the-county for every individual cheese type. For instance, though the homemade cow's-milk mozzarella balls are admirable, Laurenzo's have a more pronounced fresh-dairy milkiness. But the variety at Epicure is unbeatable, and includes not just popular faves like Brie but aficionado faves such as powerfully pungent Epoisse. Prices ain't cheap (many cheeses are $15 to $20 per pound), but who's counting when you're talking about hard-to-find finds like imported raw-milk cheeses, AOC cheeses (appellation-controlled, like wine), and even more unbelievable, a sizable selection of truly gourmet kosher cheese, including some unusual French imports: flavorful mimolette cheddar, a rich 60-percent matiere grasse Brie, and a nice sheep's milk brebis. The crowded cheese counter contains artisanal cheeses from all over the western world: numerous rarities from French cheesemaker Chantal Plasse, including Salers (a kicked-up-several-notches unpasteurized milk take on industrially produced Cantal); farmhouse cheddars ranging from English (Keene's) and Irish (Tipperary) to Vermont (a four-year-old Grafton). Up on the top shelf, with related dairy products like crème fraîche and a hung Greek yogurt so thick dieters will never miss sour cream, you'll find Epicure's own cheese creations, like scrumptious pesto/pignolia-dressed string cheese, and a goat cheese spread with orange rind ideal for tea sandwiches (and which makes cream cheese taste positively anemic). Just when you've finished loading up your cart, having called the bank on your cell phone to arrange to mortgage one of the kids, you turn 90 degrees and realize there's a whole separate counter of goat cheeses you haven't even considered.

Readers Choice: Epicure Market

We grew concerned when we got no response to a letter sent to Willis Loughhead at Bizcaya Grill. We were inquiring about his interest in being one of eight chefs to host a "Personal Best" page in Best of Miami. A follow-up call elicited this: He was out of town and wouldn't return before our deadline passed. Out of commission was more like it. A bit more research revealed that he had been in a very serious car accident on the Julia Tuttle Causeway -- cut off by a driver who then disappeared. A slick roadway and an unforgiving guardrail left Loughhead with a broken nose and about 100 stitches in his face and head. The traumatic experience and slow recovery (now nearly complete) provided him with a new perspective on some of the best things about Miami. For instance, Best Natural High: "Walking away from a car wreck. I didn't get more than four steps or so, but at least I could stand. That, and endorphins." Best Emergency Room: "Miami Heart. It's never crowded." Best Plastic Surgeon: "Dr. Mark Broudo. From now on I'll send all my business to him." Best Medicine: "I don't know her name, but the ER nurse was pretty cute."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®