The Fish House
From 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. every weekday the Fish House showcases its excellent fresh-fish selection with an earlybird special for seafood lovers. Fresh fillets of all their fish -- from yellowtail to grouper to tilapia -- along with a side (try the excellent coleslaw) are just $7.99. The only catch is the parking lot. There's nowhere near enough room in the lot for all the cars, so patrons park on the sidewalk and in the median between Miller Road and the strip mall where the restaurant is located. It's worth the hassle.

Picanha's Grille
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.

Chef/owner Alan Hughes took his velvety foie gras off the menu for a month or two, but customer demand for it was so high he had to reverse his decision. What makes his concoction so delicious is the simplicity of it. Hughes uses French goose livers, but says Californians make excellent ones as well. The key, he says, is to sear a steak from the fatty goose liver very hot, but because it is primarily fat, you don't want it so hot that it "renders," or melts. Served on a brioche, drizzled with port wine concentrate, and priced at a very reasonable nine dollars, it is an outstanding gustatory experience. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday and brunch on Sunday.

Even at excellent sushi bars, the best that diners can expect at meal's end is some red-bean or green-tea ice cream out of a carton. At Shoji Sushi, where Hedy Goldsmith reigns as pastry chef, the green tea flavors a to-die-for white chocolate cheesecake with blackberry coulis, or a crème brûlée accompanied by sake gelee, candied kumquats, and a lacy brown rice tuile. Goldsmith, an honors graduate of the Culinary Institute of America's first Baking & Pastry Arts class, is also in charge of the desserts at the other two restaurants in Myles Chefetz's one-square-block South Beach eats empire, upscale New American Nemo and all-American diner Big Pink, and at each of the three very different eateries, the sweets flawlessly suit the mood. Nemo regulars would riot if Goldsmith's warm chocolate pudding cake in a rich sweet cream puddle were ever removed from the menu. Big Pink people would sooner allow ya to step on their blue suede shoes than to leave the table without a big chunk of Elvis's favorite red velvet cake -- here even more heavenly than in The King's current place of residence. Let's face it: the woman is not a pastry chef, she is a Dessert Goddess, capital letters totally intended.

Readers Choice: Cheesecake Factory

Happy "tin" anniversary! Yup, it's been ten years that PT has been in business, which means that a decade has gone by since we first awarded this outstanding Pacific Rim restaurant in our annual issue. Indeed, to our knowledge, not a single year has gone by without chef-owner Jonathan Eismann, who helped revolutionize Lincoln Road dining, being mentioned in some capacity -- whether for Pacific Time or another venture of his (Pacific Heights, PT Café, Westside Diner). But while the traditional gift for hanging in thus far is something made out of tin or aluminum -- the Happy-Anniversary.com Website suggests tin lanterns from Mexico, fireplace accessories, or woks (we're not joking, though we suspect they are) -- Pacific Time will have to settle, at least in theory, for paper.

Readers Choice: Joes Stone Crab

A La Folie Café
A la Folie Cafe
This charming crêperie replicates the design of a classic French café: the tile floors, the long wooden benches along the walls, lots of reading material lying about, and good, strong java. If the weather were cooler, one could easily picture a professorial type in corduroys perusing Le Monde over his afternoon espresso. Locals and tourists alike flock for the delicious savory and sweet crêpes, along with other simple fare like croque monsieur (the Gallic version of grilled cheese with ham), at prices that will make you wonder whether you are really still in South Beach. To avoid a wait, come earlyish on a weekend morning with a newspaper or a book, and ease into the day over a steaming bowl of café au lait.

Readers Choice: Starbucks

On weekends the lines go out the door at this diminutive gelateria. But in the case of this franchise of an Italian operation, it's absolutely worth the wait, even if you can't snag one of its precious few seats. The gleaming, high-tech shop is sparklingly clean without being sterile (even the bathrooms are outfitted with what look like designer fixtures). The staff is outfitted in bright yellow overalls and matching bandanas, and they keep things moving along efficiently. As in Italy, you place your order and pay, then take your receipt to a server who scoops up an artfully shaped mountain of creamy delights from a rainbow-hued selection of flavors. If you opt for a cup instead of a cone, your gelato is topped off with a crisp cookie, a nice touch -- and tasty too. The single portion is already decadently large; the double should satisfy even the greediest -- or do duty as a perfect shared dessert to top off a date in the Grove. Bacio also serves one of the best espressos this side of Roma.

There are literally dozens of frita joints scattered along Calle Ocho, some of which claim to be the reyes (kings) of fritas while others boast they're the magos (wizards) of the spicy Cuban hamburger (curried beef and fried onion topped with papitas, freshly fried potato shreds). But Fritas Domino has an identity all its own -- it's an original. Recently a fortysomething gentleman walked up to the counter and asked for the managers. He wasn't complaining, he just wanted to say hello. The man wondered if the managers remembered him. He used to work at Fritas Domino's original location, Calle Ocho at Twelfth Avenue. The Espivil family, who opened it in 1961 as a place where exiles could find authentic Cuban food, had given him his first job off the island. The conversation moved from sentimental recollections to fists-down declarations regarding Fritas Domino's stature among Miami frita shops. Referring to a competitor, the former worker emphatically declared, "They say they're kings, but they're not Domino!"

Jerry's Famous Deli
Despite its being located in the former and famed Warsaw nightclub, you don't have to arrive in a limo to gain entrance to Jerry's. And while you waltz in, valets will somehow find a place to park your beat-up Honda Civic, even at 2:00 a.m. on weekend nights (when there are no such places) for five bucks, which entitles you to two and a half hours in Jerry's. Which you will need, even if you order just a sandwich. Yeah, we've heard the beefing about Jerry's high prices, but you know what? Jerry's sandwiches are the size of two normal sandwiches (three normal sandwiches if you order the #10 triple-decker with roast turkey, Swiss cheese, pastrami, and Russian dressing). Other good eats: intensely poultry-rich chicken soup with matzo balls, cold beet borscht, hearty sweet/sour cabbage/tomato soup with short ribs, shredded crispy onion rings, foamy-headed chocolate creams. Also lox, onions, and soft-scrambled eggs, a breakfast dish that, like all breakfast items, is more satisfying when ending a day at 3:00 a.m. than beginning one at 7:00.

Readers Choice: Dennys

Restaurants rarely make their own bread (so much easier to source it from a good bakery), and those that do frequently limit their production to one or two specialties. Not so Bizcaya Grill. Maybe it's because, given its location in the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, it has the space and resources to do it. No doubt having an overnight baker helps as well. But whatever the reason, the results are what you can count on, or depending on your mood, count calories on: fresh-baked Danish pastries and muffins for breakfast. Pain du chocolate and croissants at Sunday brunch. Parmesan buns and lemon brioche to partner burgers and fish sandwiches, respectively, for the midday meal. And at dinner the piéce de resistance -- pretzel bread dotted with coarse salt or pumpkin seeds. The object, of course, is not to eat so much of the bread that you have no appetite for the foie gras served with a shot of vinegar or the black-and-white rabbit cannelloni. But then, we were never ones to shy away from a challenge.

Readers Choice: Don Pan

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®