Little Havana is changing. It used to be difficult to take the red peppers and mix them with the green, blend the onions with the grilled chickens and luscious strips of beef. But no longer. In a post-Elian world, you can bring it all together under the cover of a warm corn tortilla. Remember, fajita comes from the Latin word fascia, which means band, as in band together. So if you're going out for a little dialogue with your friends, why not stop at this Mexican restaurant, see the new Little Havana, and put all the ingredients together at last.

A falafel sandwich at either Pita Plus has yet to disappoint: crisp but never greasy, its temperature cooled with delicious hummus and tahini and topped with fresh salad -- and hot sauce if you want to kick it up a notch. Standard Middle Eastern fare like kebabs, kibbe, and gyro are also available at these kosher establishments, as is a fish sandwich named for St. Peter. The Aventura outpost is located in the back of the Loehmann's Plaza, a perfect spot to revive oneself after a strenuous session at the discount clothing emporium, but it's closed on Saturdays. Given the hungry hordes of clubbers and tourists, the South Beach branch is open for biz seven days -- and stays open late.

Judge a farmers' market not by the nature of its distractions but by the quality of its produce. So what if you can find stilt walkers juggling swords while balancing flaming pineapples on their heads and telling off-color jokes to bleary-eyed parents with toddlers in tow at other local markets. Elizabeth and Maurice Adams, proprietors of Gardner's Markets, have quite a different mission statement in mind -- promote regional products and educate, rather than entertain, the masses. Or as they note on their Website: "We sponsor this farmers' market in hopes of creating a dialogue between growers and consumers. Our mission is to present a forum for the sale and purchase of fresh food grown or produced by the people selling it." Which is why on Sundays from 9:00 a.m. till 1:00 p.m., from the beginning of January through the end of March every year, you can meet the faces behind the vegetables. Like Teena Borek of Teena's Pride, who is well-known for her two dozen varieties of colorful heirloom tomatoes, including Cherokee purple, green Zebra, and Brandywine red. Or Bee Heaven Farms's Margie Pikarsky, who heads up the Redland Organics, a community-supported agriculture cooperative that grows and sells locally everything from mustard greens to sunflowers. In short, the South Florida Farmers Market is really just another way of saying "teikei," a Japanese term that translates quite literally to "putting the farmer's face on food."

It's not the bread. It's not the toppings. It's not even the tartar sauce, though when it's homemade it can only help. The ineluctable element that makes a fish sandwich worthy of wonder is the fish itself: fresh, moist, and succulent, drawn straight from the water and filleted. When it comes to that core ingredient, there's no one we appreciate more than Capt. Jim Hanson, lifelong Miami resident and veteran commercial fisherman. At his seafood market-cum-quaint-neighborhood eatery, you can request the fish of the day, usually mahi-mahi or grouper, or be as specific as choosing the fillet -- that red snapper, right there -- you want out of the refrigerated cases. Then Captain Jim's staff will fry, grill, broil, or blacken it for you, pop it onto a roll with lettuce, tomato, and coleslaw, and even give you a choice of side dishes with it. We recommend the hush puppies, along with a cold Hurricane Reef Pale Ale.

Covertly it lurks in the refrigerated case, concealed among the soft drinks and ice teas. The double agent of desserts, it is rich yet somehow light and not off-puttingly eggy. A quivering homemade creation that is simultaneously rico and suave. See, the real secret at the Secret Sandwich Co. is not the sandwiches but the desserts, especially the flan. And now that we've told you, we'll have to kill you.

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.

Why are Miami Subs' fries so addictive? First of all, they're more visually appealing than the pale-yellow "freedom" fries dished up at other fast-food joints. Miami Subs cooks its fries until they're a golden, resonant brown. That means they're always crunchy and never underdone like those of so many competitors. But the real attraction, the reason you can't help coming back repeatedly for these rail-thin spuds, is the secret seasoning that imparts a memorable yet mysterious flavor -- a little spicy, a little exotic. Miami Subs honchos will not divulge the precise recipe, and that's fine. Who wants to try this at home anyway?

Readers Choice: McDonalds

By the time you read this, Captain Dan and Chef Reddy expect to have reopened their shop, formerly next to Café del Mar, up the road apiece in bigger digs. The friendly Chef Reddy, who previously won our hearts and tummies when he sent us home with some melt-in-your-mouth tuna and a recipe (which we prepared with coarse salt he had smoked in-house), promises a bigger selection overall. Recognizing that many folks just don't have the time to cook, he's gearing up to offer an expanded variety of ready-to-cook dishes as well as prepared foods such as salmon pastrami, ceviches, clam chowders, shrimp cocktail with mango-citrus sauce, and other delights of the sea. He's still frying up traditional fish-and-chips, which he'd begun to serve at the teeny old place, as well as other fare that can be consumed on-site.

This Liberty City diner has been frying up its tasty delights for 40-plus years and nary a thing looks like it has changed since its inception, from the neon lights and the yellowing signs highlighting menu items to the always reliable food. The smell of grease hangs heavily in the air, and will unfortunately stay with you long after you depart. Never mind. Dive right in and leave any waistline concerns at the door. Feast with abandon on piles of chicken or shrimp, or both via one of the bounteous combo platters. Sides like black-eyed peas and collard greens serve as savory reminders that Florida has always been a Southern state. The less-than-elegant address shouldn't dissuade gourmands. It's about five minutes from I-95, and at night the lights in the parking lot are blindingly bright.

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!"

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®