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!"

"Frozen yogurt? Who eats frozen yogurt these days?" asked our incredulous editor. Well, if the satisfied crowds at the Beach's yogurt emporiums are any gauge, lots of people. Consequence-free indulgence is South Beach's credo, and a cup of frozen yogurt remains the choice for locals seeking to satisfy their sweet tooth while still keeping a neurotic eye on their waistline. Tasti D-Lite Café, nearby in Mid-Beach, has become a new favorite (its New York City namesake brand is already on the minds of transplanted Manhattanites), but for those seeking to truly have their cake, er, yogurt, and eat it too, Creams 'N Yogurt is tops. Not low-fat but absolutely fat-free, and only seven calories per ounce, it's a tasty yet guiltless treat. Flavors change regularly (just try to find dulce de leche at your nearest TCBY franchise), so why not go back for seconds. Heck, be really bad. Order a large!

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.

Since both Zabar's and Fairway selfishly expanded their Manhattan stores rather than open branches down here in the sixth borough, Epicure wins this one again. Norman Bros. has more and better produce (designer lettuces like frisée and mâche; genuinely ripe tomatoes) at better prices; Gardner's has more interesting homemade dips and spreads; Arnie & Richie's has more succulent smoked fish; Laurenzo's has a more extensive and reasonably priced selection of wines, fresh fish, meats, fresh pasta, and Italian groceries. But when you consider Epicure's astonishing cheese selection, a bakery that carries everything from bagels to birthday cakes, a vast array of prepared foods second to none, an ever-expanding variety of ethnic specialties (including a recently added chorizo that will reduce Spanish-sausage lovers to tears), general variety (there's even a small but interesting selection of cookbooks), and overall high quality -- albeit at high prices -- it's undeniable that Epicure is still the best all-around, one-stop source for gourmet groceries.

Located directly across from the perennially popular Vacas Gordas, this newcomer to the North Beach restaurant scene is proof positive that man should not live by steak alone. A very friendly brother-and-sister team have created -- with the requisite blue-and-white color scheme and murals on the walls -- an eatery that is light and airy by day and comfortably cozy by night. The first bite of a toasty slice of pita topped with creamy tzatziki dip may tempt one to feast only on appetizers and salads (all made with the freshest of ingredients on site). But don't miss out on the whole snapper or daily fish special -- served simply, with olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herbs -- or the lamb souvlaki, with the big cubes of meat nicely charred on the outside, beautifully pink on the inside. And save room for desserts, several of which are outsourced -- to the owners' Greek mama who lives nearby. If you're in the area for lunch, the $7.50 weekday special is a steal: soup, small Greek salad, and choice of moussaka, pastitio, gyro, or lamb stew.

The emphasis is on "nuvo" here, as Haiti-born chef/owner Ivan Dorvil puts his own spin on the cookery of his homeland with updated, more sophisticated versions that reflect his own training in Montreal and influences picked up at various stints during his career. That said, the traditional pumpkin soup haitienne is just that, hearty fare that spells comfort food for those with Caribbean roots. Friendly and personable, Dorvil will patiently walk you through the menu and his specials, and then disappear into the kitchen to whip them up. He is sure to come back out later to monitor your progress and chat in the pleasant dining room decorated with folk art and burlap curtains. Not yet open a year, Nuvo Kafe will, we hope, manage to stick around.

Sure the place is a hole in the wall. But it's a cool hole in the wall, and in South Beach a seven-ounce burger at any kind of cool place is going to average at least a couple of bucks more than Baby's $5.50 ($6.50 for a cheeseburger) -- plus you don't know what quality of meat you're getting. At local promoter/fast-food impresario Tommy Pooch's place, the beef is 100-percent certified Angus, and tastes so full-flavored by itself that no accouterments are necessary. Accouterments are, however, a strong point at Baby's. Burgers come with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, condiments, and choice of bread (egg roll, Texas toast, or hoagie roll). Cheeseburgers come with a much bigger selection of cheese than usual: American, cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella, provolone, even bleu cheese or feta. An extra 50 cents for a generous grilled onion garnish puts the burger over the top, and accompaniments of real (not frozen reconstituted-potato) French fries and an exquisite, handmade vanilla-bean milkshake puts you in hamburger heaven. (Important note: Do spring for a full-size burger; the 2.5-ounce "baby burgers," unlike their big sibs, are too small to be reliably cooked to diners' desired degree of rareness.)

Readers Choice: Fuddruckers

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®