Whole Foods Market
Ideally the best source for quality natural foods and health-related products would be a local operation, not a national chain. Unfortunately most independents offer little more than a small selection of tired produce and prepared foods that look healthy but not like anything you'd actually want to eat. National giant Whole Foods carries a big selection of the best. Produce sparkles, the section including not just the expected mesclun mixes but gourmet greens as well: frisée, ruby chard, various colored kales. There's a sizable selection of fresh fish, including Florida lobsters in season (at a decent price) and sushi-grade tuna and salmon that is truly trustworthy. The meat counter carries beef cuts that are not just free of antibiotics for good health but nicely marbled for good taste. Sometimes, if you're quick enough, you'll find top-rated Eberly free-range poultry. Prepared foods are plentiful and delicious. The wine selection is thoughtful, with many unusual choices and helpful descriptive cards to eliminate the intimidation factor. Lots of ethnic food. Lots of vitamins and chem/cruelty-free cosmetics. And most crucial in a health-food store, chocolate from El Rey, a Venezuelan producer of single-source chocolate that arguably is the world's best-tasting -- and of course chock full of those healthy antioxidants that are the real reason we eat the stuff.

Mama Jennie's
Aran S Graham
Making sure both your stomach and your wallet are full: That's what the folks at Mama Jennie's, home to delicious, reasonably priced Italian comfort food, have been doing for more than 30 years. Hearty soup or crispy salad with your choice of dressing (the zesty house vinaigrette is a favorite) and garlic rolls lightly doused in flavorful oil begin your meal. Myriad main courses include whopping servings of classics such as baked ziti with meatballs; veal Parmesan; eggplant rollatini; lasagna; gnocchi; and stuffed shells, all accompanied by Mama's lively marinara sauce. Pizza boasting all sorts of tasty toppings like pepperoni, mushrooms, or meatballs is also an option. Waistline watchers need not go hungry: Not everything is piled high with cheese and sauce. Herb-grilled chicken is among the low-fat selections. Still haven't burst your buttons or busted your budget? Don't forget dessert, which greets you in the fridge strategically placed at the dining room's entrance. Goodies can range from cannolis to spumoni to cheesecake and carrot cake.

Readers Choice: Oggi Caffe

BEST EXPENSIVE ITALIAN RESTAURANT

Casa Tua

Casa Tua
We'll put it in the simplest terms: If one wants ingredients such as black truffles, white asparagus, cipollini onions, heirloom tomatoes, artisanal cheeses, Dover sole, and boneless quail, one must dig deep into the pockets. If one desires these comestibles to be prepared in the New World by chefs who have been trained in the Old World, one must cough up the cash. If one wants to sample these dishes in a hidden-gem, secret-garden atmosphere that has as much homestyle charm as Versace's erstwhile mansion, one must forfeit the bucks. But for those who can't wash dishes in case of emergency, don't worry -- there's a Citibank ATM right across the street.

Readers Choice: Café Abbracci

Jumbo's
Adrianne D'Angelo
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.

Taco Shop Mexican Grill
Tacos for breakfast? Sure! Lunch? Yes! Dinner? Absolutely! Heck, tacos and all manner of authentic Mexican eats can be had any time of the day at Roberto's in the heart of Hialeah. This 4-year-old offshoot of the 33-year-old San Diego-based chain that counts more than 50 outlets nationwide (including Cutler Ridge, Kendall, and another in Hialeah) is open 24/7. For those who simply cannot contemplate another trip to Taco Bell, Roberto's offers made-to-order tostadas, enchiladas, chimichangas, quesadillas, burritos, tortas, and tacos. Not to mention a choice of ten inexpensive (most cost around $4.95) and enormous combination plates served with rice and refried beans. Sides include chips and cheese and silky guacamole. Frosty Mexican beverages such as cinnamon-almond-rice blend horchata, tamarind nectar, and hibiscus-flower derivative jamaica are the perfect thirst-quenchers. Oh, about that breakfast: A variety of breakfast burritos and combo plates that feature rice, tortillas, and beans make for a tasty and filling first meal.

Big Pink
With a menu of a size that befits its name, Big Pink should be able to satisfy the whims of the most finicky of progeny. Its diner-inspired creations come in gargantuan portions, so you can a) throw junior some scraps off your own plate, b) spare yourself a night's cooking by taking home a doggie bag, or c) order one of the kids' sized options. You may be able to expand their culinary horizons, at least as far as fries are concerned, with Big Pink's scrumptious sweet potato version or the crisp-on-the-outside/creamy-on-the-inside polenta sticks. And you don't have to dress up to do so. Big Pink is supremely casual, and no one will mind if you and the gang troop in wearing flip-flops and bathing suit coverups.

Shiver's BBQ
Hangout of Homestead regulars and racing fans alike, Shiver's has been operating for most of the last 50-odd years (they took some time out for natural disasters like Hurricane Andrew). It's a typical barbecue joint in that it's shack-shaped and filled with long wooden tables and benches. There are the obligatory old-timey doodads tacked to the walls -- lanterns, horseshoes, cattle horns. One entire wall is covered in a mural depicting a pastoral antebellum landscape that exists nowhere in Florida. In the kitchen you'll find barbecued chicken, beef, and pork, farm-raised catfish, hush puppies, beans, fried okra, even key lime pie and peach cobbler. Most everything is well turned out considering the reasonable prices, with all but the high-dollar meals (like a fifteen-dollar slab of baby-back ribs) falling between four and eight dollars. A five-dollar pork sandwich consists of tender, thin-sliced, smoked pork piled on a bun, with crinkley fries and a side of cole slaw. The warm, peppery barbecue sauce is also on the side. The place is open seven days a week 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

It's always open (24-7); it has a solid bar (with a separate entrance); it's got a no-nonsense load of records that management plays relentlessly -- "I Fought the Law" by the Bobby Fuller Four; "Crazy Arms" by Jerry Lee Lewis; "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers -- wonderfully appropriate for these times. Then there's the real diner food -- pork chops with barbecue sauce, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, green peas, Coke with lemon, all for $12.50. Plus there's the enigmatically beautiful crew: Christine, the statuesque blond waitress; Eloise, the even taller, elegant waitress; Ricky, the little dancer type, Andy, the owner ... And interesting people traffic with informed conversation. It's the reason the ten-year-old Eleventh Street Diner has won before.

Wake up on a Saturday morning longing for a fresh croissant and you're outta luck here. Like most shops in this predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, Brioche Dorée isn't open on Saturday, and you can't pick up your morning pastry fix on the way home from work the night before because the bakery closes, invariably cleaned out of croissants, at 3:00 p.m. weekdays. The place doesn't take credit cards either. But all the inconveniences are worth it. No bakery in Miami-Dade County makes a more melt-in-your-mouth croissant. (Which explains why La Brioche Dorée has taken this award four times previously.) In fact, though the secret is supposedly genuine French butter, which is denser than American supermarket stuff, it's hard to find a croissant even in France that beats Brioche's, so delectable briefly warmed to bring out the dairy richness that applying extra butter at table seems superfluous. Tip: Brioche bakes half-size mini-croissants that are perfect party brunch fare, but these sell out even earlier than the full-size models, so go early, especially on Sunday when the place opens at 7:00 a.m.

BEST INDIAN FAST-FOOD RESTAURANT

Rajas

Décor is unassuming at this downtown lunch room -- it's basically a hole-in-the-wall, albeit a clean and cheerful one -- and most of the roughly dozen dishes served daily are steam-tabled, not made to order, which definitely puts them in the "fast food" rather than "fine food" category. Still, since most Indian food is relatively slow-cooked rather than quickly stir-fried like that of most other Asian nations, it survives the steam table well. Raja's $4.69 combination platter is among downtown's tastiest lunch options. And not merely tasty but absolutely addictive are three South Indian house specialties found neither on the steam table nor in any other Miami-Dade Indian restaurant: dosai, uttapam, and idli. These mouthwatering made-to-order savory, ground-rice pancakes, served with a choice of several stuffings and/or toppings (the rolled potato-filled masala dosa crepe and thicker, onion-packed uttapam are particularly good), plus sides of sambar (a soothing veggie-packed puréed lentil dhal) and spicy/sweet coconut chutney are well worth the ten-to-twenty minute wait.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®