Robert Is Here, the venerable and sprawling fruit and produce stand that everyone passes on the way to Everglades National Park, is home to the finest tropical fruit and ice cream concoction you'll ever find. Just take a number (there's usually a line for the shakes) and choose from the selection of mango, papaya, guava, strawberry, banana, and whatever else the staff has on hand.

Barton G, how we love ya. For your style, certainly: You took the Starfish building, gutted it, built out the interior, and created an undeniably stunning venue, complete with orchid garden. For your way with fresh flowers and exotic animals, obviously -- don't think we've ever seen the combination of just-plucked lilies in a wall of bud vases and live giraffes at an opening before. For your sense of humor, most definitely; of course you should always serve popcorn shrimp spilling out of a movie container onto a bed of, well, popcorn. And for your commitment to your adopted town, positively, absolutely, and completely. We knew what you were after the minute we heard that you were going to add a restaurant to your empire of design and catering concepts, you party magnate, you: total adoration. You've got it. It's no more than what a workaholic, first-time restaurateur who has the confidence, ego, and guts to put his name on a marquee -- and then live up to it -- deserves.

It's been a long time since a real South Beach restaurant opened -- real meaning, of course, unreal, the sort of place that reminds one that back in SoBe's original pioneering days as a fun-in-the-sun resort, the destination beach was called Fairy-Land. Barton G is that sort of restaurant-as-theater experience, continuing the outdoor fun after the sun goes down, in an expansive, exotically planted 125-seat garden dining patio. There's no better way to show off for visitors from the frozen north than eating outside at Barton G, surrounded by palms and orchids, in the middle of winter. The food, which generally follows the "if it's worth doing it's worth overdoing" rule (instead of the usual crabcake, there's a trio of seafood cakes; the chopped salad features not one dressing but three), is as festive as the setting, much of it giving the impression of following a playful plot rather than a recipe: Popcorn shrimp is served in a movie theater popcorn container on a bed of real popcorn; the signature dessert, Big Top Cotton Candy and Over-the-Top Popcorn Surprise, invariably evokes gales of astonished laughter from first-timers as servers sweep by with the platter of purple cotton candy and chocolate truffle-centered crackerjack balls. To be honest, since many dishes are fried and/or extremely rich, the eats may not appeal to everyone. But the eating environment surely will, as will the prices -- many entrées are under $20 and only two are above $30.

Readers Choice: News Caf

The key to a great pastelito de guava is the texture. It must be soft, chewy, and flaky all at once. The guava filling must be generous, bear a dark-violet complexion, and have a thick consistency. The worst thing a baker can do to this delicacy is to overcook it. The result of that is a concrete cast with caked guava char in between. Runny, traffic-light red paste means processed preservatives, a no-no. Vendors can disappoint with this snack if it isn't done just so. Gallito's bakery has it down. They're reliably scrumptious. There isn't a pastelito in town as fluffy and moist. Get them fresh from the SW Eighth Street bakery or unwittingly enjoy them at various Miami restaurants that purchase them from Gallito.

The key to a great pastelito de guava is the texture. It must be soft, chewy, and flaky all at once. The guava filling must be generous, bear a dark-violet complexion, and have a thick consistency. The worst thing a baker can do to this delicacy is to overcook it. The result of that is a concrete cast with caked guava char in between. Runny, traffic-light red paste means processed preservatives, a no-no. Vendors can disappoint with this snack if it isn't done just so. Gallito's bakery has it down. They're reliably scrumptious. There isn't a pastelito in town as fluffy and moist. Get them fresh from the SW Eighth Street bakery or unwittingly enjoy them at various Miami restaurants that purchase them from Gallito.

Big, saucy, greasy, and cheesy, a pizza pie any other way wouldn't be baked at Casola's. The pizza place tucked between Little Havana and Coconut Grove has fattened neighborhood rugrats and late-night bar-hoppers looking for a sobering slice for 21 years. The pizza slices are huge, New York style, and come in pairs for $2.85. Most patrons don't leave full, they walk out bloated. Here, it's all about the cheese -- quality mozzarella with a playful, elastic texture, not drippy or sinewy. Ask for extra cheese and you might not find the crust. Casola's actually stems from an old Boston pizza war. Back in the Seventies, Ramon Casola and Augustine Buñuel were rivals there, but each respected the other's pie enough to open Casola's together. The hungry mouths that congregate around the open-air pizza stand help them get along fine. They have a good relationship with customers too. There's always a plate of free sample pizza squares for those waiting on an order. But watch it: Hands snap toward the complimentary servings like piranhas. If you have your hand in the wrong place you might lose it, and you'll need both of them to handle the slice you're waiting on.

Readers Choice: Casolas

BEST PLACE TO GRAB A BITE OF THE BIG APPLE

New York New York

The twin towers of the World Trade Center still stand under a starry sky -- on the giant mural decorating a wall at New York New York. The other walls, clad with posters of Broadway shows such as Dancin', Sugar Babies, and Les Miserables, facsimiles of New York Times front pages, photo stills from feature films, and a ticker flashing the latest news, provide reminders of the city too, as do the booths boasting names such as Broadway and Times Square. But the items on the menu at the 23-year-old eatery are really what offer South Floridians that true bite of the Big Apple. Hot dogs, plain or topped with chili. Potato knishes. Deli sandwiches, including corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, turkey, and killer chicken salad served with coleslaw and a potato pancake. A variety of hot entrées, breakfast items, and a well-stocked salad bar. Bagels, cream cheese, and the ubiquitous Dr. Brown's soda in black cherry, cream, and Cel-Ray. And a refreshing refreshment known as a lime rickey. Rice pudding, colossal apple pie (à la mode with Häagen-Dazs ice cream, if you like), a decadent dense creation dubbed chocolate beast cake, and of course creamy cheesecake bursting with the kind of calories that could only be walked off in a major city. It's food so fine we had to start spreading the news.

Whether you're looking to satisfy your craving for vegan fare or for soups that extend beyond the chicken-noodle and clam-chowder variety, Whole Foods Market is the place to go. Besides interesting items such as Mediterranean beef stew and spinach orzo soup, it features an expansive array of prepared vegetable dishes, from tofu pad thai to raspberry tofu diablo to a delightfully tangy eggplant à la napolitiana (red peppers drenched in olive oil and vinegar stuffed into an eggplant). Or if you're into down-home cookin', the market offers healthy portions of piping-hot meat loaf, barbecued and fried chicken, sweet corn, stuffing, steamed vegetables, and lots of other hot foods.

The River offers a taste of the ocean from the four corners of the Western oyster world. This bar/restaurant serves the cool freshly cracked ones from the coasts of Washington, Oregon, California, Prince Edward Island, New England, and the Florida Panhandle. A tasty flourish comes with the choice of jalapeño relish, Asian mignonette, and the traditional horseradish with cocktail sauce. Most oysters are $19/dozen; the Apalachicolas (from Florida's Gulf waters) run $10/dozen. They're all half-price during happy hour, 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. During the week the place (located in the Fishbone Grille's old space) is open for lunch and dinner (kitchen closes at about 10:30 p.m.). On Saturday hours are 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. or so. The joint is closed on Sundays, so if you're jonesing for oysters after church, you'll have to hit Shuckers or Smith & Wollensky.

Power lunch no longer implies Eighties-style business suits meeting over plates of ostrich carpaccio served in white-linen restaurants where the valets earn more than your secretary. If we've learned anything from the dot.com era, it's that sometimes the sweetest deals are scripted in duds that have seen less holey days and sealed not by a slash of the Cross fountain pen but by the clink of two pint glasses topped off with a mousse of India Pale Ale. At Gordon Biersch, one of the only downtown venues to regularly draw the workaday crowd, you can actually find both kinds of players: the stuffed shirt and the beer belly, lunching on pizzas and gourmet salads and fresh-brewed suds. Rest assured they have two things in common -- something on the table and something in the works.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®