This place has been around at least 48 years -- manager Dan Nudge thinks maybe 50 -- way the hell back in the woods and gone without a proper address. It used to be a bait shop on Biscayne Bay just north of the MacArthur Causeway, but was bounced when the Miami Herald built its waterfront eyesore. It still is a bait shop, but there's a whole lot more going on. Owner Jim Luznar likes the scruffy, backwoodsy feel of the site, despite the nearby sewage plant. Now there are palm trees and a gravel drive instead of the muddy path that used to lead up to Jimbo's shack. It's still authentically funky, though. Attracts folks like Bob Dylan when he's around. He'll slouch in for Jimbo's smoked Costa Rican marlin or salmon at eight bucks a pound, and chug down some Natural Ice or Budweiser beer. Nudge explained that the wonderful taste of the fish owes to the smoking process: "Yeah, ya put it in a blind for the night, salted down and sugared and watered, right out back. It's the weather gives us the taste. Yuh cain't man-u-facture that."

One word: atmosphere. Rumble your way to the counter for a jugo. Feel the ice-cold, fresh-fruit flavor -- papaya, cantaloupe, piña colada, orange-carrot, guanabana -- roll down your throat. But then take a look at your mixers -- the rice and beans, roasted half-chickens, and flans -- and head to the back to enjoy it all. Yeah, you'll likely consume some exhaust fumes with your ice-cold strawberry juice and tamale, but the light Cuban music and chatter will calm your soul and soothe your taste buds.

Just utter the words "La Broche" and you may find yourself embroiled in controversy. Controversy is La Broche's -- and its cutting-edge Spanish chef Angel Palacios's -- middle name. In fact debate has raged within these very pages about said avant-garde Spanish cuisine and its ingredients. But hey, creativity often stirs controversy, and this offshoot of the famous Madrid mothership is nothing if not creative. You definitely will want to try the Spaniard's signature "foam," used to top many a dish (raspberry foam on cauliflower soup, anyone?). But there's more to La Broche than foam. There are, for example, duck livers and rockfish, confits of lamb and codfish, sweet-potato cappuccino with ginger and coconut, turbot fillet with pork trotters. This is, for Miami, something very fresh and exciting. It is also expensive. But sometimes you have to pay for the best.

Readers Choice: Casa Juancho

This is for sure a men-in-suits from an around-the-way Brickell firm kinda place. But the Capital Grille is also known for classic steak-house cuisine amid relaxed elegance, raising steaks to a level of excellence. In state-of-the-art meat lockers, short loins of beef are naturally dry-aged for fourteen days in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. Steaks are hand-cut daily, well seasoned, and grilled to desired temperature. The result is an extraordinarily flavorful and tender steak you'll probably need help finishing.

This upscale seafood restaurant, now guided by Arturo Paz (former chef Robbin Haas is said to be readying his own place in the Gables), wows diners each week with its sumptuous spread. Be prepared for the killer price tag of $36 per person. If you can snag a table on the elegant outdoor terrace with its magnificent view, however, the sting of the sticker price will be soothed by cooling breezes of the bay. Great option for a special treat, out-of-towners, or when someone else is paying. Reservations highly recommended.

Hang out in Tokyo after working hours and you're likely to see hordes of men in suits, knocking back shots of sake or bottles of beer and feasting on sushi and yakitori at loud tavern-style eateries known as izakayas. Hang out in Coral Gables at the almost-hidden Japanese restaurant Su-Shin Izakaya and you're likely to behold the same sight. Of course those businessmen have wandered in from the hotel across the street, yet they seem right at home. What contributes to that feeling? The artfully wrapped rolls filled with the freshest slices of fish such as tuna, salmon, or yellowtail; daily specials such as maguro youke (lean chopped tuna topped with shiso leaves and served in a frosted glass bowl); and the most delicate sashimi. Makes you want to raise your glass and say "kampai!" too.

Tacos are simple concoctions, usually containing only three or four ingredients, so the little things -- a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, a squirt of lime juice -- can make a big difference. At Casita Tejas the difference is the meat. The chicken, ground beef, and pork tacos ($6.50 for any combination of three with rice and beans) all have well-marinated, good-quality meat, and the chefs at Casita Tejas take care not to overcook. But the steak tacos ($7.50 for three with rice and beans) are the reason to eat at Casita Tejas. Perfectly cooked flank steak slices -- not the dried-out shards of meat you find at so many taco stands and restaurants -- are marinated for twelve hours, though Casita Tejas manager Veronica Corona won't divulge the ingredients in the secret marinade. The restaurant has been a staple on Krome Avenue for fifteen years. The sunny interior looks out, via wall-length windows, onto Homestead's main drag (for what it's worth). Corona isn't troubled by the view across a parking lot at rival restaurant El Toro Taco (the 2002 New Times Best Taco winner). "We've been here so long," she shrugs, "people know us and we're constantly busy."

At some point several years ago, tapas acquired cachet, the kind of overpriced yuppie fodder that turns up on menus where it has no business. Los Gallegos, serving its namesake Spanish cuisine from a cozy Bird Road location for more than a decade, has seen that trend come and go, but it keeps supplying excellent, fairly priced food in an unpretentious setting. The restaurant has the feel of a family joint, right down to the checkered tablecloths and friendly service, and prices for the tapas dishes (between four and ten dollars) are just as congenial. Of particular note: chorizo served sizzling in a hot skillet, and airy croquetas bacalao.

So a serious lack of funds, not to mention a rather scary war and that strange respiratory outbreak across the world, have prevented you from making it to Thailand this year. We're not crying for you. We have our own little piece of Thailand right here. We sit peacefully among the orchids listening to the tranquil gurgling of a waterfall. We munch on curry puffs and crispy noodles and jumping shrimp. And if we're feeling pyromaniacal, we order the satay and cook our beef or chicken over the flame of a tiny hibachi. Then we load up on signature dishes like the Star of Siam (breaded, marinated chicken cooked with chili sauce and mixed veggies) or the massaman curry, tender meat or seafood accompanied by cashew nuts, plus chunks of avocado and onion in a curry/coconut milk sauce. We satisfy the noodle jones with the always-comforting pad thai. Each day we return for lunch and dinner, and lunch and dinner, and lunch and dinner again. No wonder we can't afford to travel!

Readers Choice: Bangkok Bangkok

Sit down at the counter and take a load off, brothers and sisters. Slow your heart rate with mellow reggae, fruit juice, and a salad. Emperor Haile Selassie stares down at you from the walls, regal and peaceful. Gentle philosophy is mixed into the smoothies. "It's the right way to live," claims the Rastafarian behind the counter. "I might die of pollution or an accident, but never from eating wrong."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®