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."

Dining, technically speaking, refers to the evening repast. Scotty's is best enjoyed mid-to-late afternoon, when the lunch crush is over. Take refuge from the sun under the green-and-white canopy. Order up a bucket of ice-cold beers to accompany a dolphin sandwich or a burger (the menu is blissfully straightforward and unrefined), and soak up the view of the marina, bay, and Key Biscayne in a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere.

It depends on who you ask, what's in stock, or how well you count. But the list at Graziano's, a fab Argentine steak house that is lined with wine racks, runs between 450 and 600 bottles. That's a lotta grape juice, sugar, and much of it is tasty South American stuff -- Argentine Malbec, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, and so on -- that goes oh-so-well with the beef roasting on the asador. In the mood to really spend? Graziano's stocks Italian wines even the collectors wish they had in their cellars. In fact take a look around, 'cause you're probably sitting next to someone who knows what wine is all about. Just make sure you ask the waiter how much your neighbor's vintage might cost before you splurge on the urge to follow suit.

Readers Choice: The Forge

Smitty's has been scrambling eggs since 1941. Sit on one of the 22 spinning stools at the horseshoe-shaped counter and watch the waitresses pour steaming cups of coffee as you find yourself eavesdropping on conversations all around you. The city is waking up, ready for another hot, brutish day in paradise. Revel in the humanity at Smitty's, among the cops, construction workers, and shirt-and-tie guys who are all in it with you. The waitresses, of course, know your name. What more could you ask? How about two eggs, two pancakes, and three strips of bacon for $2.99 (on special). They've also got omelets, waffles, grits, and biscuits-and-gravy dishes that'll run you four to five bucks. Open weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Saturdays 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Smitty's has been scrambling eggs since 1941. Sit on one of the 22 spinning stools at the horseshoe-shaped counter and watch the waitresses pour steaming cups of coffee as you find yourself eavesdropping on conversations all around you. The city is waking up, ready for another hot, brutish day in paradise. Revel in the humanity at Smitty's, among the cops, construction workers, and shirt-and-tie guys who are all in it with you. The waitresses, of course, know your name. What more could you ask? How about two eggs, two pancakes, and three strips of bacon for $2.99 (on special). They've also got omelets, waffles, grits, and biscuits-and-gravy dishes that'll run you four to five bucks. Open weekdays 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Saturdays 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®