Einstein Bros Bagels
Two words: after workout. A South Beach body cannot live on liposuction alone. After a strenuous ab workout, a girl's gotta eat -- and this brightly lit carbohydrate refueling station is just a brisk walk from Gold's, Crunch, Ironworks, Idol's, and David Barton -- making it a favorite meeting place for the aerobics-enhanced. Remember, for nearly an hour after vigorous exercise she will be flushed with endorphins and look on all around her with love. Good thing Einstein Bros. is always so crowded. Is this seat taken?

The searing image from this year's Fiesta Bowl was the collision that left Willis McGahee's knee twisted 45 degrees the wrong direction. The mighty Miami Hurricanes never fully recovered from losing their top rusher and scorer, a runner who demolished team records with 1753 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Worse was McGahee's apparent personal loss. Before the gut-wrenching hit, he was slated to go early in the first round of this year's NFL draft, where big-money contracts are guaranteed. After the accident it seemed he might not ever play again. Fortunately McGahee had taken out a $2.5 million insurance policy shortly before the accident. But after just fifteen weeks of rehab and a miraculous recovery, he didn't need to collect on that policy. In the draft, the Buffalo Bills couldn't pass up this kid despite the blown knee. Why? No one came up bigger for the Canes in critical games last year. He made the Gators look hapless on the way to 204 rushing yards. He ground out 159 yards against Tennessee. And he found the end zone six times in the Virginia Tech game that catapulted the team to the national championship.

Readers Choice: Ken Dorsey

Picture an enchanted jungle village with coral walkways leading to cozy stone cottages with arched doorways and Spanish-tile roofs. Picture flowers and birds and some fairy tale only you could write. Gladys Margarita Diaz and Ray Jourdain live here in this secluded estate, built from native rock in the Twenties, and they rent the smaller cottages. But they and all their tenants will move out for anyone who wants to rent the whole place and its Eden atmospherics. Built by Ohio banker and real estate developer Warren W. Zinsmaster, this lushly landscaped relic of a grander age also includes an open dance floor, a 30-foot coral rock tunnel, and a pond.

It's that unmarked warehouse in the warehouse district, down the street from the cluster of services for the poor and homeless. The one that had a show with a giant flamingo made of bubblegum prostrate on the floor, the sole artwork in the otherwise barren space. The one with exhibits titled "Pigs and Lint" and "The Night Crazy Legs Went GQ: New Projects by Miami Artists." The one that is a nonprofit founded by three intriguing young artists: Weston Charles, Elizabeth Withstandley, and Cooper (one name only). Now it's also the one with an assistant director who is another fascinating artist, Gean Moreno. The one that shows alternative works from alternative artists consistently and interestingly. The one that greatly helped form our electric emerging art scene. The one that deserves to be called Miami's best gallery this year.

On May 6, 2003, by a unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate, Altonaga became the nation's first female Cuban-American federal judge. President George W. Bush personally nominated her, sidestepping a list of South Florida candidates forwarded by the state's two senators, Bill Nelson and Bob Graham. The move provoked cries of foul. It's clear Bush wanted a Cuban female in the position, and in Altonaga he found a winner. The Yale-educated Coral Gables resident was a career prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office until she became a county court judge in 1996 and then circuit court judge three years later. Even Nelson and Graham, two Democrats, conceded the point of her qualifications and ended up backing the president's pick.

Readers Choice: Gloria Estefan

Your night out is over. You step out of the club's raging din and onto the sidewalk, where the relative silence is as shocking as a slap in the face. Head spinning, you realize you might not be up for the drive home just yet. Stumble over to Puerto Sagua for a no-frills Cuban meal in an atmosphere easygoing enough to enable a soft landing when you come back to earth. The restaurant -- a South Beach institution for more than 30 years -- stays open until 2:00 a.m., perfect for clubland's early exits, and it won't break the bank, assuming you have some bank left after those double-digit cocktails.

Front Porch Cafe
Located at the more sedate, northern end of this beachfront strip, the Front Porch dishes up fair-priced, hearty portions from morn' till night. The best seats in the house are, as the name would suggest, on the front porch, where the scenery stretches from Lummus Park to the dunes to the Atlantic. Or lower your gaze slightly to watch the parade of pedestrians without anyone sashaying into your salad. Weekday breakfasts or late lunches are blessedly peaceful, but expect a wait on the weekend as locals line up for the bounteous brunch. And with a full bar, it's also an ideal spot to quench your post-beach thirst with a cocktail in a casual but civilized environment.

Most drivers en route between Miami Beach and Miami via North Bay Village likely pass unawares through this North Beach neighborhood. Overshadowed by nearby Little Buenos Aires (Collins in the Seventies), Normandy Isle is a discrete entity, surrounded by the bay and canals, including one that divides the island in two, offering many residents water access and providing a training ground for crew teams and skullers out of the Miami Beach Watersports Center. The northern half is rooted by the Normandy Shores Municipal Golf Course while the southern half has the commercial district centered around the fountain, informally dubbed the Place Vendome (nearly all the Normandy Sud streets have French names). With sections of single-family homes and predominantly small apartment buildings dating from the Forties and Fifties, it's home to a mix of long-time residents and newer arrivals, Anglos and Latinos (of which Cubans and Argentineans are only the most visible), families and singles (straight and gay), who manage to co-exist. The area is in transition, though, as Section 8 rentals give way to condo conversions, with the accompanying dislocations. But the City of Miami Beach is also investing millions in fixing up the streetscapes and in refurbishing the Normandy Isle Park, to the benefit of all.

Sun may scorch our skin. Heat and humidity can blanket us. Heavy rains could bombard. Tornadoes might threaten. Hurricanes may barrel our way. No sweat. Don Noe's presence -- calm, cool, reassuring -- and his finely tuned forecasts are all we need. As chief meteorologist at Channel 10 (WPLG-TV), Wisconsin native Noe, a fixture on the South Florida airwaves for 24 years, is the consummate pro, confidently standing in front of his map and carefully explaining fronts, fog, barometric pressure, rip currents, and the like to a more-than-skeptical viewership. Telling it like it is, was, and will be. And more often than not, he's right.

Although this past season featured several premieres, the best of them was Nilo Cruz's steamy, sophisticated saga with its heady blend of raw emotion and poetic language set against an era of wrenching cultural and political change. The play was commissioned by the New Theatre and its artistic director Rafael de Acha, and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Cruz, who was born in Cuba but came to Miami at age ten, now spends much of his time in New York. His reputation skyrocketed recently when, in the course of one week, he was honored twice -- first with the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award and then with the Pulitzer Prize, both for Anna in the Tropics. Despite his now widely recognized talent, Cruz has been largely ignored in his hometown. Fortunately the New Theatre has commissioned yet another play -- and residency -- for next season. As Miami struggles to reinvent itself as a cosmopolitan, world-class community, perhaps it's time for us to recognize that world-class artists like Nilo Cruz are already here.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®