Sick of driving in a dirty car? At the venerable Leo's you can get your vehicle sprayed, scrubbed, and dried by a team of specialists for as little as ten dollars. Throw down an extra five bucks and they'll vacuum the inside too. You can also spend quite a bit more for a detailing that will make your wheels look brand-new. Be sure to set aside a half-hour or so for a straight wash as the folks here like to take their time and do a thorough job, which they've been doing at this location for years. The resulting gleam that will flicker off your car, an amazing effect that was nearly impossible when it was covered in dirt and bird doo, will be well worth the wait. And the wait is made quite pleasant by the adjacent presence of Andiamo, winner of last year's Best Gourmet Pizza.

Readers Choice: Busy Bee

KLIME KOVACESKI

CRYSTAL CAFE,726 41st Street, Miami Beach, 305-673-8266

Crystal Café regulars, and there are many, enter through the rear door. They know it's closer to nearby parking. They also know they can poke their head into the kitchen on the way up front and say hello to chef/proprietor Klime Kovaceski, who will stop whatever he's doing to offer greetings. That won't be the last they see of him, though. At some point he'll be tableside, ensuring that guests in his cozy restaurant are happy. It's classic Old World charm from a warmly sincere Old World native. Kovaceski hails from Macedonia, where cooking wasn't his only passion. For a period he was also one of the region's most celebrated rock musicians. He still cherishes his guitar, but today it yields to his restaurant (www.crystalcafe.net), whose "New Continental" cuisine has gained national recognition and made Crystal Café one of Miami's finest dining establishments.

BEST LOCAL LANDMARK

Joes Stone Crab

Respect the everlasting: Ninety years in this business is an eternity. Joe's boasts, besides the best stone crabs and some great seafood, a precision-trained staff the size of city hall who perform like a slick military machine. No wonder U.S. presidents have waited patiently for a table at this American icon.

BEST DINING TREND

Casa Tua

Admire the beautiful: Casa Tua is a gorgeous place to dine, and the cuisine is fresh and clean. Turning a house into a restaurant may not yet be a new trend but certainly places like Casa Tua are helping Miami to become a more sophisticated dining metropolis.

BEST NOT-SO-CHEAP THRILL

La Broche

Recognize the brilliant: La Broche's chef, Angel Palacios, is just that. Two decades ago most of the great chefs were Europeans. Nowadays our homegrown chefs can compete successfully in any competition anywhere. But Palacios's cuisine proves that the Europeans are as inventive as ever -- still a culinary force to be reckoned with.

BEST PLACE TO SAVOR THE FLAVOR OF MIAMI

Normans

Applaud the very best: Norman Van Aken's restaurant reflects South Florida culinary history in the making. You can see the dynamic complexity of Miami on his plates, every one of them.

BEST REASON TO LIVE IN MIAMI

I moved to the U.S.A. in 1984, but if I had a choice, my birth certificate would read, "Born in Miami." Why? Because Miami gives new meaning to the phrase melting pot. The city literally overflows with different nationalities and languages, and has an amazing diversity of dining options: Old and New American, Latin American and Caribbean, Italian and French, steak houses, bagel joints, sushi, fusion, and much more. On your day off you can practice Miami's famous politics while knocking back a café cubano, hit the beach for awhile, then choose from one of a zillion restaurants. Afterward you can dance salsa to burn the calories. Next morning the battery is charged, you feel good, and you've renewed your appreciation for Miami being the hot, crowded, sexy place it is.

RECIPE

CHICKEN KIEV

Serves 4

4 (6 oz) chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

2 cups goat cheese

2 eggs well beaten for egg wash

1 cup flour

1 cup plain bread crumbs

Clarified butter*

1 cup baby mixed greens

2 of each: grilled baby zucchini, baby yellow squash, hearts of palm

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Place each chicken breast between two layers of plastic wrap and place on cutting board. Pound breasts to quarter-inch thickness. Form goat cheese into 4-inch-long sticks and place one in the middle of each chicken breast. Roll the breast around the goat cheese. If the cheese shows through some spot, stretch the chicken to completely cover. Coat in egg wash, flour, and bread crumbs. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours to firm the cheese, but no longer or the bread crumbs will become soggy. Sauté chicken in clarified butter until golden brown, then place in a 400-degree oven, turning occasionally until firm to the touch (when cheese leaks out, it is ready). Place on paper towels and drain for 2 to 3 minutes. Place baby greens in the middle of the plate and surround with grilled vegetables. Cut chicken on a bias with serrated knife and arrange chicken pieces across the greens so a little of the cheese in each slice shows through. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, salt, and pepper, and drizzle over the dish.

*Clarified butter: 1/4 lb unsalted butter. Melt butter over low heat. Skim off white film and pour golden liquid into a small bowl.

Palm Hammock Orchid Estate spreads out like a secret jungle, hidden in a mostly residential neighborhood just south of Snapper Creek Elementary School. The gravel parking lot behind an unassuming gateway is the last stop before entering the huge nursery's world of eerie calmness. The whispered burbling of waterfalls and koi ponds conspires with soft music and waving foliage to make the nursery a sort of meditative sanctuary in the middle of the Miami suburbs. Tim Anderson, who presides with wife Anne over the nursery he started 30 years ago, says the plant selection at Palm Hammock is eclectic. "I only grow what I like," he explains. "We started off growing cactus and succulents. Now we have the results of 30 years of collecting." Anderson describes the nursery as an artistic and spiritual endeavor, supported by his "money-making business," landscape architecture. Religious statues -- Buddhist and Hindu figures sitting alongside St. Francis -- and bird baths, benches, and fountains are scattered among the thousands of orchids, ferns, African violets, water lilies, tropical bonsai, and other flora that fill the estate's six greenhouses and grounds.

Next to a building painted in eye-battering yellow and green, Mr. Pocketbook's bright yellow sign lures you in: "Bags $2.99 & up." Inside, a sea of vinyl, leather, and fabric awaits -- everything from the stylish leather handbags that would set you back $60 in the mall to more affordable knockoffs of high-end brand names like Fendi and Coach, to el cheapo cloth and plastic varieties that spill off tables at the flea market. The store also stocks luggage, as well as children's backpacks adorned with cartoon characters. Open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Mr. Pocketbook encourages bulk shopping, offering deep discounts (a third of retail prices) when you buy a dozen or more bags. And you can mix and match your quarry from any of the boxes and still pay wholesale for each. Those opting to buy fewer purses also can save a little, especially if they're lucky. One saleswoman notes Mr. Pocketbook's prices can fluctuate, depending on the day and "how my boss is feeling."

The ubiquitous Goodwill store -- there are eighteen in Miami-Dade -- is always a decent option for secondhand shopping. The Quail Roost Goodwill stands out for its atmosphere and selection. The store is huge, although slightly less than the warehouse-size "superstores," yet somehow manages to maintain the cleanliness and order of a department store. As opposed to other secondhand stores, where incoming donations litter the storefront and clothing is strewn around haphazardly, the staff at the Quail Roost Goodwill keeps the clothes neatly divided into easily understandable sections, separate from the books, household wares, and the surprisingly well-stocked electronics section. Parents take note: The kids section is excellent, stuffed with a good supply of clothing and toys.

Lily's Records
Still clamoring for that bump-and-grind classic salsa from the Seventies? You know: Fania All-Stars, Cheo Feliciano, Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barreto, and Celia Cruz. Lily's has more than one record from these guys. You'll also find boleros, rock, poetry, and if you're lucky, the patrons will be watching a home video from their latest trip to Cuba.

Austin's Diving Center
Austin's has been serving the dive community since 1968. In Miami, that's a very long time indeed. Here's why the customers keep coming back and why Austin's has won this award twice before: a huge inventory from more than 75 vendors, a highly professional sales staff, experienced resident diving experts, and first-rate technical support in service and repairs. Underwater-photography equipment is a specialty, with an unrivaled selection of cameras ranging from $15.50 disposables to $1000 movie cameras. For novices or accomplished technical divers, Austin's has what you need.

Readers Choice: Austins Diving Center

Driving into CocoWalk's garage is not unlike driving into the ninth circle of hell, especially on weekends, when college students, teens, and South American shoppers jockey for limited spaces that go for ten dollars a pop. Worse still is navigating through the garage's cramped driving lanes, which are well-suited for someone piloting a teeny Toyota Echo but not the hulking SUVs that seem to be the vehicle of choice for CocoWalk shopping aficionados.

If it weren't for places like Cycle World, we'd all be on those stupid-ass cruisers by now. Of course the cruisers are cool and easy to ride, and you can get them at this place too. But you don't go to Cycle World for the motorcycle handlebars and mod look of South Beach. Go because you like to take a serious ride on weekends -- or every day. For weekenders the shop can start you out with GT, Giant, or Trek road or mountain bikes at the best prices in town, which is why Cycle World won this award last year. Want to upgrade to a better bicycle? How much money can you spend? Just to make you feel better about spending that much, they'll throw in a 60-day warranty (not including flat tires).

Readers Choice: Mack Cycle and Fitness

Log Cabin Nursery
The pink hibiscus of heated tropical fantasies, a spiky Louisiana iris with yellow burning at the core of its alabaster flower, luscious bougainvillea, sexy bromeliads. Okay, the profusion of greenery for sale at this sprawling complex, which fills the block between 81st and 82nd streets, isn't much different from that of other run-of-the-mill South Florida nurseries. Log Cabin is unique less for its considerable selection than for its community function. Even serial plant killers can feel good about spending money here on yet another bid at nurturing. Open daily until 5:00 p.m. (10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Sundays), this nonprofit organization was founded in 1983 to help the developmentally disabled become independent and employable. More than 40 adults attend the program, arriving at 9:00 a.m. to water, fertilize, weed, and help customers. In the afternoon participants study conundrums such as counting change, cleaning, and cooking. Log Cabin graduates also get a hand finding employment. Approximately fifteen alumni currently are working for the Miami Beach parks department and at the nursery, as well as at service-industry jobs in places like McDonald's and Publix. And come December, if you're in the market for a Christmas tree, Log Cabin sells those, too.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®