BEST BASKETBALL COURT 2003 | Concord Park3200 SW 114th Avenue West Miami-Dade | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
If you can't get high on this court, you'll probably get stuffed. But leave your feet too long for an ill-advised dunk (if you can do that sort of thing) and your hindquarters will get with the pavement quicker than an NBA player gets with a stripper. These are the courts at Concord Park on a daily basis. More ground rules for Concord newjacks: Showoffs are treated to elbows and hand checks; little jits who don't pass can forget running the point; and everyone must jump for rebounds because taking plays off can get you replaced by one of the 50 ballers who usually brush the sideline. Unlike many other courts, Concord rims are single, like the pros and college players use. The backboards may not be glass like indoor courts, but if we were nominating auditoriums and gyms, Concord would still be a match. In the face of South Florida weather, Concord also holds up -- it's elevated so water drains off, and the markings are highly visible so nobody's calling any phantom bounds. Of course a neighborhood court doesn't stand on a reputation of sturdiness or aesthetics; it's the actual games that count. They gotta be clean and competitive. The games at Concord are both.


ORTANIQUE ON THE MILE, 278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, 305-446-7710

Remember when Lincoln Road wasn't so crowded? When there were no chain stores and several really good restaurants? If you do, then you have fond memories of Norma's on the Beach, which opened there in 1994 and thrived for nearly five glorious years. As Norma's chef, Cindy Hutson created what some referred to as nouvelle Jamaican, which proved there are far more possibilities to Caribbean cuisine than jerk seasoning and Scotch bonnet peppers. After she and partner Delius Shirley moved the operation to classier digs in Coral Gables and renamed it Ortanique, it didn't take long for the world to notice. Accolades came flying through the door: Esquire and Bon Appetit and Wine Spectator magazines, Mobil Travel Guide's Four Star award, and more. The place has been a huge success, so much so that Hutson has expanded, opening Ortanique branches in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas.


Comfort food is my personal best dining trend, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, nightclub fires, stock-market crashes, anthrax, war in Iraq, and numerous other disasters. When I go out I want to feel good. Comfort food does that. It doesn't just taste good, it also conjures up memories of youth, family gatherings and barbecues.


Hooking a 150-pound white marlin. Food, beer, friends, and a decked-out sportfishing yacht. You see a bill tip come out of the water. Your heart beats fast. Grab the reel, get ready, hit the pole, and yell Strike! Captain drops into idle. Adrenaline rushes. The fish hauls ass, then performs a ballet on the waves. You're sweating. It's just you and a very large sea creature. It seems to go on forever. Finally the fish is alongside the boat, where he's tagged and released. What a rush!


The Captain's Tavern has been my favorite local landmark for more than twenty years. Owners Bill (the captain) and Audrey Bowers, though, have been at it for 27 years. The captain always delivers a laugh with his pirate tales. And he delivers on the wine, too, with an extensive and fairly priced list. There's also Audrey's homegrown Scotch bonnet pepper sauce (not for the faint-hearted), and chef Paul's awesome specials. Don't forget Dale -- you'll want to start at the bar as you wait for a table. Bravo to the waitstaff, who rarely jump ship.


What comes to mind when tourists think of Miami? Sun, fun, breezy warmth, music, fish, colorful fruits and vegetables, with lovely people of diverse nationalities. So walk through the doors at 278 Miracle Mile. Ortanique on the Mile is the best place to savor the flavors of Miami under one roof. Call me biased, but it happens to be true.


Many obvious reasons come to mind -- the location, weather, and people. But my personal reason is the ethnic diversity Miami offers. With diversity comes knowledge and awareness of different cultures, and the ability to apply that successfully to your life and work. For me, a global "menu" of cuisine, culture, and traditions keeps my creativity flowing, and creativity is what keeps me content.



Yields: 20 pieces

2 pounds crabmeat, jumbo lump (canned)

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 yellow bell pepper

1 small Scotch bonnet (optional)

3 scallions

1/4 red onion

1/4 cup curry powder (Madras brand)

3 eggs

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 3/4 cup panko crumbs (or bread crumbs)

Salt and pepper to taste

Seed and dice the peppers. Chop scallions, finely dice red onion and place in a large bowl. Add the curry powder, salt and pepper, and toss with red, yellow, and Scotch bonnet peppers. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the peppers along with mustard, mayonnaise, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to let curries bloom. Add crab and toss. Then add panko crumbs and toss gently. Form crab mix into 3-ounce rounds. Sauté in small amount of butter until golden brown, then place in 350-degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.

For the sake of the senses, a brisk ocean breeze is a must for a pleasant day spent fishing. A beautiful view of the sea is an added plus, as is a truly comfortable and well-appointed pier from which to cast your line. Newport Beachside Resort's 900-foot structure, the only commercial pier in Miami-Dade, has all that. Known to old-timers as the Sunny Isles Pier, it features a funky open-air restaurant (last year's Best of Miami winner for "Best Inexpensive Waterfront Restaurant with a Great View") and a bait shop at the entrance to the fishing area. Admission for fisherfolk is three dollars ($1.50 for kids), and a buck if you just want to take in the scenery, which is impressive. During springtime, fishermen hook up with pompano, mackerel, and snook. Come summertime, most are reeling in blue runners, though some visitors from the resort might be just as content with rum runners.

On any given day South Beach has gaggles of in-line skaters rolling along Ocean Drive, but South Bayshore Drive (between McFarlane Road and Vizcaya) has the shade and the scenery. But first a word of warning: Rush-hour traffic is unpleasant and dangerous. Best time for this is very early morning or late evening. Weekend mornings are lovely. Start at Peacock Park, stick to the bike lane, and head north. After passing along Silver Bluff, the rock outcropping on the west side of Bayshore that long ago served as a landmark for sailors, you'll approach Mercy Hospital, behind which is located the Ermita de la Caridad church, a revered icon for the Cuban-exile community. Drop by for a visit. It's a perfect spot to catch your breath and a breeze from the bay. Back on Bayshore you'll continue north, frequently shaded by grand old oaks, till you reach Vizcaya. You can pull in, pay admission, remove your skates, and check out the place. Or you can continue on to the edge of the Vizcaya property and turn right at 32nd Road, then up the leafy stretch of Brickell Avenue to Alice Wainwright Park. Free admission and a wonderful view of the bay. Excellent place for a picnic before heading back. Once you're near the heart of the Grove, don't miss a detour through Kennedy Park, a sweet ending to a (roughly) five-mile trip.

Readers Choice: South Beach

Rave bowling? That's right. If you like your ten-pin experience on the freaky side, Cloverleaf offers its version of rave bowling on Friday and Saturday nights from 9:30 p.m. till 3:00 a.m., during which time the place transforms into a veritable South Beach nightclub, complete with blaring dance music and black lights that make the balls and pins glow in the dark. Beyond that, Cloverleaf boasts a wide range of attractions for everyone from novices to pros: 50 fully automated lanes, which happen to be made of synthetic wood instead of the traditional maple (it has as much to do with the environment as it does cost, says one employee); leagues for different skill levels and competitiveness; and a "Monday Night Mixer" party, where it's not how good you bowl but rather how good you look while bowling that counts. For the truly accomplished there is the Cloverrollers league, whose participants' average scores hover around 200. For the pros, there is the prestigious Lee Evans Tournament of the Americas, which Cloverleaf will host this July for the 39th year.

This is a park within a park, and it has an identity all its own. In 1980, when Metrozoo pulled out of its 30-acre facility at the south end of Crandon Park, it left behind cages, pathways, several large ponds, meandering lagoons, and a colony of iguanas. Years of neglect transformed the place into a wild jungle populated by a variety of waterfowl and a vastly larger colony of iguanas, some of which grew to enormous size. A group of devoted park advocates, led by the tireless Valerie Cassidy, took it upon themselves to transform the old zoo once again, but this time into a magnificent garden. They formed the Gardens of Crandon Park Foundation and went to work raising money and mucking around in the dirt. Slowly they redeemed the landscape and diversified the waterfowl population. The iguanas continued to thrive. Eventually the county, which owns the property, acknowledged its responsibility and joined the foundation's volunteers in refurbishing the grounds. The results have been nothing short of spectacular. Today it is a wonderful place for a stroll, a bike ride, or a picnic. The birds alone are worth a visit -- not to mention the iguanas. You'll recognize Valerie Cassidy by her trademark yellow BMW, always parked under a tree near the entrance. Take a moment to thank her.

Jogging is an introspective activity for loners. You don't need friends to jog. You don't need to coordinate your schedule or talk to anyone along the way. It's just your stamina and your thoughts and your path. Of these three, the path is about the only thing you can really control, so best to make it a good one. Park on the far side of the big William M. Powell bridge and head out toward Miami Seaquarium. The white-rippled waves and brisk breeze might help you rev up those endorphins. You can hang a left at the Seaquarium and take a long loop through Virginia Key or continue straight to Crandon Park (cut across the road at Sundays on the Bay to hook up with the park's nature trail). Either way you'll find plenty of outlets, like the brush and dunes of Bear Cut preserve, to cut your midlife angst to pieces. Kick up some dirt behind you and let your mind wander freely.

During the day, Shark Valley is a great place to rent bikes or take a tram on the fifteen-mile looping paved road through the sawgrass wetlands of the Everglades. At night, though, a different world emerges. On a clear evening the stargazing is spectacular, and the vast openness of the savannah beckons as an alluring respite from urban congestion. After official closing hours, admission to Shark Valley is free -- and legal. Of course the parking lots and concessions are closed at night, so you'll need to bring your own bicycles and park along the entrance road at Tamiami Trail. Bring a flashlight and be prepared -- you may encounter a large gator stretched across the road, soaking up warmth from the pavement.

Since management at Flamingo's tennis center changed last year, using the courts has become a more pleasant experience. A new team of pros associated with the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton have been reshaping the tennis programs, adding clinics, maintaining competitive ladders for all levels of play, and improving Flamingo's seventeen clay courts (many of those nasty lumps have been smoothed out). A very welcome improvement indeed.

Readers Choice: Sans Souci Tennis Center

Miccosukee Casino & Resort photo
As long as you're going to do something decadent like play bingo or eat fried alligator, you really owe it to the kids to let them experience similar overstimulation. Like everything else in the shiny new Miccosukee complex, the child-care center -- known as Club Egret -- is big (8500 square feet), brashly colorful, and unabashedly designed for having a good time. Before you head out to your rendezvous with fortune, just drop off the darlings (in the care of competent professionals) and they probably won't want to leave even when lady luck says goodbye. All the fun stuff is here, including jungle gym with slide, trampoline, bouncing balls, blocks, jump ropes. But no gambling.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®