Everyone pretends to visit Everglades National Park to commune with nature. But every local knows we really go for the food -- and not the alligator sushi, either. Not far from the park's main entrance down south, the temptations for detours come from Knaus Berry Farm's sticky buns and the strawberry or key-lime milkshakes from Robert Is Here. But on the road trip out Tamiami Trail to the park's northern entrance at Shark Valley, the smoky barbecue aromas emanating from the Pit's wood cabin stop drivers more effectively than a police roadblock. Ribs are juicy, flavorful, fabulous. The double pork sandwich -- featuring mounds of what might be the best pit-cooked, pulled pork to be had south of the Carolinas, topped with crunchy sweet slaw -- is even better. Sides are also superior to most BBQ joints: tangy baked beans, lightly floured real onion rings, and to wash it down, imported Beck's beer. The eclectic redneck-to-reggae jukebox is big fun, too.

The Pit Bar-B-Q
Everyone pretends to visit Everglades National Park to commune with nature. But every local knows we really go for the food -- and not the alligator sushi, either. Not far from the park's main entrance down south, the temptations for detours come from Knaus Berry Farm's sticky buns and the strawberry or key-lime milkshakes from Robert Is Here. But on the road trip out Tamiami Trail to the park's northern entrance at Shark Valley, the smoky barbecue aromas emanating from the Pit's wood cabin stop drivers more effectively than a police roadblock. Ribs are juicy, flavorful, fabulous. The double pork sandwich -- featuring mounds of what might be the best pit-cooked, pulled pork to be had south of the Carolinas, topped with crunchy sweet slaw -- is even better. Sides are also superior to most BBQ joints: tangy baked beans, lightly floured real onion rings, and to wash it down, imported Beck's beer. The eclectic redneck-to-reggae jukebox is big fun, too.

When Pheofanis "Frankie" Rigalos opened a pizza stand in Hollywood 30 years ago, he immediately ran into a problem. He simply couldn't find the high-quality ingredients he needed. His son, Bobby, picks up the story: "He started going to New York, but even there he couldn't get everything he needed at the markets. So he went to factories and warehouses. He'd go around at church and tell everyone he was ordering, say, a big wheel of cheese, and people would go in on it." The Greek native naturally let this lead him into the business of importing, distributing, and selling directly to customers the finest Greek food (and statues, CDs, sundries) from a 15,000-square-foot warehouse. Bobby, who was born in the U.S., says that while the store sells all the best in the world of olives, feta, and pita, the most important aspect is "our knowledge of the products. Everything is imported from Greece. My father goes three times a year to shop. And with the Greek farmers, they're more honest, they'll tell him if they're looking at a good season or a bad one. We rotate our stock frequently." His mother Georgia keeps the books while sister Dina oversees administration. Cousin Pano (Peter in English) also pitches in. Together they provide real Greek food to everyone from the organizers of the St. Andrews festival in Kendall each November to places in the Caribbean, South America, and all over Florida. "It's a big operation for a mom-and-pop," Bobby notes. "But we still know all the regular customers on a personal basis." Saturday is the best time to go because there is almost always a reason to celebrate something, and the place turns into one big fat Greek party, with music and dancing, people gathering to shop and eat everything from what Bobby calls "Americanized stuff like baklava" to "hard-core cookies and chocolates you can only find in Greece." He tries to summarize the inventory, but ends up speaking Greek. "We have ... oh, it's a great saying, but in English, well, the best way I can say it is, 'We have everything including the bird's milk.'"

When Pheofanis "Frankie" Rigalos opened a pizza stand in Hollywood 30 years ago, he immediately ran into a problem. He simply couldn't find the high-quality ingredients he needed. His son, Bobby, picks up the story: "He started going to New York, but even there he couldn't get everything he needed at the markets. So he went to factories and warehouses. He'd go around at church and tell everyone he was ordering, say, a big wheel of cheese, and people would go in on it." The Greek native naturally let this lead him into the business of importing, distributing, and selling directly to customers the finest Greek food (and statues, CDs, sundries) from a 15,000-square-foot warehouse. Bobby, who was born in the U.S., says that while the store sells all the best in the world of olives, feta, and pita, the most important aspect is "our knowledge of the products. Everything is imported from Greece. My father goes three times a year to shop. And with the Greek farmers, they're more honest, they'll tell him if they're looking at a good season or a bad one. We rotate our stock frequently." His mother Georgia keeps the books while sister Dina oversees administration. Cousin Pano (Peter in English) also pitches in. Together they provide real Greek food to everyone from the organizers of the St. Andrews festival in Kendall each November to places in the Caribbean, South America, and all over Florida. "It's a big operation for a mom-and-pop," Bobby notes. "But we still know all the regular customers on a personal basis." Saturday is the best time to go because there is almost always a reason to celebrate something, and the place turns into one big fat Greek party, with music and dancing, people gathering to shop and eat everything from what Bobby calls "Americanized stuff like baklava" to "hard-core cookies and chocolates you can only find in Greece." He tries to summarize the inventory, but ends up speaking Greek. "We have ... oh, it's a great saying, but in English, well, the best way I can say it is, 'We have everything including the bird's milk.'"

Admittedly not everything on the menu is a knockout, but Barton G's expansive, lushly planted tropical-jungle dining patio always is. Just what you'd expect from a flamboyant former Broadway set designer. Definitely reserve a table outside (the indoor space is glitzy but nothing special) and eschew fancy dishes in favor of the creative comfort-food items: playful "popcorn" shrimp served with Asian sprouts and honey vinaigrette atop real popcorn in a cardboard container; macaroni and cheese that's light on the cheese, heavy on the wild mushrooms and truffle essence -- an updated American classic. And don't miss the Big Top Cotton Candy and Over-the-Top Popcorn Surprise dessert (the surprise being that crackerjack balls flanking the traditional fluff-on-a-stick have elegant chocolate truffle centers). You can eat perfect crème brûlée at countless indoor restaurants, but cotton candy under coconut palms? That's the essence of Miami Beach.

Barton G. the Restaurant
Max Shapovalov
Admittedly not everything on the menu is a knockout, but Barton G's expansive, lushly planted tropical-jungle dining patio always is. Just what you'd expect from a flamboyant former Broadway set designer. Definitely reserve a table outside (the indoor space is glitzy but nothing special) and eschew fancy dishes in favor of the creative comfort-food items: playful "popcorn" shrimp served with Asian sprouts and honey vinaigrette atop real popcorn in a cardboard container; macaroni and cheese that's light on the cheese, heavy on the wild mushrooms and truffle essence -- an updated American classic. And don't miss the Big Top Cotton Candy and Over-the-Top Popcorn Surprise dessert (the surprise being that crackerjack balls flanking the traditional fluff-on-a-stick have elegant chocolate truffle centers). You can eat perfect crème brûlée at countless indoor restaurants, but cotton candy under coconut palms? That's the essence of Miami Beach.

Everyone knows the high quality of this eatery. It was recognized last year for Best Flan and Best Sandwich Name (Bay of Pig). But with arteries clogging from fat and cholesterol levels soaring and, oh no, mad cow disease, beef's been taking a beating. Fortunately the S.S. is way ahead of the game, offering a juicy, sweet turkey burger that'll make withdrawal from cow meat much easier. There are other healthy alternatives, of course, but few so delicious. And after a turkey burger you might still be able to find room for some of that killer flan.

Everyone knows the high quality of this eatery. It was recognized last year for Best Flan and Best Sandwich Name (Bay of Pig). But with arteries clogging from fat and cholesterol levels soaring and, oh no, mad cow disease, beef's been taking a beating. Fortunately the S.S. is way ahead of the game, offering a juicy, sweet turkey burger that'll make withdrawal from cow meat much easier. There are other healthy alternatives, of course, but few so delicious. And after a turkey burger you might still be able to find room for some of that killer flan.

The low-carb revolution has left dessert in the dust. More Americans are doing what Europeans have done for so many years: savoring high-protein, high-fat cheese at the end of a meal instead of indulging in sugary sweets. At the Mandarin Oriental's marvelous restaurant Azul, fromage is presented with a French flourish: A trolley featuring one of the biggest of cheeses, a giant wheel of Cantal made in Auvergne, France, is wheeled to diners' tables. But this hard, cow's milk cheese doesn't stand alone. Grapes, nuts, and one concession to carbs, crackers, are served with a wedge of the nutty wonder. A sommelier-suggested glass of dessert wine adds to the experience. Discerning diners on a dairy bender need only ask and a scrumptious selection of gooey delights -- made from sheep's, goat's, and cow's milk -- will be brought to their table tout de suite.

The low-carb revolution has left dessert in the dust. More Americans are doing what Europeans have done for so many years: savoring high-protein, high-fat cheese at the end of a meal instead of indulging in sugary sweets. At the Mandarin Oriental's marvelous restaurant Azul, fromage is presented with a French flourish: A trolley featuring one of the biggest of cheeses, a giant wheel of Cantal made in Auvergne, France, is wheeled to diners' tables. But this hard, cow's milk cheese doesn't stand alone. Grapes, nuts, and one concession to carbs, crackers, are served with a wedge of the nutty wonder. A sommelier-suggested glass of dessert wine adds to the experience. Discerning diners on a dairy bender need only ask and a scrumptious selection of gooey delights -- made from sheep's, goat's, and cow's milk -- will be brought to their table tout de suite.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®