Puerto Sagua
Leah Gabriel
Puerto Sagua, an all-night Cuban diner, is a sort of refuge from the South Beach scene (and has been for 35 years, since long before there was a South Beach scene). Need a respite from all that sunshine and silicone? Cool off in Puerto Sagua and grab a cheap lunch. Need to fortify your stomach before a 4:00 a.m. drive home? Get a medianoche, or better yet, a bowl of excellent black bean soup. For $2.25, you get a cup of thick, garlicky flavor. The recipe is basic: onions, green peppers, garlic, cumin, and black pepper are added to the beans to make a tasty and filling appetizer. Or make it a meal, for $3.50 a bowl.

His name is Romeo, and he'll be taking your reservation for this evening, and greeting you at the door, and introducing the cuisine, and preparing your prix-fixe six-course meal. So naturally the place would be called Romeo's Café, and the creatively prepared, exquisite northern Italian cuisine is a winner at this Coral Way eatery. The set menu is tweaked for diners' dietary preferences or restrictions, but otherwise you'll be happy to sit back and enjoy the Romeo culinary ride as course after course arrives with delicious anticipation. At $65 per person (excluding wine), it's considered expensive, but for the experience it's a steal.

Romeo's Cafe
Via Romeo's Facebook
His name is Romeo, and he'll be taking your reservation for this evening, and greeting you at the door, and introducing the cuisine, and preparing your prix-fixe six-course meal. So naturally the place would be called Romeo's Café, and the creatively prepared, exquisite northern Italian cuisine is a winner at this Coral Way eatery. The set menu is tweaked for diners' dietary preferences or restrictions, but otherwise you'll be happy to sit back and enjoy the Romeo culinary ride as course after course arrives with delicious anticipation. At $65 per person (excluding wine), it's considered expensive, but for the experience it's a steal.

Patriots might be disappointed to know the French didn't invent French fries, so the whole wartime freedom fries propaganda campaign was a waste, erroneously disparaging an innocent food. The word "french" in fries has more to do with the thin cut of the potato than with our insolent non-allies. Belgians, frequently mistaken for French folks, actually get the credit for creating the potato sticks, often pairing them with a tasty mayonnaise. But the French might have been the first to marry fries with steak. And at Les Halles, there is no better accompaniment to a juicy hanger steak, or any other main dish for that matter. Hand-sliced potatoes, a little thicker than a shoestring cut and thinner than a steak fry, are briefly soaked in water to remove starch, dried carefully, and then dipped in hot oil until their center is tender and cooked through. After a short rest, they're deep-fried in hotter oil a second time to attain a crispy exterior. The result: perfectly browned frites tasty enough to be a meal all by themselves and destined to make even the most nationalistic diners coo, "Ooh la la!"

Patriots might be disappointed to know the French didn't invent French fries, so the whole wartime freedom fries propaganda campaign was a waste, erroneously disparaging an innocent food. The word "french" in fries has more to do with the thin cut of the potato than with our insolent non-allies. Belgians, frequently mistaken for French folks, actually get the credit for creating the potato sticks, often pairing them with a tasty mayonnaise. But the French might have been the first to marry fries with steak. And at Les Halles, there is no better accompaniment to a juicy hanger steak, or any other main dish for that matter. Hand-sliced potatoes, a little thicker than a shoestring cut and thinner than a steak fry, are briefly soaked in water to remove starch, dried carefully, and then dipped in hot oil until their center is tender and cooked through. After a short rest, they're deep-fried in hotter oil a second time to attain a crispy exterior. The result: perfectly browned frites tasty enough to be a meal all by themselves and destined to make even the most nationalistic diners coo, "Ooh la la!"

Owned by the venerable Valls family (masterminds behind Versailles and La Carreta), Casa Juancho feels like the Epcot version of Spain, which is exactly what many locals and especially tourists like about it. The giant fortress plunked on Little Havana's main drag for nearly twenty years has never really seemed to fit. But that's just another of its lures, not to mention what lurks inside in the cavelike darkness: hams hanging serenely from the ceiling, lobsters struggling to avoid being chosen as someone's dinner, and cheery musicians strolling around taking requests. While filling up on atmosphere, though, don't neglect Juancho's true temptations: refreshing sangria, perfectly grilled seafoods, scores of tapas, four kinds of tasty paella, and desserts such as a transcendent crema Catalana.

Casa Juancho
Owned by the venerable Valls family (masterminds behind Versailles and La Carreta), Casa Juancho feels like the Epcot version of Spain, which is exactly what many locals and especially tourists like about it. The giant fortress plunked on Little Havana's main drag for nearly twenty years has never really seemed to fit. But that's just another of its lures, not to mention what lurks inside in the cavelike darkness: hams hanging serenely from the ceiling, lobsters struggling to avoid being chosen as someone's dinner, and cheery musicians strolling around taking requests. While filling up on atmosphere, though, don't neglect Juancho's true temptations: refreshing sangria, perfectly grilled seafoods, scores of tapas, four kinds of tasty paella, and desserts such as a transcendent crema Catalana.

Icebox Cafe
As the name suggests, the place serves not just dessert but the rest of the meal (and though the food is quite good, it's possible to just walk in off the street and get a table, even on weekends, due to its location half a block off Lincoln Road rather than in the middle of the mall's madness). Nevertheless pastries are Icebox's forte. The namesake icebox cakes put chain ice cream cakes to shame. But nonfrozen delights are also not to be missed. Layer cakes (such as lemon raspberry cake or mixed berry shortcake, both $5 per slice) look luscious and, for a change, taste even better than they look due to moist, dense, old-fashioned, home-baked batter; no standard commercial bakery premixes here. Petits fours lack the usual marzipan overkill, and are the most elegant in town -- perfect for parties meant to impress. When impressing others isn't a factor, Rice Krispies treats will evoke the better moments of your childhood. And a drop-dead delicious flourless chocolate soufflé makes religious dietary laws, at events like Seder dinners, no problem.

Icebox Cafe
As the name suggests, the place serves not just dessert but the rest of the meal (and though the food is quite good, it's possible to just walk in off the street and get a table, even on weekends, due to its location half a block off Lincoln Road rather than in the middle of the mall's madness). Nevertheless pastries are Icebox's forte. The namesake icebox cakes put chain ice cream cakes to shame. But nonfrozen delights are also not to be missed. Layer cakes (such as lemon raspberry cake or mixed berry shortcake, both $5 per slice) look luscious and, for a change, taste even better than they look due to moist, dense, old-fashioned, home-baked batter; no standard commercial bakery premixes here. Petits fours lack the usual marzipan overkill, and are the most elegant in town -- perfect for parties meant to impress. When impressing others isn't a factor, Rice Krispies treats will evoke the better moments of your childhood. And a drop-dead delicious flourless chocolate soufflé makes religious dietary laws, at events like Seder dinners, no problem.

It's not that we forgot about Irie Isle after giving it this award way back in 1998. It's just that, for no good reason, we hadn't been back to the nondescript strip mall it calls home. But Irie Isle is still there. Still funky. Still delicious. Remember that it's primarily designed for take-out, though a few tables are always available. Either way, you can't beat the prices ($3.95 for the jerk chicken lunch; dinner combos well under $10), and the succulent jerk preparations are still the best in town. But don't forget the goat, stew chicken, and fish offerings. Or the beans and sticky rice. And you should always pick up a few fresh beef patties (call ahead to see if veggie or chicken patties are available). Irie Isle may not win any awards for décor, but that's not why you come here anyway.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®