Chicken wings, before the Atkins diet revolution, were thought to be evil. Munch on them, it was believed, and as sure as the grease on your chinny chin-chin, you'd morph into fat tub. But all that has changed now. Fat ain't all that bad and Fu Manchu's version of chicken wings, fried in peanut oil, are made sans the bready, carb-loaded crust. So here's the skinny. Order the $6.85 appetizer portion of the wings. They are plentiful and served piping -- and we mean PIPING -- hot. Dip them in Fu's superspicy Chinese mustard and you're sure to clear your sinuses and probably burn off a few calories with the heat. You can enjoy your wings in this funky 1930s eatery decorated with cheesy-looking pagodas and murals of gongs and Buddhas.

Despite the hordes of tourists clogging Ocean Drive -- and the tourists traps that have sprung up to serve them -- a few pockets of sanity still exist on that once fabled street. None is more treasured by brunch-seeking locals than the Front Porch Café. While your out-of-town visitors trudge off to the heart of the strip for their obligatory snapshots of the Versace mansion, grab a seat on the outdoor patio here. It's the perfect spot to tuck into a huge stack of pancakes while watching the parade of South Beach humanity traipse by. At $7.65 this meal may be a tad pricier than the fare at IHOP, but these pancakes are twice as big, twice as fluffy, and with bananas, sugar, and maple syrup on top, the ultimate in morning comfort food. If a similarly humongous plate of cinnamon-spiked challah French toast (also $7.65) still seems too self-indulgent, try the egg-white omelets ($6.55), a favorite among the buffed gay crowd that flocks here, many of whom spend more time ogling their own waistlines than those of any passersby. But whatever your tastes, in diet or dates, be sure to reward yourself with a smoothie ($3.95), or as they fashion them here, a "Front Porch Flip." It's a blend of freshly squeezed orange juice, nonfat yogurt, heaps of strawberries and bananas, and a shot of honey. Yes, dealing with Ocean Drive can be a headache-inducing trial, but with Front Porch's menu in sight, you won't mind quite as much.

Front Porch Cafe
Despite the hordes of tourists clogging Ocean Drive -- and the tourists traps that have sprung up to serve them -- a few pockets of sanity still exist on that once fabled street. None is more treasured by brunch-seeking locals than the Front Porch Café. While your out-of-town visitors trudge off to the heart of the strip for their obligatory snapshots of the Versace mansion, grab a seat on the outdoor patio here. It's the perfect spot to tuck into a huge stack of pancakes while watching the parade of South Beach humanity traipse by. At $7.65 this meal may be a tad pricier than the fare at IHOP, but these pancakes are twice as big, twice as fluffy, and with bananas, sugar, and maple syrup on top, the ultimate in morning comfort food. If a similarly humongous plate of cinnamon-spiked challah French toast (also $7.65) still seems too self-indulgent, try the egg-white omelets ($6.55), a favorite among the buffed gay crowd that flocks here, many of whom spend more time ogling their own waistlines than those of any passersby. But whatever your tastes, in diet or dates, be sure to reward yourself with a smoothie ($3.95), or as they fashion them here, a "Front Porch Flip." It's a blend of freshly squeezed orange juice, nonfat yogurt, heaps of strawberries and bananas, and a shot of honey. Yes, dealing with Ocean Drive can be a headache-inducing trial, but with Front Porch's menu in sight, you won't mind quite as much.

This posthumous award honors the 55-year-old Surfside institution that closed its doors May 6 after Toby and Ethyl Spector -- son and widow of store namesake Sheldon Spector, who died in 1998 -- realized they couldn't pay their bills. The Spectors had an agreement with their long-time landlord, who gave them a break on rent. But when 9501 Properties bought the building in February, they discontinued the deal. While technically not increasing the rent, Ben Grenald and his partners at 9501 effectively wiped out a priceless piece of beachside Americana when they insisted they couldn't cut the Spectors a break, even for the sake of sentiment. And at Sheldon's, the sentimental menu said it all: "No machine-made burgers made here. Just like the old days when burgers were always great." A living remnant of those selfsame old days, Sheldon's opened its doors in 1948. The linoleum lunch counter and cracked vinyl spinning stools looked like postwar America. Hundreds turned out recently for a last chance to complete the time warp by sidling up to the soda fountain and ordering a malted, a New York egg cream, or a phosphate to go with eight ounces of perfection on a toasted onion roll. There will never be another Sheldon's.

This posthumous award honors the 55-year-old Surfside institution that closed its doors May 6 after Toby and Ethyl Spector -- son and widow of store namesake Sheldon Spector, who died in 1998 -- realized they couldn't pay their bills. The Spectors had an agreement with their long-time landlord, who gave them a break on rent. But when 9501 Properties bought the building in February, they discontinued the deal. While technically not increasing the rent, Ben Grenald and his partners at 9501 effectively wiped out a priceless piece of beachside Americana when they insisted they couldn't cut the Spectors a break, even for the sake of sentiment. And at Sheldon's, the sentimental menu said it all: "No machine-made burgers made here. Just like the old days when burgers were always great." A living remnant of those selfsame old days, Sheldon's opened its doors in 1948. The linoleum lunch counter and cracked vinyl spinning stools looked like postwar America. Hundreds turned out recently for a last chance to complete the time warp by sidling up to the soda fountain and ordering a malted, a New York egg cream, or a phosphate to go with eight ounces of perfection on a toasted onion roll. There will never be another Sheldon's.

Expecting a baby? Here's a bit of advice: Call Prime One Twelve now to make reservations for the kid's college-graduation dinner. Think that's an exaggeration? This new restaurant from Nemo/Big Pink owner Myles Chefetz has been packed from about five minutes after opening in December -- and not just because it's situated in South Beach's charmingly renovated first hotel, Brown's. The real draw is the selection of USDA prime steaks, dry-aged between 21 and 28 days and priced from $26 for an eight-ounce filet mignon to $72 for a 48-ounce porterhouse for two. The six optional sauces, including an ultra-rich hollandaise, are their own draw. Side vegetable dishes are much more sophisticated than those found at most steak houses: sweet potato-vanilla bean mash, truffled four-cheese macaroni, and chili-garlic-spiked broccoli rabe, among others. Equally sophisticated are starters such as sautéed Hudson Valley foie gras with watercress, spiced pineapple, and candied ginger. Add a top-quality raw bar and numerous cooked seafood creations (seared tuna with avocado, hearts of palm, and Kumamoto oyster sauce), and this is one steak house even a noncarnivore can love.

Prime 112
Photo by Gary James / Courtesy of Carma PR
Expecting a baby? Here's a bit of advice: Call Prime One Twelve now to make reservations for the kid's college-graduation dinner. Think that's an exaggeration? This new restaurant from Nemo/Big Pink owner Myles Chefetz has been packed from about five minutes after opening in December -- and not just because it's situated in South Beach's charmingly renovated first hotel, Brown's. The real draw is the selection of USDA prime steaks, dry-aged between 21 and 28 days and priced from $26 for an eight-ounce filet mignon to $72 for a 48-ounce porterhouse for two. The six optional sauces, including an ultra-rich hollandaise, are their own draw. Side vegetable dishes are much more sophisticated than those found at most steak houses: sweet potato-vanilla bean mash, truffled four-cheese macaroni, and chili-garlic-spiked broccoli rabe, among others. Equally sophisticated are starters such as sautéed Hudson Valley foie gras with watercress, spiced pineapple, and candied ginger. Add a top-quality raw bar and numerous cooked seafood creations (seared tuna with avocado, hearts of palm, and Kumamoto oyster sauce), and this is one steak house even a noncarnivore can love.

The chickpea is to Middle Eastern cuisine what plantains are to Caribbean food. Dietary staple and base ingredient for foundation foods such as hummus and falafel, this lowly, bland legume soaks up flavor like a sponge, and finds exquisite expression when mashed, spiced, fried, and mixed with vegetables and tahini in Pasha's falafel wrap. It's healthy and cheap ($3.50 for a substantial portion) and Pasha's will bring it to you, provided you live within range of its Miami Beach, Brickell Avenue, or Design District locations.

Pasha's
Leah Gabriel
The chickpea is to Middle Eastern cuisine what plantains are to Caribbean food. Dietary staple and base ingredient for foundation foods such as hummus and falafel, this lowly, bland legume soaks up flavor like a sponge, and finds exquisite expression when mashed, spiced, fried, and mixed with vegetables and tahini in Pasha's falafel wrap. It's healthy and cheap ($3.50 for a substantial portion) and Pasha's will bring it to you, provided you live within range of its Miami Beach, Brickell Avenue, or Design District locations.

Norman Van Aken's eponymous restaurant has topped this category for so many years you almost wish he'd screw up just once and give someone else a shot at the gold. This past year it actually seemed possible, what with Van Aken expanding to Orlando and California, as well as opening Mundo closer to home at the Village of Merrick Park. That's spreading yourself pretty thin. At the same time, some exceptional new restaurants opened in the Gables. But Norman's still rules. Van Aken (who apparently needs no sleep) remained firmly in control of his flagship kitchen, retaining favorite old dishes while introducing several astonishing new creations. Long-time customers would become homicidal if his classic citrus/saffron-spiked creamy conch chowder disappeared from the menu. But a new, nut-rich Brazilian seafood xinxin (heaven for lobster lovers) is equally divine. Among new entrées is an irresistible, multicultural escolar a la Veracruziana, with oyster mushrooms, Creole mustard gnocchi, and a sabayon sauce flavored with Mexico's exotic huitlacoche. Maybe next year we'll introduce our own new creation: Best Restaurant in Coral Gables Other Than Norman's.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®