There are a few of these fondue franchises across the country and a new one at 15700 Biscayne Blvd., but we here in the Magic City already have the biggest, most expensive one. A one-million-dollar, freestanding building houses us as we indulge in the guiltiest of pleasures -- chocolate. Imagine a pot filled with white chocolate, milk chocolate, and marshmallow fluff, slowly simmering on a burner right at your table. The waitress drops a shot of raspberry chambord into the pot and hands you a plate of cheesecake, fresh strawberries, pineapples, brownies, bananas, pound cake, cherries, and a fork. This is Chocolate Heaven. It's called a Chambord Kiss, and although there are variations on the menu, chances are the servers have never heard of it. This is a special chocolate reserved for those guests who take the expert advice of managing owner Calvin Gissendanner. Even though he seems a little uptight, the man sure does know his chocolate fondue and he doesn't mind people coming in just for dessert. A small serving for two is $14. The regular size, which serves up to four, is $28. The restaurant also sells jars of their milk, dark, and white chocolates for the home fondue enthusiast. Reservations are suggested.

The Melting Pot
There are a few of these fondue franchises across the country and a new one at 15700 Biscayne Blvd., but we here in the Magic City already have the biggest, most expensive one. A one-million-dollar, freestanding building houses us as we indulge in the guiltiest of pleasures -- chocolate. Imagine a pot filled with white chocolate, milk chocolate, and marshmallow fluff, slowly simmering on a burner right at your table. The waitress drops a shot of raspberry chambord into the pot and hands you a plate of cheesecake, fresh strawberries, pineapples, brownies, bananas, pound cake, cherries, and a fork. This is Chocolate Heaven. It's called a Chambord Kiss, and although there are variations on the menu, chances are the servers have never heard of it. This is a special chocolate reserved for those guests who take the expert advice of managing owner Calvin Gissendanner. Even though he seems a little uptight, the man sure does know his chocolate fondue and he doesn't mind people coming in just for dessert. A small serving for two is $14. The regular size, which serves up to four, is $28. The restaurant also sells jars of their milk, dark, and white chocolates for the home fondue enthusiast. Reservations are suggested.

Maybe it's the lack of cold, dank weather, but Miami suffers from an unfortunate dearth of coffeehouses, at least the kind without corporate headquarters based in Seattle. And while there are plenty of cafecito windows and stop-and-gulps for locals to get their caffeine fix, places like Luna Star Café embody the true spirit of what a coffeehouse is supposed to be. It's all about community, and if you don't know the name of the person at the table next to you when you walk in, you will when you leave. Credit owner Alexis Sanfield and barista Karla for creating such a homey vibe in this cozy North Miami café, along with a mean cappuccino. Oh, and they host one of the best acoustic-music scenes in town, too.

Luna Star Cafe
Maybe it's the lack of cold, dank weather, but Miami suffers from an unfortunate dearth of coffeehouses, at least the kind without corporate headquarters based in Seattle. And while there are plenty of cafecito windows and stop-and-gulps for locals to get their caffeine fix, places like Luna Star Café embody the true spirit of what a coffeehouse is supposed to be. It's all about community, and if you don't know the name of the person at the table next to you when you walk in, you will when you leave. Credit owner Alexis Sanfield and barista Karla for creating such a homey vibe in this cozy North Miami café, along with a mean cappuccino. Oh, and they host one of the best acoustic-music scenes in town, too.

The Rosebriar Café is tucked into an old Miami house on a side street off Biscayne Boulevard. It's decorated like a Victorian tea parlor. Although the service is often slow, the food, by chef John Stump, is always worth the wait -- especially the pumpkin soup. It's a nice setting for both a relaxing lunch and for the minor social dramas that unfold regularly between the gay couple who run the place and the guys who staff it. For instance, Mat is always convinced there aren't enough lace doilies and rose petals, while Carlos is forever trying to find ways to get hot young women to frequent the place. One such creative attempt was to offer a list of cocktails whose primary ingredient is sake. This was done because the café lacks the license necessary to offer hard liquor. So the Rosebriar technically abided by the law by mixing potent drinks made with sake (it's classified as a wine), usually in neon colors and Sex and the City-worthy flavors such as appletinis and the ubiquitous cosmos. Our favorite is the mojito, a delight of green minty tartness.

Rosebriar Cafe
The Rosebriar Café is tucked into an old Miami house on a side street off Biscayne Boulevard. It's decorated like a Victorian tea parlor. Although the service is often slow, the food, by chef John Stump, is always worth the wait -- especially the pumpkin soup. It's a nice setting for both a relaxing lunch and for the minor social dramas that unfold regularly between the gay couple who run the place and the guys who staff it. For instance, Mat is always convinced there aren't enough lace doilies and rose petals, while Carlos is forever trying to find ways to get hot young women to frequent the place. One such creative attempt was to offer a list of cocktails whose primary ingredient is sake. This was done because the café lacks the license necessary to offer hard liquor. So the Rosebriar technically abided by the law by mixing potent drinks made with sake (it's classified as a wine), usually in neon colors and Sex and the City-worthy flavors such as appletinis and the ubiquitous cosmos. Our favorite is the mojito, a delight of green minty tartness.

Urban myth has it that on every corner up North there's a bar waiting to warm up its shivering patrons with alcoholic libations. Wouldn't it make similar sense for every block in Miami to have an ice cream shop waiting to shiver up its customers instead? Is opening a beer bottle so much easier than scooping out Rocky Road? The folks at Cold Stone Creamery sure don't make it seem that way. This rapidly growing chain is making inroads into the competitive Miami market with some remarkable innovations. Ice cream creations are made to order on a frozen granite slab. Ingredients are freshly mixed into whatever base you select. If you like the results, tip your chef and listen to the entire crew belt out a song of praise for you. Imagine auditioning for an afterschool job here. Brrr.

Cold Stone Creamery
Urban myth has it that on every corner up North there's a bar waiting to warm up its shivering patrons with alcoholic libations. Wouldn't it make similar sense for every block in Miami to have an ice cream shop waiting to shiver up its customers instead? Is opening a beer bottle so much easier than scooping out Rocky Road? The folks at Cold Stone Creamery sure don't make it seem that way. This rapidly growing chain is making inroads into the competitive Miami market with some remarkable innovations. Ice cream creations are made to order on a frozen granite slab. Ingredients are freshly mixed into whatever base you select. If you like the results, tip your chef and listen to the entire crew belt out a song of praise for you. Imagine auditioning for an afterschool job here. Brrr.

What Guayacan (Best of Miami winner in 1996) lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for with delicious food at reasonable prices. Highly recommended is the superb churrasco steak (charbroiled tenderloin) with gallo pinto and red beans and rice. You'd expect this quality of beef at a fancier restaurant -- with fancier prices. Also notable is a collection of traditional appetizers that includes such delights as the quesadilla-like repocheta, taquitos, and fried cheese. Remember that Nicaragua is bordered by both the Pacific and the Caribbean, so there are plenty of excellent choices for seafood lovers. The proper way to wash down these or any of the other traditional Nicaraguan foods is, of course, with a bottle of Toña beer.

Guayacan
What Guayacan (Best of Miami winner in 1996) lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for with delicious food at reasonable prices. Highly recommended is the superb churrasco steak (charbroiled tenderloin) with gallo pinto and red beans and rice. You'd expect this quality of beef at a fancier restaurant -- with fancier prices. Also notable is a collection of traditional appetizers that includes such delights as the quesadilla-like repocheta, taquitos, and fried cheese. Remember that Nicaragua is bordered by both the Pacific and the Caribbean, so there are plenty of excellent choices for seafood lovers. The proper way to wash down these or any of the other traditional Nicaraguan foods is, of course, with a bottle of Toña beer.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®