It is hard finding a seafood restaurant that cooks conch fritters actually loaded with conch. But for decades, South Florida's homegrown seafood restaurant chain has been serving up the most delectable conch fritters north of Key West. Unlike most places that serve up the fritters in tiny cornmeal balls, Flanigan's tradition is to deep-fry the shellfish inside in a flat, airy batter that resembles a potato pancake the size of a fist. The result is a crisp and tender fritter that is best washed down with a tall glass of draft ale or pilsner from Flanigan's tap.

Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill
It is hard finding a seafood restaurant that cooks conch fritters actually loaded with conch. But for decades, South Florida's homegrown seafood restaurant chain has been serving up the most delectable conch fritters north of Key West. Unlike most places that serve up the fritters in tiny cornmeal balls, Flanigan's tradition is to deep-fry the shellfish inside in a flat, airy batter that resembles a potato pancake the size of a fist. The result is a crisp and tender fritter that is best washed down with a tall glass of draft ale or pilsner from Flanigan's tap.

BEST NATURAL FOOD/VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

Tree of Zion

With its low ceiling and calming interior, Tree of Zion harkens back to the storefront health restaurants of yore, with the added influence of Rastafarianism abundant but not overpowering. The menu at ToZ is low-tech, handwritten daily on a dry-erase board. The food, however, is strictly modern vegetarian and vegan fare. Included in a typical day's offerings are "raw" pizza with fresh spinach, tomato, and olives; lentil soup; soy burgers on wheat toast; and a selection of meatless, Caribbean-style vegetable patties. Most menu items are priced at about $5.99 or less. This will leave you a few bucks to spare on the not-to-be-missed almond smoothie, a blend of soy milk, bananas, and almond butter served at a flavor-filled, less-than-freezing temperature.

BEST NATURAL FOOD/VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

Tree of Zion

With its low ceiling and calming interior, Tree of Zion harkens back to the storefront health restaurants of yore, with the added influence of Rastafarianism abundant but not overpowering. The menu at ToZ is low-tech, handwritten daily on a dry-erase board. The food, however, is strictly modern vegetarian and vegan fare. Included in a typical day's offerings are "raw" pizza with fresh spinach, tomato, and olives; lentil soup; soy burgers on wheat toast; and a selection of meatless, Caribbean-style vegetable patties. Most menu items are priced at about $5.99 or less. This will leave you a few bucks to spare on the not-to-be-missed almond smoothie, a blend of soy milk, bananas, and almond butter served at a flavor-filled, less-than-freezing temperature.

Just as Gandhi said you can judge a civilization by how it treats its animals, so we can judge a grocery by the way it treats its pasta lovers. Laurenzo's lacks some items considered standard fare for gourmet markets. Its selection of cheeses, imported chocolates, and prepared foods is a little lean compared with ritzy gourmet groceries like Epicure on Alton Road in South Beach. But take home a batch of Laurenzo's fresh homemade pasta and taste for yourself just how civilized a bunch of noodles can be. Any chef worth his apron knows the trick to gourmet cooking is not expensive-looking packaging, outlandish recipes, or plate layout, but fresh ingredients. The folks at Laurenzo's know this, too. One can create some mighty haute cuisine with the fresh basics this store specializes in. For example, a bag of fragrant basil leaves, a handful of plum tomatoes, a nice onion, any number of fine olive oils, a cut of meat from Laurenzo's fabled butcher shop, a loaf of bread from the market's superb bakery, a bottle or two from an extensive array of wines. Who needs a vast selection of hors d'oeuvres when there are juicy mozzarella balls and deliciously marinated olives like Laurenzo's has? Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday; 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

Laurenzo's Itialian Market
Just as Gandhi said you can judge a civilization by how it treats its animals, so we can judge a grocery by the way it treats its pasta lovers. Laurenzo's lacks some items considered standard fare for gourmet markets. Its selection of cheeses, imported chocolates, and prepared foods is a little lean compared with ritzy gourmet groceries like Epicure on Alton Road in South Beach. But take home a batch of Laurenzo's fresh homemade pasta and taste for yourself just how civilized a bunch of noodles can be. Any chef worth his apron knows the trick to gourmet cooking is not expensive-looking packaging, outlandish recipes, or plate layout, but fresh ingredients. The folks at Laurenzo's know this, too. One can create some mighty haute cuisine with the fresh basics this store specializes in. For example, a bag of fragrant basil leaves, a handful of plum tomatoes, a nice onion, any number of fine olive oils, a cut of meat from Laurenzo's fabled butcher shop, a loaf of bread from the market's superb bakery, a bottle or two from an extensive array of wines. Who needs a vast selection of hors d'oeuvres when there are juicy mozzarella balls and deliciously marinated olives like Laurenzo's has? Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday to Friday; 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday; 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

BEST MIAMI BEACH RESTAURANT TO AVOID TOURISTS

Joe Allen

This casually stylish restaurant, whose namesake operates similar establishments in Paris, London, New York, and elsewhere, recently celebrated its sixth anniversary. And it's as popular as ever. No surprise given the smart design, friendly staff, welcoming atmosphere, and moderately priced menu of eclectic dishes prepared by the most consistent kitchen on the Beach. But the single ingredient that's vital to Joe Allen's continued success is this: its location. Hard by Biscayne Bay where the Venetian Causeway links to Miami Beach, Purdy Avenue isn't the forlorn warehouse strip it was when the restaurant opened, but it is still far off the beaten tourist path. That happy fact has allowed Joe Allen to concentrate on nurturing its faithful clientele of local residents. In return, they have adopted the place as a second home. And it's always nice to come home.

BEST MIAMI BEACH RESTAURANT TO AVOID TOURISTS

Joe Allen

This casually stylish restaurant, whose namesake operates similar establishments in Paris, London, New York, and elsewhere, recently celebrated its sixth anniversary. And it's as popular as ever. No surprise given the smart design, friendly staff, welcoming atmosphere, and moderately priced menu of eclectic dishes prepared by the most consistent kitchen on the Beach. But the single ingredient that's vital to Joe Allen's continued success is this: its location. Hard by Biscayne Bay where the Venetian Causeway links to Miami Beach, Purdy Avenue isn't the forlorn warehouse strip it was when the restaurant opened, but it is still far off the beaten tourist path. That happy fact has allowed Joe Allen to concentrate on nurturing its faithful clientele of local residents. In return, they have adopted the place as a second home. And it's always nice to come home.

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT IN A STRIP MALL

Café Pastis

Since August 1999, when French native Philippe Jacquet joined with Miami native Scott Price to open this cozy little café, the place has become a neighborhood favorite, with scores of fiercely loyal customers dining here regularly -- strip mall or no strip mall. It's easy to see why. Aside from the friendly ambiance and charming décor (quite an accomplishment for a storefront operation), the food is consistently excellent across the full range of the menu -- from salads and soups to steaks and seafood. Their steamed mussels are justly famous, and if you like authentic French fries, this is the place. (Winner of Best French Fries, 2002.) The open kitchen is so small you'll wonder how it's possible such wonderful fare can be created in such cramped quarters. Answer: The chefs have perfected a culinary pas de deux that keeps them from crashing into each other. That, too, is a pleasure to behold.

BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT IN A STRIP MALL

Cafe Pastis

Café Pastis
Since August 1999, when French native Philippe Jacquet joined with Miami native Scott Price to open this cozy little café, the place has become a neighborhood favorite, with scores of fiercely loyal customers dining here regularly -- strip mall or no strip mall. It's easy to see why. Aside from the friendly ambiance and charming décor (quite an accomplishment for a storefront operation), the food is consistently excellent across the full range of the menu -- from salads and soups to steaks and seafood. Their steamed mussels are justly famous, and if you like authentic French fries, this is the place. (Winner of Best French Fries, 2002.) The open kitchen is so small you'll wonder how it's possible such wonderful fare can be created in such cramped quarters. Answer: The chefs have perfected a culinary pas de deux that keeps them from crashing into each other. That, too, is a pleasure to behold.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®