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.

Irie Isle
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.

When this tiny bakery/café changed ownership last year, croissant connoisseurs mourned. How could the flaky French breakfast treats possibly remain Miami's most melt-in-your-mouth buttery? By retaining the same recipe, it turns out, as well as the same baker whose light touch for pastry handling -- and dense imported butter -- has always been responsible for the pastries' authentic Gallic goodness. In fact change has been, for once, for the better: Despite the shop's location in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, the newbie management doesn't close on Saturdays. Liberal new hours are every day, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (lunch served 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.). La Brioche now takes plastic, too -- all major cards, even minor majors like Carte Blanche, so you can acquire Frequent Flyer miles through your linked cards while you munch in mid-Beach. Next year (and next croissant) in Paris.

When this tiny bakery/café changed ownership last year, croissant connoisseurs mourned. How could the flaky French breakfast treats possibly remain Miami's most melt-in-your-mouth buttery? By retaining the same recipe, it turns out, as well as the same baker whose light touch for pastry handling -- and dense imported butter -- has always been responsible for the pastries' authentic Gallic goodness. In fact change has been, for once, for the better: Despite the shop's location in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, the newbie management doesn't close on Saturdays. Liberal new hours are every day, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (lunch served 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.). La Brioche now takes plastic, too -- all major cards, even minor majors like Carte Blanche, so you can acquire Frequent Flyer miles through your linked cards while you munch in mid-Beach. Next year (and next croissant) in Paris.

More bohemian hangout than formal restaurant, One Ninety is the sort of place you hope won't be ruined by too much exposure. So please don't bring your L.A. or New York friends here for Sunday brunch. Let's keep it in the family. The place already has an authentically homespun feel to it: funky-fun décor, a gallery component featuring the work of local artists, and live local bands. The Sunday spread begins with fresh-squeezed juice brought to your table by an attitude-free server. Then, after helping yourself to good strong coffee from the bar, proceed to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Dishes vary but typical choices include buttery-crusted artichoke/ crème fraîche tarts, a fabulously smooth carrot mousse, savory chicken salad, and tasty vegetable salads like a refreshing tomato, onion, and grain mix. (The dill-sprinkled, fresh-beet salad with Roquefort chunks could convert the most confirmed beet-hater.) There are also platters of various grilled or sautéed fresh veggies, scrumptious Southern-fried chicken, ribs that disappear within minutes after they hit the table, and desserts that'll make you wish you, like a cow, had two stomachs. Then your server returns with a menu of custom-cooked breakfast food -- eggs Florentine, strawberry pancakes, smoked-salmon omelets, huevos rancheros, and more -- from which diners can order any or all items. Whew! Price: $15.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®