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.

Yes, the LAC is the indigenous Miami version of a Denny's or an IHOP, but they know their proletariat comfort foods. Ask anyone with an obsession for medianoches and they will tell you the LAC has the rules down to perfection: Make them greasy and filling, with a pleasing balance of saltiness and a dash of sweet and sour flavor. And so the medianoche is the Cuban ham and cheese sandwich, but much improved upon: roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles pressed between slices of soft, sweet egg bread. Some will add mayo or mustard, but that's up to individual preference. Now, if only the LAC would extend its hours to late, late night....

Latin American Cafeteria
Yes, the LAC is the indigenous Miami version of a Denny's or an IHOP, but they know their proletariat comfort foods. Ask anyone with an obsession for medianoches and they will tell you the LAC has the rules down to perfection: Make them greasy and filling, with a pleasing balance of saltiness and a dash of sweet and sour flavor. And so the medianoche is the Cuban ham and cheese sandwich, but much improved upon: roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles pressed between slices of soft, sweet egg bread. Some will add mayo or mustard, but that's up to individual preference. Now, if only the LAC would extend its hours to late, late night....

Indian restaurants of even the standard sort are hard to come by in these parts. Additionally, for whatever reason, they tend to be located in shopping malls. Renaisa is housed in a picturesque wooden structure on the Little River, which makes for an engaging atmosphere. Many of the menu items are specialties from Bangladesh, which makes for an engaging dining experience. Grab a private booth or table on the outdoor, riverside deck, open one of the cold beers you've brought with you (Renaisa has no liquor license but allows you to bring your own). As you peruse the menu, enjoy complimentary crisp-fried lentil pappadums with three relishes -- bittersweet tamarind, tangy red onion, and sinus-clearing cilantro. All the usual curries are available, but so are some wonderfully different alternatives such as the starter mass bora, half-a-dozen slightly mouth-tingling fried patties of spiced ground fish, sprinkled with cilantro plus onion and green pepper chunks. The traditional chicken roast features juicy chicken pieces in a sinfully rich cream/yogurt gravy. For dessert try scrumptious rosmalai -- sweetened, fried cheese balls in heavy cream sauce. And if you're curious about some specialty that's not on the menu -- like jhal muri, a wildly popular street snack in Bangladesh and the adjoining Indian state of Bengal (but near impossible to find in the U.S.) -- just call ahead and the friendly proprietors will accommodate.

Indian restaurants of even the standard sort are hard to come by in these parts. Additionally, for whatever reason, they tend to be located in shopping malls. Renaisa is housed in a picturesque wooden structure on the Little River, which makes for an engaging atmosphere. Many of the menu items are specialties from Bangladesh, which makes for an engaging dining experience. Grab a private booth or table on the outdoor, riverside deck, open one of the cold beers you've brought with you (Renaisa has no liquor license but allows you to bring your own). As you peruse the menu, enjoy complimentary crisp-fried lentil pappadums with three relishes -- bittersweet tamarind, tangy red onion, and sinus-clearing cilantro. All the usual curries are available, but so are some wonderfully different alternatives such as the starter mass bora, half-a-dozen slightly mouth-tingling fried patties of spiced ground fish, sprinkled with cilantro plus onion and green pepper chunks. The traditional chicken roast features juicy chicken pieces in a sinfully rich cream/yogurt gravy. For dessert try scrumptious rosmalai -- sweetened, fried cheese balls in heavy cream sauce. And if you're curious about some specialty that's not on the menu -- like jhal muri, a wildly popular street snack in Bangladesh and the adjoining Indian state of Bengal (but near impossible to find in the U.S.) -- just call ahead and the friendly proprietors will accommodate.

He's young. He's energetic enough to hound Miami fishing boat captains every day for the most sparkling local catches. He's compulsive enough to haunt Miami's university libraries uncovering the undersea world's deepest secrets. To be honest, he's a complete bleeding madman on the subject of uncooked fish, which is why you can count on finding nothing but the freshest -- never frozen -- seafood at Kevin Cory's sushi bar at Siam River. The Thai dishes are fine if your dining party includes fishphobes too timid to eat it raw, but serious sushiphiles will see finned specimens behind Kevin's counter that are virtually still flapping. This includes yellowtail, grouper, and all the usual suspects, but also unusual indigenous sea creatures: gray triggerfish, mutton snapper, cottonmouth jack, much more. Almost equally pristine imported seafood, overnighted from the Tokyo fish market, round out the menu. While you will find more subtly crafted, elegantly served dishes at fancier or more established sushi/ceviche spots like Nobu and Matsuri, you'll find fresher fish nowhere in town.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®