It's 3:00 a.m. It's South Beach. You're certainly not ready to call it a night, but you're famished. Where to go? It must be Cafeteria, which is not a cafeteria at all but a casual resto/lounge with knockout cocktails and food based on American diner classics -- but seriously and creatively upgraded. Service can be snippy, but the supersize New Bedford lobster roll alone is worth enduring some attitude. Other terrific items include a cornmeal-crusted catfish po' boy (moist and meaty fillets of mild fish on a Kaiser roll with horseradish remoulade on the side and homemade potato chips), and macaroni and cheese (soft but not mushy elbow pasta in a mellow cheddar/fontina sauce, quite as satisfying as fancier versions costing two or three times as much). And breakfast -- which always tastes better at 3:00 a.m. -- is excellent here, too.

It's 3:00 a.m. It's South Beach. You're certainly not ready to call it a night, but you're famished. Where to go? It must be Cafeteria, which is not a cafeteria at all but a casual resto/lounge with knockout cocktails and food based on American diner classics -- but seriously and creatively upgraded. Service can be snippy, but the supersize New Bedford lobster roll alone is worth enduring some attitude. Other terrific items include a cornmeal-crusted catfish po' boy (moist and meaty fillets of mild fish on a Kaiser roll with horseradish remoulade on the side and homemade potato chips), and macaroni and cheese (soft but not mushy elbow pasta in a mellow cheddar/fontina sauce, quite as satisfying as fancier versions costing two or three times as much). And breakfast -- which always tastes better at 3:00 a.m. -- is excellent here, too.

Aziza Yuself's café has been open for five years, and while the place is small and the décor low-key, there is one telltale sign that points to the excellence of the cuisine: Brazilians hang out there. Wander into Varanda's in the middle of the day and you'll likely find some of North Beach's swelling Brazilian populace watching Brazilian TV and speaking lilting Brazilian Portuguese. The food is all good, but for a real treat try the excellent muqueca de peixe, fish perfectly simmered in a coconut sauce. Varanda's is only open from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays but it's a good spot for late dinners the rest of the week, when it is open from noon until 10:00 p.m.

Aziza Yuself's café has been open for five years, and while the place is small and the décor low-key, there is one telltale sign that points to the excellence of the cuisine: Brazilians hang out there. Wander into Varanda's in the middle of the day and you'll likely find some of North Beach's swelling Brazilian populace watching Brazilian TV and speaking lilting Brazilian Portuguese. The food is all good, but for a real treat try the excellent muqueca de peixe, fish perfectly simmered in a coconut sauce. Varanda's is only open from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays but it's a good spot for late dinners the rest of the week, when it is open from noon until 10:00 p.m.

Julio Bertoni is a third-generation Italo-Argentine ice cream maker. So he knows what he's doing. From the fresh ingredients -- he buys his fruit from the gourmet Epicure market -- to what he calls his secret recipe, Bertoni and his workers maintain strict quality control as they squeeze out creamy, smooth tubs of chocolate roche (hints of hazelnut), dulce de leche granizado, chocolate suizo (chocolate chunks), and Bertoni's personal favorite: Super Sambayon, from the Italian zabaglione, a dessert of egg yolks, cream, and Marsala wine. All his gelatos are made on location. Cones range from $2 to $4. Tubs are also available in sizes ranging from 1.65 pounds ($13.50) to 3.3 pounds ($23).

Dolce Vita Gelato Cafe
Julio Bertoni is a third-generation Italo-Argentine ice cream maker. So he knows what he's doing. From the fresh ingredients -- he buys his fruit from the gourmet Epicure market -- to what he calls his secret recipe, Bertoni and his workers maintain strict quality control as they squeeze out creamy, smooth tubs of chocolate roche (hints of hazelnut), dulce de leche granizado, chocolate suizo (chocolate chunks), and Bertoni's personal favorite: Super Sambayon, from the Italian zabaglione, a dessert of egg yolks, cream, and Marsala wine. All his gelatos are made on location. Cones range from $2 to $4. Tubs are also available in sizes ranging from 1.65 pounds ($13.50) to 3.3 pounds ($23).

Since the preservative practice of "cooking" seafood with a salt/herb/chili/citrus marinade most likely originated in Latin America, centuries ago, there are naturally many restaurants in Miami that serve good ceviches. But let's face it: Douglas Rodriguez wrote the book. That's The Great Ceviche Book, published just last year -- which is also when OLA (Of Latin America) opened, with ten ceviches on the menu. Each is influenced by a different locale on the globe -- Thailand in the case of baby sweet conch ceviche with coconut water, ginger, and coconut gelee; Spain inspired paella ceviche mixto with saffron-lobster sauce and Valencia rice puffs; characteristic additions of tomatoes and popcorn characterize Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche -- but the main inspiration comes from the chef's unique vision. Rodriguez sees ceviche as not just a small snack but a whole culinary frontier awaiting discovery. Numerous OLA regulars, who ignore the menu's many other temptations to head straight for the ceviche section on visit after visit, obviously agree.

Since the preservative practice of "cooking" seafood with a salt/herb/chili/citrus marinade most likely originated in Latin America, centuries ago, there are naturally many restaurants in Miami that serve good ceviches. But let's face it: Douglas Rodriguez wrote the book. That's The Great Ceviche Book, published just last year -- which is also when OLA (Of Latin America) opened, with ten ceviches on the menu. Each is influenced by a different locale on the globe -- Thailand in the case of baby sweet conch ceviche with coconut water, ginger, and coconut gelee; Spain inspired paella ceviche mixto with saffron-lobster sauce and Valencia rice puffs; characteristic additions of tomatoes and popcorn characterize Ecuadorian shrimp ceviche -- but the main inspiration comes from the chef's unique vision. Rodriguez sees ceviche as not just a small snack but a whole culinary frontier awaiting discovery. Numerous OLA regulars, who ignore the menu's many other temptations to head straight for the ceviche section on visit after visit, obviously agree.

Place St. Michel is an old (by Miami standards), European-style hotel built around the time Coral Gables was master-planned into existence as the City Beautiful. The environs inside the ivy-covered walls are both lush and elegant enough to suggest a miniature version of the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans -- and promise a similar New World French decadence. A romantic mood envelops you as you move through the gorgeous lobby, with its wood-paneled walls, Queen Anne chairs, plus Deco touches and flowers. Next to the restaurant, a pianist plays softly. We could go on, but suffice it to say that if you can't have an intimate interlude here, you've got bigger problems.

Restaurant St. Michel
Place St. Michel is an old (by Miami standards), European-style hotel built around the time Coral Gables was master-planned into existence as the City Beautiful. The environs inside the ivy-covered walls are both lush and elegant enough to suggest a miniature version of the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans -- and promise a similar New World French decadence. A romantic mood envelops you as you move through the gorgeous lobby, with its wood-paneled walls, Queen Anne chairs, plus Deco touches and flowers. Next to the restaurant, a pianist plays softly. We could go on, but suffice it to say that if you can't have an intimate interlude here, you've got bigger problems.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®