This winner is no surprise. Chef Carmen Gonzalez's Latin-influenced, post-New American eatery has landed on the hottest-new-restaurant list of so many national publications that any other pick would be scandalous. If the place were booked any more solidly (even on weeknights), diners would have to crowd onto the chef's lap -- difficult given that Gonzalez is a petite four feet eleven. Nevertheless she turns out some mighty big, bold food. Though her heritage is Puerto Rican, her food is not so much Nuevo Latino as Nuevo Pan American, creatively incorporating influences and ingredients from both hemispheres into North/South American fusion dishes, with an occasional pinch of Asia thrown in for fun. Carmen is actually two eateries in one, a formal restaurant and a casually elegant wine bar with a menu of "chef's favorite" light bites such as Florida lobster and avocado terrine, garnished with house-made key lime mayonnaise and crisp plantain fritters. In the formal dining space, grilled whole pompano with island mojito and yuca mofongo is a typical entrée. And everything everywhere, from the ketchup topping the bar's burger to the olive-pimento-roasted-garlic-cilantro compound butter that comes with the restaurant's bread, is made from scratch.

Carmen the Restaurant
This winner is no surprise. Chef Carmen Gonzalez's Latin-influenced, post-New American eatery has landed on the hottest-new-restaurant list of so many national publications that any other pick would be scandalous. If the place were booked any more solidly (even on weeknights), diners would have to crowd onto the chef's lap -- difficult given that Gonzalez is a petite four feet eleven. Nevertheless she turns out some mighty big, bold food. Though her heritage is Puerto Rican, her food is not so much Nuevo Latino as Nuevo Pan American, creatively incorporating influences and ingredients from both hemispheres into North/South American fusion dishes, with an occasional pinch of Asia thrown in for fun. Carmen is actually two eateries in one, a formal restaurant and a casually elegant wine bar with a menu of "chef's favorite" light bites such as Florida lobster and avocado terrine, garnished with house-made key lime mayonnaise and crisp plantain fritters. In the formal dining space, grilled whole pompano with island mojito and yuca mofongo is a typical entrée. And everything everywhere, from the ketchup topping the bar's burger to the olive-pimento-roasted-garlic-cilantro compound butter that comes with the restaurant's bread, is made from scratch.

Miami's pizza wars continue to heat up, as more and more establishments heat up the wood ovens necessary to produce the fragrantly flavorful charred crusts that characterize authentic Italian pizza. Still the Lincoln Road area continues to be the explosion's epicenter, and its sidewalk tables on the unmatchable people-watching pathway give Spris the edge over worthy contenders such as Piola (around the corner on Alton Road), Tutto on Coral Way, and its own younger sibling Spris in the Gables. Admittedly the square Roman-style pies at Pizza Rustica, which recently opened a Lincoln Road branch, are a hard act to beat. But Spris's pizza crafters from The Source -- Naples -- just seem to get better; these days it usually isn't even necessary, as it once was, to ask for a well-done pie in order to get a thin-crusted beauty with perfect burn bubbles around the perimeter. All manner of exotica is available in terms of toppings (including no-sauce "white pizzas" and no-cheese seafood and vegan versions). But nothing's tastier than the basic Margherita with pungent tomato sauce, fresh basil, and more than just the dabs of mozzarella some terminally trendy places apply with an eyedropper. Substitute buffalo for the cow's milk mozzarella and add a sprinkling of fresh arugula for a truly transcendent treat.

Spris
Miami's pizza wars continue to heat up, as more and more establishments heat up the wood ovens necessary to produce the fragrantly flavorful charred crusts that characterize authentic Italian pizza. Still the Lincoln Road area continues to be the explosion's epicenter, and its sidewalk tables on the unmatchable people-watching pathway give Spris the edge over worthy contenders such as Piola (around the corner on Alton Road), Tutto on Coral Way, and its own younger sibling Spris in the Gables. Admittedly the square Roman-style pies at Pizza Rustica, which recently opened a Lincoln Road branch, are a hard act to beat. But Spris's pizza crafters from The Source -- Naples -- just seem to get better; these days it usually isn't even necessary, as it once was, to ask for a well-done pie in order to get a thin-crusted beauty with perfect burn bubbles around the perimeter. All manner of exotica is available in terms of toppings (including no-sauce "white pizzas" and no-cheese seafood and vegan versions). But nothing's tastier than the basic Margherita with pungent tomato sauce, fresh basil, and more than just the dabs of mozzarella some terminally trendy places apply with an eyedropper. Substitute buffalo for the cow's milk mozzarella and add a sprinkling of fresh arugula for a truly transcendent treat.

The food at Jumbo's certainly qualifies as soul food but will read, and eat, as simply Southern to anyone who has spent time in Georgia or the Carolinas. The iced tea is sweet, and the greens -- collard, mustard, kale, or turnip -- are salty with bobbing bits of fatback. Other sides, such as black-eyed peas, bring good luck as well as memories of holiday feasts. As is the case with many old-timey diners, the smell of batter and grease is deeply ingrained in all porous surfaces, and will remain with you as a reminder of your hearty meal until you next wash your hair. In Jumbo's case, the ageless odor is understandable -- the Liberty City restaurant has been in constant operation for more than 40 years. Open late, open early, and located just a short jaunt from I-95, Jumbo's survives on more than sentiment. The crackling fried chicken, generous shrimp platters, and groaning, comforting plates full of biscuits, gravy, corn, peas, and beans are beloved by many psyches. For that kind of well-being, you can forget fat and carb grams for a while.

The food at Jumbo's certainly qualifies as soul food but will read, and eat, as simply Southern to anyone who has spent time in Georgia or the Carolinas. The iced tea is sweet, and the greens -- collard, mustard, kale, or turnip -- are salty with bobbing bits of fatback. Other sides, such as black-eyed peas, bring good luck as well as memories of holiday feasts. As is the case with many old-timey diners, the smell of batter and grease is deeply ingrained in all porous surfaces, and will remain with you as a reminder of your hearty meal until you next wash your hair. In Jumbo's case, the ageless odor is understandable -- the Liberty City restaurant has been in constant operation for more than 40 years. Open late, open early, and located just a short jaunt from I-95, Jumbo's survives on more than sentiment. The crackling fried chicken, generous shrimp platters, and groaning, comforting plates full of biscuits, gravy, corn, peas, and beans are beloved by many psyches. For that kind of well-being, you can forget fat and carb grams for a while.

When you think in purist terms about top Japanese eateries, the impeccably classic cuisine at Matsuri (in the Redbird Mall) comes to mind; so does the home cooking at Hiro San in North Miami Beach. But aesthetics play a major role in the Japanese dining experience, and on that score nothing tops Nobu. Located in the glamorous Shore Club, everything about the restaurant is an aesthetic pleasure, from overall décor to small touches at each table. Which is not to say that Nobu Matsuhisa's famed specialties don't measure up. They do, even acknowledging that they are highly personal, Peruvian-influenced takes on Japanese cuisine. Burstingly juicy arctic char with crispy spinach will make you swoon. Two tempuras, of sea urchin and rock shrimp (the former accompanied by tangy yuzu dip, the latter by a spicy cream sauce), are as tasty as they are unusual. And while knockoffs of Nobu's succulent, signature black cod with miso can now be found everywhere, Matsuhisa did it first and still does it best.

Pan-seared scallops
Pan-seared scallops
When you think in purist terms about top Japanese eateries, the impeccably classic cuisine at Matsuri (in the Redbird Mall) comes to mind; so does the home cooking at Hiro San in North Miami Beach. But aesthetics play a major role in the Japanese dining experience, and on that score nothing tops Nobu. Located in the glamorous Shore Club, everything about the restaurant is an aesthetic pleasure, from overall décor to small touches at each table. Which is not to say that Nobu Matsuhisa's famed specialties don't measure up. They do, even acknowledging that they are highly personal, Peruvian-influenced takes on Japanese cuisine. Burstingly juicy arctic char with crispy spinach will make you swoon. Two tempuras, of sea urchin and rock shrimp (the former accompanied by tangy yuzu dip, the latter by a spicy cream sauce), are as tasty as they are unusual. And while knockoffs of Nobu's succulent, signature black cod with miso can now be found everywhere, Matsuhisa did it first and still does it best.

Talk about running with scissors. Bratty Kevin Cory runs around with a knife -- sometimes more than one, and not of the butter variety. The chef at Siam River sushi bar, Cory puts his sharp tongue and sharp blade to use talking, dishing, and serving the most innovative, undoubtedly freshest sushi in town. Siam River also has an excellent selection of Thai food, for those who avoid uncooked finned things.

The mostly self-trained Cory haunts the docks and airport seeking only the freshest, never-frozen fish and crustaceans for Siam River's (literally) lively selection of menu items, which change daily according to what the nets bring in.

Cory will talk your ear off about snatching abalone from the Pacific or triggerfish from the surf, but that's okay -- when at Siam River, you'll be busy stuffing your face.

Best Mile in Miami
From I-395 to Fifth Street

Enjoy the commute during the rising or falling of the sun. See the setting of the moon over Miami's skyline. Wave to cruise ship passengers voyaging from the Port of Miami. Admire the Jet Skiers and boaters with Star Island in the background. And anticipate a thrilling event at either mile's end with the American Airlines Arena and downtown Miami on the west or slide over the bridge and fall into the excitement of beautiful South Beach on the east.

Best Local Landmark
The Atlantic Ocean

Okay, it's more of an "off landmark," but what other landmark in Miami can give you a cool breeze, a massage, and then feed you too? I love to be relaxing, swimming, and always finding it exciting to see what our local fishermen just yanked out of the Atlantic Ocean for the sushi bar.

Hopefully while I'm swimming, the fish never get their revenge on me. Once, an opossum-playing triggerfish bit my finger on Siam River's cutting board. But then I kindly returned the favor with a greatly inspired whole fish sashimi special.

Best Place to Savor the Flavor of Miami
Mango's

All of us in Miami are guilty of cruising down Ocean Drive and then stopping in front of Mango's. It's where the bartenders and servers spin the very best spicy salsa steps. If you're visiting and want a real taste of Miami, then it's a must to run into Mango's and savor the feeling of tapping your feet, gyrating your hips, and having sex-on-the-beach until 5:00 a.m.

Best Month
February

Miami's consistently gorgeous weather in February turns Valentine's Day into an entire month. Clear skies and cool breezes with slightly warming sunshine let everyone in Miami "live the life." Meanwhile snowbirds instinctively flock here for golfing, VolleyPalooza, sports fishing, sunbathing, the Miami International Boat Show ... and did I mention VolleyPalooza?

Best Reason to Live in Miami
Never need to leave home

Wherever you are in Miami, you cannot escape the feeling that something exciting may happen. Conveniently save your time traveling and your money on airplane tickets and car rentals for a romantic upgraded hometown vacation. Mix into the long warm beaches and relax at the Sheraton Bal Harbour or blend into the hot bar and pool scenes at the Delano or Shore Club. Stay in downtown Miami's city lights at the Mandarin Oriental with a wonderful dining experience at Azul. Or pamper yourself in Aventura at the Mediterranean-style Turnberry Isle Resort & Club.

Talk about running with scissors. Bratty Kevin Cory runs around with a knife -- sometimes more than one, and not of the butter variety. The chef at Siam River sushi bar, Cory puts his sharp tongue and sharp blade to use talking, dishing, and serving the most innovative, undoubtedly freshest sushi in town. Siam River also has an excellent selection of Thai food, for those who avoid uncooked finned things.

The mostly self-trained Cory haunts the docks and airport seeking only the freshest, never-frozen fish and crustaceans for Siam River's (literally) lively selection of menu items, which change daily according to what the nets bring in.

Cory will talk your ear off about snatching abalone from the Pacific or triggerfish from the surf, but that's okay -- when at Siam River, you'll be busy stuffing your face.

Best Mile in Miami
From I-395 to Fifth Street

Enjoy the commute during the rising or falling of the sun. See the setting of the moon over Miami's skyline. Wave to cruise ship passengers voyaging from the Port of Miami. Admire the Jet Skiers and boaters with Star Island in the background. And anticipate a thrilling event at either mile's end with the American Airlines Arena and downtown Miami on the west or slide over the bridge and fall into the excitement of beautiful South Beach on the east.

Best Local Landmark
The Atlantic Ocean

Okay, it's more of an "off landmark," but what other landmark in Miami can give you a cool breeze, a massage, and then feed you too? I love to be relaxing, swimming, and always finding it exciting to see what our local fishermen just yanked out of the Atlantic Ocean for the sushi bar.

Hopefully while I'm swimming, the fish never get their revenge on me. Once, an opossum-playing triggerfish bit my finger on Siam River's cutting board. But then I kindly returned the favor with a greatly inspired whole fish sashimi special.

Best Place to Savor the Flavor of Miami
Mango's

All of us in Miami are guilty of cruising down Ocean Drive and then stopping in front of Mango's. It's where the bartenders and servers spin the very best spicy salsa steps. If you're visiting and want a real taste of Miami, then it's a must to run into Mango's and savor the feeling of tapping your feet, gyrating your hips, and having sex-on-the-beach until 5:00 a.m.

Best Month
February

Miami's consistently gorgeous weather in February turns Valentine's Day into an entire month. Clear skies and cool breezes with slightly warming sunshine let everyone in Miami "live the life." Meanwhile snowbirds instinctively flock here for golfing, VolleyPalooza, sports fishing, sunbathing, the Miami International Boat Show ... and did I mention VolleyPalooza?

Best Reason to Live in Miami
Never need to leave home

Wherever you are in Miami, you cannot escape the feeling that something exciting may happen. Conveniently save your time traveling and your money on airplane tickets and car rentals for a romantic upgraded hometown vacation. Mix into the long warm beaches and relax at the Sheraton Bal Harbour or blend into the hot bar and pool scenes at the Delano or Shore Club. Stay in downtown Miami's city lights at the Mandarin Oriental with a wonderful dining experience at Azul. Or pamper yourself in Aventura at the Mediterranean-style Turnberry Isle Resort & Club.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®