Guayacan
What Guayacan (Best of Miami winner in 1996) lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for with delicious food at reasonable prices. Highly recommended is the superb churrasco steak (charbroiled tenderloin) with gallo pinto and red beans and rice. You'd expect this quality of beef at a fancier restaurant -- with fancier prices. Also notable is a collection of traditional appetizers that includes such delights as the quesadilla-like repocheta, taquitos, and fried cheese. Remember that Nicaragua is bordered by both the Pacific and the Caribbean, so there are plenty of excellent choices for seafood lovers. The proper way to wash down these or any of the other traditional Nicaraguan foods is, of course, with a bottle of Toña beer.

While some of the tacos (cow brain and pork intestine) on this menu would make good practice for potential Fear Factor contestants, Taquerias El Mexicano does offer a delectable array of tacos for the average eater, such as chicken chunks, carnitas, picadillo, and seasoned pork. For breakfast, we highly recommend the huevos rancheros taco. Served in crisp, golden brown corn tortillas or savory soft flour wraps in rojo, verde, enchilada, or cream sauces, these tacos will make you forget about running for the border. Instead you'll just venture out to Calle Ocho.

Taquerias El Mexicano
Courtesy of Taquerias El Mexicano
While some of the tacos (cow brain and pork intestine) on this menu would make good practice for potential Fear Factor contestants, Taquerias El Mexicano does offer a delectable array of tacos for the average eater, such as chicken chunks, carnitas, picadillo, and seasoned pork. For breakfast, we highly recommend the huevos rancheros taco. Served in crisp, golden brown corn tortillas or savory soft flour wraps in rojo, verde, enchilada, or cream sauces, these tacos will make you forget about running for the border. Instead you'll just venture out to Calle Ocho.

Remember the old adage, fake it till you make it? Well, the folks over at Natural Chicken Grill really take it to heart. It's not enough that these restaurants bear an uncanny resemblance to Chicken Kitchen, but on their Website they blatantly and falsely claim to have won this award last year. For shame, Natural Chicken Grill, but hear hear on the clairvoyance thing. If they want it that much, who are we to get in the way? Besides, it really is good for you. Both Natural Chicken Grill and Chicken Kitchen offer food prepared in accordance with the American Heart Association. That means less fat and cholesterol, and fewer calories. If we are to bestow this prestigious accolade to the Grill, however, we would be remiss in not hooking up their obvious inspiration and doppelgänger, Chicken Kitchen. Seriously, aside from the name, what the hell is the difference between a "Chop Chop" and a "Natural Chop"? We don't know, but for riding the coattails of the healthy chicken phenomenon, mad props to Natural Chicken Grill, bringing Miami yet another meaning to the words "chop shop."

Natural Chicken Grill
Remember the old adage, fake it till you make it? Well, the folks over at Natural Chicken Grill really take it to heart. It's not enough that these restaurants bear an uncanny resemblance to Chicken Kitchen, but on their Website they blatantly and falsely claim to have won this award last year. For shame, Natural Chicken Grill, but hear hear on the clairvoyance thing. If they want it that much, who are we to get in the way? Besides, it really is good for you. Both Natural Chicken Grill and Chicken Kitchen offer food prepared in accordance with the American Heart Association. That means less fat and cholesterol, and fewer calories. If we are to bestow this prestigious accolade to the Grill, however, we would be remiss in not hooking up their obvious inspiration and doppelgänger, Chicken Kitchen. Seriously, aside from the name, what the hell is the difference between a "Chop Chop" and a "Natural Chop"? We don't know, but for riding the coattails of the healthy chicken phenomenon, mad props to Natural Chicken Grill, bringing Miami yet another meaning to the words "chop shop."

BEST WAY TO BEAT THE WAIT AT JOE'S STONE CRAB

Joe's Take Away

From the "duh" file: This 90-year-old institution qualifies as one of America's most famous restaurants, with primo food, a vast and varied menu, super service, and a pleasantly hectic ambiance. But only a tourist would endure the notorious wait for a seating. From the "beat the system" file: Visit this annex next door to the main restaurant and force yourself to decide from a roomful of eye-popping, mouthwatering works of edible art. Stone crabs, of course. But maybe also some squid salad, an overstuffed sandwich, some lobster ravioli, and the flourless chocolate cake. No, the key lime pie. Um, those cookies are huge. Carry your bounty two-tenths of a mile south to South Pointe Park, spread a blanket on the grass, take in the spectacular aquamarine view, and -- the rest doesn't require a file.

BEST WAY TO BEAT THE WAIT AT JOE'S STONE CRAB

Joe's Take Away

Joe's Stone Crab
Photo courtesy of Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant
From the "duh" file: This 90-year-old institution qualifies as one of America's most famous restaurants, with primo food, a vast and varied menu, super service, and a pleasantly hectic ambiance. But only a tourist would endure the notorious wait for a seating. From the "beat the system" file: Visit this annex next door to the main restaurant and force yourself to decide from a roomful of eye-popping, mouthwatering works of edible art. Stone crabs, of course. But maybe also some squid salad, an overstuffed sandwich, some lobster ravioli, and the flourless chocolate cake. No, the key lime pie. Um, those cookies are huge. Carry your bounty two-tenths of a mile south to South Pointe Park, spread a blanket on the grass, take in the spectacular aquamarine view, and -- the rest doesn't require a file.

Anyone who has spent some time in Spain will no doubt have a thing or two to say about the Spanish chispa (which can translate very idiomatically to wit, charm, or drunkenness). That warm-blooded verve mixed with an unmatched zest for life can at times so infect the very fiber of our being that its effects manifest in the form of a hissing sound when pronouncing words such as Barcelona. Well, get ready to start hissing (in a good way) when you taste the tapas, and if you're lucky, the dancers at Casa Panza. Let's just say they're hot -- the dancers, that is. The tapas, like the Manchego cheese, are in fact cold and just as tasty. Late-night urban Spanish suppers often consist of cold, canned, or room-temperature tapas, so this service is most continental. Hand-rolled cigars and a wine room complement your tapas of choice, and that's just the beginning. The real fun at this Little Havana refuge happens on the weekends once the sun goes down. The music takes control of señoritas in flamenco shoes, and as soon as they start to gyrate, guests will find themselves castaneting their night away.

Anyone who has spent some time in Spain will no doubt have a thing or two to say about the Spanish chispa (which can translate very idiomatically to wit, charm, or drunkenness). That warm-blooded verve mixed with an unmatched zest for life can at times so infect the very fiber of our being that its effects manifest in the form of a hissing sound when pronouncing words such as Barcelona. Well, get ready to start hissing (in a good way) when you taste the tapas, and if you're lucky, the dancers at Casa Panza. Let's just say they're hot -- the dancers, that is. The tapas, like the Manchego cheese, are in fact cold and just as tasty. Late-night urban Spanish suppers often consist of cold, canned, or room-temperature tapas, so this service is most continental. Hand-rolled cigars and a wine room complement your tapas of choice, and that's just the beginning. The real fun at this Little Havana refuge happens on the weekends once the sun goes down. The music takes control of señoritas in flamenco shoes, and as soon as they start to gyrate, guests will find themselves castaneting their night away.

Though this indoor/outdoor restaurant has been open for a decade, it's still something of an insider's secret, likely owing to its hidden location deep inside Matheson Hammock Park. The first pleasant surprise comes at the front gate, when you tell the guard you're going to the Red Fish Grill and are waved through without forking over the four-dollar admission fee for the park and marina. At the end of the narrow winding road is a second pleasant surprise -- plenty of free parking. Yet another pleasant surprise is the historic coral-rock structure housing the restaurant. Inside, the dining room is attractive but not notable. Instead reserve a table on the lush and romantic waterfront patio, which abuts the park's saltwater swimming lagoon. (Changing rooms are located next door if you should feel like a dip before dining.) The restaurant's seafood-oriented menu frankly does not match the spectacular setting. But the simply cooked fish is fresh (request it slightly underdone), or as an alternative, there are enough tasty starters to cobble together a good grazing meal. Perfectly fried shrimp with lemon-garlic aioli; a very savory Mediterranean salad with goat cheese and cashews. Decent food, swaying tropical vegetation, Biscayne Bay spreading out before you, a long view back toward downtown Miami -- it's a combination that can't be topped.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®