BEST PLACE TO DINE DURING A HURRICANE

S&S Diner

S&S Diner
The chatty waitress with the raspberry rinse brags to whomever will listen that she made $385 working her shift during Hurricane Andrew. Yolanda may be full of stories but we know she doesn't lie. The classic diner that reaches back to the Thirties recently won historic designation, so you can count on the walls to withstand yet another wailing gale from the tropics. Every day they withstand the blustery tales told over breakfasts that originate with the classic diner's very own storm -- the feisty and lovable Hurricane Yoli.

In addition to an expansive, stylish sit-down restaurant, Norman Van Aken's new Latin-influenced global brasserie Mundo has a sort of secret space: Tucked to one side is a limited but growing take-out market. Van Aken is, of course, the recipe mastermind. But the hands-on magician in the Mercado's kitchen is manager Marsha Orosco -- and her daily changing selection of prepared savories and sweets, while small, is simply scrumptious. Since the Mercado closes at 7:30 p.m., however, well before the restaurant, it is wise to shop before dinner even though schlepping a bulging grocery bag to your table may not be glam. The slight loss of cool will seem like nothing when lunch the next day is a sandwich of ham painted with a tangy/sweet guava and black pepper glaze, accompanied by smoky charred corn salad; or perhaps a container of vatapa, a nutty Brazilian stew packed with seafood, enriched with coconut milk, and enlivened by citrus.

In addition to an expansive, stylish sit-down restaurant, Norman Van Aken's new Latin-influenced global brasserie Mundo has a sort of secret space: Tucked to one side is a limited but growing take-out market. Van Aken is, of course, the recipe mastermind. But the hands-on magician in the Mercado's kitchen is manager Marsha Orosco -- and her daily changing selection of prepared savories and sweets, while small, is simply scrumptious. Since the Mercado closes at 7:30 p.m., however, well before the restaurant, it is wise to shop before dinner even though schlepping a bulging grocery bag to your table may not be glam. The slight loss of cool will seem like nothing when lunch the next day is a sandwich of ham painted with a tangy/sweet guava and black pepper glaze, accompanied by smoky charred corn salad; or perhaps a container of vatapa, a nutty Brazilian stew packed with seafood, enriched with coconut milk, and enlivened by citrus.

A couple of croquetas from Sergio's are a meal all by themselves. They're not the bite-size variety found at typical Spanish bakeries. But that's not what makes them the best. To begin with, let's acknowledge that a wiener-shaped conglomerate of ground, breaded, fried ham byproduct isn't the most complicated dish within the culinary arts, though simple things often yield the greatest pleasures. So the only trick is to not screw it up, which Sergio's never does. First they grind the cooking ham to its finest consistency; this is so the meat mix inside forms a smooth paste, no chunks. Then ingredients such as grated onions, peppers, and most important, plenty of garlic are added. Finally the croquetas are deep-fried in virgin olive oil. And if you have a midnight craving during the weekend, you don't have to wait till the next day to enjoy them. Sergio's is open 24 hours from Friday to Sunday.

Sergio's
A couple of croquetas from Sergio's are a meal all by themselves. They're not the bite-size variety found at typical Spanish bakeries. But that's not what makes them the best. To begin with, let's acknowledge that a wiener-shaped conglomerate of ground, breaded, fried ham byproduct isn't the most complicated dish within the culinary arts, though simple things often yield the greatest pleasures. So the only trick is to not screw it up, which Sergio's never does. First they grind the cooking ham to its finest consistency; this is so the meat mix inside forms a smooth paste, no chunks. Then ingredients such as grated onions, peppers, and most important, plenty of garlic are added. Finally the croquetas are deep-fried in virgin olive oil. And if you have a midnight craving during the weekend, you don't have to wait till the next day to enjoy them. Sergio's is open 24 hours from Friday to Sunday.

BEST RESTAURANT FOR A POWER LUNCH

Chispa

At a power lunch the idea is to subtly one-up the other guy, to be intimidating while simultaneously demonstrating what a cool character you are. Chispa, which means "spark" (a nicely dangerous suggestion), is the ideal setting for this traditional dance of the business set. So sweep your client into a big booth in the A-list main room, ignoring the wimp tables in the outer area. The brainchild of chef/proprietor Robbin Haas, Chispa specializes in small plates, protein-packed Nuevo Latino ceviches like sliced salmon and avocado with a perfectly balanced sauce of sour orange, cumin, and honey. If the deal is clinched halfway through the meal, celebrate with a chunk of guava-cream cheese cake, which will instantly raise your cholesterol at least a hundred points, but is well worth it.

BEST RESTAURANT FOR A POWER LUNCH

Chispa

At a power lunch the idea is to subtly one-up the other guy, to be intimidating while simultaneously demonstrating what a cool character you are. Chispa, which means "spark" (a nicely dangerous suggestion), is the ideal setting for this traditional dance of the business set. So sweep your client into a big booth in the A-list main room, ignoring the wimp tables in the outer area. The brainchild of chef/proprietor Robbin Haas, Chispa specializes in small plates, protein-packed Nuevo Latino ceviches like sliced salmon and avocado with a perfectly balanced sauce of sour orange, cumin, and honey. If the deal is clinched halfway through the meal, celebrate with a chunk of guava-cream cheese cake, which will instantly raise your cholesterol at least a hundred points, but is well worth it.

Money to burn is one thing. Money to eat is another. And possessing a whopping bank balance is definitely a requirement if you want to treat anyone to a lavish meal like the Ritz-Carlton's Sensory Odyssey Dinner. When you and your guest arrive, a private butler leads the way through a lush garden down a rose-petal-strewn path to an oceanfront gazebo under the stars. A strolling violinist plays softly as you're served an aphrodisiac-filled five-course dinner that could include chilled oysters; exotic figs with arugula, prosciutto, and pine nuts in a truffle vinaigrette; and coriander-seared tuna with ginger-carrot oil and asparagus. Of course copious quantities of wine, specially paired with each course, flow throughout the night. A chocolate, licorice, and honey dessert accompanied by vanilla coffee and chocolate truffles is likely to bring a sweet ending to the sybaritic feast. The only thing dinner doesn't include: an antacid, which might come in handy when the bill arrives. Dazzling the senses will cost $800 per couple, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required at least 48 hours in advance.

Money to burn is one thing. Money to eat is another. And possessing a whopping bank balance is definitely a requirement if you want to treat anyone to a lavish meal like the Ritz-Carlton's Sensory Odyssey Dinner. When you and your guest arrive, a private butler leads the way through a lush garden down a rose-petal-strewn path to an oceanfront gazebo under the stars. A strolling violinist plays softly as you're served an aphrodisiac-filled five-course dinner that could include chilled oysters; exotic figs with arugula, prosciutto, and pine nuts in a truffle vinaigrette; and coriander-seared tuna with ginger-carrot oil and asparagus. Of course copious quantities of wine, specially paired with each course, flow throughout the night. A chocolate, licorice, and honey dessert accompanied by vanilla coffee and chocolate truffles is likely to bring a sweet ending to the sybaritic feast. The only thing dinner doesn't include: an antacid, which might come in handy when the bill arrives. Dazzling the senses will cost $800 per couple, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required at least 48 hours in advance.

On a busy night, it wouldn't be unusual to see Papa Nunzio struggling with two shopping carts filled with fresh ingredients from the Publix across the way in the same shopping center. Mama Nunzio would most likely be in the kitchen yelling in Italian at her staff to cook faster, and their sons would be taking food orders and talking soccer with the guests. The Nunzios, originally from Naples, have been providing Miami with home-cooked Italian meals since 1974. This is definitely a family venture, and even though the sons are grown and have other careers (one's a professore at Miami Dade College), they all chip in, whether it be answering phones, taking orders, or just interpreting for their parents, who don't speak a word of English. New Times wholeheartedly recommends this little piece of Italy for those who can appreciate quality mixed with an unpretentious atmosphere. Everything on the menu is great, but we had a predisposition to the garlic bread with cheese appetizer and Trochete Spinachi entrée, and by the time zupetta came our taste buds were in a state of orgasmic bliss.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®