Ortanique on the Mile
Photo courtesy of Ortanique on the Mile
Some diners are scared off by this Coral Gables success story's fancy-schmancy menu and upscale service and ambiance. The few others who avoid it are people who want more food than garnish on their plate. Both groups should go anyway for one simple reason: the pork chop. How simple is that? And it's way bigger than any garnish. Besides, this is not just a pork chop -- this is the ultimate, the champion of the world, the thickest, sweetest, most satisfying piece of pig flesh in town. Down with dime-size crab-and-fruit cakes, down with pretension, down with menu items that require translation. Fill up on one of these pork chops and drop your fear of being underfed. You'll be an Ortanique fan like everyone else, but for a different reason. The pork chop. The pork chop.

The Thai House, run by cousins Timmy Junbua and Ae Thanoosorn, is so authentic it maintains two menus, one in English and one in Thai. They are not the same. If you know your Thai, you can order dishes that might sear a Westerner's mouth but please the native tongue -- for example, kuay-tiaw-ruar, a medley of Thai noodles, broccoli, and beef in a mix of strong spices (starting at $7.95). On the English-language side, specialties include diamond duck, a deep-fried duck served with dry fried onions, garlic, and roasted hot peppers ($18.95). In South Beach's ever-shifting landscape, Thai House has survived for nine years, testament to how well the cousins do their job.

The Thai House, run by cousins Timmy Junbua and Ae Thanoosorn, is so authentic it maintains two menus, one in English and one in Thai. They are not the same. If you know your Thai, you can order dishes that might sear a Westerner's mouth but please the native tongue -- for example, kuay-tiaw-ruar, a medley of Thai noodles, broccoli, and beef in a mix of strong spices (starting at $7.95). On the English-language side, specialties include diamond duck, a deep-fried duck served with dry fried onions, garlic, and roasted hot peppers ($18.95). In South Beach's ever-shifting landscape, Thai House has survived for nine years, testament to how well the cousins do their job.

The restaurant at Laurenzo's Italian Market isn't really much of a restaurant in the classic table-service kind of way, what with the cafeteria line running past steam trays and a décor that might be described as church-rec-room-homeless-shelter classique. But for cheap Italian eats, you won't find higher-quality baked ziti for your buck than here. More Bronx than Bologna, the red sauce (marinara? I got your marinara right here, pal) used in their daily pasta specials ($3.50) is flavored with a nice blend of herbs and spices. The entrée specials like Italian sausage and peppers will not only load you up, at $5.99 they'll keep you financially solvent. Added bonus: You won't have to eat for another two days.

Laurenzo's Itialian Market
The restaurant at Laurenzo's Italian Market isn't really much of a restaurant in the classic table-service kind of way, what with the cafeteria line running past steam trays and a décor that might be described as church-rec-room-homeless-shelter classique. But for cheap Italian eats, you won't find higher-quality baked ziti for your buck than here. More Bronx than Bologna, the red sauce (marinara? I got your marinara right here, pal) used in their daily pasta specials ($3.50) is flavored with a nice blend of herbs and spices. The entrée specials like Italian sausage and peppers will not only load you up, at $5.99 they'll keep you financially solvent. Added bonus: You won't have to eat for another two days.

Loyal clientele have been lured to this little storefront on Biscayne for years. Authentic baguettes, quiches, and French pastries are baked daily in their ovens. But one of the great attractions here is a trio of classic salads served in a pain de campagne (a crusty country loaf). Giant servings of romaine lettuce and tasty dressings fill a carved-out bread bowl. It would be a dieter's paradise except that once the dressings coat the bread, you're liable to toss out the greens and just munch on the fresh-baked "bowls" instead. You can also opt for soup in a loaf. Specials are offered so you can have a little bit of salad (served on a plate) coupled with a sandwich or quiche slice.

Loyal clientele have been lured to this little storefront on Biscayne for years. Authentic baguettes, quiches, and French pastries are baked daily in their ovens. But one of the great attractions here is a trio of classic salads served in a pain de campagne (a crusty country loaf). Giant servings of romaine lettuce and tasty dressings fill a carved-out bread bowl. It would be a dieter's paradise except that once the dressings coat the bread, you're liable to toss out the greens and just munch on the fresh-baked "bowls" instead. You can also opt for soup in a loaf. Specials are offered so you can have a little bit of salad (served on a plate) coupled with a sandwich or quiche slice.

The best Cuban restaurant should feature the best Cuban food, right? But that's not so easy to determine in a town with as many Cuban eateries as Miami. A judge could spend a lifetime sampling a million dishes. Most would agree, though, that the fare at Versailles ranks near the top. Cuban specialties hit the spot every time, from the bocaditos to dishes with generous portions of arroz con frijoles negros accompanying any meat, fish, or poultry. They make all their own bread and desserts at the bakery next door. And the price is right. You can manage a full meal for about ten bucks. However, it's the cultural experience that draws so many locals and tourists to this icon of Little Havana. Example: One day last summer Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Cuban American National Foundation executive director Joe Garcia happened to be there for lunch. Not at the same table, of course. (To call them el exilio rivals would be an understatement.) Without warning or provocation, and in front of about 100 awed but not surprised diners, Diaz-Balart unleashed a very loud tirade from across the dining room. Garcia, he shouted, was a "traitor" to the exile cause. Witnesses say Garcia responded to Diaz-Balart's finger-pointing outburst by sharing a laugh with his tablemates and digging back into his plate. Diaz-Balart and his entourage then stormed out. Only in Miami? Sure. But at Versailles? Often.

Versailles Restaurant
Photo by Phillip Pessar via Flickr Creative Commons
The best Cuban restaurant should feature the best Cuban food, right? But that's not so easy to determine in a town with as many Cuban eateries as Miami. A judge could spend a lifetime sampling a million dishes. Most would agree, though, that the fare at Versailles ranks near the top. Cuban specialties hit the spot every time, from the bocaditos to dishes with generous portions of arroz con frijoles negros accompanying any meat, fish, or poultry. They make all their own bread and desserts at the bakery next door. And the price is right. You can manage a full meal for about ten bucks. However, it's the cultural experience that draws so many locals and tourists to this icon of Little Havana. Example: One day last summer Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Cuban American National Foundation executive director Joe Garcia happened to be there for lunch. Not at the same table, of course. (To call them el exilio rivals would be an understatement.) Without warning or provocation, and in front of about 100 awed but not surprised diners, Diaz-Balart unleashed a very loud tirade from across the dining room. Garcia, he shouted, was a "traitor" to the exile cause. Witnesses say Garcia responded to Diaz-Balart's finger-pointing outburst by sharing a laugh with his tablemates and digging back into his plate. Diaz-Balart and his entourage then stormed out. Only in Miami? Sure. But at Versailles? Often.

When Miami Beach was known as God's Waiting Room, it was filled with the most heavenly treats. Hamantaschen, rugelach, and almond horns were enjoyed by area sweet tooths of all faiths. But with the slow migration of Miami-Dade's Jewish culture to points north, so went the traditional bakeries. Abraham's has outlasted many of its competitors, and for good reason. It's strictly kosher and pareve (great for vegetarians and lactose-intolerants), so you can count on knowing what goes into your desserts, but they also bake on a daily basis, which makes for a fresh goodness not easily found. All the traditional sweets and regular bread products are available as well. Sure, there are lots of new bakeries around but for the flavor of old Miami, nothing beats a delicious black-and-white cookie.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®