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.

In a neighborhood where Jamaican curries outnumber most other culinary options, Asia Market stocks a fine assortment of scotch bonnet-based hot sauces and sweet tamarind by the pound as a concession to the local populace. But the real treasure in this store is the extensive selection of all kinds of Asian goods and foods. Kimonos, incense, tea sets, and ornamental dragons are all available, along with Chinese eggplant, bok choy, and every noodle imaginable. The prices are as excellent as the selection: $1.70 gets you a pound of pickled ginger, and 99 cents buys a pound of bok choy. "We try to stock all kinds of food, and we have a really good selection of Asian food," says Anthony Verrilli, son of store owners Ann and Ralph Verrilli. Ann, a native of Vietnam, opened the store with Ralph in 1982. "Everybody comes here," Verrilli says. "White people, black people, Hispanic, Asian ..."

In a neighborhood where Jamaican curries outnumber most other culinary options, Asia Market stocks a fine assortment of scotch bonnet-based hot sauces and sweet tamarind by the pound as a concession to the local populace. But the real treasure in this store is the extensive selection of all kinds of Asian goods and foods. Kimonos, incense, tea sets, and ornamental dragons are all available, along with Chinese eggplant, bok choy, and every noodle imaginable. The prices are as excellent as the selection: $1.70 gets you a pound of pickled ginger, and 99 cents buys a pound of bok choy. "We try to stock all kinds of food, and we have a really good selection of Asian food," says Anthony Verrilli, son of store owners Ann and Ralph Verrilli. Ann, a native of Vietnam, opened the store with Ralph in 1982. "Everybody comes here," Verrilli says. "White people, black people, Hispanic, Asian ..."

Big Pink doesn't look like a diner, but the menu contains all the comfort-food classics you'd find (or hope to find) in a world-class diner, even if Big Pink's versions are definitely more Reform than Orthodox. From a list of hefty ten-ounce burgers, the upgraded Big Mac (called the Pink Daddy Mack) is two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and pink sauce on a homemade brioche bun. Fries are hand cut, and you can get sweet-potato or polenta fries as well as standard potato -- with homemade spicy ketchup. The tuna sandwich features a soy-glazed yellowfin tuna steak, cooked medium rare, with wasabi mayo. Steak is a filet mignon. Breakfasts, served all day as expected at a diner, range from normal bacon and eggs to the Hollywood (polenta fries topped with bacon, poached eggs, cheese sauce, and fresh basil). "TV dinners" have homemade food in those compartmentalized trays, which are stainless steel, not plastic. And since Big Pink is part of Myles Chefetz's South Pointe restaurant empire, Big Pink's desserts are created by Nemo pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith -- meaning that red velvet cake, Elvis's favorite Old South dessert, is far more heavenly than any version ever served up to the King.

Big Pink
Big Pink doesn't look like a diner, but the menu contains all the comfort-food classics you'd find (or hope to find) in a world-class diner, even if Big Pink's versions are definitely more Reform than Orthodox. From a list of hefty ten-ounce burgers, the upgraded Big Mac (called the Pink Daddy Mack) is two beef patties, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and pink sauce on a homemade brioche bun. Fries are hand cut, and you can get sweet-potato or polenta fries as well as standard potato -- with homemade spicy ketchup. The tuna sandwich features a soy-glazed yellowfin tuna steak, cooked medium rare, with wasabi mayo. Steak is a filet mignon. Breakfasts, served all day as expected at a diner, range from normal bacon and eggs to the Hollywood (polenta fries topped with bacon, poached eggs, cheese sauce, and fresh basil). "TV dinners" have homemade food in those compartmentalized trays, which are stainless steel, not plastic. And since Big Pink is part of Myles Chefetz's South Pointe restaurant empire, Big Pink's desserts are created by Nemo pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith -- meaning that red velvet cake, Elvis's favorite Old South dessert, is far more heavenly than any version ever served up to the King.

Puerto Sagua, an all-night Cuban diner, is a sort of refuge from the South Beach scene (and has been for 35 years, since long before there was a South Beach scene). Need a respite from all that sunshine and silicone? Cool off in Puerto Sagua and grab a cheap lunch. Need to fortify your stomach before a 4:00 a.m. drive home? Get a medianoche, or better yet, a bowl of excellent black bean soup. For $2.25, you get a cup of thick, garlicky flavor. The recipe is basic: onions, green peppers, garlic, cumin, and black pepper are added to the beans to make a tasty and filling appetizer. Or make it a meal, for $3.50 a bowl.

Puerto Sagua
Leah Gabriel
Puerto Sagua, an all-night Cuban diner, is a sort of refuge from the South Beach scene (and has been for 35 years, since long before there was a South Beach scene). Need a respite from all that sunshine and silicone? Cool off in Puerto Sagua and grab a cheap lunch. Need to fortify your stomach before a 4:00 a.m. drive home? Get a medianoche, or better yet, a bowl of excellent black bean soup. For $2.25, you get a cup of thick, garlicky flavor. The recipe is basic: onions, green peppers, garlic, cumin, and black pepper are added to the beans to make a tasty and filling appetizer. Or make it a meal, for $3.50 a bowl.

His name is Romeo, and he'll be taking your reservation for this evening, and greeting you at the door, and introducing the cuisine, and preparing your prix-fixe six-course meal. So naturally the place would be called Romeo's Café, and the creatively prepared, exquisite northern Italian cuisine is a winner at this Coral Way eatery. The set menu is tweaked for diners' dietary preferences or restrictions, but otherwise you'll be happy to sit back and enjoy the Romeo culinary ride as course after course arrives with delicious anticipation. At $65 per person (excluding wine), it's considered expensive, but for the experience it's a steal.

Romeo's Cafe
Via Romeo's Facebook
His name is Romeo, and he'll be taking your reservation for this evening, and greeting you at the door, and introducing the cuisine, and preparing your prix-fixe six-course meal. So naturally the place would be called Romeo's Café, and the creatively prepared, exquisite northern Italian cuisine is a winner at this Coral Way eatery. The set menu is tweaked for diners' dietary preferences or restrictions, but otherwise you'll be happy to sit back and enjoy the Romeo culinary ride as course after course arrives with delicious anticipation. At $65 per person (excluding wine), it's considered expensive, but for the experience it's a steal.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®