Catch of the Day
Miami is part of the Sunshine State. Emphasis on warm sunshine. And thanks to geography, there's no shortage of fresh seafood. One plus one equals an eatery that offers everything oceanic and atmospheric any diner could wish for. Sit outside on the kitchy, ultra-informal patio from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. and cram your maw with fat, fresh oysters at two bits apiece. Then step inside and enjoy a tangy, chunky Peruvian ceviche or perfectly broiled snapper fillet. Menu items range from five bucks up toward $50, and each carries well the weight of its price. There are boatloads of thatched-roof, shorts-and-T-shirt joints in Miami that provide mouthwatering shrimp-fish-squid-clam-lobster-oyster fare. And there's a bouillabaisse of dark, wood-hulled, sea-supplied restaurants to enjoy. But Catch of the Day casts its net and hauls in all that is delicious from the bountiful sea.

Way too many would-be beer lovers have been turned off by microbreweries. If it's not the beers that taste like soap because of poor brewing, it's the atmosphere that seems ordered from the fern bar catalogue. The Abbey, which last won Best Microbrewed Beer in 1999, refreshingly avoids both stereotypes with perfectly crafted brews served in what used to be an old dive. The beer selection is superb and changes slightly throughout the year. If you want to get really concocted, try the 12 Degree. Phew.

Way too many would-be beer lovers have been turned off by microbreweries. If it's not the beers that taste like soap because of poor brewing, it's the atmosphere that seems ordered from the fern bar catalogue. The Abbey, which last won Best Microbrewed Beer in 1999, refreshingly avoids both stereotypes with perfectly crafted brews served in what used to be an old dive. The beer selection is superb and changes slightly throughout the year. If you want to get really concocted, try the 12 Degree. Phew.

BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING

Flute

At this champagne lounge, the food specialty is caviar -- a problem because procuring Caspian caviar has been difficult for years, ever since the Soviet Union's dissolution resulted in phenomenally increased, unpoliced poaching and black-marketing. A lack of quality control has resulted in uneven goods from most suppliers, but Petrossian's caviar reliably tastes as it should, and that's what Flute serves. Beluga here is properly soft and delicate-skinned but not mushy; osetra is richly fruity and nutty; and bracing, briny sevruga can be expected to produce that playful, pronounced pop. But there's another problem. Since Petrossian's caviar retails for two to three times the price of less trustworthy roes, dinner for one connoisseur would run somewhere between $400 and $600. That's not counting the champagne. A bottle of Moët & Chandon's $65 brut rosé would be festive; the rich 1990 Dom Perignon, at $290, would be downright profound. And then there's dessert, maybe half a dozen handmade, ganache-coated chocolates from Paris's La Maison du Chocolat, at $2.50 each. So you're looking at a tab, with tax and tip, that could range from $600 to $1100. But you're not paying. Not a problem.

BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING

Flute

At this champagne lounge, the food specialty is caviar -- a problem because procuring Caspian caviar has been difficult for years, ever since the Soviet Union's dissolution resulted in phenomenally increased, unpoliced poaching and black-marketing. A lack of quality control has resulted in uneven goods from most suppliers, but Petrossian's caviar reliably tastes as it should, and that's what Flute serves. Beluga here is properly soft and delicate-skinned but not mushy; osetra is richly fruity and nutty; and bracing, briny sevruga can be expected to produce that playful, pronounced pop. But there's another problem. Since Petrossian's caviar retails for two to three times the price of less trustworthy roes, dinner for one connoisseur would run somewhere between $400 and $600. That's not counting the champagne. A bottle of Moët & Chandon's $65 brut rosé would be festive; the rich 1990 Dom Perignon, at $290, would be downright profound. And then there's dessert, maybe half a dozen handmade, ganache-coated chocolates from Paris's La Maison du Chocolat, at $2.50 each. So you're looking at a tab, with tax and tip, that could range from $600 to $1100. But you're not paying. Not a problem.

There's nothing Cuban about Cuban coffee. The beans are grown in Brazil or Colombia, the coffee machine is made in Italy, and the person who serves it to you from a sidewalk cafeteria window is most likely going to be from Nicaragua, Argentina, or anywhere else but Cuba. The saying holds true for this year's winner, Chilean-owned and operated Charlotte Bakery; hands down, the best cafecito in Miami. However you order it from colada to cortadito, the friendly folk at Charlotte serve it hot, bold, and sweetened the way you like it. You can enjoy your tasita with their homemade biscotti or empanadas, while facing a mirrored wall in Charlotte's window alcove. The mirror allows you to watch the dregs of humanity stroll along Washington Avenue unobserved. After a quick jolt of caffeine you'll soon be recharged and ready to join the masses on the hot pavement.

Charlotte Bakery
There's nothing Cuban about Cuban coffee. The beans are grown in Brazil or Colombia, the coffee machine is made in Italy, and the person who serves it to you from a sidewalk cafeteria window is most likely going to be from Nicaragua, Argentina, or anywhere else but Cuba. The saying holds true for this year's winner, Chilean-owned and operated Charlotte Bakery; hands down, the best cafecito in Miami. However you order it from colada to cortadito, the friendly folk at Charlotte serve it hot, bold, and sweetened the way you like it. You can enjoy your tasita with their homemade biscotti or empanadas, while facing a mirrored wall in Charlotte's window alcove. The mirror allows you to watch the dregs of humanity stroll along Washington Avenue unobserved. After a quick jolt of caffeine you'll soon be recharged and ready to join the masses on the hot pavement.

Enmeshed in legal disputes, bankruptcy, and buckets of bad blood, Billboardlive, the lavish space on Ocean Drive devoted to presenting live music and keeping folks drinking and dancing, seemed for some time to be as good as dead. That is until Barton G, Miami's high lama of happenings, came to the rescue in late 2003, transforming the ailing club into a many-roomed party palace for the serious social set. Redecorated in a sleek modern style and christened FifteenOOne Barton G, the three-level, more-than-25,000-square-foot venue offers seven separate areas that allow up to 1800 guests to celebrate just about anything, as long as it's something that's in style. The million-dollar, state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and audiovisual systems have been utilized for concerts and shows. So far celebs such as Cyndi Lauper, Eartha Kitt, and Joan Rivers have graced the main room, occasionally transformed into a sophisticated cabaret/ dinner theater complete with catering by none other than ... yep, Barton G. To feel like a star yourself, throw a bash at this sumptuous full-service locale.

Enmeshed in legal disputes, bankruptcy, and buckets of bad blood, Billboardlive, the lavish space on Ocean Drive devoted to presenting live music and keeping folks drinking and dancing, seemed for some time to be as good as dead. That is until Barton G, Miami's high lama of happenings, came to the rescue in late 2003, transforming the ailing club into a many-roomed party palace for the serious social set. Redecorated in a sleek modern style and christened FifteenOOne Barton G, the three-level, more-than-25,000-square-foot venue offers seven separate areas that allow up to 1800 guests to celebrate just about anything, as long as it's something that's in style. The million-dollar, state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and audiovisual systems have been utilized for concerts and shows. So far celebs such as Cyndi Lauper, Eartha Kitt, and Joan Rivers have graced the main room, occasionally transformed into a sophisticated cabaret/ dinner theater complete with catering by none other than ... yep, Barton G. To feel like a star yourself, throw a bash at this sumptuous full-service locale.

There are a few of these fondue franchises across the country and a new one at 15700 Biscayne Blvd., but we here in the Magic City already have the biggest, most expensive one. A one-million-dollar, freestanding building houses us as we indulge in the guiltiest of pleasures -- chocolate. Imagine a pot filled with white chocolate, milk chocolate, and marshmallow fluff, slowly simmering on a burner right at your table. The waitress drops a shot of raspberry chambord into the pot and hands you a plate of cheesecake, fresh strawberries, pineapples, brownies, bananas, pound cake, cherries, and a fork. This is Chocolate Heaven. It's called a Chambord Kiss, and although there are variations on the menu, chances are the servers have never heard of it. This is a special chocolate reserved for those guests who take the expert advice of managing owner Calvin Gissendanner. Even though he seems a little uptight, the man sure does know his chocolate fondue and he doesn't mind people coming in just for dessert. A small serving for two is $14. The regular size, which serves up to four, is $28. The restaurant also sells jars of their milk, dark, and white chocolates for the home fondue enthusiast. Reservations are suggested.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®