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.

Swimming toward a feeding frenzy -- that could be you, too.
Steve Satterwhite
Swimming toward a feeding frenzy -- that could be you, too.
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.

Almost twenty years ago Mark Zaslavsky and Mark Gelman opened what has become one of the finest caviar businesses anywhere. Except it isn't one business. There's the exceptional retail section (known by insiders as "the Russian store," although it caters to many Eastern Europeans and anyone else with good taste and the money to afford delicate delectables). There's a wholesale department. There's the importing business, which involves sending representatives to Russia on a regular basis to inspect the fisheries, processors, and dealers in an effort to assure that Marky's acquires only the finest fish eggs in the world. There's the online business. And when the sturgeon population began sinking a few years ago, the Marks built their own fish farm in a small north-central Florida town called Pierson. The company requires DNA tests on each batch of roe, and has every certification imaginable. Beyond that, Marky's also offers high-grade foie gras (duck and goose), smoked salmon (three types), truffles, mushrooms, cheeses, and so on. (Kosher versions of most items are available.) But the sticky little eggs are the heart of the Marks' operation: the famous osetra; small, grayish sevruga; salmon; paddlefish .... Most of the roe comes from a giant fish farm in the delta of the Volga River. The most important undertaking, according to the owners, is what they call "restoration of the world's resources of sturgeon." Hence the aquaculture operation upstate. When it comes to the highest-quality, most carefully controlled caviar, Marky's can't be topped. They do everything but lay the eggs themselves.

Marky's Gourmet
Carina Ost
Almost twenty years ago Mark Zaslavsky and Mark Gelman opened what has become one of the finest caviar businesses anywhere. Except it isn't one business. There's the exceptional retail section (known by insiders as "the Russian store," although it caters to many Eastern Europeans and anyone else with good taste and the money to afford delicate delectables). There's a wholesale department. There's the importing business, which involves sending representatives to Russia on a regular basis to inspect the fisheries, processors, and dealers in an effort to assure that Marky's acquires only the finest fish eggs in the world. There's the online business. And when the sturgeon population began sinking a few years ago, the Marks built their own fish farm in a small north-central Florida town called Pierson. The company requires DNA tests on each batch of roe, and has every certification imaginable. Beyond that, Marky's also offers high-grade foie gras (duck and goose), smoked salmon (three types), truffles, mushrooms, cheeses, and so on. (Kosher versions of most items are available.) But the sticky little eggs are the heart of the Marks' operation: the famous osetra; small, grayish sevruga; salmon; paddlefish .... Most of the roe comes from a giant fish farm in the delta of the Volga River. The most important undertaking, according to the owners, is what they call "restoration of the world's resources of sturgeon." Hence the aquaculture operation upstate. When it comes to the highest-quality, most carefully controlled caviar, Marky's can't be topped. They do everything but lay the eggs themselves.

It's 3:00 a.m. It's South Beach. You're certainly not ready to call it a night, but you're famished. Where to go? It must be Cafeteria, which is not a cafeteria at all but a casual resto/lounge with knockout cocktails and food based on American diner classics -- but seriously and creatively upgraded. Service can be snippy, but the supersize New Bedford lobster roll alone is worth enduring some attitude. Other terrific items include a cornmeal-crusted catfish po' boy (moist and meaty fillets of mild fish on a Kaiser roll with horseradish remoulade on the side and homemade potato chips), and macaroni and cheese (soft but not mushy elbow pasta in a mellow cheddar/fontina sauce, quite as satisfying as fancier versions costing two or three times as much). And breakfast -- which always tastes better at 3:00 a.m. -- is excellent here, too.

It's 3:00 a.m. It's South Beach. You're certainly not ready to call it a night, but you're famished. Where to go? It must be Cafeteria, which is not a cafeteria at all but a casual resto/lounge with knockout cocktails and food based on American diner classics -- but seriously and creatively upgraded. Service can be snippy, but the supersize New Bedford lobster roll alone is worth enduring some attitude. Other terrific items include a cornmeal-crusted catfish po' boy (moist and meaty fillets of mild fish on a Kaiser roll with horseradish remoulade on the side and homemade potato chips), and macaroni and cheese (soft but not mushy elbow pasta in a mellow cheddar/fontina sauce, quite as satisfying as fancier versions costing two or three times as much). And breakfast -- which always tastes better at 3:00 a.m. -- is excellent here, too.

Aziza Yuself's café has been open for five years, and while the place is small and the décor low-key, there is one telltale sign that points to the excellence of the cuisine: Brazilians hang out there. Wander into Varanda's in the middle of the day and you'll likely find some of North Beach's swelling Brazilian populace watching Brazilian TV and speaking lilting Brazilian Portuguese. The food is all good, but for a real treat try the excellent muqueca de peixe, fish perfectly simmered in a coconut sauce. Varanda's is only open from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays but it's a good spot for late dinners the rest of the week, when it is open from noon until 10:00 p.m.

Aziza Yuself's café has been open for five years, and while the place is small and the décor low-key, there is one telltale sign that points to the excellence of the cuisine: Brazilians hang out there. Wander into Varanda's in the middle of the day and you'll likely find some of North Beach's swelling Brazilian populace watching Brazilian TV and speaking lilting Brazilian Portuguese. The food is all good, but for a real treat try the excellent muqueca de peixe, fish perfectly simmered in a coconut sauce. Varanda's is only open from noon to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays but it's a good spot for late dinners the rest of the week, when it is open from noon until 10:00 p.m.

Julio Bertoni is a third-generation Italo-Argentine ice cream maker. So he knows what he's doing. From the fresh ingredients -- he buys his fruit from the gourmet Epicure market -- to what he calls his secret recipe, Bertoni and his workers maintain strict quality control as they squeeze out creamy, smooth tubs of chocolate roche (hints of hazelnut), dulce de leche granizado, chocolate suizo (chocolate chunks), and Bertoni's personal favorite: Super Sambayon, from the Italian zabaglione, a dessert of egg yolks, cream, and Marsala wine. All his gelatos are made on location. Cones range from $2 to $4. Tubs are also available in sizes ranging from 1.65 pounds ($13.50) to 3.3 pounds ($23).

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®