Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market
Photo by Michael Campina
BEST RESTAURANT FOR LUNCH Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market 398 NW North River Drive

Miami

305-375-0765 Grab a chair on the patio overlooking a particularly rickety stretch of the Miami River. We're talking about that old Miami River, scene of frequent drug busts during the Eighties and costar of the Miami Vice television series, the river that rolls by as you spread Garcia's complimentary dolphin dip onto your Saltines, and rolls by more as a peerless conch chowder is placed before you, and as a grilled snapper (or dolphin or grouper or mullet) fresh from the market up front arrives folded into a soft bun, and a side plate of fried plantains or regular fries or any of a number of choices gets plunked down on the wooden table. Yeah, that river keeps on rollin' as boats chug by and seagulls flock, as the sun glistens off the water and shoots sparkling rays that reflect coolly off your shades, and as you pour yourself an ice-cold beer. My, that key lime pie looks good. River rolls. Time flies. Lunch hour is over. Back to work.

BEST RESTAURANT FOR LUNCH Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market 398 NW North River Drive

Miami

305-375-0765 Grab a chair on the patio overlooking a particularly rickety stretch of the Miami River. We're talking about that old Miami River, scene of frequent drug busts during the Eighties and costar of the Miami Vice television series, the river that rolls by as you spread Garcia's complimentary dolphin dip onto your Saltines, and rolls by more as a peerless conch chowder is placed before you, and as a grilled snapper (or dolphin or grouper or mullet) fresh from the market up front arrives folded into a soft bun, and a side plate of fried plantains or regular fries or any of a number of choices gets plunked down on the wooden table. Yeah, that river keeps on rollin' as boats chug by and seagulls flock, as the sun glistens off the water and shoots sparkling rays that reflect coolly off your shades, and as you pour yourself an ice-cold beer. My, that key lime pie looks good. River rolls. Time flies. Lunch hour is over. Back to work.

BEST CAESAR SALAD Costa Mar 18250 Collins Avenue

Sunny Isles Beach

305-933-5900 The International Society of Epicures in Paris hailed caesar salad as "the greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years," but was it named after Caesar Cardini, the Italian immigrant who created it, or Caesar's Palace, the locale at which he first served it? Due to the singular nature of the moniker, we'd guess Mr. Cardini named it after himself. The man made a small mint on his packaged Cardini's Original Caesar dressing mix and to his dying day (in 1956) insisted that anchovies don't belong in the salad (he attributed the confusion to the inclusion of Worcestershire sauce in the recipe). But we have come to praise the caesar, not to bury it in too much garlic-laden, Parmesan-drenched, anchovy-heavy mayonnaise as so many restaurants are apt to do. Balance is the name of the caesar game, and at Costa Mar they wield the proper proportions right before your very eyes as a cart wheels up to the table with wooden bowl inset and small ramekins of the classic salad ingredients. First into the bowl goes garlic, followed by egg yolk, extra-virgin olive oil (a brisk whisking all the while), a shot of Worcestershire, lemon juice, mustard (which lends a light punch), and anchovies. Chopped crisp romaine leaves get swirled with the mildly creamy dressing, the caesar then divided into two white bowls (the $15 salad is for two to share) and crowned with crunchy croutons and a powdering of Parmesan. Costa's Juan Adames, formerly the personal chef to Venezuelan presidents Rafael Caldera and Carlos Andres Perez, can now lay claim to his own title: the eminent emperor of caesar salad.

Readers´ Choice: Christy´s

BEST CAESAR SALAD Costa Mar 18250 Collins Avenue

Sunny Isles Beach

305-933-5900 The International Society of Epicures in Paris hailed caesar salad as "the greatest recipe to originate from the Americas in 50 years," but was it named after Caesar Cardini, the Italian immigrant who created it, or Caesar's Palace, the locale at which he first served it? Due to the singular nature of the moniker, we'd guess Mr. Cardini named it after himself. The man made a small mint on his packaged Cardini's Original Caesar dressing mix and to his dying day (in 1956) insisted that anchovies don't belong in the salad (he attributed the confusion to the inclusion of Worcestershire sauce in the recipe). But we have come to praise the caesar, not to bury it in too much garlic-laden, Parmesan-drenched, anchovy-heavy mayonnaise as so many restaurants are apt to do. Balance is the name of the caesar game, and at Costa Mar they wield the proper proportions right before your very eyes as a cart wheels up to the table with wooden bowl inset and small ramekins of the classic salad ingredients. First into the bowl goes garlic, followed by egg yolk, extra-virgin olive oil (a brisk whisking all the while), a shot of Worcestershire, lemon juice, mustard (which lends a light punch), and anchovies. Chopped crisp romaine leaves get swirled with the mildly creamy dressing, the caesar then divided into two white bowls (the $15 salad is for two to share) and crowned with crunchy croutons and a powdering of Parmesan. Costa's Juan Adames, formerly the personal chef to Venezuelan presidents Rafael Caldera and Carlos Andres Perez, can now lay claim to his own title: the eminent emperor of caesar salad.

Readers´ Choice: Christy´s

Escopazzo
BEST EXPENSIVE ITALIAN RESTAURANT Escopazzo 1311 Washington Avenue

Miami Beach

305-674-9450

www.escopazzo.com We love our spaghetti and meatballs as much as the next diner, and we delight in a deftly grilled chicken breast dressed in balsamic-drizzled greens, but we'll leave those dishes for the plethora of little neighborhood pasta joints to produce. When we want our concepts of Italian cuisine expanded, our senses jolted, and our expectations surpassed, we make reservations at Escopazzo. The 90-seat dining room and cozy indoor courtyard elicit rustically romantic flashbacks to some Tuscan trattoria you may have visited long ago. Chef/owners Pino and Giancarla Bodoni nudge guests toward such nostalgia by way of their hospitality, helped along by the waitstaff's doting service and a kitchen crew that excels in producing gutsy contemporary takes on traditional regional foods. The menu is without peer: carpaccio of Scottish salmon marinated in fennel and orange; salad of roasted beets in goat cheese and coriander sauce and topped with slices of black truffle; fresh ravioli plumped with tiny croutons, truffled sheep's milk cheese, porcini mushrooms, and oxtail jus; Bell & Evans chicken; grass-fed New Zealand beef; Neiman Ranch pork chop; Alaskan halibut with foie gras sauce -- cuisine here is defined by quirkiness, quality, and unqualified deliciousness. You simply can't get Italian food like this anywhere else, and the extensive wine cellar contains enough bottles to match every fantastic flavor.

Readers´ Choice: Caffé da Vinci

BEST EXPENSIVE ITALIAN RESTAURANT Escopazzo 1311 Washington Avenue

Miami Beach

305-674-9450

www.escopazzo.com We love our spaghetti and meatballs as much as the next diner, and we delight in a deftly grilled chicken breast dressed in balsamic-drizzled greens, but we'll leave those dishes for the plethora of little neighborhood pasta joints to produce. When we want our concepts of Italian cuisine expanded, our senses jolted, and our expectations surpassed, we make reservations at Escopazzo. The 90-seat dining room and cozy indoor courtyard elicit rustically romantic flashbacks to some Tuscan trattoria you may have visited long ago. Chef/owners Pino and Giancarla Bodoni nudge guests toward such nostalgia by way of their hospitality, helped along by the waitstaff's doting service and a kitchen crew that excels in producing gutsy contemporary takes on traditional regional foods. The menu is without peer: carpaccio of Scottish salmon marinated in fennel and orange; salad of roasted beets in goat cheese and coriander sauce and topped with slices of black truffle; fresh ravioli plumped with tiny croutons, truffled sheep's milk cheese, porcini mushrooms, and oxtail jus; Bell & Evans chicken; grass-fed New Zealand beef; Neiman Ranch pork chop; Alaskan halibut with foie gras sauce -- cuisine here is defined by quirkiness, quality, and unqualified deliciousness. You simply can't get Italian food like this anywhere else, and the extensive wine cellar contains enough bottles to match every fantastic flavor.

Readers´ Choice: Caffé da Vinci

Fresh Market in Aventura
BEST CANDY The Fresh Market 18299 Biscayne Boulevard

Aventura

305-466-1786 Maybe it's not so much the candy itself but the way it's displayed -- in a beckoning rainbow of glass jars -- or that you'd never expect to see such an impressive candy section in a "health food" market; or the elaborate holiday displays stocked with specialty sweets the store creates at Christmastime, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Halloween. It's nearly impossible not to get positively giddy the first time you discover the candy section at The Fresh Market, even if you are a jaded adult. The colors and shapes will hypnotize you as you set about the difficult task of deciding what to scoop into your plastic bag: Swedish fish or gummy bears; orange slices or green apple juicy twists; sour babies or malted balls; pixie sticks or caramel clusters; gumballs or truffles; lemon drops or Jelly Bellies (in twenty flavors); peanut brittle or peppermint bark. Gee, not only is it the best candy, but it's also the best variety of candy.

BEST CANDY The Fresh Market 18299 Biscayne Boulevard

Aventura

305-466-1786 Maybe it's not so much the candy itself but the way it's displayed -- in a beckoning rainbow of glass jars -- or that you'd never expect to see such an impressive candy section in a "health food" market; or the elaborate holiday displays stocked with specialty sweets the store creates at Christmastime, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Halloween. It's nearly impossible not to get positively giddy the first time you discover the candy section at The Fresh Market, even if you are a jaded adult. The colors and shapes will hypnotize you as you set about the difficult task of deciding what to scoop into your plastic bag: Swedish fish or gummy bears; orange slices or green apple juicy twists; sour babies or malted balls; pixie sticks or caramel clusters; gumballs or truffles; lemon drops or Jelly Bellies (in twenty flavors); peanut brittle or peppermint bark. Gee, not only is it the best candy, but it's also the best variety of candy.

The Forge
billwisserphoto.com
BEST SERVICE IN A RESTAURANT The Forge 432 Arthur Godfrey Road (41st Street)

Miami Beach

305-538-8533

www.theforge.com The crowning moment at the Forge is when tuxedo-clad waiters approach the table with silver-domed entrées, place them down in unison, and remove the lids with synchronized flair -- the way it would be done in a Busby Berkeley musical. If you remember Busby, you'll also recall the days when going out to eat in a fine-dining establishment meant the white-glove treatment by a team of pampering professionals. The whole idea of spending oodles of money was to be treated like someone special, even, maybe especially, for those who weren't special at all. The staff at the Forge harkens back to those times, and we're not just referring to the choreography and formal attire. Like veteran stage actors, the waiters here perform with an anonymous polish and panache; they hit their marks by rote. Sure, the somber demeanors of some might remind you of the stuffy butler Dudley Moore mimicked in Arthur, but their maturity is comforting, and it's quite refreshing to hear menu items described in a knowledgeable and articulate manner, to have wines properly handled by a suave sommelier, to have your chair held and napkins refolded, to barely notice the table cloth being silently swept of crumbs. It's nice to be served, and nicer still within the ornate stained-glass grandeur of the Forge. Makes you feel special, which in these parts, in this day and age, is something special indeed.

BEST SERVICE IN A RESTAURANT The Forge 432 Arthur Godfrey Road (41st Street)

Miami Beach

305-538-8533

www.theforge.com The crowning moment at the Forge is when tuxedo-clad waiters approach the table with silver-domed entrées, place them down in unison, and remove the lids with synchronized flair -- the way it would be done in a Busby Berkeley musical. If you remember Busby, you'll also recall the days when going out to eat in a fine-dining establishment meant the white-glove treatment by a team of pampering professionals. The whole idea of spending oodles of money was to be treated like someone special, even, maybe especially, for those who weren't special at all. The staff at the Forge harkens back to those times, and we're not just referring to the choreography and formal attire. Like veteran stage actors, the waiters here perform with an anonymous polish and panache; they hit their marks by rote. Sure, the somber demeanors of some might remind you of the stuffy butler Dudley Moore mimicked in Arthur, but their maturity is comforting, and it's quite refreshing to hear menu items described in a knowledgeable and articulate manner, to have wines properly handled by a suave sommelier, to have your chair held and napkins refolded, to barely notice the table cloth being silently swept of crumbs. It's nice to be served, and nicer still within the ornate stained-glass grandeur of the Forge. Makes you feel special, which in these parts, in this day and age, is something special indeed.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®