BEST BUS RIDE Route 102/Route B Riding the entire length of Metrobus Route 102 and its Key Biscayne connector, Route B, you don't see all of Miami-Dade County, and yet you do. This trip is expansive in geography and culture, traveling as it does from one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States (once home to Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, faithful pal of President Richard Nixon) to Hialeah (home to many Latin American immigrants who serve the needs of those in the 149). The circuitous, meandering route also passes by Government Center Metrorail Station in downtown Miami, Crandon Park, and Cape Florida State Park. But Route 102's true charm is its median destination, Miami International Airport. So there is, after all, a way to get to the airport that doesn't involve a taxi, private limo service, or being forever beholden to friend or neighbor. And it costs only $1.50.

SECOND-BEST ERRATUM April 4, 2005

Miami Herald "The e-mail address on Friday's column for öYou Got A Problem' was incorrect...."

BEST PLACE TO SAVOR THE FLAVOR OF MIAMI El Palacio de los Jugos 5721 W. Flagler Street

Miami

305-264-4557

and

14300 SW Eighth Street

West Miami-Dade

305-221-1616 Stepping into one of these anachronistic juice bars is like taking a stroll through el campo. The aroma of pork and tamales suffuses the air, and mostly Cuban visitors mull about, checking out the produce while enjoying guava juice and mango shakes. This is one of those places where the first and second generations from the island nation converge to shoot the breeze and sip on flavors as diverse as the ethnicity of this magnetic city. Hungry? There's no table service here. That would just detract from the communal vibe. Walk right up, stand in line (there are almost always lines), and choose from the tropical delicacies at the cafeteria-style counters. Make sure you have a firm grip when the server hands you a heap of hot, delicious fare. Dine on traditional Latin favorites or try the nontraditional Chinese fried rice the palaces are famous for -- estillo Cubano of course.

BEST SOUP KITCHEN Camillus House 726 NE First Avenue

Miami

305-374-1065

www.camillus.org A man yelps as rabid crack dogs gnaw at his belly from the inside. The old, lost mind of another thinks he hears whispers through the rotting track marks of a filthy needle spiked in his arm. Hunger and pain. Death is welcomed here. A beaten mother ushers her children through the shadows of broken souls spread out on the hard concrete. She's seeking light and some soup at the inn. The putrid smell of body fluids, alcohol, and cigarettes engulfs them as they walk by. No one blinks -- some out of fear, some out of chemicals. At city hall it's worse: All eyes are shut tight. For almost twenty years elected officials have been squabbling over moving the inn. It's not pretty, you see, and you can't make money with the inn nearby. But Angel Gonzalez (a city commissioner, not an angel) blocks the innkeepers' plans to build a new, better refuge. Not in my neighborhood. The light at the inn flickers but keeps shining. It always shines, as it has for 45 years, despite enemies from without and from within. Someone's stomach growls. Not Gonzalez's. Commissioner Regalado, where will they go? Commissioner Winton? Commissioners Sanchez and Allen? Each day more than 1100 meals must be prepared. It's still not enough. The light at the inn flickers but keeps shining. It always shines, especially from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. That's when everybody who can fit inside the inn is served a nourishing meal -- by live angels.

BEST PLACE TO GO STONED Deering Estate at Cutler 16701 SW 72nd Avenue

South Miami-Dade

305-235-1668 In the future, people will be able to plug their brains directly into virtual reality scenarios for sex, drugs, and probably everything else. No doubt there will be meditative modules for calming down -- like motionless yoga for the nervous system. Walking into the Deering Estate at Cutler, especially on a weekday when you might have the entire expanse of the back lawn to yourself, feels like walking into just such an alternate reality. Schools of fish swimming in concentric circles flash in the turning basin at the end of Deering's canal. Occasionally a fat gray manatee breaks the surface. Royal palms form straight lines along the walkway and canal, enhancing the stately symmetry. Herons and egrets spear minnows in the shallows, and the hypnotic lapping of waves overshadows the endless array of tiny splashes and rustles among the mangrove roots. On the spooky tip, you can walk unaccompanied around the humongous house, checking out the somber paintings and portraits of scions past; be sure to venture into the dungeonlike basement.

BEST ROAD TO AVOID SR 836 (Dolphin Expressway) Rush hour on the 836 is the perfect time to read "Best of Miami" -- the entire edition. There's certainly not going to be any movement for as long as it takes to work your way through the City Life section. Then maybe a slow crawl for a minute or so. On to Recreation, Shops and Wares. Like a cosmic black hole, the Dolphin swallows everything around it, including time. And it doesn't really matter whether it's officially rush hour (which these days is nearly all hours) or whether it's a weekday or the weekend. Stopped dead again. Diversions, Restaurants, Finest Foods. You're already a half-hour late for work -- and you left home a half-hour earlier than normal, fearing exactly this! On to Music. A sensation of movement, but only an illusion. Bars and Clubs, even all the Personal Bests. Still not even close to the toll plaza. Anything else to read?

BEST CHUTZPAH Jeffrey Berkowitz For some unfathomable reason, developer Jeffrey Berkowitz wants to inflict on South Florida more so-called art from Romero Britto, as if Britto's infantile decorations weren't already ubiquitous. Berkowitz and partner Alan Potamkin are about to begin construction of a cramped shopping mall and parking garage at the main entrance to Miami Beach -- Fifth Street and Alton Road. A big project like that will spin off substantial money intended for the city's Art in Public Places program (AIPP). Normally the AIPP committee would decide how that construction surtax would be spent and where the resulting art would end up. Berkowitz had a better idea: He'd commission Britto to produce a monumental piece of "art" for his project, which would become the de facto welcoming symbol for visitors to Miami Beach. Not surprisingly the AIPP committee cried foul. Berkowitz sneered: It's my project and my money and I'll do what I want with it. And if the city doesn't like it, tough. Tough indeed. Berkowitz had made a deal whereby he'd sell the potentially lucrative parking garage to Miami Beach at cost. But the committee's snobbish, elitist resistance to Britto led the developer to threaten to break that deal, keep the garage himself, reduce its size, and add more retail space. How's that for (infantile) chutzpah?

BEST TOURIST TRAP Little Havana Little Havana is perfect for the tourist who wants to soak up local culture the way Cuban bread soaks up lechon juice. Maximo Gomez (Domino) Park is the main axis point of the neighborhood and a gathering spot for old-timers to play dominoes while arguing the finer points of exile politics. Visitors will be blown away by the guayaberas, the cigars, and the colorful expressions of the players. Everyone can pick up a set of dominoes and some kitschy souvenirs at nearby stores such as Little Havana to Go or grab a box of perfectly rolled cigars at one of the tiny factories such as El Credito Cigars. Lily's Records is packed with rump-shaking Cuban classics, and for full effect, there's Viernes Culturales, a street party offered on the last Friday night of each month. On other evenings Hoy Como Ayer provides a mix of classics and modern favorites for Havana-style clubbing. Almost no vacation to Miami is complete without a visit to Versailles for a little coffee and some authentic island food. There are plenty of Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival buildings in the area, including the Tower Theater. For out-of-towners it's an exotic international trip. For Miamians it's -- well, you know.

BEST LOCAL POLITICIAN State Rep. Dan Gelber Miami Beach office: 305-531-7831

Tallahassee office: 850-488-0690

gelber.dan@myfloridahouse.com It's not easy being a Democrat in Tallahassee these days. Not easy, that is, if you want to be effective. Dan Gelber, whose District 106 encompasses the coastal communities from Miami Beach to the Broward County line, is one Democrat who has managed to be quite effective despite the Republicans' stranglehold over both House and Senate. How has he done it? By being way smarter than most elected officials in Tallahassee, in particular his colleagues in the Miami-Dade delegation. Of course, Gelber himself would never admit this, but it's true. Because he's smart, he knows when to stand firm and when to compromise. Because he's smart, he understands the value of building lasting alliances, even among political foes. Because he's smart, he knows when to stay in the background and let someone else take credit. Because he's smart, his fellow Democrats earlier this year unanimously chose the 44-year-old former federal prosecutor to be their House Speaker-Designate for the 2006-2008 term. Okay, being smart isn't everything -- Gelber can also hold his own shooting hoops. Plus he's a genuinely nice guy.

Readers´ Choice: Marta P´rez

BEST PLACE TO SEE MIAMI LIKE A NATIVE -- A NINETEENTH-CENTURY NATIVE

Twelfth Annual Miami International Map Fair

BEST PLACE TO SEE MIAMI LIKE A NATIVE -- A NINETEENTH-CENTURY NATIVE Twelfth Annual Miami International Map Fair Hosted by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, the Map Fair drew a slightly less boisterous crowd of out-of-towners than the Boat Show or the Winter Music Conference, but one no less enthusiastic about a shared passion -- collecting vintage maps. Florida was a particular fave on display, and though the prices rarely started below $500 (and often climbed to twenty times that), the window-shopping among various dealers' tables was priceless, if a bit depressing. It was bracing to watch Miami's charted boundaries explode -- and those of the Everglades shrink -- from era to era. Of course there's still reason to be hopeful: That Louisiana Purchase outlined on one map looks mighty promising.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®