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 SANCTUARY FROM THE FAST TRACK Jimbo's Virginia Key

305-361-7026 If you know Jimbo's, you know why. If you don't know Jimbo's, you have a treat in store. Pay the modest entry fee to gain access to Virginia Key, drive beyond the main beach parking lot, around the bend by the sewage treatment plant, then park. Get out and trudge through the pine trees and junk toward the commotion. Sometimes it's a live band. Sometimes it's the peculiar sound made by bocce-ball players working on their tenth Budweiser. Sometimes it's the honky-tonk of a barely able to stand upright piano. Smoked fish and cold beer. Weekend warriors, lowlifes, highlifes, attorneys with Harleys, models and photographers, skittering kids, mongrel dogs, more beer and bocce ball, and of course His Cigar-Chomping Eminence Jim Luznar, for half a century or so the lovable old coot supposedly in charge of the place.

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 SPECTACLE Demolition of the Everglades Hotel What goes up must come down. It may take a hundred years, maybe a thousand, but even the new condo towers rising in the first decade of this new millennium will one day crumble, perhaps into a rising sea. As for the sixteen-story Everglades Hotel, it endured almost 80 years before dissolving into a heap in eight short seconds, helped along this past January 23 by high-tech explosives. But even the preservationist community didn't have much to cry about; long ago the building's original Mediterranean Revival exterior had been remodeled out of existence. For example, in 1959 the cupola atop the building (which, like the nearby Freedom Tower, emulated the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain) met the same fate as Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa -- it disappeared without a trace. The union actually owned the hotel in 1959, the year architects decided the cupola had to be whacked because it couldn't accommodate the rooftop pool and nightclub Hoffa insisted on installing. In Miami money always seems to trump history. CABI Developers, which bought the hotel a couple years ago, also found the edifice a hindrance to its dollar dreams, which involve erecting two 49-story condominium towers, naming them Everglades on the Bay, and then charging ludicrously high prices for them. This time the whole building had to be whacked -- and it was a spectacular hit.

BEST TERROR ALERT October 26, 2004

Miami International Airport Mizael Cabral and Daniel Correa, two athletic, young kite surfers from Brazil, are heading back to their homeland after spending a couple of years hanging out in Pompano Beach. They check their boards, sails, assorted other gear, and luggage through the x-ray machine at MIA's international terminal. Among the gear is a small belt sander kite surfers use to shape their boards; it is cylindrical and resembles a tank. The Portuguese word for tank is bomba. So when a security agent asks Cabral, who barely speaks English, what's in one of his overstuffed bags, the 29-year-old says bomba. His 27-year-old pal Daniel, who speaks better English (his mom is a U.S. citizen and resides in Davie), comes over and jokes that it might explode -- a reference to the bag being so tightly packed. Of course they're arrested and charged with felonies: willfully or maliciously making false statements "with the intent to cause fear" and "reckless disregard for the safety of human life." Their tourist visas long expired, the surfers are imprisoned for a month at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami and then another month at the Krome Detention Center for immigration-law violations. Meanwhile the story hits the front pages in Brazil's national press. The governor from the surfers' province demands that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva lean on President George W. Bush to intervene. Cabral and Correa's federal public defenders, armed with testimony from TSA officials that the guys should have been spanked and immediately sent home to Brazil, head for trial. Suddenly the U.S. Attorney's Office offers an eleventh-hour plea deal to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor for impeding a federal official in the performance of his duties. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno sentences Cabral and Correa to time served, but knowing they had been carrying about $8000 in hard-earned cash when the incident occurred, fines them each $2000. "Ridiculous," sighs Marc Seitles, Cabral's public defender.

Go ahead, take your time, you tollbooth operator in your Jimmy Buffett Hawaiian-print shirt. I'll just be over here in my car, idling away, daydreaming of white sand and warm breezes, surrounded by these swaying palms and this manicured landscape, watching the glassy blue waters of Biscayne Bay as they gently lap upon the shores of the causeway. There's a pelican resting on a nearby pier, while overhead a flock of parrots flits from tree to tree, and I swear I just saw a fish jump out of the water. I know we gave you this honor in 2001, but you make my transition from North Miami's frenzied 125th Street to the quiet Surfside beaches a smooth one. Fifty cents, you say? Here, have a dollar; keep the change.

Go ahead, take your time, you tollbooth operator in your Jimmy Buffett Hawaiian-print shirt. I'll just be over here in my car, idling away, daydreaming of white sand and warm breezes, surrounded by these swaying palms and this manicured landscape, watching the glassy blue waters of Biscayne Bay as they gently lap upon the shores of the causeway. There's a pelican resting on a nearby pier, while overhead a flock of parrots flits from tree to tree, and I swear I just saw a fish jump out of the water. I know we gave you this honor in 2001, but you make my transition from North Miami's frenzied 125th Street to the quiet Surfside beaches a smooth one. Fifty cents, you say? Here, have a dollar; keep the change.

BEST VALUE ON OCEAN DRIVE Café Mediterraneo Deli 1501 Collins Avenue

Miami Beach

305-532-8998 While true cheapskates know to load up on food and drink before they find themselves east of Collins Avenue, there's still hope for a little cheap grub and chaser right on the strip. Tucked deep within the Ocean Steps mini mall at the north end of Ocean Drive is Café Mediterraneo Deli. More a sandwich shop and bodega than traditional delicatessen, the store offers brand-name cold cuts, ice cream, a large assortment of wine, and various sundries. For the froufrou tightwad who requires amplified flavor, there are even jars of curry paste and key lime juice. But the fun doesn't stop there. You can grab a table on the elevated patio overlooking Ocean Drive and people-watch to your heart's content. This is actually better than much of the sidewalk seating on Ocean Drive itself, where you get bumped and jostled by the moving wall of gawking humanity. Or take a picnic lunch to Lummus Park and people-watch from under the shade of a lovely coconut palm.

BEST WEEKEND GETAWAY Hollywood No, we don't mean Hollywood, California. And no, this is not a joke. Hollywood, Florida, may be only minutes away by car, but the town's two-and-a-half-mile beachfront Broadwalk is about as close to the South Beach experience as a rodeo is to a velvet-rope nightclub. Here's what to do: On a Saturday or Sunday, you and the companion of your choice head up to the Broadwalk (from Georgia Street at the southern end to Sherman Street at the north). Unload your bicycles and cruise until you come across a motel that looks just funky enough be affordable yet clean enough to be reassuring. Put money down on a room for your future Saturday night retreat. Then quickly return to Miami. Do not explore further. On the appointed Saturday, head back to your cozy motel, unload bikes and gear, and this time walk the entire length of the Broadwalk. Within minutes you'll realize you have slipped through a wormhole and are now in a parallel universe. This is a place still a bit rough around the edges, where the bars and cafés fronting the Broadwalk maintain an authentically tacky charm that lacks pretension and invites you to linger. Leggy models and buff boys? No. Gourmet dining? No. Twelve-dollar cocktails? No. Which is precisely the point.

Readers´ Choice: Key West

BEST-KEPT SECRET mia Gallery Miami International Airport

Concourse E, second level

305-876-0749; 305-869-1219; 305-876-7017

"It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression öAs pretty as an airport.'" British sci-fi/comedy writer Douglas Adams wrote that sentiment in the opener to one of his popular books, Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. It is an observation never more true than at the absurdly slapdash way station of humanity known as Miami International Airport. Which is why it's surprising and yet completely fitting that MIA would not only have an art gallery (open since 1999) but would also make little effort to inform people of its existence, much less help them find it. However, those lucky passengers who do (you can't visit it unless you have a plane ticket or make special arrangements) will find a beauteous 2400-square-foot space created, airport literature explains, "for the purpose of humanizing the airport environment." The shows, smartly curated by Yolanda Sanchez, often feature some of Miami's most accomplished contemporary artists. Amid the nearly overwhelming spectacle of MIA's environs, mia Gallery is a welcome aesthetic breather.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®