Best Haitian Restaurant 2006 | Chez Madame John's | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
There is a good reason steady streams of Creole-speakers come into this nondescript joint. Six to eight dollars buys a massive serving of stewed meat or fried chicken or fish, served with rice, beans, and a boiled plantain on the side. A sixteen-ounce champagne soda costs an extra dollar. Tasty sauces with the perfect spicy/sweet balance complement the unusually tender goat. There is not much atmosphere except for the friendly banter of customers and staff, but the efficient service and authentic food make it a great alternative to touristy sit-down places and bare-bones take-out joints. Although most customers take their meals to-go, the sun-filled eating area of little Formica tables is pleasant enough. One customer, who says he's been going to Chez Madame John's since it opened in 1999, reveals the place is kind of a secret among the Haitian community. "You're the only white guy I've ever seen in here," he says to a New Times reporter. Prices range from $4 for a breakfast item to $16 for a special lamb dish. Most meals are between $6 and $8.
Want to stay kosher but don't want to eat bland bread? Anny's Bread Shoppe turns out loaves that would have pride of place in any toaster -- kosher or not. The two most popular breads here are the multigrain and the Blue Ridge Mountain herb bread. Both are hearty, full of flavor, and worth the price ($5.75 to $6 each). While you're there, pick up a few bagels or maybe some apricot-walnut biscotti. How about a sugarless muffin made with honey and bran? It has only one gram of fat yet somehow is delicious. As you might expect, there's plenty of challah: raisin, onion-poppy, whole-wheat, chocolate, and even plain.
Honduran food may be relatively simple, but that does not mean it has to be bland. Adelita's is a great example of just how rich and varied this cuisine can be. Of course, it's also cheap and plentiful here, which doesn't hurt. Located on a corner in the same building as a laundromat, Adelita's Seventeenth Avenue restaurant has blue wicker chairs and sky blue tables, with little in the way of decoration other than Honduran soccer team photos and a big-screen TV set for games. The food speaks for itself: Richly marinated beef baleadas are $3; fat, moist tamales of chicken or pork go for $2.50. Tostones here are a far cry from the dry, flavorless versions you find elsewhere, and the myriad hard-core meat dishes -- fried pork chops, carne asada, and churrasco -- are solid choices for carnivores who don't want to shell out more than $6 to $8. The stars of the show, however, are Adelita's rich and generous soups, especially the sopa marinera, a fantastic blend of conch, shrimp, and crab in a flavorful but not overly salty broth ($5 for a small bowl, $7 for a large). Another good choice, sopa de res, is a meat soup with carrots, cabbage, corn, potato, and yuca ($5 for a medium, $6 for a large). Soups are served with rice and a tortilla. If the basics aren't cheap enough, try one of seven combos -- a taco, a baleada, and a soda, for example, for only $5. Pickled onions and jalapeños at your table complete the experience. A selection of fruit juices are offered at $2 each, Salvavida and Presidente beers cost $2.50, and domestic beers are $2.
This place is a kosher cornucopia overflowing with gourmet delights and Middle Eastern staples, from homemade hummus and tahini to halvah and mushroom-stuffed Turkish bureka pastries. The five-aisle market is probably the only place in Miami where you will find five different kinds of frozen Yemeni malawah or six brands of gefilte fish. There's an impressive produce section and a butcher counter with plenty of glatt kosher meats. There is a prepared foods counter filled with mouthwatering pastas, seafood salads, pâté meatballs, chicken cutlets, vegetable dishes, and stuffed grape leaves. Kosher empanadas? Check. Kosher sushi? Check. Olives and pickles? There's a whole serve-yourself bar of them next to the mountains of nuts and candied fruits toward the front of the store. Oh, and Sarah's boasts a solid wine selection with plenty of -- what else? -- Manischewitz.
The following is one of a series of recorded sessions between noted health advisor Dr. Alan Greenberg (a.k.a. Mr. Smartyplants) and his patient, Mrs. Penny Howard of Aventura.

PH: If Whole Foods Market sells whole foods, does that mean other supermarket chains sell quarter, half, two-thirds, or five-sixths foods?
Mr. S: Yes.
PH: How can that be?
Mr. S: The extra percentages come via nutritional benefits invisibly contained within Whole Foods' products.
PH: If they are invisible, how do we know they are there?
Mr. S: Perhaps you will feel an increase in energy and stamina. Maybe you will notice an extra hop in your step. Or maybe not. It doesn't matter, because, as I believe Dr. Freud once said, "Sometimes an organic banana is just an organic banana."
PH: Meaning?
Mr. S: Whole Foods' whole foods are good for you whether you know it or not.
PH: I'm not a health-nut per se -- I mean I want the stuff to taste good. Are the fruits and vegetables riper and juicier at Whole Foods? Are the selection and quality of prepared foods, baked goods, meats, seafood, coffees, cheeses, nuts, wines, and chocolates better than those I might find at the market at which I usually shop?
Mr. S: Yes and yes. As the old Yiddish proverb goes, "If you board the wrong train, it will do you no good to run through the cars in the opposite direction."
PH: Meaning?
Mr. S: I'm sorry. Our time is up.

On a scale from one to ten, the décor at Raja's hovers somewhere around zero, meaning nothing -- but it's very, very clean. Nonetheless this hole-in-the-wall is a tiny treasure well worth preserving. Yet considering the now-you-see-them-now-you-don't pace at which downtown development is obliterating low-rent operations, one cannot help but worry about Raja's. And it's not just because the mom-and-pop luncheonette is unique, or because the Kandaswamy family, who hail from Tiruchchirapalli, south of Madras, run the county's only South Indian restaurant. But to find a better version of this fare anywhere south of Manhattan's Little India would be more difficult than trying to pronounce the owners' hometown. Although the steam-table curries provide fine instant gratification, the must-not-miss items are the $4.35 dosai (light, lacy, thin rice/dhal-batter crpes wrapped around buttery spiced potato filling); slightly thicker fried uttapam pancakes ($6.99), crisp-edged but springy in the middle and topped with chilies or onions; and fat steamed idli patties ($5.50) ideal for dipping in Raja's sweet chutneys and salty sambars. A glass of excellent mango lassi ($2.50) will make the twenty-minute wait for these custom-crafted snacks pass painlessly.
Healthy fast food is an oxymoron. When describing those who frequent unhealthy fast-food restaurants regularly, you can take away the oxy. Eating is pleasure, so what's the rush? Yes, you have a point -- lunch hour lasts only so long. And sometimes you just do not have time to linger over dinner. But if you are going to go the dumb fast-food route, you might as well do it smartly by heading to Giardino Gourmet Salads. It's a little place with seating for only about two dozen, but that's because Giardino specializes in the speediest of dining options -- take-out. Take-out salads, mostly, which are prepared faster than you can say Big Mac. There are 31 predesigned combinations based on a variety of lettuce greens, from a simple caesar spiked with bacon, to seafood salad with lemon-dill dressing, to Asian salad with tahini-curry dressing. Do-it-yourself types can customize their own salads. Choose from traditional fixings like tomatoes, cucumbers, and grated carrots, to more unusual garnishes such as Japanese seaweed flakes, shredded coconut, and baby corn. Countless such toppings line the counter along with more than 30 housemade dressings and 18 types of croutons, which means the number of potential creations one can concoct is nearly infinite -- slightly more than infinite should you decide to roll your salad into a sandwich (there are rice paper wraps and flour tortillas to do so; take that, Subway!). Middle Eastern selections like tabbouleh and hummus are also on hand, as are better-than-to-be-expected desserts -- especially the frothy fruit mousses. A giant greens-based salad is $9, medium-size is $7, and a generously portioned small version is $5. Eat your heart out at KFC, or treat it gently at Giardino.

Best Inexpensive Italian Restaurant

Il Migliore

Devin Peppler
This humble neighborhood trattoria in Aventura boasts all the attributes one seeks in Italian dining: simple, rustic Tuscan décor; friendly, knowledgeable, efficient service; a great selection of "25 wines for $25"; and, most pertinent, perfectly executed Italian cooking. Chef/owner Neal Cooper's streamlined style of cuisine reflects the European tradition of freshness over flair and the Old World idea that honest ingredients are beautiful as is. In other words, Il Migliore's spaghetti pomodoro needs only sweet, ripe, fire engine red tomatoes to impress. Eggy fettuccine noodles rely simply on earthy wild mushrooms and a light perfume of white truffle oil. Juicy slices of grilled skirt steak, tenderloin of pork, and lamb chops are minimally, and quite seductively, dressed in varying outfits of garlic, lemon, olive oil, and fresh herbs. Hell, this place would have to be considered one of our finest eateries if only for its crunchy, golden brown homemade French fries that come absolutely inundated with fresh herbs. Main courses are heartily portioned, yet almost all are priced less than $20.
Neil Simon once said the only three sureties in life are death, taxes, and everybody loves Italian food. That explains why it is tough getting a table at Macaluso's. After all, in this town nobody cooks up better booty from the boot-shape country than this strip-mall restaurant on Alton Road. "Just say no" is the mantra here: No lunch hours, no reservations, no menus, no substitutions. Yet when it comes to chef/owner Michael Vito D'Andrea's Staten Island take on homespun Italian classics, all one can say is yes, yes, yes. Aromas of garlic and tomatoes waft from the open kitchen into the spare, square, osteria-style dining room, and so do thin-crust pizzas bearing golden edges, al dente pastas embellished with just enough sauce, and house specialties such as fluffy meatballs, prodigious prawns perked with spicy hot peppers, and a peerless tiramisu. Appetizers range from $10 to $20, entrées from $19 to $38. Waiters are well versed in the menu (they have to be; it's their job to recite it in full to each table) and knowledgeable about the wide range of Italian wines. Drink up -- the only other things you have to look forward to are death and taxes.
An estimated half of our nation's tomatoes come from Florida. Many are shipped from fields in the Redland's agricultural area less than an hour outside downtown Miami. Yet even in peak season, most supermarket specimens (including those at expensive specialty stores like Epicure) are ethylene-injected, semigreen things that are hard and tasteless. You might as well eat a baseball. Try this stand's produce instead. Most people discover Robert Is Here because it is located on the road leading to the main gate of Everglades National Park. The story: Six-year-old Robert Moehling Jr.'s farmer-father stuck him on the roadside with a table of surplus cucumbers. The first day, there were no sales because the youngster was not visible above car windows. The next day, armed with large signs reading "Robert Is Here" painted on hurricane shutters, he sold out by 11:00 a.m. Roughly 45 years later, Robert is still here (when not working the farm), as are genuinely red-ripe tomatoes and a host of South Florida's other mainstream crops. You will also find an array of weird and exotic tropical produce: Monstera deliciosa, black sapote, anon (sugar apple), canistel (egg fruit), et cetera. In addition he sells locally produced jams, sauces, and flavored honeys. Children love the giant tortoises and iguanas in Robert's minizoo out back. And everyone loves Robert's thick milkshakes, made from key limes, strawberries, or whatever else is in season.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®