Arbetter's Hot Dogs
Photo courtesy of Arbetter's Hot Dog
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates Americans will eat more than seven billion little red tubes of "specially selected meat trimmings" between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Most will come fluffed in the traditional white hot-dog bun that H.L. Mencken once described as being made "of ground acorns, plaster of Paris, flecks of bath sponge, and atmospheric air." We wouldn't have it any other way, because if there is one thing Americans agree on, it's that we like our dogs simply prepared and plopped into a plain white wiener-shape roll. That's how they've been doing it at Arbetter's since 1960 (it moved to the current location in 1972). The lifting of the mostly pork frankfurter from its steamy water bath provides a hot-dog traditionalist with no less mouthwatering anticipation than a fine diner feels when witnessing the removal of his lobster from its tank in a high-class seafood house. The menu is as simple as it gets: hot dog with tangy relish ($1.60), kraut dog with mustard and sauerkraut ($1.70), chili onion dog ($1.75), and "all around dog" with mustard, onion, and relish ($1.45). Don't be shy when ordering -- the franks here are small enough that you can eat up to four in one sitting. The best of all dogs is the hot dog: It feeds the hand that bites it. And the best of all hot dogs are the precious pink pups at Arbetter's.
La Loggia Restaurant
It has a power location, smack-dab across the street from the Miami-Dade County Courthouse. A full bar boasts a full breadth of high-octane fuels: brandies, cognacs, scotches, and specialty drinks, such as the Lawyer's Liquid Lunch, a martini glass of Absolut vodka and sweetened espresso. The main dining room's lofty ceiling and frescoed walls reverberate with the click, clatter, and chatter of meals and deals. Old-school waiters are attentive and discreet. The menu is distinguished by no-nonsense Northern Italian cuisine like fried calamari ($9.25), spaghetti Bolognese ($12.95), veal scaloppine ($14.95), and chicken Parmigiano ($14.95), and the fare is so consistently fresh and deftly prepared that even attorneys will be hard-pressed to dispute its merits. Power requires calories, and lunch at La Loggia is a hearty affair. Sirloin steak ($15.95), for example, is served with arugula salad, roast potatoes, and spaghetti pomodoro. You can handle it, and so can an Atalon Cabernet from Napa Valley. If your negotiations go well, celebrate with a puffy, bittersweet chocolate soufflé ($5.95). You need not be a lawyer or power broker to afford the moderate prices, which makes La Loggia a lunchtime deal you can't refuse.
Proprietor Salvatore Squadrito wants to fatten you up. That's the conclusion you reach once you're served any one of his pasta dishes. You get loads of silver-dollar-size ravioli. You get baseball-size meatballs in your spaghetti. You get heaping mounds of baked ziti. All of it made with the sweetest, tangiest tomato sauce this side of Napoli.
Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill
Eat or sleep? That is generally the question as the clock bears witness to a long night's descent toward morning. But if you consider that life is short and Flanigan's menu is long on lip-smacking, late-night snacks, the answer becomes clear: Grab a stool at the bar or a seat at the table and dig in. Big Daddy Flanigan knew something about staying up past midnight -- he opened his eponymous business in 1959, as a nightclub chain in seven states. By 1986 Flanigan's had evolved into casual restaurants scattered throughout South Florida. Late-night noshes include chicken wings, loaded nachos, fried shrimp, peel-and-eat shrimp, steamed clams, a fat Philadelphia cheese-steak sandwich, ten-ounce burger, spicy fries, and the signature one-and-three-quarter-pound hickory-smoked, fall-off-the-bone baby-back ribs (which outsells every other menu item three to one). Prices are eminently reasonable -- burgers and snacks less than $10, ribs and other heartier fare less than $20. Better deal: The wings come free with every pitcher of draft beer, soda, ice tea, or lemonade every evening from 10 p.m. until closing -- which means 4 a.m. That still leaves plenty of time to digest and go to sleep. Let's hope, for your sake, you don't have to get up for work the next morning.
King Palace Chinese BBQ
When it comes to Chinese take-out, some produce powerful essence and others do not. And it is vital the food magically permeates your automobile's interior with that uniquely intoxicating aroma we like to call essence of carry-out Chinese. What, exactly, causes this heavenly fragrance? Perhaps a beneficent god. Perhaps MSG, red dye #9, or something else we would rather not know about. What we do know is that often the meals with mojo come not from fancy restaurants but humbler joints, like King Palace, where specialties are Chinese barbecue and fresh seafood from the eatery's live tanks. Décor here is nearly nonexistent; the only thing you will miss by not eating in is the realization that almost all of your fellow diners are Asian. So order your goodies (especially recommended: clams with black bean sauce [$11.95]; lightly breaded salt-and-pepper crab heaped with diced chilies; live lobster [$17.95 per pound] or fish with green onion and ginger; crackling-covered crisp pork [$7.50 per pound]; and garlic-sautéed water spinach) to go. And enjoy the drive home.
Lan Pan-Asian Cafe
George Martinez
Located on the ground floor of Dadeland Station, this unassuming restaurant delivers the heartiest lunch deal in town. Simply put, it is truly affordable, truly yummy, truly filling Pan-Asian fare. What makes it so delicious? Simplicity matched with quality, such as pharmaceutical-grade sushi, delicately dressed seaweed salads with just enough sugar and acidity, and steamed, nutty brown rice. The lunch deal goes like this: You start with miso soup; then your server quickly brings you a rectangular platter with an eight-piece California roll in one box, mixed greens with a tangy cilantro-ginger vinaigrette in another, white or brown rice in a third, seaweed salad with sprouts in a fourth, and your entrée in a fifth -- all for less than $10. Entrée choices vary, but they include stir-fried Thai basil chicken with cremini mushrooms and bell peppers; seared beef with spinach and garlic; or four hefty pieces of nigiri sushi. The meal is the size of Hokkaido, and if you throw in some slurps of the frothy, sweet, outrageously delicious green bubble tea, you may not wish to eat again for days. Lan recently changed its frequent-diner card policy: Every dollar you spend at lunch earns you points -- such as four for a $3.78 glass of bubble tea. Once you hit 250 points, you get, yes, a free lunch. Note: The restaurant is closed Mondays, but the lunch deal extends from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, making it a perfect place to take a work -- or shopping -- break.
Saag paneer. Chana masala. Rogan josh. Chicken tikka masala. Bengun bharta. If these words mean nothing to you, immediately get in your car and drive north. You have not yet experienced the mix of spice, ginger, vegetables, or meat, cooked with a touch of cream and carefully spooned over fragrant basmati rice that we so fondly know as curry. Precede it with a samosa. Accompany it with a tangy lassi. Soak up the remainders with fresh-baked nan. Nirvana doesn't come close to describing how happy this will make you. Most curries cost from $10.95 to 12.95. Kebab also has a lunch buffet for $8.99.
You're seated outdoors at a wooden picnic table overlooking the Miami River, with a little dish of dolphin dip and a green plastic basket of Saltines in front of you. Nice start. An ice-cold draft beer ($2) arrives next, set down in a frosty glass by an amiable waiter, followed by a hunk of grilled dolphin -- freshly filleted up front in the fish market -- delivered in a fluffy bun ($7.95). Sandwiches come with choice of fried plantains, French fries, or any of a number of potential sides. The river rolls by. Time flows on. Life is composed of many sweet moments, and this one costs less than $10 -- assuming you can resist a second beer.
Ever since Bill O'Reilly uttered the romantic phrase "and then I would take the other hand with the falafel thing and I'd put it on your ..." -- well, we understand if getting back into eating the fried chickpea balls has been difficult. It may help to think of the Middle Eastern snack in a more biblical sense. With roots in the cities of Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem, falafel was eaten by Abraham, Mohammad, and Moses. Apparently Jesus demurred. Archaeologists have even found traces of seasoned chickpeas in the tombs of pharaohs. If you still can't get over the O'Reilly factor, try going to Pita Plus and meeting your fears head-on. The crisp, never greasy spheres of falafel, along with a zesty salad of cucumber and tomato, are slipped inside freshly grilled pita bread. The sandwich is then slathered with hummus and tahini. The South Beach branch features tables on Washington Avenue as well as a funky patio out back. The Aventura outpost is located in the back of Loehmann's Fashion Island, an ideal spot to recuperate after a busy session at the discount clothing emporium. No spin-zone here: Pita Plus makes a better falafel than anyone else. And at $5.07, it's a cheaper thrill than phone sex.
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! No, it's a plane! No, wait -- it's a brisket sandwich on rye! Located in the Sky Lobby of the I.M. Pei-designed Bank of America Tower is Sky Grille, a cafeteria mostly inhabited by the building's sizable workforce -- but open to the public. The corporate-handsome dining room follows the famous curve of the building, and a glass wall affords diners a bird's-eye view of downtown. An outdoor terrace with umbrella-shaded tables is even more picturesque, but the most breathtaking sight might very well be that of the food: It is miles above typical cafeteria fare. Grab a tray and mosey along the various stations (all clean and modern) until you find something that strikes your fancy. A salad bar at the front tempts with a wide array of garnishes and greens ($5.60 per pound), but so does the hot food station, which pumps out freshly grilled sandwiches (meaty churrasco, Philadelphia cheese steak) and full, warm meals. On any given day the latter might include paella, chicken Marsala, pork loin with citrus mojo sauce, or seared mahi-mahi -- with roll and two sides or salads it totals $6.99; two dollars more and you are privy to a 22-ounce soda and dessert. There is also a cold-sandwich station, where the breads (five types, including ciabatta) are stuffed with Italian coldcuts, mozzarella, tomatoes, chicken salad, and the like ($5 to $6). A one-third-pound hamburger off the grill is just $3.95. It's a gorgeous place to enjoy breakfast too -- Sky Grille opens for that meal from 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.; lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Next time you are trying to think of a new place to eat downtown, look up in the sky.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®