Oishi Thai
Just when know-it-alls think it's safe to categorically poo-poo all Thai/sushi joints as cheesy hybrid sell-outs, a place like Oishi (translation: delicious) comes along. Since moving from Thailand in 1993, opening a first-rate restaurant has been the dream of chef/owner Piyarat B. Arreeratn (just call him Bee). The place's class is apparent before the first bite thanks to a tastefully sophisticated décor devoid of gaudy gilt elephants or The King and I paraphernalia. The cooking is equally classy. Thai entrées are authentically complex and balanced -- rich red curries ($8.95 lunch, $19.95 dinner) and sweet/salty/slightly tangy Panang curries ($8.95 lunch, $14.95 dinner) are especially tasty. Most dishes are available with your choice of meat, poultry, or seafood. Choose seafood; Bee hits the local docks twice daily for the freshest of fish. The impeccable quality of ingredients makes Oishi's sushi component more than equal to the Thai food. We suggest ordering from the list of chef specials, which are imaginative fusion dishes inspired by his stint at Nobu -- but they cost much less than the originals.
Whip 'n Dip Ice Cream Shoppe
Ignore the droves of soccer moms chauffeuring their sugar-craving offspring. And block out the Saturday-night teenybopper brigade heading postmovie to this South Miami institution. The smooth, creamy deliciousness that is Whip 'N Dip ice cream makes it worthwhile. Although the traditional chocolate and vanilla are always on tap, exotic flavors, including coconut and white chocolate mousse, rotate. That means you might have to make several trips back to ensure you try a cup or cone of each -- because they're all that good.
If you're hungering for a reasonably priced hunk of expertly grilled churrasco, juicy blood sausage, or succulent sweetbreads, you head to your favorite Argentine restaurant, right? Wrong, or at least you should consider dining at Zuperpollo. Located on Coral Way just minutes from downtown Miami, this cozy Uruguayan eatery has been dishing up some of the tastiest parrillada this side of Montevideo for almost twenty years. It may look like a hole-in-the-wall from the outside, but inside, this cozy restaurant is clean, inviting, and usually packed. And not without good reason. The fare is heartily portioned, all homemade, and consistently fresh, and dinner will not break the bank -- in fact it will barely even make a dent. Mixed barbecue for two -- a sizzling platter laden with flank steak, churrasco, chicken, sweetbreads, blood sausage, sausage, and English short ribs -- costs $25.95. Served with your choice of two sides -- the purée is creamy and downright delicious -- and hands-down the best chimichurri in town, this fabulous feast will leave you rubbing your stomach and wondering how to say "doggy bag" in Spanish. If bloody slabs of red meat are not your thing, don't worry: Zuperpollo has something equally delectable for you too. Choose from an array of housemade pastas, sandwiches, traditional Latino appetizers, or chicken, which is served no less than 50 different ways ($7.95 to $10.95). Wash it down with an ice-cold beer or a glass of wine, and you'll be bidding buenas noches to Buenos Aires before you know it.
In past years, this category has operated much like the Democratic presidential primaries, the winner plucked from a weak field of uninspired contenders. Ginger Grove has uprooted that notion, planting itself firmly as one of South Florida's sassiest Asian options. And prettiest, too, with floor-to-ceiling windows wrapping around the curved perimeter of the room, which is outfitted in bamboo, weaves, natural wood, and a cool collection of hanging Buddha heads. Chef Christian Plotczyk made his mark with China Grill Management, and the menu here presents a similar sampling of modernized, Americanized, highly inventive Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cooking. Seared Szechuan pepper duck breast is tantalizingly glazed with tamarind sauce. Miso-marinated butter fish is contrasted with tempura shisito peppers. Braised Kurobuta pork belly -- simply and unspeakably delectable. Every dish is a winner, and entrée prices peak at an extremely reasonable $21. Service shines too, and the eclectic wine list is rife with distinguished vintners. All of the above make Ginger Grove a landslide choice as the finest dining destination in the area. Now if only the Democrats could come up with so strong a contender.
Gourmet Carrot
There is no doubt smoothies made from the nutrient-packed and easy-to-digest juices of fresh fruits are better for you than milkshakes full of fatty dairy products. Nevertheless some juice bars' smoothies, especially those whose heft comes from powders and so forth, do taste like they came out of a cow's back end. And the best-flavored of the rest often contain yogurt, making them no-nos for vegans, the lactose-intolerant, or folks avoiding milk for myriad other reasons. But because Gourmet Carrot is chiefly a kosher natural foods restaurant -- which serves poultry and fish as well as veggie dishes -- there is no dairy component in anything. The smoothies here rely on bananas for body and on the freshest of fruits for taste. They also contain the eatery's own tropical fruit sorbets, which range from a simple tangerine to an exotic guava rendition. Hard-core smoothie fanatics can add extras, including protein powders, bee pollen, et cetera, but the unadulterated Chilled Lych ($4.50) -- litchi juice, bananas, litchi sorbet, and ginger-pear sorbet -- will more than satisfy most thirsts for something good, and good for you.
Abbey Brewing Co.
In the land of mojitos, the Abbey Brewing Company is king of beer. Among Miami's precious few microbrew purveyors, the Abbey serves up a tasty selection of home-brewed elixirs. This is the place for full-body, high-alcohol-content drafts such as the Abbey India Pale Ale ($5.25 a pint); the smooth, nutty Abbey Bock ($6 for twelve ounces); and Trappist-style 12-Degree beer. In addition to fourteen beers on draft, you will find a good selection of bottled beers from around the world ($4.75 to $12), a few wines, and some decent pub food. This cozy, laid-back little bar is the perfect remedy for velvet-rope bullshit and watery beer.
The Cereal Bowl
Trix are for kids. So are Cocoa Puffs, Cap'n Crunch, Froot Loops, and so many of the 35 hot and cold cereals served here. But it's the fixings that are likely to spark your child's gifted imagination, some 50 sweet toppings including mini Milky Way bars, Oreo cookies, malt balls, Reese's Pieces, gummy bears -- you get the idea. The youngsters will get to play with fresh and dried fruits, nuts, and strangely flavored syrups (like peanut butter) too. Then again, you might want the professionals on premises to bring one of their more mature, predetermined "Cereal Bowl" combinations. Say, for instance, a Frostbite composed of Frosted Mini-Wheats, Frosted Cheerios, and Frosted Flakes with Snowcaps, coconut flakes, and marshmallows. Or a "Hot Bowl" called "Don't Cake My Heart": oatmeal, pound cake, white frosting, sprinkles, and a maraschino cherry on top. There are saner and healthier combinations, too, as well as oatmeal smoothies and cereal shakes ("Thrilla in Vanilla" blends Rice Krispies and yogurt). Prices are children-friendly: A 16-ounce bowl is $2.99, a 32-ouncer goes for $3.49, and Cereal Bowl selections cost from $3.29 to $3.79. A coffee bar, Internet access, and newspapers are on hand for parental units who are, quite frankly, more prone to getting excited over Cocoa Krispies than their kids. Plasma TV sets offer cartoons and, for laughs, CNN.
The $2 café con leches are always perfect at this tiny, uncrowded Cuban diner on Coral Way. You never have to fumble with the sugar, because the Bustelo espresso, served aside a cup of steamed milk in a little tin pourer, is just as sweet as the cute and friendly little waitresses behind the diner-style counter. Villa Habana opens every day at 11:00 a.m., which makes it the perfect place to get you over the midday slump with a caffeine fix. If you want to nibble, try some of the authentic Cuban sides -- all made from scratch -- like the $1 croquetas or the $2 chicken creole soup.
Norman's
There is talk that Norman's ain't what it used to be. That the more time Mr. Van Aken spends overseeing his growing restaurant empire, the less attention he can pay his flagship Gables operation. It all makes for easy cocktail conversation, but those who have actually dined at Norman's lately can attest it remains one of South Florida's finest establishments. It's true Norman is not as involved as he used to be, and it's also a fact it's been more than twelve years since this brash Mango Gang chef first banged out his breathtaking New World cuisine. We have since taken it for granted that our bounty of tropical produce, fresh seafood, and Caribbean/Latin ingredients and influences can be merged into vibrant and delectable foods, but it was a radical idea when Norman and a handful of other local chefs first proclaimed it. And it remains important in the context of American regional cooking. Norman's cuisine still exhilarates; the front-of-house staff, service, and wine list still excel as well. Stormin' Norman may have left the building, but his namesake restaurant still sets the bar for provocative, professional dining in Coral Gables.
If café Cubano is fuel for your own biped power vehicle, then David's is the best and most convenient service station in town. Located just off Lincoln Road, this South Beach stalwart has been around for almost three decades. Every day of the year David's dishes up hearty Cuban fare in its dining room and adjacent counter, as well as keeps thousands of hearty partygoers going by dispensing café Cubano in little plastic cups from a window on Meridian Avenue. David's café Cubano has just the right combination of firepower and lusciousness; it tastes like caffeinated candy and jumpstarts your nervous system like a jolt of electricity. Plus David's is open 24 hours, so there is no excuse for burrowing your face in the pillow until the sun comes up. Or even then, for that matter.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®