Taverna Opa
You have to go to the southern terminus of Ocean Drive to find a good deal, but it's worth it. Opa, which also has restaurants in Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, is an atmospheric, high-ceiling Greek joint with an open kitchen and a spacious bar area. You can wander off the beach and through Opa's door for a $6 pork souvlaki with pita and fixings, an $8 lamb shank with orzo, a $15 beef shish kebab with rice pilaf, or a selection of four mezze dishes for less than $20. For the price of a mashed potato side dish at the Hotel Victor's restaurant just a few blocks north, you can dig into Opa's wood-grilled lemon half-chicken, side of potatoes included. If you're with a party of six or more, $25 per person will get you a feast of eleven dishes (seven appetizers and four mains). At $3.75 a glass and $18 a bottle, the cheapest house wine is just that -- cheap. Taverna Opa is open from 4:00 p.m. until the ouzo runs out.
Though it's unlikely your guests might walk away from a visit to this popular Little Havana landmark with a Paris Hilton sighting under their belts, they will leave with a quintessential postcard of Miami's sabor Cubano. For more than four decades, the gaudy landmark, decked out in chandeliers, murals, and mirrors, has been the meeting place for exilio honchos, noisy Cuban families, and multiculti Miami. It's the place to go if you're hungry for authentic island cuisine served up with a heap of Castro-bashing or peppered in local political intrigue. Open till the wee hours seven nights a week, Versailles offers a cornucopia of old-fashioned Cuban favorites like ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, and lechón asado at prices that won't dent the wallet. After getting your visitors wired on a shot of cafecito, take a dime tour of Calle Ocho, where you can catch old-timers in a heated dominoes showdown at Maximo Gomez Park, shop for souvenirs at a shabby-chic bodega, and visit one of the many low-rent art galleries. Sure it might not compare to a sultry day at the beach, or the glamour of celebrity gawking at South Beach's exclusive nightclubs, but your friends will leave with a sense that there's nowhere else in America like the place we call home.
You don't have to be an arborist to notice that South Florida boasts some of the most unique tree-life in the world. We have royal palms, cypress, live oaks, banyans. We've got ficus-laden Coral Way and palm-lined Biscayne Boulevard. There is, though, among all of Miami-Dade County's trees, a champion. It's part of the always-impressive ficus family but is not any ordinarily breathtaking banyan. It's an Über-version of the trees you'll see lining roads in Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. This tree, in the former location of Parrot Jungle, is so massive, so sprawling, that it looks like its own jungle. The root system to support it spans five acres. Now, when you see this awesome tree, keep in mind -- it's literally half its former greatness. A huge chunk of it was destroyed by hurricanes.
He began his career in 1978 as a shoe-leather scribe for the defunct Miami News. Two years later Rodriguez switched to television and began a career highlighted by his 2002 interview of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The dapper newsman (who was named one of South Florida's sharpest-dressed men by Ocean Drive) has covered major events such as the invasion of Panama, free elections in Nicaragua, and Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba. Today he is co-anchor of CBS4 News at Noon (and the 5:30 p.m. broadcast as well) and host of 4 Sunday Morning. Rodriguez sets himself apart from his peers with his no-nonsense on-air delivery. He doesn't ham it up or use gimmicky one-liners. He simply reports the news in a direct, forceful baritone made for television.
Take the weekend to get away from it all -- literally, by chartering a boat out to sea. It's pricey -- $550 for a half-day or $1350 for a full weekend -- but think of it as your own private cruise, without the hovering masses at the midnight buffet. Capt. Russ Boley, a lifelong sailor who's been trekking to the Bahamas and the Keys for nearly three decades, takes care of the technical stuff so you can just kick back (or throw a party). His crew produces oven-fresh breads, scrumptious meats and cheeses, and homemade desserts that will keep your tummy happy while you while away the weekend on the water. Take the boat all the way down to Elliott Key if you like, and quaff a glass of wine -- or a bottle. Just grab your sunglasses. Wherever you go, you will have escaped.
Motoring through the Dolphin Expressway bottleneck at the airport might encourage you to drive straight into swampy muck in the Everglades. But if you make a quick pit stop at FIU before you head east to the urban wasteland, try recharging your spirit. Nestled among the campus trees is the Margulies Sculpture Park, which comprises more than 70 large-scale sculptures by noted artists such as De Kooning, Dubuffet, and Serra. It's free and open to the public 24/7. Be sure to park in one of the Blue Parking Garage's visitor spots. If you don't, your sanctuary could turn into tow-truck torture.
Berky is the anti-Twinkie. Always professional, never treacly, he brings depth, doggedly thorough reporting, and elegance to a business full of flash, false sincerity, superfluous bites, irrelevant "news," and ratings stunts. He, Glenna Milberg, and Michael Putney form ABC affiliate WPLG's most solid, probing, and balanced triumvirate, excelling at the meaty pieces. Berky has an irresistible combination of scrupulousness and panache that allows him to dig deeply while telling the best story around. Berky doesn't do the easy thing. He doesn't do the salacious thing. He relishes complexity, whether reporting about migrants or Luis Posada Carriles or the Dubai port controversy. He doesn't "sell" tragedy or insert himself into the story. Berky tells you what's happening, how it happened, what might happen, and how it affects you; and he does it with an integrity, a nuance, and a depth from which many in his field could learn.
Once the bizarre infomercials are over for the day, this station just drips with the flavor of Miami. Between Tres Patines documentaries, local talent shows, and the news in Spanish are hours and hours and hours of hot women parading around in worse than nothing. There's a lot of ass in Miami, and it ain't only the politicians. In case you never tired of the Exilio AM-radio talk shows, you can watch a lively anti-Castro talk show called A Mano Limpia. (When Fidel kicks the bucket, what the hell will they talk about? Let's hope girls' asses!) Then there are the comedy shows that feature -- you guessed it -- more women's asses. (There's definitely a universal language here that any hetero American male can understand regardless of Spanish skills.) And if the butts leave you longing for an infomercial, you can always enjoy the charmingly crafted local ads for ¡Ño, Que Barato!
Even before heading the National Hurricane Center, Max Mayfield won accolades and awards from his peers in the industry. Now in the top post in his field, Mayfield has earned the thanks of those whose lives he has saved. As director, he leads a team of scientists who interpret weather conditions and issue advisories. However, as the public face of the center, Mayfield's most important job is alerting the public. If not for Mayfield's persistent warnings, thousands more Louisianans might have found themselves on the wrong side of those broken levees, but they listened to Mayfield early and evacuated voluntarily even when their local officials seemed nonchalant about Hurricane Katrina's strength. Thanks, Max!
For those looking to fill the ice chest with some tasty fillets while boning up on lush, natural beauty, Flamingo couldn't be a surer bet. Located at the south end of Everglades National Park, this angler's paradise is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the city. Although this end of the park suffered damage last fall from hurricanes Wilma and Katrina, the facility is open and again renting canoes and motor skiffs for half-day and full-day fishing excursions. (Call 239-695-3101.) Whether wetting your line for mangrove and mutton snapper, or tackling feisty tarpon, known for explosive strikes and acrobatic leaps and growing up to 150 pounds, hundreds of spots in the area practically guarantee you'll come home with more than a sob story about the one that got away. In addition to seeing redfish feeding in shallow water, or spotting sea trout taking your bait over a grassy patch of bottom, chances are you'll also run into the ever-elusive and crafty snook, which is prized for its delicate taste -- and is also one of the toughest fighters you could snag on a line. Canoes run $22 for a half-day and $32 for a full day, and fifteen-foot skiff rentals cost $65 and $90, respectively.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®