El Pub
The container is always the same: a small styrofoam cup with tight-fitting white plastic lid. The recipe doesn't vary much either: generally Bustelo-brand espresso in a 50/50 mix with steamed milk. Plus lots of sugar. It will come as sweet as candy unless you plead, over and over again, for no sugar. And then it will still come sweetened. Try saying it in Spanish: café con leche SIN AZUCAR, por favor. Three or four times. That usually works. But we digress. Point is, once you've seen and tasted one café con leche in Miami, it seems as though you have seen and tasted them all. So in attempting to discern the best, other circumstantial factors must be weighed. Can you get the coffee at a ventanita without having to enter the restaurant? At El Pub you sure can, and the window here opens onto Calle Ocho and all the color that entails. Not only can you lean nonchalantly at the outdoor counter and take part in the cafecito ritual with other casual locals, but you can also get a glass of fresh sugar cane juice, or order some solid Cuban fare. Just want a little cup of ice water with your coffeeç A thermos of it, with paper cones, is in its traditional spot at the corner of the counter. So you can nab a similar café con leche around town, at about the same price ($1.50). You just won't find a better spot in which to drink it.

Best Restaurant for Intimate Conversation

Creek 28

The Indian Creek Hotel
The outdoor patio is where you want to sit — it's so sexy and serene, and has those tiny twinkling lights strung through the air like on some Venetian veranda. Warm your mate up with some small talk while perusing chef Kira Volz's Mediterranean menu. Make yourself appear hip to gastronomic goings-on by commenting on how much you enjoyed Ms. Volz's cuisine at the late great Abbey Dining Room (lamenting its demise will help you look sensitive). Inhale the aromas of the Spanish, Greek, and Moroccan-influenced foods while silently dreaming of walking through these places, hand in hand, with the person across the table. Confess your admiration over hominy-pooled chicken posole ($18). Regain your cool via scallops grilled Sicilian style, with saffron tomato sauce ($15). Be daring, and don't even think about the cost of intimacy — entrees run a reasonable $15 to $25. For heaven's sake, don't forget the wine — something bold and spicy perhapsç A Rozaleme Tempranillo from Spain (just $29) should suffice, though if you really want intimate conversation, it might be worthwhile to spring for a more complex Napa Valley Syrah ($65). Whisper sweet nothings over warm baklava with poached apricots and honeyed yogurt. Mmmmmm...
Che Tano
The American butcher is dead. He was flattened by a cross-country truck packed with Boar's Head lunchmeat and buried under a pile of supermarket killhouse fare. And while you can brave the obnoxious foodie crowd at Whole Foods for a $9 organic porkchop, that's not what red meat is about. At Che, Tano, they know this. Swim through the sea of hard-to-find Italian coffees, fresh bread, empanadas, cheeses, pastries, and sandwiches to get to the monolithic meat section. There you'll find spirals of fresh salchicha, whole sides of prime churrasco, and piles of blood sausage. A friendly staff will assist you with gauging your needs ("Twelve peopleç" "Eight-and-a-half pounds."). They'll give you tips on preparation too. Grab a bag of hardwood charcoal and you're ready to mess with Texas.The Argentine carniceria has been in business for more than ten years, hidden in a little West Kendall shopping mall behind a Dunkin' Donuts. Prices are reasonable, if not cheap, with sausage and beef usually costing between $5 and $6 per pound.

Best Restaurant for Dining During a Hurricane

Timo

Timo Restaurant & Bar
George Martinez
We could mention the huge mondo-condo skyscraping towers across the street from Timo, and how, if the hurricane cooperated and blew its gales from east to west, they would buffet the friendly neighborhood restaurant in highly effective fashion. Or we could point to the brick wall in the back of the 120-seat eatery, by the open hearth that shoots out the crispest of wood-fired pizzas, and say "Solid as a rock — let's see a storm try to blow this baby down." But we know better than that. The real reason we'd like to dine at Timo during a hurricane is that we'd like to dine here any time. Plus if you're gonna get stuck someplace, why not in a cozy room with chef/partner Tim Andriola's comforting Italian-Mediterranean cuisineç Let the winds howl as you indulge in crisp oyster salad with white beans and pancetta, or confit of duck with roasted pear, red wine, and goat cheese. Laugh at the sheets of rain while filling your gullet with pappardelle, chicken livers, wild mushrooms, pancetta, and rosemary. Mock the cruelty of Mother Nature while munching on rustic meat dishes and grilled seafoods, and thank the lord for your good fortune while joyously clicking together glasses of Rustenberg Chardonnay, or any of the wondrously eclectic wines overseen by partner Rodrigo Martinez. Such scrumptious meals, with shelter included, won't cost much, either — small plates are all under $20, bigger main courses under $30. The cheese selection here is unusually extensive, desserts are peerless, and, for once, waiting around fifteen minutes for your soufflé shouldn't be a problem.
Your average Yucatecan wouldn't know a taco from a meatball parmigiana sandwich, but don't tell that to the owners of this neat and petite 40-seat restaurant, which specializes in cuisine from the Mayan peninsula. After all, if they want to sneak some fetching Mexican and Tex-Mex items onto their menu, it would be wrong of us to spoil things with regional quibbling — especially when among the non-Yucatecan delights are the most kickass tacos al pastor in town.The trio of corn tortillas come sumptuously plumped with nothing but pork, the smoky nubs of meat softly grilled and subtly sweetened with pineapples and onions. Refried beans, salsa verde, and guacamole are served on the side, which is downright generous for a plate costing just $8.49. Plus it leaves plenty of pesos for glasses of Dos XX on tap.
Historic Blue Marlin Fish House
Oleta River State Park, the largest urban park in the state of Florida, offers the most picturesque of settings for lunch. The informal Blue Marlin Fish House is located where the original Blue Marlin Smoke House stood in 1938. It was a trading post back then, a place where people could anchor their boats and barter their catch. Now the grounds boast a nature center that details this history, a smoke house, and a breezy eating area with a view of the Oleta River rolling by. The menu is mostly composed, perhaps to no great surprise, of smoked fish specialties straight from that smoke house. Blue marlin, salmon, and mahi-mahi are the primary smokees, and can be sampled together in a tasting plate ($8.95); as sandwiches or wraps ($7.45 to $7.95); atop salad with walnuts, grapes, and creamy tarragon dressing ($10.95); or as entrées with rice or pasta ($12.95). Burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and other nonsmoked kiddie-fare is available, too. After lunch, you can walk a few yards, rent a kayak, and float away.
Off the Grille
Natalia Molina
It might seem off the wall to say that the place to get great fajitas is an upscale, healthy-fast-food eatery in a traffic-choked Kendall shopping mall. Not if you've eaten at Off the Grille Bistro, though. This sleek little place proves that good-tasting and good-for-you are not morons of the oxy variety, whether you're grabbing a daily lunch or dinner of hearty salads, burgers, or juicy marinated pork. Or fajitas, which at Off the Grille are presented already packaged as wraps, but still deliver all the flavor of the more traditional version without adding a spare tire to your waistline. A whole wheat tortilla gets stuffed with tender chunks of smoky grilled sirloin and bulked up with sautéed onions, roasted peppers, cheese, and salsa. Like virtually everything else on the menu, it's less than $10. Now, that is really on the mark.
Bellante's Pizza & Pasta
There's a miniature soccer team running toward your car and it looks like you're the one who's expected to feed them. Don't panic. Get all their seat belts tight and drive over to Bellante's. Kids age ten and under can eat all they want at this buffet for only $2.99, and adults pay just $4.89. Bellante's offers a pizza for every finicky eater. There's pepperoni, sausage, traditional cheese, chicken alfredo, ham and pineapple, barbecue chicken, and Mexican. They have cheese bread and pepperoni bites, breadsticks and cheese rolls. You couldn't find more cheese if you took the kids to a dairy farm. Pastas are good too. You have your choice of spaghetti aglio olio, pomodoro, or alfredo. Soup and salad are also included in the all-you-can-eat price, as are the desserts, like an apple pizza sprinkled with granola or a chocolate velvet cake. For those who can't sit still, a game room awaits in the back corner. Better yet, parents don't have to go running after their joystick happy kids — each corner of the dining room has a video monitor where you can see all the angles of the game room. So the kids will be full and entertained, and parents can relax and enjoy an adult conversation, if only for a brief time.
Date Aqui Pana
Native to Venezuela and Colombia, the arepa is a corn pone split in half and then stuffed with goodness, resulting in a stomach-expanding cornmeal sandwich. At this small Venezuelan strip mall cafe, they have every variety, each less than $5: There's the basic cheese-and-butter filling with traditional Venezuelan queso de año — a salty cheese that's white and crumbly. There's the arepa de perico, full of eggs scrambled with peppers and tomatoes. The reina pepeada has a filling of chicken salad mixed with potatoes, carrots, and avocado. And the best is the arepa de carne mechada, where the corn cake is stuffed with a juicy beef that's been stewed with tomatoes and onions — not unlike ropa vieja. All are served greasy and hot with a plastic bottle of garlic mayonnaise to squirt on top.
New York's Big Apple Deli
Diamond Jim Brady is often referred to as the greatest glutton in American history, but iconic food writer M.F.K. Fisher disagrees with this assessment: "That he ate nine portions of sole Marguéry the night George Rector brought the recipe back to New York from Paris ... does not mean that he gorged himself upon it, but simply had room for it." Which is what we remind those sitting to dine with us at the redundantly named New York's Big Apple Deli as we mull over the almost infinite menu. Excepting some desserts, all the food here is made on the premises, and there is simply so much one needs to try. Like the "world famous" matzoh ball soup. Stuffed cabbage, cheese blintzes, knockwurst (kosher, of course). Smoked whitefish. "Lower East Sides" like potato salad, cole slaw, and kasha (roasted buckwheat) knish. Mile-high sandwiches, including our favorite, the Rachel (pastrami reuben). Rugelach or rice puddingç Both! Sandwiches start at $6.95, a bowl of soup is $3.50, desserts are all under $4. With such reasonable prices, you will be amazed at how much room you have. So go for the New York cheesecake, too.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®