(Sung to the tune of "Me & Julio Down by the Schoolyard")

Mama Pajama roll out of work and she run to the Sky Lakes Mall, man
I say, "Oy, if she beats us there, boy
There'll be no more wraps or sandwiches left there.
"So I'm on my way
I'm thirsting for a smoothie
Maybe one of 100-plus juices,
Or a salubrious protein shake
Goodbye, Mickey-Dee
The scourge of America
Me at Julio's Natural Food Store
I say me at Julio's Natural Food Store.

Damn — too short a song to get all the details in (knew we should have gone with "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"!): the clean, white walls with green leaf motif. The complimentary tray of cucumber wedges and carrot sticks. The assortment of soups, the steamed veggie plate, the grilled tofu with nutty brown rice, tuna fish salad heated with Serrano chiles, fish dishes, and a flock of chicken dishes too. Huevos rancheros is one of a number of breakfast treats — and good coffee drinks! Julio's stays open for dinner as well. Juices and smoothies are $3 to $9, breakfast $6 to $9, and all entrees are less than $10 ($12 for fish). Come to think of it, with prices this low, we should have chosen a 50 Cent tune.

Tower of Power refers to:A. A Seventies funk bandB. A massive solar energy collector in the Australian outbackC. The floor-to-ceiling wine racks at Duo, currently housing more than 1300 vintagesD. Duo's stacked mozzarella and tomato salad, with olive and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette ($11)The answer is all of the above, but it's the food and wine at Duo that make the Brickell-area spot perfect for power lunching. No need to try to discreetly discover your clients' or colleagues' food preferences. The menu of creative but unfussy contemporary American fare covers all bases, from elegant (the Duo tartare — diced tuna plus thin-sliced salmon, with wasabi ponzu sauce, $14) to meat-and-potatoes (a churrasco with chimichurri rivaling that of any Argentine steakhouse, $19). For the price of the latter entrée, there's also a full three-course business lunch that changes daily. And light eaters are also accommodated with imaginative salads and sandwiches, or a protein diet-friendly broiled whitefish that's basic but perfectly done. Whatever one eats, there's a wine to match (at prices ranging from $25 to $1400), from a list eclectic enough to impress even the most jaded aficionado — and the place's knowledgeable but unstuffy servers will make you look good making the choice. It's possible to eat outside, at sidewalk café tables raised several steps above street level, but the high-ceilinged, sleek yet comfortably informal interior space is a more relaxing retreat from business hustle and bustle.
Courtesy of Bin No. 18
Just because you're operating your business on a pauper's budget is no reason you can't be a power player in the business lunch game. It's all about one-upmanship. A 24-ounce porterhouse at an expensive steakhouse may be the obvious way to impress, but you can win points on insider info if you take your opponent — that is, your business colleague — to this new (and as yet largely undiscovered) European-style market/bistro. The decor, a mix of contemporary industrial (loftlike high ceilings, exposed pipes, concrete) and warm Old World (wine barrel tables), makes it clear that what you lack in big bucks you make up in cosmopolitan cool. The menu may seem like your basic food categories that begin with an "s" stuff— soups, sandwiches, salads, small plates, sides. But your colleague will notice that dishes like a crabcake with Dijon mustard cream and smoked cole slaw ($12), or an evocative Amalfi coast salad (with imported Italian tuna, olive tapenade, white boqueron anchovies, hard-boiled egg, cannelini beans, and fresh herbs; $12) are made with astonishingly high-quality ingredients and far more imagination than usual. Make sure to let it slip that chef/owner Alfredo Patino was formerly chef de cuisine at the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove's Bizcaya (and, before that, at the Shore Club's Ago) before giving up all that luxe vulgarity to be his own boss. Admittedly the location, in the ground floor of a Biscayne Boulevard condo just north of the Performing Arts Center, is hardly business central. But driving from Brickell or the beach is easy when you know that the place has a hidden parking lot (in back of the building and across the street, on Northeast Second Avenue) that's fenced — and free, so it doesn't cut into your lunch budget.
Sally seeks Doraku for the sake of the sake, or sometimes simply to sip saketinis. She salivates over the sensational sushi, sashimi, and seafood specialties — salmon, scallops, snapper, shrimp, sea bass, surf clams, smelt fish roe, and so on. She sighs when skimming over the salad section — should she snare the seared salmon salad soaked with yuzu, seaweed salad with sesame vinaigrette, seasoned squid and spring greens squired with spicy peanut sauce, or seafood salad with salmon, snapper, whitefish, mango, and miso dressingç The price for the spectrum of salads is sort of the same: $6 to $13. Such scrumptious selections!
A great caesar salad is a dish of rare beauty. A great free caesar salad is so rare and beauteous you want to fall to your knees and thank Goddess (or Caesar Cardini, who invented the thing). Actually the caesar salad at this old-timey Coral Gables steakhouse isn't exactly free; it comes with the price of your entrée (which will range from $20 to $36), preferably a thick, juicy, blood-rare slab of aged Midwestern beef, as tender as a lover's caress and tasty as a lover's ... well, you get the idea. But back to the caesar. The lettuce is the requisite pale and crunchy inner leaves of romaine, the dressing creamy but not overly so, achieving the perfect tart-pungent balance that makes the caesar the emperor of salads.
Most of the 120 seats in this Todd Oldham-designed restaurant are outdoors, amid lush foliage and shaded by oversize umbrellas. Chairs are swathed in vibrantly colored prints, and candlelights flicker upon each linen-draped table in this romantic, tropical garden setting. Ice cubes likewise flicker in the special electric cocktails. The cuisine produced by just about any chef in South Florida would have trouble competing with so scene-stealingly stunning an ambiance, but luckily for Wish, Michael Bloise is not just any chef. He is much, much better. There is, in fact, no restaurant terrace, patio, porch, or outdoor area of any sort in this county where finer food sits under starry skies. Tuna tartare with pickled ginger sorbet. Sesame-battered shrimp atop watermelon-tomato "kimchee." Strawberry shortcake in warm strawberry-vanilla soup with mascarpone cannoli and balsamic ice cream. Creative and exquisite American/haute Asian cuisine so blindingly scrumptious that you would be happy as hell eating it while seated in a cardboard box. But, of course, you are not. For lovers of fine dining and open air, Wish is a wish come true. Readers' Choice: Café Sambal
If you're traveling through South Florida, Homestead is a good place to stop to refuel your internally combusted steed. And Mario's classy, comfortable restaurant next to the Inn at Homestead is a fine place to refuel yourself as well, by sucking down a perfectly made café cubano, a.k.a. Cuban nitroglycerin. Whether in the good-looking, tile-floored dining room or outdoors on the expansive, awning-covered patio, your cubano comes with a properly foamy head atop a sweet, syrupy, wickedly caffeinated coffee. It's cheaper than unleaded regular and a lot better for you. For 55 cents, you can get it 24 hours a day at Mario's takeout window.
Hofbräu M¨nchen beer on draft (lager, wheat, and dark). Eminently engaging Lincoln Road people-watching. Bavarian pretzels ($2.95), pork schnitzel ($16.95), the best w¨rst plates in town ($10-$15). Open until 1:00 a.m. Hofbräu M¨nchen beer on draft ($6.95 for 17 ounces; $11.95 for the 34-ounce mug).Who needs, or even wants, a dinner companionçReaders' Choice: Pizza Rustica
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 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...

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®