The Oceanaire Seafood Room
Oceanaire has it all. Some 300 seats set like a luxury cruise liner, all sleek curves and warm woods. A bustling service staff and buzzing clientele, a serious wine list, and patrons lined up at a glistening oyster bar bedecked with shellfish from both coasts. Fish are brought in from all over the world, as well as from local waters, and include species you don't see elsewhere: Carolina striped bass. Hawaiian wahoo. Arctic char. About fifteen fresh catches are featured each day, either grilled, broiled, sautéed, steamed, fried, or gussied up in Latin-Caribbean manner, like seafood stew a la Cubana, or spear-caught hogfish "a la Chorillana." Chef Sean Bernal formerly steered ship at Tambo Restaurant in South Beach, and brings his bright ceviches and tiraditos to Oceanaire as well. Steakhouse sides such as hash browns and creamed corn, and steakhouse desserts such as baked Alaska and a banana split round out the extensive, crowd-pleasing bill of fare. Prices sail high, with entrées between $20 and $35 for lunch and $25 to $60 for dinner, but dinner includes warm boules of sourdough bread with softened butter, and a crudité tray perked with pickled herring. Finally: a classic American seafood house in Miami. Readers' Choice: Joe's Stone Crab
Almazar Greek and Middle Eastern Fine Foods
This Greek/Middle Eastern newcomer draws FIU students from across the street for solid shawarma and falafel, but the star is the baklava. Flecked with pistachio or walnuts, for a mere buck and a quarter, the flaky delicacy is a godsend in Greek-poor Miami. Have yours with a cup of super-aromatic espresso and, perhaps, an academic conversation with a stranger.
If you somehow miss the point of this cult favorite on a charmless stretch of Bird Road, well ... you're either unconscious or already dead. The huge grill and giant flaming asador (a sort of industrial-size rotisserie), displayed like fine china behind a wall of glass at the entrance, say with authority that Graziano's is all about the rustic, primal glories of meat. Sizzling over a pile of quebracho colorado wood at lunch and dinner daily are skewers holding everything from whole chickens to suckling pig, as well as especially luscious short ribs, big and meaty and imbued with smoke ($27.95). From the parilla comes perhaps Miami's definitive mixed grill, an enormous serving (for a piddling $17.95) of house-made blood and chorizo sausages, along with sweetbreads, more of those short ribs, and a big slab of skirt steak. You get the point.
Pita Hut Israeli Restaurant & Grill
One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had changed overnight into a giant falafel ball. There was something fishy going on. Soon enough Gregor would figure things out: He was indeed a falafel ball, and a nice plump one at that — although "giant" is probably stretching things. He was at the new, bigger, brighter, improved Pita Hut on Arthur Godfrey Road. And what was fishy is that Pita Hut is now also a kosher sushi restaurant (who would make a better bagel rollç). The full-service Japanese menu includes miso soup, basic rolls, specialty rolls, tempura rolls, and riceless rolls. But Mr. Samsa couldn't care less about the raw fish. He had other things on his mind, as you may well imagine. Besides, he was away from the sushi, in the next-door portion of the restaurant where shawarma, shish kebabs, and hummus get prepared. And where finished falafel sandwiches are, quite honestly, things of beauty — cleanly fried, simply and faultlessly dressed in freshly diced cucumber and tomato salad, splashed with tahini, and fluffed into a soft, always warmed pita. At $5.99 each, the sandwiches remain less expensive than lesser attempts around town. Needless to say, Gregor was not thrilled to have metamorphosized into a falafel ball, but he always prided himself on being eternally optimistic. The silver lining in this case: He was not just any falafel, but the very finest.
1909 Cafe
If you're looking for just any sandwich, head over to one of the fast food sandwich spots. If you want an amazing sandwich, go to 1909 Café. The contents of their delicious creations are just as original as their quirky names: Italian Stallion, with prosciutto ham, mozzarella, and tomatoes seasoned with vinaigrette; Piggy Back, featuring slow-roasted pork blended with sweet barbecue sauce, melted Swiss cheese, banana peppers, and red onions; and the French Kiss, made with imported salami slices, melted goat cheese, and a sun-dried tomato spread. To accompany these mouthwatering babies, they've concocted some of the best sides you'll ever taste. Forget potato chips. Try the potato salad. Their bean salad is super tasty as well. The sandwiches are huge, so come hungry or save the other half for dinner. You won't be bored by the selection: turkey, chicken, pork, ham, vegetarian, seafood, and beef options abound. You choose the bread: French, whole wheat French, tortilla wrap, or croissant. And there are daily specials. Also sold: gourmet soups, salads, and taste bud-kicking desserts like vanilla rum cake, banana bread, carrot cake, and cookies. Sandwiches cost between $6 and $8.
Marky's Gourmet
Carina Ost
Fiending for some Finnish Lappi? Craving Cambazola? Got a boner for some Bonne Bouche? Look no further, friend. Marky's has all of your bases covered — in cheese. Prices aren't much different than the usual supermarket fare (a ten-ounce hunk of Pecorino goes for $9.81), but the quality and the selection will make you do a backflip. Take in the classy ambiance of this high-end Russian joint. If you've got the dough, take home a pricey tin of their fine caviar — straight outta the Volga, baby. While you're there, don't forget to pick up a copy of the Cheese Review, a monthly newsletter devoted to what's just in. The prices may seem high, but a good chunk of cheese and a pair of decent baguettes can last you for days. Just ask a Frenchman.
Every now and then you stumble across a restaurant with food so scrumptious that you just want to keep it to yourself. Well, Opa-lockans are keeping a huge secret from the rest of Miami-Dade. Homestyle Restaurant is the champ of Miami soul food. What this gem located off of State Road 9 serves up is authentic, finger-lickin', and sleep-inducing. The restaurant is open from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day except Sunday, and a steady stream of customers pours in from the street throughout the day. They're likely yearning for oxtails whose meat just falls off the bone, and yams laced with brown sugar and cinnamon. Daily specials are listed on a board on the wall, but the lengthy menu is located at the front counter. Prices are decent: $15.50 for a seafood combo, a platter of fried and seasoned-just-right shrimp, fish, conch, and two sides; $8 for chicken dinners; $2 for all sides (except mac and cheese, which is $2.50). And of course, Homestyle serves up the soul-food staples: string beans, fried chicken, cornbread, and ribs. A tip from the regulars: Round out your meal with a large "Flop" — a lemonade/sweet tea concoction — and a slice of the most delicious cake you'll ever have. That cake — whether it's the red velvet, buttercream, or chocolate — is soul food at its finest. It'll have you wanting to take two of those and call back in the morning — for some breakfast, of course.
Panera Bread
Panera is nothing like Burger King, KFC, Taco Bell, or any of those old-style chains that are ever-so-slowly sliding into obsolescence. This national bakery shares more in common with corporate cafés such as Starbucks and Einsteins, but with a whole lot more than just coffee and bagels to offer. Like for breakfast, a spinach-and-bacon baked egg soufflé (in sweet pastry dough) that tastes better than fast food should. And a kids' menu with sandwiches accompanied by organic yogurt and a choice of organic milk or organic apple juice. Does Wendy's prepare an all-natural, citrus-herb chicken salad with pecans, gorgonzola cheese, and white balsamic Fuji apple vinaigretteç Don't think so. Is Blimpie's capable of a smoked turkey sandwich slathered with chipotle mayonnaise and stuffed into an Asiago cheese focacciaç Uh-uh. Is the pressed rosemary focaccia panini with cheese oozing out likely to make Quizno's queasyç Absolutely. Does Mickey D's do thin-crusted crispanis topped with roasted crimini and shiitake mushrooms, fresh basil, and fontina and mozzarella cheesesç No siree. Does the Olive Garden use organic Muir Glen tomatoesç Ha! Most salads and sandwiches top out at $6.50, yet Panera is, beyond all else, a full-scale bakery pumping out fresh brownies, bundt cakes, cookies, croissants, scones, muffins, cinnamon rolls (!), and an amazing array of artisanal and specialty breads. Good cup of joe, too, but if that's all you want you can always just go to that specialty chain from Seattle.
Sticky Fingers Cupcakes
It's a fledgling operation run by a 27-year-old Johnson & Wales grad without a storefront, but Coliene Belle's cupcakes taste delicious — and are brilliantly marketed. Each is named for a song; Belle seems to favor pop music from the Eighties: "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" is a vanilla cupcake with sprinkles; "Raspberry Beret" is chocolate with raspberry; and "La Isla Bonita" is coconut. There's also "Margaritaville" (key lime), "Bittersweet Symphony" (chocolate with orange icing), and "So Fresh and So Clean" (chocolate with mint) among the seventeen flavors available. Ordering is done online, via MySpace message or e-mail. For $30, customers get 24 mini cupcakes, twelve regular cupcakes, or six jumbo cupcakes. The prices may seem high, but these cupcakes differ from Publix's in that their ingredients include nothing artificial — just real butter, fresh fruit, and high-quality chocolate. The chef charges a $5 delivery fee or will arrange to meet somewhere for a cupcake handoff. And not only are they tasty, but they're pretty as well.
Havana Miami Restaurant
If I had a dollar for every Cuban restaurant in Miami, well, I'd have an awful lot of dollars. Though Cuban restaurants are countless in these parts, when it comes to quality, few stand out. Among those that do: Havana Miami Restaurant. They make traditional Cuban dishes, but are best known for their arroz con pollo a la chorrera (a soupier version of the dish). They also make a mean cochinillo (smaller-size pork) and delicious vaca frita (shredded beef) and patas de puerco (pig legs). If you can only have one side, it has to be tostones (fried plantains). They're huge, and come with a delicious garlic dipping sauce; the generous portion could constitute a meal in itself. Havana also makes great plantain soup and yummy croquetas. The staff is amiable (when you go, ask for Pepe, he'll take good care of you), and the place is spacious and family-friendly. Lunch prices start at around $6; that jumps to about $10 and up for dinner entrées.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®