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.
Quinn's
Key lime pie is one of those quintessential South Florida dishes attempted by every professional and amateur in kitchens from the ocean to the bay to the river. But like fellow local staples Cuban sandwiches and conch fritters, not all pies are created equal. Quinn's, a restaurant perched on Ocean Drive, has beat the odds and created one boss key lime pie. Consider the qualifications: The perfect balance between acid and sweetç Check. A buttery graham cracker crustç Check. Most important of all, is the filling velvetyç Does it melt on the tongueç Check and check. At $7 a slice and served with raspberry coulis and fresh chantilly cream, the pie at Quinn's is a culinary hole-in-one. People flock to Quinn's for the Ocean Drive ambiance, but they stay for the wedges of key lime ecstasy.
Swensen's Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant
The cover of Swensen's menu is enough to send a diabetic into shock. Layers of ice cream covered in caramel, fudge, whipped cream, and peanuts, plus a cherry on top, will have you salivating simply from staring at the photo. Swensen's does have another menu, one filled with hamburgers and chicken wraps, but it's the dessert that will hypnotize you. The old-fashioned lamps and glass dishes remind you that this restaurant's been a South Dixie Highway institution since 1971. The ice cream counter spans the entire north wall of the dining room and boasts more than 40 flavors, ranging from the brightly colored "Superhero" to the traditional rocky road. Although the prices have increased over the years — a double scoop will cost you $4.60 — the atmosphere has remained relatively unchanged. You can still get a root beer float ($4.05) or a cherry cola ($1.90). For an over-the-top treat ask for the Earthquake ($17.45) — eight scoops of ice cream covered with eight toppings — but make sure to invite some spoon-wielding reinforcements, unless you don't mind rolling home.
Don Burrito
TEN GREAT COUNTRY SONGS WRITTEN ABOUT DON BURRITO:1. "It's Nobody's Flauta but My Own (So Keep Your Hands off the Sour Cream)"2. "You Done Took All My Money, But I Can Still Afford a Don Burrito Burrito ($6.95)"3. "Mama Don't Let Your Sons Grow Up to Be Vegans (Cause They'll Miss Out on Don Burrito's Sizzling Al Pastor Fajitas)"4. "Cold Mexican Beers, Hot Miami Nights, and Achey Brakey Tortilla Chips"5. "I Done Somebody Wrong, but After Eating This Chicken Mole Somehow I Feel All Right (extended club version)"6. "A Paycheck, a Party, a Pollo Asado (And on Monday We Start the Whole Enchilada Again)"7. "Taco Bell Blues (Get Going, and Take That Damn Chihuahua With You)"8. "I'm A-Cryin' Over This Margarita,'Cause There's No More in My Glass" (also known as the "Can You Loan Me $4.95ç" song)9. "This Queso con Chorizo Is Better to Me than You Ever Were"10. "Baby Come Back, and We Can Split That Juicy Steak Brazada Like We Used to (Before You Stole My Car and Ran Off to Mexico with José)"
Wendy's Chocolates and Gift Baskets
For thirteen years Wendy's Chocolates has been creating custom candies for parties and gifts. This quaint little shop at the end of a pink antique mall is filled to the brim with adorable offerings. It's decorated according to the season, with stuffed animals and baskets bearing chocolate-covered pretzel sticks, graham crackers, lollipops, and anything else you can dip into white, milk, or dark. Whether you hopped in for a skateboarding Easter bunny ($5) or are in need of a St. Patrick's Day chocolate bar (50 cents), Wendy's will have it, and if they don't, they'll make it. You can pick from a variety of molds ranging from pirate flags to butterflies. You can also request a custom wrapped bar stating anything you desire (75 cents). Wendy's will work with you until you find the perfect candy for your special occasion.
Yambo Restaurant
Photo by billwisserphoto.com
Yambo stands out from the rest of the local fritanga pack for two major reasons: One, it's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Two, it looks like a Surrealist's fever-dream vision of a roadside souvenir shack. Yambo is as much, if not more, about the atmosphere as it is about the food. On the roofed terrace, folk art trinkets hang from and cover every possible surface — miniature guitars, hats, porcelain pots, even a mounted boar's head. An over-life-size knight statue guards the dark brown-tiled dining room. The tinny whine of a coin-operated pony ride sometimes drowns out the polkalike ballads emanating from an encyclopedic jukebox of Latin music.Virtually no English is spoken here, but anyone can order easily enough — customers walk down the length of a cafeteria-style counter, pointing at their selections, which are dutifully scooped onto a Styrofoam tray. Flesh-eaters will want to go for juicy, chewy chunks of skirt steak, or a whole snapper (both under $5), or crispy chicken taquitos ($3 for six). Vegetarians are even decently served — go for red beans and rice, any form of plantain, or repochetas — thin stacks of tortillas and cheese, a little like a quesadilla (most sides are $1.50). At the center of each table is a wooden vat of house-made hot sauce. The red mixture is addictive enough that during a recent visit, we spotted one patron ladling it into a Ziploc bag hidden in her purse. Unescorted females, or those put off by a small police presence, might want to skip visits during the wee hours. But diehard partiers take note: You can get a beer at almost any time here, provided you pour the contents of your bottle into one of the helpfully provided Styrofoam cups.
Delices de France French Bakery
As you pass the bistro-style tables outside of this bakery you'll see why it's worth the drive south. Upon entering — past the sign that states that all baking is done on premises, using only natural ingredients — an assortment of pastries and breads will leave you clueless as to what to buy. Because you won't want to pick just one thing from among the rich chocolate mousse cake, fruit tarts of several varieties, cream-filled doughnuts, cheese-filled breads, and more.If you've come craving sweets, try an eclair ($2.75). The puff pastry keeps its air and doesn't feel mushy, the way it can at some bakeries. It's topped by a line of chocolate that won't overwhelm the flavor of the thick filling. The mixed-fruit tart ($3.95) is another great choice, its crust buttery and crisp yet still soft. The cream is not overly sweet, and the arrangement of strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, peaches, and raspberries paint it beautifully.In the bread section you'll find croissants and baguettes with a variety of stuffings. Though the French might take offense, Miami natives will appreciate the blend of cultures that is the guava croissant ($1.95). If you prefer to feel like you're wandering through the streets of Paris, sample the pain au chocolat, a croissant bursting with chocolate, or just grab a mini baguette (50 cents) with your cafe au lait, and imagine away.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®