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.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®