Lost & Found Saloon

Gentrification stinks. Prices rise and longtime residents get pushed out. But let's look on the bright side of the hipsters' and artists' presence in Wynwood. Cookies! Big, yummy cookies! Three dollars will buy a chocolate chip, Reese's peanut butter cup, or vanilla macadamia nut cookie at the cozy and creative Lost & Found Saloon on NW 36th Street. Served warm on a small plate with a knife and fork, these treats are large enough to share. At least Wynwood's working class can enjoy some damn tasty cookies while they still live there.

There's something about crêpes that's unspeakably chic, like watching a Godard movie in some funky little art house in the Fifth Arrondissement while sipping a rough red wine and chain-smoking Gauloises. Well, a shopping mall on Key Biscayne is a long way from Paris, but the crêpes at Crêpe Lounge are still plenty chic. These little discs of milk, flour, and eggs are tender as a sweet nothing and delicate as fine lace. Fillings have great range too. There are fresh veggies, pesto, and mozzarella. And of course there are the combos — everything from deliciously elemental crêpes Suzettes to mildly spiced chicken curry and lusty beef Stroganoff. Prices range from $8 to $22. Of course, you can't smoke. But you don't have to watch Godard movies either.

Croissant D'Or
George Martinez

If there is one thing for which we have to thank the French, it's the croissant. Every breakfast aficionado knows the flaky pastry is the étoile de petit déjeuner. If you commute around downtown, you have probably missed Croissant D'or, which is nestled among a multitude of other shops. At first glance, the place seems like a normal, everyday bakery Américain. Hell, it has the word croissant right in the name, so I don't blame you for making the assumption. But the bistro-style restaurant serves salads, sandwiches, and other breakfast and lunch items. The place is claustrophobic; everything about downtown screams claustrophobia. But that doesn't mean this is a hole-in-the-wall operation serving day-old products. The restaurant prepares croissants daily and serves them warm. They're a tad expensive (around $4 a pop) but worth it. Don't be fooled by the shape of the chocolate croissant, which looks more like a Cuban pastry. It'll knock you into a diabetic coma.

Gilbert's Bakery
George Martinez

Only the French could think of deep-frying meat and béchamel and giving it a cute little name like croquette. Only the Cubans, however, could make it a mainstay of every gas station and coffee shop in a town of two million people.

Sadly the Miami croqueta is generally paltry: stale, artery-clogging torpedoes comprising boiled ham or dry chicken.

Thankfully Gilbert's Bakery, which has been in business in Miami for more than 30 years, has mastered the art. In addition to the old standbys, the place offers asparagus, cheese, and codfish selections. There's also chorizo, as well as the delectable Romesco — styled after the spicy Spanish sauce made with nuts and chilies. Wait a few seconds for these bad boys to take hold. They expand in your gut. By the way, they're 50 cents a pop.

Molina's Ranch Restaurant

So you're tired of all those Little Havana joints where the tourists go? Try Molina's, with branches in West Dade and Hialeah — the real Cuban Miami. This place feels like old Havana with a touch of Miami cool. The day we were there recently, nobody — including the waitress — spoke English. It was ungodly clean and perfect. The food was hot, the batidos cold, and the cafecitos clearly some mix of rocket jet fuel and bilge water — just the way we like it. A quarter chicken with plantains, fluffy rice, and hearty black beans goes for a mere $6.95. Picadillo, the ground-beef brilliance you must eat to get the full experience, is only $6.95. Flan fantástico costs just $3.95. But the reason you'll love Molina's isn't the food. It's how you'll feel after downing that last spoonful. Here, at the American version of la isla, is a cool out-of-country experience available nowhere else in the world. La Cuba de su alma — the Cuba of your soul.

Morro Castle

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night hankering for a good Cuban sandwich, one with tender ham and pork, melted Swiss cheese, crisp dill pickles, tangy mustard, and crunchy-soft Cuban bread? It's a horrible dilemma for two reasons: First, odds are you don't have the grill and fixings to make one. And second, most Cuban restaurants close by 8 p.m. But Morro Castle in Hialeah is open late — 1 a.m. late — and it serves some of the best Cuban comida this side of Havana. The sandwiches Cubanos come with so much meat you'll swear a pig was slaughtered just for you. If you're able to finish off one of these savory delectables, you might find yourself looking for a corner to nap in. Plus, Morro Castle is probably the only joint where you can see the juxtaposition of Elvis Presley and Cuba's presidential palace. Like the sandwich, the place is quite surreal.

B.E.D. Miami

Admit it: When you first heard about B.E.D.'s concept of high-end dining on oversize mattresses, you figured it would last about as long as the first shipment of sheets. That was more than 10 years ago. Yet after a recent resprucing, the restaurant is still attracting those who enjoy pillow talk over small-plate selections of global-fusion cuisine. The new menu includes goat-cheese-and-fig fritters, fried calamari, Peruvian lomo saltado, and rigatoni rigged with four cheeses. Most items are less than $20, all under $25, for profits are culled from booze and bottle service —which brings us to the other dreamy aspect of the place: After dining, you can roll right out of bed and into a boisterous club scene.

Emeril's Miami Beach

Emeril Lagasse actually hails from Fall River, Massachusetts, but he's an honorary Southerner because of his heavy ties to New Orleans, where he's been opening restaurants since 1990. And nobody makes a good homemade pie better than a Southerner. So check out the selection at his eponymous place at the St. Moritz Hotel in Miami Beach, where desserts go for $8 to $10. There's banana cream with caramel sauce and dark chocolate shavings, or mango key lime kicked up a notch with sugared fried plantains, or the classic pecan ... Bam! And other desserts — such as caramel-apple cobbler with cinnamon ice cream, or a skillet-baked brownie with chocolate ganache, caramel, and vanilla bean ice cream — aren't quintessentially Southern, but they are damn good, especially as a means of closing out a New Orleans lunch, dinner, or Sunday brunch.

S&S Diner

The door of the S&S Diner opened and two men walked in. They sat down at the counter. There were no tables.

"What's yours?" the waitress asked them.

"I don't know," one of the men said. "What do you want to eat, Al?"

"I don't know," said Al. "I don't know what I want to eat."

Outside it was getting hot. The traffic slowed down on Second Avenue. The two men at the counter read the menu.

"I'll take ham and eggs," said the man called Al. He wore a fedora. His face was small.

"Give me bacon and eggs," said the other man. He was about the same size as Al. Their faces were different, but they were dressed like twins. They sat leaning forward, their elbows on the counter.

"This is a hot town," said Al. "What do they call it?"

"Miami."

"Ever hear of it?" Al asked his friend.

"No," said the friend.

"What do they do here midday?" Al asked.

"They eat the big lunch," his friend said. "They all come here and eat the big lunch."

"So you think that's right?" Al asked the kid sitting next to them.

"Sure," the kid said.

"You're a pretty bright boy, aren't you?"

"Sure."

"Ain't he a bright boy, Max?" Al said.

"The town's full of bright boys," Max said.

From the outside, the place resembles an old Masonic lodge. Although some folks consider Steak & Ale a chain restaurant, this one is a relic. Let's call it the "dinosaur of chain restaurants," since there are not many left. The interior ambiance is elegant and romantic, in a late-Seventies sort of way: dark, with candles burning on every table throughout the day. There are stained-glass windows, a fireplace, and dusty bookshelves. Sure the bathroom doors read, "Lords" and "Ladies," but near the salad bar, you can hear Black Sabbath blaring from inside the kitchen. The red vinyl seats and wooden tables are packed every afternoon between 3 and 6 p.m., when the early birds come out for the "Early Evening" menu; there is usually a wait, and here's why: Items such as grilled meat loaf ($9.99), Hawaiian chicken ($9.49), herb-roasted prime rib ($13.99), and top sirloin ($12.49) come with signature honey wheat bread, soup or salad, a dessert, and choice of tea, coffee, or a soft drink. We recommend the coffee, which is strong and comes in a gigantic porcelain mug with free refills, just like the good old days.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®