Los Tres Amigos

Sometimes you have to venture into the hood to find true treasures in the Magic City. Mark Los Tres Amigos on your map. Located across the street from the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner's Office, in the heart of Allapattah's produce warehouse district, this authentic Mexican restaurant has been serving up scrumptious food for more than 20 years. Just look for the big sign on the roof of the eatery's sunshine-yellow storefront. When it comes to putting together a sizzling, filling plate of shrimp, beef, or chicken fajitas, Los Tres Amigos has you covered. The platter comes with your usual Mexican side fare of yellow rice, refried beans, and tortillas, but it's the details that make this place lo mejor. Try the shaved radishes, lettuce salad, plump jalapeño peppers, and refried beans alongside your tortilla chips. And all of it won't cost you more than seven bucks. Wash your hearty meal down with a cheleda — Modelo Negro with a splash of lime juice served in a frosty, salt-rimmed mug — while you sway to the authentic Mexican music playing from the jukebox. Mmmm, good. Los Tres Amigos is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. There's no parking lot, but you can snag a spot on the street behind the restaurant.

Host: Welcome to The Dating Game. Tonight Sally will choose her dream match from among our three charming and eager contestants. Go ahead, Sally, ask your first question.

Sally: Number one, if you were a sandwich, what type would you be?

Number one: A falafel.

Sally: And why is that?

Number one: It's ethnic and hot, just like me, baby.

Sally: Oh great. Number two, same question.

Number two: A falafel, because it's not full of baloney, and neither am I!

Sally: How original. Number three?

Number three: A falafel.

Sally: What are you, fucking triplets?

Host: Please, Sally, this is a family show.

Number three: But I'd be a falafel sandwich from Oriental Bakery & Grocery, with a fresh mix of diced tomato and cucumber, a slight smear of the smoothest hummus in town, and a frolicking splash of sesame tahini. I'd be nattily dressed in a laffa jacket baked on premises, and retain a lightness about me — not greasy like number one, or heavy like number two. Oriental has been around since 1939, so I'd be a falafel with maturity steeped in experience. As one who appreciates world culture, I'd be surrounded by olives from Persia to Palestine to Peru. And I'm a fair and reasonable guy, just like the pricing here: $4.50 for a sandwich guaranteed to please.

Sally: Wow — add a jolt of hot sauce and my knickers are all yours.

Host: Sally!

Upper Eastside Green Market

In the subtropics, most of the places called farmers' markets sell tchotchkes to tourists. But this new neighborhood-generated venture peddles the real thing: fresh produce and good, edible regional products. Although vendors vary somewhat, roughly 20 show up each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The selection has been impressive enough to lure shoppers such as chefs Michael Schwartz and Michelle Bernstein. We recently bought just-picked tomatoes for $1.99 per pound, bulb onions for a buck a bunch, humongous HoneyBell tangerines for 50 cents apiece, unusual white-and-lavender Sicilian eggplants for $1.69 a pound, and much more. There have also been many varieties of unprocessed regional honey and local seafood (stone crab claws and shrimp for $8 per pound and grouper fillets for $10). Additionally, many booths sell prepared foods, perfect for picnicking in Legion Park, which is behind the market. There's mouthwatering mozzarella and burrata; fresh-baked breads; more than half a dozen types of flavored hummus; empanadas; fresh-squeezed juices; and weekly changing entrées (including Indonesian chicken salad and shrimp ceviche) from Dewey and Dale LoSasso of North 110. Though the market will close for the summer, plans are to bring it back in November, and year-round operation is under discussion.

Mercado Brasil

Brazilian historians including Luis da Camara Cascudo trace feijoada's origins to stews from southern European countries such as France, Spain, Italy, and, of course, Portugal. Unofficial theories credit African slaves on Brazilian colonial farms for creating the national dish; after all, the meaty broth is prepared with the cheapest ingredients. Feijoada is a smorgasbord of black turtle beans, chorizo, salted pork, and beef, with trimmings such as pig ears, tails, and feet. Then there's the beef loin and cow tongue. It's cooked inside a thick clay pot over a slow fire. It's an exquisite delicacy that requires a lot of patience to perfect, so you won't find it at some Brazilian eateries. At this little bit of Brazil, the stuff is available only on weekends and served on a steaming bed of white rice alongside coarse cassava flour and chopped refried collard greens. While you are there, check out the market's wide array of Brazilian food products, especially unique snacks such as empada, coxinha, risole, and kibeh. The place is easy to find: Simply head along U.S. 1 until you reach the traffic light at SW 93rd Street, just south of Dadeland Mall. Mercado Brasil is on the northwest corner. Pull into one of the parking spaces in front of the store. Or take Metrorail to the Dadeland South station and walk two blocks north if you are feeling green. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, and 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sundays.

Hip Hop Grub Spot

This restaurant is owned by superstar rap artist Rick Ross, and he don't play. He hired a team of graduates of Miami's Johnson & Wales School of Culinary Arts to create some of the best fried food platters in town. The hot chicken wings are to die for, but you gotta try the Lil Wayne fish and chips ($7.49). Named for the "best rapper alive," according to the menu, the dish comes with two big deep-fried tilapia fillets, curly fries, and a drink. You can get it spicy or with a variety of sauces. If you are in the mood for shrimp, try the Fat Joe Fish and Shrimp Platter ($9.52), which is pretty damn good as well. Then lean back and enjoy the ambiance. Photos of Rick Ross decorate the walls as his music plays on the sound system.

Bahama's Fish Market and Restaurant

It is a fillet of snapper. Not just any snapper, but a shiny, pristine snapper. The first step is to snatch it from local waters and give it a brief respite on a bed of crushed ice in a display case at Bahamas Fish Market. Next, the fish is transferred from ice to kitchen, lightly floured, crisply fried, and plunked onto a soft bun with lettuce and tomato. Then a little cup of tartar sauce is placed on the side. The price is $3.23. So simple, yet flawless. For an extra 70 cents, you can get French fries too. Of course you can always take advantage of the wide array of seafoods available in the market section and fry your own fish sandwich at home, but then you would be missing the funky nautical ambiance. Or maybe you're not in the mood for Miami's finest fish sandwich. Try the bountiful whole fried fish dinner — bread comes on the side. If you are really not in the mood for Miami's finest fish sandwich, there is a big menu of seafood dishes with a Cuban slant, including escabeche, fried pickled kingfish, and even a reputable tostones rellenos. But, again, the real message here is: Bahamas Fish Market. Fresh fish sandwich. $3.23.

Ver Daddy's Taco Shop

You won't need a fork; your hand in claw formation will do just fine. And it's a good idea to bring a partner to this Biscayne corridor hotspot, because who else will tell you that you have a trail of amazingly spicy and perfect salsa verde sprinting down your chin? Table manners aside, the only way to enjoy Ver Daddy's Baja fish taco is to lift the overstuffed flour tortilla to your mouth, bite, chew, and repeat. Let the shop's trademark Mexican cream hit each of your taste buds. Bite, chew, and repeat as wonderfully spiced coleslaw drops to the table. Bite, chew, and repeat until all of the beer-battered and deep-fried chunks of tilapia are gone. Recline in your chair as you reminisce about how the crisp exterior of the fish crackled on your tongue and how moist and flaky the inside was. Then repeat your trip to the counter and get another order. Pull $5.75 from your pocket, bite, chew, and repeat.

El Carajo
George Martinez

Think of flan as the more feminine version of crème brûlée. Whereas crème brûlée is dense and custardy, flan is light and eggy. Whereas crème brûlée sports a thick, brittle crust of caramelized sugar, flan sits in a shimmering, golden pool of liquid caramel. And when you think of flan, think of Miami's only tapas bar in a gas station, where you can fill your tank with unleaded and your stomach with all manner of Spanish wines and delicacies. But in the end, what will keep you coming back is the soursop flan, which for all of $5 will seduce you with the texture of edible silk and the flavor of a dozen tropical fruits.

Chocolate Fashion

No flour, butter, or chocolate chips here. The main ingredients are walnuts, egg whites, and rich, deep red cocoa powder. The result is a bargain for $3.50: a giant, dark brown confection that's one inch thick and four inches in diameter. They are chunky, with a crisp exterior and a moist, gooey center. Flawless.

Dadeland Mall
Dadeland Mall

You can walk around this food court, eating free samples of international culinary treats, until you are just about full. Once you have finished making the rounds and have purchased some food, have a seat near Enrique's Café, where beer is served all day. This food court is not just about taking a free piece of chicken and sipping an icy-cold beverage; it is also about making new friends. The tables here are nearly all connected and you will be forced to sit next to strangers while you eat. So you've got great food, great conversation, and, last but not least, great service. The head janitor, Kevin Warhaft (check out his MySpace page, www.myspace.com/kevinwarhaft), has been working here for 17 years. His hat says it clearly: "The Man, the Myth, the Legend." We recently spoke with Kevin, and he told us about life at the food court. "I clean tables, I clean the bathroom, I take the trays from the tables," he said. "I also get to meet a lot of cool people here. A lot of hot girls come into the food court. I've seen fights break out here, and I've met some celebrities." Like who? "Rudy Sarzo [former bass player of Quiet Riot, currently with Ronnie James Dio] has been here more than once. I saw O.J. Simpson at the Johnny Rockets about eight years ago." So what's Kevin's favorite place to eat here? "Cozzoli's Pizza for sure. They have good pizza, and they've been here longer than I have. Chick-fil-A is very good; so is Chicken Kitchen. You have Johnny Rockets, and the new Tony Roma's is pretty good." Baby-back ribs and beer at a food court? What more could you ask for?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®