Football Sandwich Shop

Named for legendary Dolphins running back Larry Csonka, the Zonker transforms the average hoagie into a monumental wrecking ball of salami, ham, Provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, oil, and mayo jammed into a sub roll. And for $3.89, it's too good a delicacy to pass up. So go ahead and score one inside Football Sandwich Shops, a storied eatery located between Little Haiti and El Portal. Munch on it amid the posters and pictures of some of Hollywood's golden boys and girls. There's Ronnie Reagan as gunslinger, Jackie Gleason as pool shark, Marilyn Monroe as pneumatic nitwit, the Babe and Joe DiMaggio as baseball icons. But it's the homage to the greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl that really grabs your gaze. The painting depicts Dan Marino, his head and bare shoulders rising from the salty blue Atlantic. As lightning sparks in an ominous black sky, dolphins leap over Number 13 and into the water.

Cafe Le Glacier

In the walls are actual holes that are bigger than this tiny, French-ified Biscayne Boulevard café, but Le Glacier makes up for its lack of size and spiffy ambiance with simple, honest, well-prepared food at blessedly modest prices, with a big helping of neighborhoody charm thrown in for good measure. Onion soup, chicken with Dijon mustard sauce, lamb Provençale — they're all good, and nothing costs more than 13 bucks. Of course, you could go to one of those larger and grander restaurants, but when it comes to good food that won't break the bank, does size really matter?

The Tides Restaurant

Bigoli is a pasta from the Veneto region. Shaped like thick spaghetti and coarsely textured, it is made by pushing dough through an instrument called a bigolaro. The Sicilian paccheri looks like a thick snippet of garden hose and in the early 1600s was used to smuggle banned garlic cloves from Italy into Austria. At the elegant La Marea in the newly refurbished The Tides South Beach, paccheri is served with pork cheeks and porcinis, and the bigoli is bolstered by a hot arrabiata sauce. Milanese chef Pietro Rota also shows flair with less artisanal cuts such as fettuccine, which comes finessed with chunks of lobster in a minty cream sauce, as well as an open ravioli plumped with puréed potato and Taleggio cheese, crowned with black truffle slices and the unctuous yolk of a softly poached organic egg. Prices range from $20 to $30 for the pastas, although you will surely be tempted to try other items on Marea's menu, especially the grilled seafoods freshly flown in from the Mediterranean coast.

Scene: A distraught man is sitting in a psychiatrist's office.

Doctor: Sometimes a hot dog is just a hot dog.

Patient: No, you don't understand. It isn't just that this hot dog is Colombian-style, which means fatter and juicier than those little wieners they hand out at those cruddy chains. And it isn't that La Perrada's dogs are addictive, nestled in those fresh, plush buns. It's the toppings, doc. The toppings are driving me mad!

Doctor: Please, lower your voice. If people in the waiting room hear you screaming about frankfurters, they'll think you're crazy.

Patient: Crazy? I'll give you crazy. How about Edgar Gomez, a former fashion designer, turning into the hot dog's top dog in Bogotá before letting his dogs out on the Little Colombia stretch of Collins Avenue and 70th Street? And if you want frickin' crazy, how about putting sausage, mozzarella, pineapple, potato sticks, and cheese sauce on a hot dog? Or the same mix but with shrimp and crab instead of pineapple? Or — heavens to Betsy — pineapple, peaches, plums, and whipped cream. On a frankfurter! And they all cost less than five dollars!

Doctor: Sometimes chopped onions and pickle relish are just chopped onions and — wait, did you say pineapple, peaches, plums, and whipped cream?

Patient: Yes, thank goodness you're finally catching on.

Doctor: I'm afraid our time is up. Well, maybe it's a little early, but we'll add it to next week's session. I've just been consumed by the strangest craving ...

The Frieze Ice Cream Factory

The homemade flavors speak for themselves: Sassy Strawberry, Perfect Pistachio, Jack Daniel's Maple Walnut, Cappuccino Chip, Get Down Boogie-Oogie Cookie. The tropical sorbets hold their own too: Tamarindo, Indian Mango, Pear, Guanabana, Pink Grapefruit. Even though the factory has a window that lets spectators watch the ice cream being made, no one has figured out how they get so much flavor into each scoop.

Mint Leaf Indian Brasserie

So Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Shilpa Shetty, and Ravi Shankar Jr. are marooned on a desert island. No wait, sorry — they are in Coral Gables, and the three of them walk into the new Mint Leaf restaurant. After being seated and starting off with freshly squeezed fruit juices and a basket of traditional tandoor-baked breads, the prime minister taps Shilpa on the shoulder and asks whether she agrees that Mint Leaf's gosht biryani tastes just like it does back home. "Don't touch me," she replies, before adding that although she liked the gosht, her preference was for the South Indian specialty of dosa, a crêpe made from lentils and fermented rice that gets wrapped around various savory fillings. Shankar offers that the original London Mint Leaf has been known for its dosas since opening in 1938. "Besides, who else around here makes shrikand?" he adds, this being a thick yogurt cheese infused with saffron and topped with fruit and chopped nuts. "And where else can you get main courses this good, with so many vegetarian choices, for under $20?" Shilpa and Shetty laugh, finding the notion of monetary concerns rather funny. Shankar wonders how he got roped into dinner with these two, and decides to return to Mint Leaf for lunch the next day without them.

Côté Gourmet
Aran S Graham

When the Chinese chain P.F. Chang's, a frozen meal delivery service, and a complex computer program all use the word bistro to describe themselves, you know just how far the word has strayed from its origins, on virtually every urban street corner in France. Bistros are supposed to be everyday eateries affordable enough that neighborhood regulars can go every day for a glass of wine and simple but impeccably executed food that is basically — forgive the pickiness — French. At little Côte Gourmet, which opened as a breakfast/lunch spot but now also serves dinner Thursday through Saturday, all the classic bistro basics are there, along with some delightful extras. Breads and pastries are all housemade (and excellent); the bistro's flavorful savory and sweet crêpes ($3.75 to $8.75) taste like a trip to the French countryside for a reason: They're made with nutty buckwheat batter, as they have been in Brittany since the 12th Century. Lunchtime's popular blackboard special (which is different every day but has included crisp phyllo triangles stuffed with tuna, capers, onion, tomato, and buttery potatoes, for $10) is a filling meal thanks to a bonus side salad of mesclun that's dressed as perfectly as a Parisian couturier. At night, entrées such as traditional beef bourguignon ($20.50) or shrimp-topped pan-seared Scottish salmon in delicate lemon sauce, accompanied by three veggies ($17.50), are more pricey, but $25-and-under dinners are doable.

Cafe Ragazzi
Alexandra Rincon

Opera sung to the tune of "Maria," from West Side Story:

Fat Man One:

Ragazzi,

We line up to get into Ragazzi,

But once we are inside

Hospitality and pride

Come through.

Fat Man Two:

Ragazzi,

No glitz here and no paparazzi,

It's mostly local folk

Who don't like to go broke

To eat

In Surfside.

Chorus:

Pasta e fagioli and salad Caprese

(Whisper:) Thin-crust pizza and veal Bolognese

And meatballs,

We'll never stop eating their meatballs,

Their meatballs!

Fat Man One:

Ragazzi,

Their bread is served all hotsie-totsie.

Most items cost less than 20.

The plates are piled with plenty

To eat

Fat Lady:

Ragazzi!

The Patty Place
Alexandra Rincon

On a busy strip off 441 in Miami Gardens sits a strip mall devoted to all things Caribbean. While trying to hustle for a hard-to-come-by parking space in this tiny lot, you barely notice the plain-Jane storefront located in the middle of the complex. Patty Place is a walk-through, 300-square-foot take-out joint where you can find some of the best Jamaican patties outside of Kingston. Choose from selections ranging from sweet plantain to corned beef to the traditional ackee (a Jamaican fruit that tastes and looks like scrambled eggs) to our personal favorite, the callaloo loaf, a spinach-stuffed pastry that looks like an overgrown empanada. And these savory homemade patties go for no more than $1.50 a pop! Open for almost a decade, the simply named "Patty Place" serves the crispiest, flakiest, snap-crackle-poppiest patties that any homesick Jamaican will admit to tasting. No wonder the shop runs out of patties by 6 p.m. So get there early and buy a lot for the ride home!

Japanese Market Sushi Deli
Sometimes you just need to eat raw fish and drink beer. It's not a fancy or a pretentious thing. And it need not be expensive. It just needs to happen.Thank god for this little counter. For $10.95, the congenial chef, Michio, will fix you up with a tray of the old standards (octopus, salmon, tuna, shrimp, etc.). Another three bucks will get you a beer.If you want something simple and hearty, order a plate of Japanese curry. It'll fill you right up for less than five bucks. But if the freshness and quality of the fish strikes your fancy — and it will — push the envelope. Try a ceviche roll for another six bucks. Or do yourself a favor and get the steamed monkfish liver: Japanese foie gras, Michio calls it. The tender pink substance melts on the tongue in a kind of flavor ecstasy. Just tell him to cut you off at whatever you're willing to spare.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®