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.

A makimono roll of scallop, cucumber, and salt-cured plum capped with tobiko fish roe served with ume plum paste pooled in white truffle oil. A box-style roll with squares of pressed sushi rice dotted with pickled vegetables and colorfully covered in flattened fuchsia-hued gomoko flower, green minty shiso leaf, and a thin, opaque sheath of kombu (seaweed). Berkshire pork, slices of crisp pork belly, ramen noodles, shreds of pickled ginger, and a soft-boiled organic egg set in a bowl of dark, meaty broth. Veal cheek gyoza or toro tuna sashimi atop edamame purée. Pristine nigiri/sashimi selections. Apple crumble with ginger ice cream and caramel-miso sauce. A giant black-and-white print of a young, topless Naomi Campbell. Jesus, this swank sushi bistro in the Design District has it all! Hip, too, with a handsome brick/wood interior and eminently reasonable entrée prices (most $17 to $25). You cannot do better for Japanese food — lunch or dinner. Period.

Bonefish Grill

Got milk? They didn't have much of it in the Keys prior to the railroad opening in 1912, so when Gail Borden created sweetened condensed milk in 1859, the isolated residents rejoiced — they could finally invent key lime pie! They didn't even need to bake the pies, for the acidity of the limes curdled the condensed milk and egg yolks to form a smooth consistency. Think of how much trouble they saved by not having to haul cows and ovens in from the mainland! Nowadays it's even easier to enjoy Florida's most famous dessert, because it is sold and served just about everywhere in the state. Finding a captivating rendition, however, can be difficult. We say search no further than Bonefish Grill in Coral Gables, a "casual-upscale" seafood chain that proffers fresh fish dinners at affordable prices. Their sumptuous pies' crusts are traditional graham cracker, but with crunchy pecans; a dollop of freshly whipped cream luxuriates on top. Between those contrasting textures is a tall, pale cloud of tart, creamy custard — bigger and better than others of its ilk, and at $5.50 per hunky wedge, cheap.

Michael's Cafe

This Middle Eastern restaurant in Kendall is not a mirage. It was once a gas station next to the railroad tracks but has been transformed into an outdoor café that serves as an oasis for locals. There is live music almost every night and a vast assortment of ice-cold Middle Eastern beers. The large-screen TV sets are all tuned to Lebanese stations (in Arabic). You can get a hookah with flavored tobacco, and smoke while watching the live belly dancing Friday and Saturday nights. But best of all is the food, especially the kibbe, which costs $4.95 for two pieces. They make it fresh by combining crushed wheat with minced beef or lamb, sautéed onions, and pine nuts. The combination is then rolled into a ball and deep-fried, kind of like falafel. The kibbe platter comes with grape leaves, hummus, tabbouleh, lentil rice, and pita bread, and sells for $11.99. Wash it down with Michael's special Turkish coffee ($1.50), and forget about taking that trip to Israel.

Taam Gan Eden

"Me want cookie!"

"Okayyy," says the big yellow bird standing in front of the huge glass case. "They have chocolate linzers, vanilla cookies with vanilla cream in the middle and white chocolate on top, black-and-white sandwich cookies draped in white and dark chocolates, lace cookies that will melt in your mouth ..."

"Me want cookie!"

"All right," mumbles the grumpy green trash-can-dweller, breathing heavily and laying a nice coat of steam on the out-of-reach confections. "Over here they have vanilla fingers with strawberry jelly, Chinese cookies, elephant ears, chocolate teardrops."

"Me want cookie!"

"Fine! Here's your damn chocolate chip cookie!"

"Me eat cookie!" growls the big, blue, hairy beast as crumbs tumble from his mouth and off his chest.

La Quebradita Taqueria

Fergus Henderson's last meal would consist of sea urchins, goat cheese, and dark butter chocolate ice cream (with Muscadet). Nobu Matsuhisa's not-surprising pick for a final feast includes a number of sushi selections capped by a cucumber roll. Daniel Boulud says he'd eat whatever Alain Ducasse would cook for him, and Gordon Ramsay would preface his eternity in Hell with a traditional English roast beef dinner with Yorkshire pudding and gravy. Evidently these well-regarded, well-heeled chefs lack romantic, Under the Volcano-type notions regarding finality: This is not the time for prissy or predictable fare, but a moment to savor the flavors of the earth before returning to it ourselves. That's why the humble, hearty Mexican food at La Quebradita Taqueria in Homestead is so fitting for a finale — more specifically, Quebradita's gordito ($3.95), a thick, fried tortilla bun bundled with pork, refried pinto beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream. And naturally salsa, chips, rice, beans, fried pork rinds (chicharrones), and a refreshing glass of rice-based horchata drink for $1.65. Plus a few Mexican beers ($3.50 a pop) to sort of take the edge off things. And perhaps a taco to go?

Buena Vista Bistro

"Labor of love" is a cliché, but it's an accurate description of this new neighborhood eatery, owned by a charming May/December married couple: Callie Postel, who runs the front of the house, and her husband Claude (who had several restaurants in Quebec before relocating to Miami), who helms the kitchen, cooking up evocative French comfort food (plus a few Italian dishes) with a smile. Diners get huge portions of honest fare (starters such as rillettes du mans, a rustic pâté-like spread served with cornichons, Dijon mustard, and crusty bread; and full entrées including moist-centered roast salmon with ratatouille), at minuscule prices (starters $5 to $8, most entrées $8 to $14). But even better are the hours: seven days a week 11 a.m. to midnight. On weeknights, that's pretty late even for SoBe, and it's plenty late for midtown dining after catching a show at the performing arts center, a game at the arena, or some art exhibits on gallery night. This bistro fits the classic French definition: a convivial neighborhood place where folks can drop in for a glass of wine and a bite to eat any day at all hours.

El Nuevo Siglo Supermarket

When it comes to Latin cafeterias, Miami takes a back seat to no American city. Heck, we probably have more of them than New York has McDonald's restaurants. And we should be thankful for this, especially for the gems of the genre such as El Nuevo Siglo Supermarket in Little Havana. The brightly illuminated, family-owned grocery store contains all the staples for Hispanic cooking, as well as a meat counter and a little Old World-style bakery that kicks out mean made-on-premises chorizo and an authentic Argentine empanada de carne (that's where the mom-and-pop owners come from). The cafeteria counter in back is lengthy. And the menu encompasses vaca frita, arroz con calamari, a peerless ropa vieja, and a huge churrasco steak, with sides, for just $8 a plate. The beef for these dishes, and for a wondrous pan con bistec, is cut and trimmed by the in-house butcher. Sorry, pero no se habla inglés aquí.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®