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.

Alisa's Painted Bistro

These buttery, coconut-infused treats are nearly the size of hockey pucks. And they might be as heavy. Browned to perfection on the crisp outside, melt-in-your-mouth tender within, and dense with some sort of coconut-flavored lava, the rich mega-morsels sell for $1.85 each — dirt-cheap considering they are a meal in themselves. Make sure you have a glass of cold water or milk, or you might just explode from all of that concentrated sweet butteriness. The food counter, which also offers delicious cupcakes and cookies, shares space with Color Me Mine, where you can choose from more than 400 ceramic pieces to paint and fire up in the kiln. Trust us, you'll need something to do once that sugar rush hits. The coconut flakes will leave you chewing long after you've polished off the macaroons. And you will like it.

Katana Restaurant

Like your fish fresh off the boat? Get it, quite literally, at Katana Restaurant on Normandy Isle. Walk through the glass front door, lit red with neon lights, and take a seat at the river.

Yes, the river. Instead of what Western tourists in Japan call a sushi-go-round, where sashimi and rolls ride a conveyor belt that winds by every seat in the restaurant, Katana opts for boats. After you settle at the bar and place a drink order (a large sake costs just $5.70), all that's left to do is wait for your dinner to float downstream. The dishes include eel, rainbow, and an assortment of tempura rolls. Like your fish raw? Try the tuna, white fish, and salmon sashimi. And for the brave (or just plain curious), there's a squid salad or visually striking egg-based surprises that leave a toasty feeling in your stomach.

And don't get distracted by the aggressive diners, Y-100 jams, or the sushi chef's unnaturally tall Rasta-style hat. You must keep track of the colors of your plates. They represent different prices, which are displayed on the restaurant's east wall. The cheapest one, which is green, costs $1.50. The most expensive, the black or gold plate, is $3.50. If you sample too many — or maybe overindulge in the wonderful variety of foreign beers — you might leave wishing you floated over to Mickey D's for some cheapo American fast food.

That "fresh" mozzarella you buy at Publix or gourmet markets is unquestionably worlds better than the standard rubbery, flavor-free stuff. But it's nothing compared to the cheese made by Vito Volpe, from Puglia (Italy's muzz capital), an importer of Italian artisan products who began selling his own totally homemade — and made fresh daily — mozzarella when he moved to Florida a bit more than a year ago. His simple and perfect Mozzarita ($8 per ball), one of the tastiest things to ever happen to cow's milk, was the sensation of this year's new Upper Eastside Green Market. And the newly addicted needn't fret now that market season is over; Vito's mozzarella is available year-round — along with his equally fresh ricotta, trendy cream-filled burrata, and scamorze (a drier aged mozzarella, ideal for pizzas) — at Casa Toscana Fine Foods and Wines (9840 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores 33138; 305-757-4454).

Taste Bakery Cafe

Long ago, nutritionists ruined breakfast by telling us muffins have as much fat as double cheeseburgers. So head to Taste Bakery Café, where they don't steal any muff-a-licious joy by posting diet information. All you need to know is that their muffins are as big as two fists and baked daily. Selling for $2.89, varieties include pistachio, carrot-raisin, banana-nut, orange-cranberry, lemon-poppy, and blueberry. Don't be a spoiled sport and order sugar-free or fat-free options. The real deal is a thousand times better. Our favorite is the double mocha fudge, sliced in half, warmed on the grill, and drizzled with real, heart-clogging butter.

Juice & Java

Though "local" is all the rage now, there's still something to be said for food un-injected with high-fructose corn syrup, a.k.a. "having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives," a.k.a., "natural." There's also a lot to be said for any natural-foods restaurant that features meat in addition to requisite hippie staples such as quinoa and tofu, and even more to be said if that place is also fast, clean, and well-located in both Aventura and Miami Beach. Juice & Java's menu rivals that of The Cheesecake Factory for the number of options, including breakfast wraps made with organic eggs ($7.95), lattés made from Lavazza beans ($3.10), and open-face melts with Monterey jack or soy cheese on white or whole-wheat pitas ($3.95). It's one of the few places in Miami-Dade County where you can get a healthful and good-tasting meal fast.

In 1997, two new things came to South Miami: a great restaurant (Two Chefs) and Danish people (Jan Jorgensen and Soren Bredahl (the restaurant's chef/owners). Basic, comfort-style New American cuisine, albeit with European touches and considerable flair, established the restaurant as a South Miami destination for nearby locals and far-away food aficionados. After some years, Bredahl returned to Denmark, but Two Chefs kept going strong. In 2008, two new things came to North Miami: Two Chefs Too and a nice couple from Phoenix (unrelated to the restaurant). Aforementioned food lovers no longer need to take an unpleasant drive in order to sample signature plates at sensible prices (main courses mostly under $30) — such as sweetly glazed barbecue meat loaf wrapped in bacon, flaky escargot potpie, and seven sumptuous soufflés. And the cheese selection here is as good as any around. Now with Two Chefs Two, the one-of-a-kind, one-chef Two Chefs has become two Two Chefs. Which is twice as good as one.

Hialeah has a small but bustling Nicaraguan community that finds the comforts of its homeland at Rincón Nica, a homey restaurant just minutes away from the Palmetto Expressway's NW 103rd Street exit. The place is not overly decorated with Nicaraguan artifacts and knickknacks, like other Nica eateries throughout Miami-Dade, except for the oil painting of national poet Rubén Darío that greets patrons walking through the front door. In business since 1996, Rincón Nica is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering affordable and deliciously prepared food. For early risers, five bucks will score a plate with two eggs, choice of ham or bacon, and Nicaragua's signature dish: gallo pinto, a sautéed concoction of rice and red beans. Substitute a warm flour tortilla for toast and it's like you're waking up in Matagalpa, a city in the mountains of the country's continental divide between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Daily soups include typical broths such as black bean soup and mondongo (tripe soup) for $8 each. Other staples on the menu include nacatamal, repocheta, and vigoron for less than $5. And it goes without saying — but we'll say it anyway — that the meat entrées are absolutely delectable. We suggest the $15.75 puntas de filete a la jalapeño, a traditional dish in which three pieces of steak are served in a white creamy sauce bursting with jalapeños and onions.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®