Best Muffins 2008 | Taste Bakery Cafe | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

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.

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.

The Noodle Shop is a restaurant within a restaurant, located in the foyer leading to O Asian Grill. Its small but exceptional menu of quick-to-prepare Asian favorites gives shoppers and bar hoppers a much-needed carb recharge in the middle of their activities. Sit at the counter and watch the chef prepare your meal — much like at a sushi bar. He'll stir-fry classics such as the pad thai or yakisoba (both $10.95) or serve you chilled noodles (also $10.95). If it's one of those rare cold days, order the ramen or soba noodle soup for $8. The shop also offers dumplings, springs rolls, and Asiatic-influenced salads for $5 to $10. It's a very different experience if you are accustomed to Miami restaurants — fun but classy at the same time. It's located on the east end of Lincoln, just off the beaten path from the pedestrian mall.

Grass is a veritable Garden of Eatin'. The carpet is a lush lawn. The walls are covered in climbing vines. There is bamboo, bonsai, all manner of bushes, trees, and plants, as well as a beautiful bar, behind which is a wall of illuminated apothecary jars flush with vivid flora. A thatched, tiki-style roof covers most of the tables; stars provide a canopy for the rest. The cuisine, a contemporary melding of American and Asian, lends its own rich, natural notes (as for the other green — most entrées are under $30). The surroundings are so lovely, so verdant, so Miami that once you're embedded in one of the cushy white sofas, you're not going to want to leave. That's all right, too, because this Design District hotspot stays open late. Have another saketini.

Three years ago, Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms joined chef Michael Schwartz to stage a series of organic dinners forged from products grown in South Florida. The setting is outdoors amid Paradise Farms' five acres of avocados, microgreens, heirloom tomatoes, and tropical fruits. Dinners are limited to 60 guests and encompass a cocktail reception, farm tour, and six courses — prepared by Miami's top chefs — paired with complementary wines. Last season's culinary participants included Govind Armstrong, Clay Conley, Allen Susser, Tim Andriola, Sean Brasel, Giancarla Bodoni, Michael Bloise, and Mr. Schwartz. The cost per person is $150 (the money goes to eco-conscious charities), but you'll have to wait a bit before you get to break bread under the stars: The dinners take place only from early December through late April.

Leah Gabriel

Have you been looking for a fresh, fast Persian for lunch? Well, you'll have to provide your own exotic date here, but if you're craving delicious food at attractive prices, Rice House of Kabob is a much shorter hop than a nonstop flight to Tehran. This unassuming little chain dishes out assorted Persian favorites in a sparse, relaxed atmosphere. Kebabs served on polo rice with a grilled tomato accompaniment are the national dish of Iran. At Rice House, they cost between $9 and $13 a plate and are cooked when you order them, so they arrive as fresh as you can get anywhere else. You also have the option of having your kebabs served on a flatbread wrap. Rice lovers should take advantage of the zereshk, adas, or bhagali at $6 each, while vegetarians have several options from $3 to $8, including the usual favorites borrowed from Mediterranean cuisine. The only drawback is that the addictive Persian khoreshs (stews) aren't on the menu, but maybe with a little pleading, we can persuade the chef to bring the water to a boil.

Carina Ost

One might feel intimidated upon inspecting the overwhelming, 12-page bilingual menu at this family-operated Vietnamese restaurant. But fear not. Little Saigon has the best pho you'll ever wave a chopstick at. Pho (pronounced fuh) is a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup that is often served in a clear beef broth and garnished with bean sprouts, scallions, and fresh herbs such as Thai basil and cilantro. Variations range from beef tenderloin to fish balls to lemongrass to mustard greens. This place has about 15 pho to choose from, all different in taste yet similar in outcome. Patrons have been known to slurp down a bowl until the soup's last drop — a requirement in some Asian cultures. So slurp as much as you want, and belly willing, try all the different pho. One thing is for sure: The average price for a pho dish is $6. That leaves enough money for you to come back pho more.

Vinnie Oreganata is a man of habit, and none as regular as his Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday jaunts to Primo Pizza for dinner. When people ask Vinnie why not Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, he replies, "That would be crazy." Vinnie is a little displaced — you can take the kid out of Brooklyn and so forth. Primo, located on First Street just west of Collins Avenue in South Beach, serves the type of slice Vinnie grew up eating, the sort sold under nearly every elevated subway station in his home borough. And like those joints, it is open late (until 5 a.m. weekends). It isn't that he misses good pizza more than family and friends, but rather that the slightly floppy crust, mild layering of sweet tomato sauce, and thin but dense blanket of mozzarella make him think of family and friends. Primo also sells a plush cheese calzone and doughy rolls filled with mozzarella, marinara, and choice of meatballs, eggplant, chicken, broccoli, sausage, and steak with peppers. The pizzas come with choice of 31 toppings, including pineapple, jalapeños, and sun-dried tomatoes, but folks don't go for that crap back where Vinnie comes from. He gets the "regular": cheese, sauce, and a scattering of fresh basil. Paying just $3 a slice and only $12.95 per pie, Vinnie can fill his belly with Miami's tastiest pizza and at the same time hail an imaginary cab ride back to memories of home.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®