Best Panthers Player 2008 | Tomas Vokoun | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Tomas Vokoun spent the first four years of his career consumed by an overwhelming fear that he would flop. It turned out he had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which for him manifested itself in an irrational and overpowering fear of failure. Once Vokoun was properly diagnosed and treated in 2002, his life returned to normal. But the roadblocks to establishing himself as a solid NHL goalie were just beginning. Vokoun rose to be a leader and All-Star for the Nashville Predators, but in April 2006, he was diagnosed with thrombophlebitis of the pelvis, a blood-clotting condition. While recovering, he missed the team's remaining regular-season games as well as the playoffs. He then broke his thumb the next season and was traded to the Panthers in 2007. He's been healthy and solid between the pipes ever since.

Vokoun, age 31, was the only All-Star on the Panthers squad this year, and has emerged as a team leader. When the Cats missed grabbing a share of first place in the Southeast Division after giving up a two-goal lead with 15 minutes to go, Vokoun didn't hesitate to speak his mind.

"It's unbelievable. I don't think words can describe it," he said after the 5-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. "It just shows you our lack of commitment to defense. Many times it didn't cost us, but today it cost us dearly. We basically had the game and gave it to them."

If you're one of those people who gets off work Friday night, drives to Miami Beach, and then starts freaking out because there's no place to leave your car outside your favorite lousy club, you need to face a harsh reality: One way or another, you're gonna have to pay to park. Swallowed that bitter pill? Good! Here's the trick to finding nongarage parking any day or night of the week: Drive along 18th Street, just west of Alton (right by the Office Depot). There is never, ever a shortage of metered parking ($1.25 an hour; it could be worse). From there, it's an easy walk to Lincoln Road. And in our experience, if you don't make it back to feed the bugger, you'll probably squeak by unnoticed. But don't push it, huh?

At 12:30 a.m. on a hot, humid August 4, the crowd outside Chakra in South Beach was beyond rowdy. The club refused further entry. It was filled to the brim. Glitterati outside flashed their VIP status to no avail. Hosted by local event guru, Gorillas Lifestyle Marketing, this was the hottest night by far during the dead heat of summer, as two hip-hop icons battled it out on a small and intimate stage for 3,000 of their closest friends. Common and Erykah Badu had come to share the spotlight for one night. In case you don't recall or never knew, these acclaimed hip-hop neo-soul artists were once lovers; fans of urban music had daydreamed the pair would produce the next hip-hop messiah. Unfortunately, Badu and Common parted from each other and the music scene. The two kept a low profile until that fateful night at Chakra. Halfway through Common's set, surprise guest Talib Kweli jumped onstage. Talib Kweli! Thank your lucky stars that your ass actually got in!

In the world of free weeklies, believe us, it's hard to keep afloat. That's why we so admire El Venezolano for its 16 years in the muckraking business. With Hugo Chávez's daily antics to watch and a burgeoning Venezuelan community in Miami to inform, the newspaper has plenty of copy to fill its weekly editions, which are available throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties as well as Orlando. Founded and run by Venezuelan transplants since 1992, the paper boasts a staff that has earned widespread recognition, including first place from the National Association of Hispanic Publications for its six-week investigative series about how Miami Beach Police abused a Venezuelan tourist. Even more admirable — with an entertainer like Chávez in power — is editor Oswaldo Muñoz's pledge of objectivity.

There are those workdays when you just want to take your sandwich and sit peacefully, alone, in silence. Enea Garden Lounge is the perfect place to chill and relax. Designed by Swiss landscape designer Enzo Enea for Art Basel 2005, the little enclosed park is his interpretation of a rain forest. As you enter through the large bronze doors, you are transported to a tropical land: tall bamboo rustles in the wind and water lilies float delicately in tiny ponds. There are a few tables scattered about, along with some plastic sofas and chairs. On any given weekday, there will be a few folks eating lunch, grabbing a smoke, or even taking a power nap on the sofas. The best part: It's free.

Way to go, sport — you've made the initial phone call (or text message) and set up that all-important first date. It's a bad idea to set the bar too high with dinner at a chichi restaurant or too low with a stroll on the beach, but a night at the Upper Eastside Garden is just right. The urban oasis is open Thursday through Sunday, and unless you like awkward both-hands-in-the-popcorn moments, the plan should be to hit the Back 9 Putt-Putt. That way, you'll be able to play the getting-to-know-you game while checking out each other's "swing." But this isn't your typical minigolf course. The obstacles on each hole were designed by local artists, so you'll have plenty to distract from your suck-ass game. Plus each round comes with a free cocktail, so that takes you and your wallet off the hook for at least one round of jitter-destroying drinks. But you can't blame the libations or sweaty palms when you send the golf ball flying off the course. Not even the magic of a first date will make her forget you're that bad.

You can swing at a playground, even swing open a door — but you're not using the word at its fullest strength unless you mean "to engage freely in sex." You know, like when Mr. and Mrs. Jones from next door are hooking up with Mr. and Mrs. Smith from down the street for a night of fun. That's right, folks, the swinger lifestyle isn't just for the people on HBO's Real Sex; they're doing it in your cul-de-sac, and they're doing it at Miami Velvet. Trading spouses, allowing folks to watch, or accepting a third wheel — all are considered a part of the lifestyle. And whether you're an active participant or a nervous newbie, the Velvet is the place for you. This members-only club provides a safe and sexy environment with enough leering to turn you on without creeping you out. Do a seductive wiggle with your honey on the dance floor, get to know a curious couple at the B.Y.O. bar, and then meet upstairs in one of the private rooms for a more intimate meet-and-greet. What you do up there is your business, unless you choose to do it in one of the public rooms.

During segregation, D.A. Dorsey was Miami's first black millionaire and a real estate mogul with property from Fisher Island to Broward County. He contributed a lot to the community. But today, decades after his death, the old man continues to give. His two-story home in Overtown, originally built in 1914, is filled with high-quality used clothing along with new overstock and samples from brands such as Anne Klein. If discarded garments, accessories, and shoes don't meet the stringent standards of the store, nothing goes to waste: The staff sorts through everything and donates what it can't use to a nearby church. Women in job training programs receive $100 gift certificates to shop there for job interview outfits. Profits go to charity. And the fun part is that after you drop off your old stuff, you can shop for something new. Open Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and by appointment.

There are some days when you just want to munch alone, away from computers, co-workers, and crowded eateries. Not to be goth or emo or macabre or anything, but what better place than a peaceful city cemetery, albeit a slightly run-down one? One entrance is across the street from a hardscrabble grocery store, the other on gritty North Miami Avenue. Inside, however, is a peaceful, historical haven filled with palm trees and stately grave markers that date as far back as the turn of the 20th Century. Built in 1887, one year after the city was incorporated, the cemetery holds the likes of Julia Tuttle (the mother of Miami) and Lawson Thomas (the first black judge in the South since Reconstruction). The Burdines department store family has a stately granite crypt, and the Art Deco touches on some graves are stunningly gorgeous. Park your car under a tree and enjoy this downtown oasis amid the dead — sometimes contemplating one's own mortality at lunch makes the rest of the workday seem, well, insignificant.

Have you ever eaten a piece of fruit that tastes like chocolate pudding? Or one that smells like Juicy Fruit gum? How about root beer? Thanks to South Florida's subtropical climate, the black sapote, the jackfruit, and the sapodilla — which offer these tastes — can all be sampled at a beautiful 35-acre oasis west of Krome Avenue and north of Homestead. Although you can't pick the fruit from the trees, you can eat whatever has fallen to the ground, except for the ackee, which is poisonous if you consume it before ripening. (For this reason, the ackees are fenced off.) At least once a month, the park has an interesting, usually fruit- or plant-related festival. They celebrate orchids, palms, and rare fruits, for instance. Or you can just wander around the grounds anytime, marveling at the oddities of the South Florida soil. Park admission is $6 for adults, $1.50 for children.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®