Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners 2008 | Bayside Grill | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

They can laugh at our politics, they can laugh at our culture, they can laugh at our driving. But one thing visitors from more-established cities can't laugh about is our weather, especially when they're experiencing it over a tiki-torch-lit alfresco dinner consisting perhaps of cream-centered fresh burrata cheese with truffle vinaigrette-dressed haricots verts ($12), followed by seared local tuna with almond-spiked Catalan romesco sauce and herb salad ($18) at this sleek, breeze-cooled hotspot. Chef Mark Zeitouni's menu, featuring seasonal and organic ingredients, is divided roughly 50-50: half comprising simply grilled meats and seafood with mix-and-match sauces and sides, the other half consisting of the kitchen's mostly Mediterranean-inspired creations. These range from a vegan fritto misto of baby artichokes, shiitakes, and chickpea fries with egg-free garlic aioli ($10), to saffron-scented bouillabaisse ($26) or a fun trio of mini cheeseburgers ($16). Although dishes are mostly health-minded, anything one orders should be accompanied by a cone of the one purely sinful offering: thyme-and-sea-salt-sprinkled shoestring fries that could beat Belgium's best. There's also a pleasant indoor room with the same menu. But the spectacular waterfront outdoor setting is what takes this dining experience over-the-top, in only-in-Miami style.

Best Place to Take Your Lady on an Evening Stroll

The Coral Gables Myst Box

Calle Ocho closes it off to the north, and Miracle Mile seals it to the south. Ponce de Leon Boulevard makes up its western wall, and Douglas Road binds it to the east. There's food, beer, and ice cream to be had along Giralda Avenue.

But make your way north and you'll feel like you've popped into the early-Nineties computer game Myst. The Gables suddenly becomes a collection of fountains, cadaverlike condo projects, and fake old architecture. The wide streets lay empty. Banyan trees and climbing vines loom in the bright streetlights. There are reflecting pools too. And pretty courtyards.

So go find 'em. Just you and your lady.

We hate to break it to you, but your tired old back yard isn't cutting it anymore. It's cramped, it's cluttered, and it's just not bringing the sexy for the kind of balls-to-the-wall bash you aspire to have. You want this to be the best party it can be, right? Then let's rent out the craziest, kookiest, most fun and fanciful venue in the city. Bro, we're talking about Wherehouse 2016. Yeah, we said Wherehouse. What do you mean you've never heard of it?

Okay, dude, imagine this: It's a warehouse that's, like, totally hidden away in the North Miami Beach business district. It's, like, covered in art — we're talking wall-to-wall murals, huge paintings, and furniture brushed in superbright colors. This artist guy named Bruce Grayson painted everything, and whoa — he must've been on acid when he came up with this shit. It's frickin' awesome. Big dance floor, lots of comfortable couches where we can mack it to the ladies, and the place can handle it all — from catering to the DJ. No more use for your shitty iPod party playlist, dude! No offense, all right? Your taste in music is cool and all, but not for this bash. We're gonna do this old-school rave style. Trust me, dude, it's gonna be epic. You with me? Dude?

Rodney Cammauf / National Park Service

Flamingo, Florida, is the end of the road — literally. Located 38 miles southwest of the Everglades National Park entrance, the area offers incredible hiking, canoeing, and bicycling. It's the perfect place to bird watch too. There's also a campground with (cold) showers and the thrilling knowledge you're as far south as you can get in the contiguous United States. But regardless of whether you're there for a day picnic or a weekend blowout, DEET is a must. Even riding the Snake Bight trail at a fast clip isn't enough to shake those aggressive Everglades skeeters. And if you're walking the trails, use a hat with a net, or a suit of armor.

For nearly 25 years, Raul Martinez ruled the city of Hialeah with a grin and a book's worth of pithy quotes. He was a charming Democrat in a solidly Republican city, a big thinker in a small town. He ushered in affordable housing and improved Hialeah's infrastructure, all while campaigning successfully for eight straight elections. He even pulled off a courtroom miracle. After prosecutors nailed him for corruption, el gigante had the ruling overturned by an appeals court. When he retired from office in 2006, it was hard to believe he'd be content with eating early-bird dinners and living the rest of his life on a golf course. Sure enough, in early 2008, he announced he was going to take on another Cuban-American icon: U.S. Congressman and Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart. The contest is expected to be the talker of the year, and Raul seems up to the task. After all, he's got cojones, whether he's talking about why the district needs a Democrat or about his controversial history. "I would debate any fucking Republican about my past," Raul told the Miami Herald. "We'll have a debate mano a mano if they want to take me on. I'm going to take them on."

Last November, Matti Herrera Bower became the first Hispanic and first woman to be elected mayor of Miami Beach. The retired dental assistant's political roots trace not to some sleazy deal or romantic tryst (remember Alex Daoud?) but to the PTA. She knocked out Simón Cruz, a banker who raised loads more money, with 54 percent of the vote. Tagged the underdog, she pledged to stop overdevelopment and invest in parks and schools. Bower, then a commissioner like Cruz, scored the win in a runoff even after ethnic baiting by the Cruz camp; a flyer showcased her opposition to handing over $10,000 to the Holocaust Memorial after its organizers were late in applying for a grant. An estimated one-third of registered Beach voters are Jewish. An even bigger coup for Bower would be getting more Beach residents to vote. Only 23 percent turned out last fall.

This past Christmas, Coral Gables Police Major Scott Masington did a seemingly nice thing. He gave 30 motorcycle, bicycle, and other cops Casio watches. Problem is, he paid $625 with city plastic called a p-card. By Coral Gables policy, that's not allowed. The whole thing might have ended there, but this being the City Beautiful, it didn't. When officials — and cranky critics including our personal favorite, George Volsky — began looking at the receipts from city cards, they found much more impropriety. The city's computer geeks had charged hundreds of dollars for pizza and doughnuts. Others bought vittles at a Chinese joint and Publix. The best find: City Manager David Brown apparently violated policy by purchasing expensive wine at lunch. Major Masington never could have guessed it would turn out like this.

In South Florida, the notion that there's such a thing as a first-rate politician is hard to swallow. But Garcia is simply good at what he does. For a while he's been the brain behind Miami-Dade County's Democratic Party, a liberal group if ever there was one. Before that, he oversaw the Cuban American National Foundation, a more conservative bunch. And he's served on a number of appointed boards — generally somehow remaining acceptable to both ends of the political spectrum. He's smart, frank, and ballsy; we're talking about a guy who's willing to call an El Nuevo Herald reporter a douchebag in front of a roomful of reporters. Now Garcia, who's challenging U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, has a little scheme. He's going to turn all the red Cuban-American congressional seats blue. As Barack Obama heads toward a showdown with that dinosaur John McCain, Garcia and fellow Democrats Raul Martinez and Annette Taddeo are tailing him. If the top Democratic gun is faster, his whole gang might triumph too. Perhaps there is something to this "change" business.

It's no wonder so many arts organizations have paid obeisance to Sanford and Dolores Ziff. At 83 years young, the Sunglass Hut founder and the former Bond girl rule the Miami art world from their private box in the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Arsht Center. And these two have given money to promote not only culture but also education; in fact the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Nova Southeastern all have buildings named for the pair. Just because they were born in 1925 doesn't mean they can't drop it like it's hot. Despite their senior-citizen tag, the Ziffs party with the best of them; Sanford has been known to do keg stands while Dolores tries out the latest Soulja Boy dance. This dynamic duo sure knows the joy of life. They've helped fan the flame of Miami's cultural renaissance and then wangled themselves invitations to the best bashes that celebrate this very same revival!

There's nothing particularly fancy about this park — which is what makes it so great. You can almost always bet that at least one of the three tennis courts is going to be open and that your toddler will have enough jungle gym space to carve out his own little fiefdom. About the most you'll have to worry about on a bright, sunny day is a band of 13-year-old boys ragging on each other under a basketball hoop.

If nothing else, enjoy the town's finest taco truck — a regular weekend installment. Or bring a picnic. There's something about the place that just feels warm and nice. Bachelor though you may be, the park will make you tingle with the thought of whiling away an afternoon with a brood all your own.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®