Latin House Grill
Alex Broadwell
If we're going to croak anyhow, we might as well eat the most fattening, sweet, savory, artery-clogging, gut-busting, sensory-overloading, greasy meal available at a place where we don't have to get dressed up, wait for a seat, or deal with a snotty server. Yep, we're hunting down Michell Sanchez in the Latin House Grill food truck for an embarrassment of riches. We'll sit cross-legged on the ground in our jeans and start with the "sneaky nachos," a meaty, cheesy taste-bud tantalizer decorated with crema. Then we'll move on to the coconut shrimp "flatton," perhaps the only coconut-encrusted shellfish we've tried that tastes more like fruit than a fryer. Next we'll scarf a chimi burrito with zesty carne asada, yellow "chuchi" rice, cheese, fried plantains, and a fried egg in a deep-fried tortilla. Finally, we'll wash it all down with a few bottles of Mexican Coca-Cola — you know, the kind with real sugar and not high-fructose corn syrup. For dessert, we'll savor the "teasers," fried tortillas with cinnamon sugar and a thick drizzle of sweetened, condensed milk. That and a few slices of guava-ricotta cake oughta seal the deal. Forget the Pepto — we're going down in a blaze of gluttonous glory.
Crumb on Parchment
Alexandra Rincon
The Design District is not exactly bargain central, unless you consider a $500 Y3 cardigan or a futuristic $2,000 two-legged chair to be a steal. The same goes for the up-and-coming area's culinary scene: Restaurants like Michael's Genuine and Sra. Martinez offer great food, but at significant prices. For those working in the neighborhood, finding an affordable meal means praying to the Twitter gods for a food truck to stop. But there is new hope hidden in the heart of the Design District. Step into the soaring atrium at 3930 NE Second Ave. and the first thing you notice is the sunlight. The second thing you sense is the smell of delicious baked goods. The source: Crumb on Parchment, the latest project by Sra. Martinez chef Michelle Bernstein. Crumb on Parchment, or COP for short, opened only in April, but it has already developed a steady following thanks to its tasty café cuisine and cheap prices. Modestly sized sandwiches ($5 to $10), soups ($4.50), and salads ($5 to $10) compose the bulk of the menu, but their low cost makes mixing and matching affordable. The homemade roast beef sandwich with creamy horseradish, sweet onions, and greens is light and delicious, as is the Southern tomato salad with arugula, blue cheese, and rare seared tuna. COP's real treat, however, is the chocolate brownies. According to the menu, they are made with "100 percent butter and lots of love." They sure taste like it.
Chopsticks House
There's an ancient Thai proverb that says those who serve noodles earliest stay around longest. OK, that's made up. But if it wasn't, Chopsticks House Thai & Chinese Restaurant in the Old Cutler Towne Center would be the proof. The restaurant opened in 1994 and was named Best Thai Restaurant by this publication in 1996. It continues to stand out from its nondescript surroundings by serving quality dishes at reasonable prices. But it's what Chopsticks does for early-birders that is a proverb waiting to be written. You're started with won ton or egg drop soup and the springiest spring roll in town. No need to grasp for napkins — these rolls are greaseless. In different hands, such an opening act could be heavy, but owners Noi and Sonny Pleesonti know how to prepare their dishes without weighing on the palate. You'll have plenty of room to choose among a dozen or so entrées from the Thai or Chinese menus (and each is true to the ethnicity; there's not much intermingling). The pad king (ginger chicken) or gai ma muong (cashew chicken), as well as the pad thai chicken are favorites from the Thai side, while honey-garlic and sweet-and-sour chicken and pepper steak are most popular on the Chinese end. The early-bird special finishes off with a choice of Thai doughnuts or Thai bananas. And don't forget the hot tea, included in the $10.95 price. The special is in effect every day from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., which, by the way, is when healthy diners know to eat dinner. Fifteen years after its first "Best of Miami" win, Chopsticks House still knows what it's doing.
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South Beach is known for tanned, perfect bodies and overpriced restaurants serving tiny portions (which is fine because who needs to eat a lot when you're trying to fit into your Brazilian bikini year-round). But what, pray tell, do tourists and regular people do for food? The portions at Nexxt are so large that a family of four could eat for almost a week on a single oversize meal. Salads look like the contents of an entire season's harvest, while the burgers and fries are super-duper-size. The menu is gigantic too — with pages upon pages of choices. Sandwiches. Check! Chocolate chip shake. Yup! Lobster dinner. That too at $25.95. If you're into consuming mass quantities, you've got yourself a pigfest right on Lincoln Road. Indulge — you can always buy a coverup for the beach.
Ruby's Kitchen of Soul
A down-home place located in South Miami-Dade, Ruby's is a spot where customers can forget their wallets and the owners won't have to worry about them not coming back. And even though Ruby's doesn't offer a sit-in dining room, the kitchen window is always packed with people waiting for orders of oxtails, collard greens, and yams, or pork chops, mashed potatoes, and green peas and rice for $13 — no more, no less. The homemade rice pudding is out of this world. Turkey wings and chitterlings are on the menu for $10. Owner Ruby Mosley prepared her first meal at the age of 9 and took over the joint in 2004 from previous owner Jackie Pruitt-Parker, who left all the cooking equipment inside the restaurant so Mosley wouldn't have to start from scratch. That generosity rubbed off on Ruby, who has no problem feeding customers short on money.
American Noodle Bar's Big Mama's pork egg rolls: $3

Bottle of water from hotel mini bar: $10

ANB's fried cheeseburger dumplings: $5

Leopard-print Snuggie: $14.99

ANB'S Pabst Blue Ribbon: $3

Samuel Adams' Utopias beer: $100 (24 oz.)

ANB's barbecue pork roll with zesty slaw: $6

Chinchilla fur-lined gloves: $280

ANB's noodle bowl with smoked lobster sauce and deep-fried egg: $7

Dolce & Gabbana limited-edition City of

Angels T-shirt: $1,495

ANB's noodle bowl with bacon sauce, pork shoulder, and barbecued tofu: $8

PetSafe diamond-studded dog collar: $5,200

ANB's noodle bowl with basil butter, smoked duck, pulled chicken, and Chinese sausage: $9

Eighteenth-century slippers worn by India's Prince Nizam Sikandar Jah of Hyderabad: $160,000

Everything served at American Noodle Bar — Michael Bloise's little-in-size, big-in-fulfillment restaurant in MiMo — is $10 or less. Taking someone out? Take them here. Taking yourself out? Take yourself here. It's an über-affordable oasis away from a world of leopard-print Snuggies and diamond dog collars.
And the envelope please — a wax-sealed envelope that is, containing the menu of the Villa by Barton G. The waiter who delivers the envelope is dressed in jacket and tie. The restaurant, located in the Versace mansion, includes an opulent lobby, a stunning and intimate 30-seat dining room with pebble-patterned walls and royal-blue tablecloths, and a patio overlooking the dramatically lighted mosaic pool. Show plates are Versace-designed Rosenthal china. The cuisine upon those plates, composed by chef Jeff O'Neill, includes a salad with frozen caesar dressing, terrine of foie gras with carbonated grapes, and Colorado rack of lamb with Greek yogurt jelly cubes. The wine list encompasses about a hundred labels from distinctive vintners. If all of this sounds like a dining experience you can't afford, you're probably right (desserts, for instance, are $14-$17). But that doesn't mean you can't dine here; it simply means you must concoct a scheme to persuade your favorite moneyed relative to take you to the Villa as a guest. This person will end up being as happy as you about the grub.

Best Restaurant for Intimate Conversation

Romeo's Café

Romeo's Cafe
Via Romeo's Facebook
For the past dozen years, Romeo Majano has been serving lunch and dinner in his cozy café. There is no set menu here. Romeo visits each table and quizzes customers about their tastes and preferences; then he composes a six-course dinner (or three-course lunch) accordingly. The charming Majano never fails to whip up delectable Northern Italian fare, whether it be cheese-stuffed agnolotti as light as angel wings or a seafood risotto made sultry with smoked mozzarella. The European-style room is dimly lighted, service is quietly professional, and the ambiance is as romantic as it gets. There is nothing here to interfere with the most intimate of talks, and the meal generally takes about two and a half hours — plenty of time to tackle any subject. Lunch is $45 per person, and dinner is $90 per person, a small price to pay for great food, wine, service, and an evening of unbridled whispering.
Sweetness Bakeshop & Cafe
Alex Broadwell
Latin bakeries have their country-specific pastries. Cupcake shops have icing-topped sweets. Lunch cafés have sandwiches, and couture cake shops have custom fondant creations. Each has its specialty, but what if you can't decide where to go? Hit up Sweetness Bakeshop & Café in West Kendall. It's a coffee and pastry joint in the morning, a savory lunch fix in the afternoon, and a place for a sweet sugar rush anytime. The year-old, family-run operation is probably best known for its cupcakes, which come in a vast array of flavors — from red velvet to cookies and cream to guava. They satisfy any number of regional tastes in sizes from mini to jumbo ($1 to $3). But unlike many of the other businesses trailing in the minicakes trend, Sweetness offers plenty of other munchies. Dessert-wise, that includes other delectable noncake concoctions, which are available full-size and in smaller form. With shot-glass-size portions of key lime pie, tres leches, Oreo fudge cheesecake, and tiramisu ($1), you can have your tart and a few more too. If you need a minute to feel virtuous before hitting the dessert, there's also a range of hearty sandwiches ($4.95 to $5.95) and salads ($5.95). And should you need an extra-special something for a celebration, the shop also churns out some of the brightest, most colorful, quirky custom fondant cakes (prices on request) — edible Guitar Hero controller, anyone?
7:43 p.m.: @lonelygal Chowing down on beef/porcini dumplings at Chowdown Grill in Surfside.

7:44 p.m.: @lonelygal At counter as usual, just a loner I guess.

7:48 p.m.: @lonelygal Lo mein or chow fun. Anyone have a suggestion?

7:55 p.m.: @lonelygal G, thx for nothing. I'm going with lo mein, chewy noodles with Oriental kale and choice of protein. Price is just $11.

8:07 p.m.: @lonelygal Seems like so long since I've tweeted. Chef Marcus is behind counter. Offered me sample of steak in green curry sauce.

8:09 p.m.: @lonelygal Just ordered steak in green curry sauce ($15). Brown or white rice?

8:11 p.m.: @lonelygal I'm drinking Victory Golden Monkey (a beer) ($7)!

8:17 p.m.: @lonelygal Chef says I'm starting 2 look familiar. G, after only 14 visits!

8:22 p.m.: @lonelygal Organic chix in orange chili sauce ($15). I'm in HEAVEN!!!

8:31 p.m.: @lonelygal Dessert? Well, I've already had dumplings & 2 mains.

8:32 p.m.: @lonelygal Come 2 think of it, maybe shoulda had ramen soup instead of lo mein. I'm getting full.

8:35 p.m.: @lonelygal Hell, bring on the blueberry-white chocolate bread pudding! And another Winning Yellow Monkey!

8:36 p.m.: @lonelygal I may b dining alone, but CD Grill's food & Twitterverse make gr8 friends.

8:39 p.m.: @lonelygal Tab is reasonable. I'd make a cheap date! LOL!

8:43 p.m.: @lonelygal Something may b wrong w/Twitter, am not getting responses.

8:45 p.m.: @lonelygal Can't wait 2 tell friends bout this place.

8:46 p.m.: @lonelygal Guess I just did!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®