Gigi
Michael McElroy
It wasn't that long ago when Miami postclub dining implied a meal at Denny's or some regrettable late-night pizza joint lighted like a neon carnival. But now that we have Gigi, which stays open until 2 a.m. on weeknights and until 5 a.m. on weekends, that middle-of-the-night Grand Slam looks more and more like a Grand Whiff. Gigi is a brilliantly conceived restaurant — fun, delicious, Asian-accented food freshly prepared and sold at eminently affordable prices. Take the "Southern boy" barbecue ribs, or a delicious Gigi bun filled with anything from beef brisket to tandoor chicken. Or try a fantastic BLT with brown-sugar-cured pork belly and house-pickled vegetables on the side, or various noodle bowls, grilled items, and raw dishes. Homemade desserts are just $5, a 16-ounce can of Pabst Blue Ribbon just $2. The end of a long night of partying doesn't have to be a letdown anymore; with Gigi, it can become the best part of the evening — or morning, as the case may be.

Best Restaurant to Bite the Dust

Talula

Talula
Two old married folks reminisce:

— Remember Talula?

— Oh, yes. And Joan Crawford too. They were my favorites.

— No, you old fool, I mean the restaurant on 23rd Street that we used to go to.

— Oh, of course. Those Italian kids.

— Frank and Andrea Curto-Randazzo. She was some chef! Wonder what happened to her?

— She went on TV, that's what happened to her.

— No, I mean after that, and after Talula closed.

— That dry-aged rib eye was the best!

— And the local grouper with lemon preserve and gnocchi...

— That was when I still had my teeth.

— Yes, those were the days.

— Remember Sunday brunches on that patio?

— And how the Randazzos brought us a bottle of our favorite wine during our 50th wedding anniversary dinner?

— I'll never forget the time I accidentally dropped that mass of hot mung bean noodles in my lap.

— It was a lovely restaurant, with fine cuisine, but it felt like a neighborhood Italian joint as well.

— I forget: When did Talula close?

— About a year ago.

Second Best Restaurant to Bite the Dust

Joe Allen

Tucked away on Purdy Avenue, Joe Allen served a solid menu of upscale American bar classics (think burgers, salads, fish, steaks). This New York restaurant's Miami Beach outpost catered to Big Apple expatriates who wanted more than a meal — they wanted excellent service. From the moment you were greeted at the door by Mario, the jovial owner/manager who seemed to be on-duty 24 hours a day (when did he sleep?), you knew your experience would be topnotch. No reservation? Mario would escort you to a nice spot at the bar, where knowledgeable bartenders crafted a beautifully made cocktail. If you needed a wine recommendation, barkeeps and waitstaff were happy to describe each wine from an ever-updated list. They even poured a taste to try before you bought. No water glass went unfilled, nor did any bread baskets stay empty. This was the place to go until it closed in May.
Two Chefs
Qualifications for this annual lifetime achievement type of award include talent, passion, creativity, and most important, a track record of having produced fantastic food for a long time. Past winners are Norman Van Aken, Mark Militello, Allen Susser, Pascal Oudin, Philippe Ruiz, Michelle Bernstein, Michael Schwartz, Doug Rodriguez, Cindy Hutson, Jonathan Eismann, and Dewey LoSasso. This year's inductees have been working their culinary magic for as long as anyone. Kris Wessel worked under Militello in the mid-'90s, and in 1999 opened his own Liaison restaurant to critical and popular acclaim. Alas, it was conceptually ahead of its time and physically behind construction barricades. Almost a decade later, the James Beard-nominated chef returned and hit big with Red Light Little River. It took awhile, but the public has caught up with Wessel's simple, home-style, regional American fare. Jorgensen found success with South Miami diners almost immediately upon opening his Two Chefs restaurant in 1994 — and it is still going strong. Although he comes from a stricter European culinary background than Wessel, Jorgensen shares a cooking style that comes down to using fresh ingredients and doing the basics right: no frills, no hype, no tricks up their sleeves — just food that is undeniably good.
Nemo Restaurant
First he opened the eclectic Nemo at Collins Avenue and First Street in South Beach. Then came the hip Big Pink diner across the street and up the block. Both were huge hits, but Myles Chefetz was just getting started. Next was Shoji Sushi, next door to Nemo, and then, just more than a dozen years ago, he hit the gastronomic grand slam with Prime One Twelve on Ocean Drive, which not only redefined the modern steak house but also has been one of the top-grossing restaurants in the nation for years. To keep the good times flowing, Myles moseyed across the street and premiered Prime Italian — another big, crowded, exciting, expensive restaurant, and another huge success. This year, the restaurant mogul will convert Nemo into Prime Fish, which figures to keep the winning streak going. All of these restaurants are within a block of each other, and all are south of Fifth Street. Chefetz reigns over this neighborhood, but his influence stretches across the entire city. That's likely why he was nominated last year for James Beard Foundation's Outstanding Restaurateur Award. He didn't win, but he gets this Best of Miami award as consolation.
Metro Organic Bistro
America is an amazing place. In what other country can you enjoy an organic arugula and goat cheese croquette salad while you watch your car get washed next door? Yes, Metro Organic Bistro's location is remarkable, but that little quirk does nothing to diminish its status as the best example of a natural foods restaurant our sunny city has to offer (the car wash, by the way, is fittingly eco-friendly and called Karma). The sprouted chickpea cakes, layered with organic butter beans, avocado, and tomato, are perfectly flavorful and hearty; the seasonal vegetable ratatouille and organic couscous are rich in color and nutrients while pleasantly light in the belly. But there's plenty here for lovers of high-quality meats as well. Grass-fed filet mignon, free-range chicken, and sashimi-grade tuna are just a few of the choices for the discerning omnivore. The building has a sleek, clean, modern look, with lots of glass, steel, and wood; outdoor seating is plentiful; and on occasion you'll find live entertainment to serenade you while you marvel at the fresh creations on your plate.
Go-Go Fresh Food Cafe
Leah Gabriel
If you're looking for scantily clad dancers wearing high vinyl boots and white lipstick, you've come to the wrong place. If, however, you're in search of fresh, healthful, and delicious food on the "go-go," you have arrived. Wedged between a laundromat and a gym, Go-Go Fresh Food Café isn't supereasy to find, but what good things are? Baked-to-order Go-Go pies (AKA empanadas) come in 18 varieties, including spicy Thai peanut chicken, spinach and feta, eggplant parmigiana, and dulce de leche and blackberries — and each costs a measly $2.25. Different homemade soups du jour — such as red potato and broccoli — and "mini" or "big" salads are available to fit your appetite. The "superfoods max" consists of baby spinach, a scoop of quinoa, tomatoes, broccoli, toasted pumpkin seeds, edamame, carrots, chickpeas, and golden raisins, all for less than $9. Go-Go also proffers a reasonable "build your own" salad option if the ten-plus house salads don't light your lettuce leaf. As if all of that weren't enough, there's a full coffee bar as well as a selection of beer and wine. One more perk: Parking is free in the neighboring lot, or you can call ahead for fast pick-up. One of the few SoBe spots where you can score a nutritious, delicious meal for around $10, Go-Go is much cheaper and more nourishing than shoving dollar bills in a mod dancer's geometric-patterned underwear.
Mty Smoothie
mty smoothie website
The choices here are overwhelming, the possibilities endless. You could spend days crafting a perfect smoothie — creamy, fruity, low-cal, herbally enhanced, or protein-boosted. Or you could start with a house specialty, such as the Yan & Jan (passion fruit, banana, strawberry, and raspberry) and build whatever elixir you crave. Need a little immune boost? Toss some echinacea into your drink. Are you a scrawny guy trying to tack on a few pounds of muscle? The creatine, weight gainer, and protein powders are for you. Need a natural multivitamin straight from the hive? Order a scoop of royal jelly, a honey bee secretion. Each addition costs about a dollar, so your health-enhancing cocktail shouldn't break the bank. Natural juices such as beet, carrot, celery, and apple are also available, as are wraps, sandwiches, and salads for those who like to chew. Bonus: You can order online or over the phone and have the stuff delivered right to your door. We suspect that service might be especially handy for the "hangover recover super smoothie," featuring blueberry, pineapple, strawberry, orange, gingko biloba, and royal jelly.
Doggi Style
George Martinez
Being a chicken head in a place called Doggi Style might make you feel like a slut. Especially when Doggi Style is a sweet, little Venezuelan hot dog stand that makes a chicken sandwich good enough to accept as payment for turning a trick. Tasty and tremendous enough to tame the taste buds of the freakiest of fowl fiends, this beast of a burger is a grilled chicken breast topped with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, corn, and potato sticks ($5.50). Get it loaded (an additional $2) and add on a fried egg, strips of bacon, avocado, and possibly coronary arrest. And sure, it's a killer in calories, but it hurts so good.
South Miami Farmers' Market
Look for the green tent. That's where every week a selection of produce grown in what market organizers refer to as the Greater Everglades Foodshed is on display and for sale. Finds include oyster mushrooms, herbs, vegetables, honey, and eggs from small Florida farmers. So who cares if there aren't rows and rows of booths selling produce? All you need is one well-stocked tent. Outside the green shade provider, other local vendors sell pastries, juices, and candles. An added perk is that the market, which is organized by Earth Learning and has operated in front of South Miami City Hall since December, is slated to operate year-round. That might be tough when Miami enters summertime — one can't live on mangos and tropical fruit alone — but the organizers are up for the challenge, and for that they deserve praise. The market is open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®