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!
Some of the best chefs in America call Miami home, but they're not entirely responsible for the quality of dining here. Mother Nature blessed this region with paradisiacal weather. And because the beauty of our shoreline is an economic engine, we have plenty of choices when it comes to waterfront dining. But that doesn't always add up to a great meal. For a well-delivered balance of epic seaside view, attentive service, sexy atmosphere, and creative cuisine, chef Mark Zeitouni has the goods. This popular spa's nutritional philosophy is built on fresh, humane, organic, unprocessed, Mediterranean grill cooking. It also offers fine raw and vegan fare. From breakfast till the sun goes down, bikini girls and Speedo dudes lounge at the infinity pool mere feet from Biscayne Bay. An adjacent array of tables beneath designer umbrellas offers welcoming respite from the Miami heat. And for dinner service, slinky casualwear abounds. Feast on small plates, grilled steak, or a mahi-mahi sandwich, and watch the dolphins swim past in the omnipresent glow of the good life.
Sung to the tune of "My Way":

Martinis, I have a few
After work at dear Cecconi's
I meet some friends, have dinner too
Italian fare, it's all so tony.

The outdoor patio, so lush and green
An open sky, a lively scene
Fresh pastas too, divine cuisine
I love Cecconi's.

Tuscan bean soup and beef tartare
A thin-crust pie, a roast branzino,
I hope the waiter doesn't go far
We need more grated pecorino.

I finish off with tiramisu
Too bad there's no spumoni
One can't deny the price is high,
But I love Cecconi's.

Best Place for Outdoor Salad and Smoothie

T.H.R.I.V.E.

Thrive
The recent annual meeting in Copenhagen of the Committee to Study Things That Nobody Cares About yielded surprising yet, as always, unimportant news: Salads, smoothies, and other healthful foods are perceived by our taste buds to be more flavorful and satisfying when eaten in natural surroundings. The folks who funded these fictitious findings were fans of T.H.R.I.V.E., a raw/vegan restaurant located in the midst of the Garden Center in South Beach. There are a handful of lunches offered each day, including a daily bowl of cooked food and raw dishes. But one of three good reasons to eat here are the salads, with red, ripe tomatoes and other fresh produce — deliriously delicious when drizzled with tahini dressing. Smoothies ($6 to $7), whipped up with luscious local fruit, compose the second. Number three is the spacious and secluded dining patio, a green oasis in sync with the green food. And you don't need a committee to know that's the way it's supposed to be.
Florida International University Modesto A. Maidique Campus
Florida International University
Florida International University has really given its Modesto A. Maidique Campus a beefy, chickeny, and smoothie-y makeover. When it was University Park, there were just blue tables. Hungry, broke, and with limited options, everyone ate Pizza Hut bread sticks and smoked pack after pack of cigarettes. Now FIU has perfected the art of food-courtism, and by perfected we mean Chick-fil-A. Obviously, this delightful eatery is a place for which we pigs would drive many miles out of our way, even if to obtain only a single waffle fry. Opened last August, the new PG5 (as in parking garage) Market Station on the north side of campus is home to other food spots as well. There's Moe's Southwest Grill, where you can chomp on a burrito; Papa John's, with its artery-clogging-but-worth-it garlic sauce; Dunkin' Donuts for a caffeine kick; Salad Creations for a deep inner cleansing; and Freshens for some smoothie vitamins. This garage food court boasts seating for 300 people, parking for visitors, and Wi-Fi and television, perfect for zoning out over your spicy chicken biscuit.
Miami Tower
Tucked away in the shadows of the Miami Tower building is a quaint, colorful, brick-walked area that can be entered via four separate alleyways. In the center is a circle of some half-dozen eateries whose cuisines span the globe: Thai Angel, Habibi Mediterranean Grill, Pistou Bistro (casual French), Giovana Caffe (home-style Italian), Martini 28 (Asian/fusion), and Caprichos (Peruvian café/bakery). Outdoor tables at each place overlap a bit, and there are seats that run along the alleys. The court has a unique ambiance that can't be found anywhere else downtown — a cool, alternate oasis apart from the food chains that wrap up much of the lunchtime crowd.
Jimmy's Place II
Rain hits the windows at a staccato beat, like the trailing shots from a dying man's gun. At least this place should offer some shelter from the weather. I just hope they serve a good cup of joe. Looking at the menu makes me dizzy. Am I dreaming? While I was trying to shake those guys, did I somehow cross into Broward County? The busty Cubanita sitting in the booth across from me says otherwise: "No, papi. You esteel in Mi-yami." She looks away as if I'm nuts, and maybe I am. Meat loaf, collard greens, corn bread, mac and cheese, gravy — all for the crumpled face of Alexander Hamilton in my pocket, plus the quarter I found in the parking lot. I look around at the other booths. This reminds me of when I was just a freckle-faced punk back East, before I knew that women would do more damage than cigarettes and whiskey. After pouring a little something extra from the flask in my jacket pocket, I chug down the coffee the waitress with the mile-long stems brought. Mmmm, that's good. I start to feel alive again, and I order my dinner. The gringa waitress and the stacked Cubanita are exchanging looks. Let them — I'm gonna enjoy this.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®