Shinju Japanese Buffet

Most people steer clear of Chinese and Japanese buffets, and with good reason. If you've visited one of the ubiquitous Asian buffets around the city, you've visited them all. Except one. Shinju Japanese Buffet serves a wide variety of fresh food. First there's the sushi bar, which offers roll after roll. If you don't see your favorite on display, just request it — it'll appear within minutes. Then stroll by the hibachi, where you can pick up some of the best grilled chicken wings in town. There's peel-and-eat shrimp during lunch, and crab legs are up for grabs during dinner. Shinju rounds out its offerings with a full hot bar including common items such as fried rice, spring rolls, dumplings, tempura veggies, and pepper steak. There's a reason you might have to circle the lot once or twice for a parking spot. Perfect for a weekday lunch, Shinju is the best $11.95 ($6.95 for kids) you'll ever spend.

Azul Restaurant

We hear all the time that celebrities have it rough. After all, they have to escape paparazzi, endure torturous elective surgeries, and waste time at court-appointed rehab stints. But for all of this, the upside (besides the insane number of zeros on a paycheck for shilling for some car company) is being treated like royalty everywhere you go. If you haven't experienced what it feels like to be pampered within an inch of your life, book a table at Azul right now. Yeah, yeah, Azul's food is beautiful. But we're not talking about that now. We're talking about a level of service that's usually reserved for people who have a closetful of trophies. And it's all for little nobody you. Doors mysteriously open as you glide through them. Fragrant rose petals are scattered at your table for special occasions. A purse hook is placed at the table for the lady's handbag. Can't read the menu? Penlights are provided. Soft pashminas are there to shield bare arms from air-conditioning or breezy night air. A server arrives at your table with a device that resembles an iPad and begins a custom slide show complete with wedding photos for your anniversary celebration. A wine captain suggests a few midpriced bottles after gently questioning you about your food choices and your budget. These little perks and others are a good part of why Azul achieved the coveted Forbes Travel Guide five-star designation this year. It's also a fantastic reason to go. Because, while everyone should be treated like gold at least once in a while, you can do so without the annoying TMZ reporters or Betty Ford clinic stay.

Cipriani Downtown Miami
Laine Doss

During the Roaring Twenties in Venice, Italy, a bartender named Giuseppe Cipriani loaned a customer 10,000 lire (about $5,000) after hearing that the man, a wealthy Bostonian named Harry Pickering, was cut off from his fortune after his family found out he was drinking much of his money away. Sure, that was generous for a bartender, but the gesture was well rewarded. Two years later, a flush Pickering returned the money with interest, giving the stunned Cipriani 90,000 lire — enough to open a bar of his own. Harry's Bar quickly became the haunt of authors and celebrities. Orson Welles, Truman Capote, Noel Coward, Janet Leigh, and Ernest Hemingway would come for Cipriani's signature dry martini, served in a stemless glass, and stay for the night. The bar was declared a landmark in 2001 and is a major "to do" for visitors, along with riding in a gondola. The Cipriani name still embodies elegance, and the brand has expanded with bars and restaurants in New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Monte Carlo, Ibiza, Moscow, and Abu Dhabi. The rich, famous, and beautiful still frequent Cipriani restaurants for beautiful cocktails and an evening of romance and glamour. In the past, Cipriani has alluded to opening in Miami, even planning a resort hotel in Miami Beach. But, sadly, nothing came to fruition — until now. Cipriani recently opened a location at Icon Tower in Brickell. Although Hemingway or Capote or even Giuseppe Cipriani have never set foot in this new location, we'll still raise a dry martini to the friendly ghosts of Ciprianis past and to the promise of a new crop of beautiful and intelligent people to come.

Red South Beach

If you're a carnivore, steak houses are a necessary evil. Though most turn out a good steak, there are usually only three possible vibes — boardroom-with-the-boss, brothel-with-a kitchen, or unless-you're-famous-you'll-be-eating-near-the-bathroom. And then there's Red the Steakhouse. While it's true that many power meals are held within its winter-white walls and red banquettes, there are also many, many dates here. And though the restaurant has its share of star power, the hostess and waitstaff will surely not penalize you for being under seven feet tall or not having any reality TV credits under your belt. So, what is Red all about? How about steak? Executive chef Peter Vauthy serves some of the best USDA Prime aged Certified Angus Beef steaks you've eaten. A 14-ounce New York strip ($47) is succulent and masterful. Want something more exotic (and costly)? Authentic and rare Kobe beef from Japan runs about $199 for a ten-ounce serving, but it's an experience you won't forget. Served slightly seared, it's velvety, mild, and a little otherworldly. Plus, if you're not a steak lover (gasp), there's a place at the table especially for you. Chef Vauthy flies in giant king crab from Alaska, rare Brittany Blue lobster from the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean off the shores of Scotland, and the finest fresh local seafood (market price). In fact, sometimes we wonder if the place should be Red Steak and Seafood. But then again, why pigeonhole when you can just eat without attitude?

We all need a little romance in our increasingly hectic, electronic, and plastic lives. To escape the constant rush of the world, try an evening under the fairy lights of Cecconi's, located in the enchanting courtyard of the Soho Beach House. It begins at the bar over a champagne cocktail or a barrel-aged rum old-fashioned ($14). There's no hurry, so linger, laugh, and look into each other's eyes as the balmy breezes blow in from the ocean so close you can hear the rush of the waves in the distance. When it's time to move on to dinner, ask for a seat as far back as possible — away from the crowds. Sheltered by a canopy of trees, you toast to love with a glass of prosecco ($62 per bottle) as a light starter of beef tartare ($18) and grilled octopus ($18) arrives. A hint of salt air tickles your nose as your eyes turn to your beloved, softly lit by candles and moonlight. "Will it be the branzino [$36] or the New York strip [$38]?" you ask. "Let's just order another bottle of prosecco and enjoy the evening before we eat — and maybe see if there are any rooms available upstairs," is the reply — and the fairy lights in the trees twinkle as if nodding in agreement.

Jumbo's
Adrianne D'Angelo

It's 4 o'clock Sunday morning. You awake on a bench in Liberty City. You are confused, haggard, alone. You smell like booze. In the distance, you spot a restaurant. The light is on. People are inside. You check your watch. It reads 4:05 a.m. Could it be? You move closer and read the sign: "Jumbo's." The pinguid aromas of fried conch and shrimp waft from the inside. Your stomach grumbles. You rummage through your pockets. Jackpot! Twenty bucks — just enough for those golden, luscious crustaceans ($9.99 for a half-order of conch or a full order of shrmip) and some fried chicken ($6.99 for two wings, two drumsticks, fries, and coleslaw). The yard bird arrives at the table. It's served on a Shoney's plate. It has a thin, brittle crust and juicy, moist flesh. You take a bite. 4:15 a.m. 4:20 a.m. Should you head home? Is the restaurant closing soon? No, Jumbo's is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You stay awhile. After all, the time for fluffy buttermilk pancakes ($2.99 for two, $3.50 for three) is approaching.

Scotty's Landing

If you want the best seat in the house at Scotty's Landing, prepare to hover near a table of folks finishing their dessert. Then pray they don't want to sit around to take in the view. It's a good one. This is casual waterfront dining, so there's no hostess to bribe. If you can't score an unobstructed front-row view of the bay, fear not — even sitting a few tables in from the boat parking does not disappoint. Though Scotty's is mainly about the waterfront, the restaurant has provided affordable, no-frills seafood and pub grub for 21 years. The fried stuff, like the grouper sandwich ($13.50) and conch fritters, are the best menu items (the smoked fish ain't bad either), but the star attraction remains the view across Biscayne Bay to West Islands Park. Bonus waterfront pleasure: If you can make it to Scotty's July 4, it offers a definitive view of many of Miami's best fireworks displays, and you'll have a table, a server, and a hearty chili dog to boot.

Best Restaurant to Take Out-of-Towners

Florida Cookery

Florida Cookery

Forget those hackneyed airboat tours across the Everglades. Nibbling on the alligator empanadas at Florida Cookery is a truer taste of Florida. At this South Beach restaurant, you won't find margherita pizzas, niçoise salads, or neon-blue frozen cocktails with too much sugar, too little booze, and one too many paper umbrellas. What you will find are frogs' legs ($17), wild boar chops ($36), and local quail ($26). There are spicy micheladas and tasty desserts such as dulce de leche rice custard and Puerto Rican pineapple rum cake ($9). The restaurant is inspired by a late-'40s pamphlet about Sunshine State cuisine, which belonged to chef and partner Kris Wessel's grandmother. Wessel clearly loves Florida's diverse ethnic and cultural influences: the Caribbean, Latin America, and the American South and Northeast. So when you have visitors, chomp on this!

Maoz Vegetarian

Chloe Levi is your average Miami Beach resident. She favors coconut milk smoothies, practices Bikram yoga on weekends, and keeps a mostly vegetarian diet. Chloe dislikes chain restaurants, yet she frequents Maoz Vegetarian often. The falafel joint, located just a few steps from Lincoln Road on Washington Avenue, is part of a unique group of eateries. There are franchises in Barcelona, Paris, and New York that are completely vegetarian, kosher, and, in some cases, even vegan and gluten-free. There is a falafel sandwich for $5.95 and a salad option for $7.95. There are vegan soups, juices, and complimentary toppings from a salad bar — including sliced red cabbage, tabouli, and roasted cauliflower and broccoli. Chloe loves Maoz because it's affordable, healthful, and very unchain-like. Trust Chloe. She knows what's up.

La Camaronera Seafood Joint and Fish Market
Courtesy of La Camaronera

Few things can trump nibbling on a pan con minuta ($5) while standing at the counter of the West Flagler staple La Camaronera. For 40 years, the cash-only seafood shack has sold delectable fried shrimp, oysters ($8.50), and fish roe ($7). But recently, there have been changes. The restaurant added pan-seared fish fillets and shrimp tacos to its bill of fare. And it took over an adjoining space. Now there are waiters taking orders. There are menus. There are even chairs! Hours were amended too. La Camaronera is open for dinner on weekends. That means those daytime, counter fish-fry lunches have been upgraded to evening, sit-down grouper-soup suppers. Plus, beer and wine will be coming soon. Talk about a fish-fry spruce-up!

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®