At the Shell station on South Dixie Highway at SW 27th Avenue, Miamians stream in and out, jockeying for pumps, scoring cigs and lotto tickets, and amping up on Red Bull. But head to the back of the otherwise standard gas station's store and you'll find smiling ladies serving breakfast fare, pastelitos, made-to-order sammies, and, most important, Cuban coffee. They'll make any of the usual suspects, but it's their painstakingly prepared coladas you'll really remember. Order your café with a polite por favor and they'll serve it with a smile. Stack cups for sharing atop your Styrofoam treasure and head out to the parking lot. Drink up. It's jet black. Piping hot. Heavy con sucre. Blindingly potent. Screw Starbucks — this is how Miami does coffee.

La Sandwicherie
Photo courtesy of La Sandwicherie

There are four ingredients that go into a great café con leche. First, of course, is the coffee. Second is the water that streams through the grounds. Third is the milk that cuts the bitterness with creamy goodness. The fourth ingredient is harder to define. Call it location, ambiance, or scenery. Whatever the name, a great café con leche requires a place to sit, sip your liquid crack, and gawk at the mélange of humanity around you. By these criteria, the top café con leche in town is served at the counter of La Sandwicherie. There is nothing finer than stumbling over to the sliver of a restaurant at 3 a.m. and ordering the steaming mixture of Medaglia d'Oro espresso and milk you need to drive home. Of course, there are also super rico sandwiches to sop up the booze in your system. While you're sobering up, feast your other senses on the strange, sexy beasts pouring out of Mac's Club Deuce next door and prowling 14th Street. This, dear Florida flâneur, is what life — and café con leche — is all about.

Alaska Coffee Roasting Co.
Patrick Hieger

Connoisseurs know that a coffeehouse is not a coffeehouse is not a coffeehouse. Alaska Coffee Roasting Company proves this in oh so many ways. Local hangout, gourmet pizza and sandwich spot, bakery, pastry shop — ACRC delivers the goods. Oh, and of course there's coffee, arriving from around the globe and roasted in-house using a top-of-the-line 15-kilogram-capacity, fluidized-bed Sivitz roaster. ACRC's Facebook page announces when employees will demonstrate the roaster to the public — a cheap thrill you don't want to miss. The menu offers vegan options as well; pizzas and sandwiches are made fresh to order, and desserts are divine. Owner Karen Tuvia takes pride in her work and can't help but grin if you engage her in a conversation about the homemade soups, pastries, and coffees such as Mexican Pluma, Panama Boquete, Nicaragua Manotal, Brazil Cerrado, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Tanzania AA, Rwanda, Tmor Lest, and Sumatra Mandheling. There aren't many places in Miami where you can grab a gourmet lunch and fresh-roasted coffee for ten bucks, so thank your lucky, coffee-loving stars that Alaska is right around the corner.

JugoFresh

Dear Miami Beach visitor,

We regret to inform you that your champagne-popping, illicit-substance-chugging, casual-coitus-craving days are over. SoBe now belongs to the vegans, the raw-foodists, the yoga studios, and the many workout gear boutiques. Kindly set down your tequila and proceed to the nearest JugoFresh for additional information.

At the shop for organic, raw, vegan, and cold-pressed juices, you will find nourishing shots made with organic Bulgarian rosewater, cucumber, and deer antler extract. You will find yogis wearing Lululemon. They will be sipping on bottles of healthful things you've probably never heard of, such as blue-green algae, dandelion parsley, maca extract, and that green cabbage named kale ($7.50 to $11).

Please note these prices do not include swigs of vodka. Although these salubrious juices might cost as much as a cocktail, remember this: JugoFresh not only tastes delicious but also is good for you.

Sincerely,

Juicing Addicts, Miami Chapter

La Gloutonnerie

Beurre d'Isigny is no ordinary butter. And the brunch at La Gloutonnerie, the French restaurant in South Beach, is no ordinary brunch. The churned cream is among the best Franco-butters out there, and this Sunday meal is also unsurpassed. For $45 a pop, patrons get more than good butter slathered on fresh baguette. This brunch is a feast. Diners sip on two sparkling wine drinks. There's a cold appetizer section with oysters, charcuterie, marinated cheeses, and salads; a meat carving station; and an opulent dessert division with macarons, chocolate-covered strawberries, fruit tarts, layer cakes, and treats of all shapes, forms, and sizes. If the quality of a restaurant can be measured by its butter, well, we'll just say this: La Gloutonnerie serves the tastiest French butter around.

Tropical Chinese Restaurant
Photo by Andrew Meade

826, son,

Close to Santa's Enchanted.

Eat your destiny

Seven days a week.

Dim sum until 3:30.

Cure your hangover.

Little leek dumplings

Start your brunch off the right way.

Dip them in soy sauce.

Barbecue pork buns,

Steamed or baked; best grab them soon!

Elbow past your friends.

Hey! Flag down that cart!

That roast duck is baller, bro.

Might as well get two.

Get there early, lest

You miss out on custard buns.

Lunch seasoned with tears.

Shokudo

You can buy many things with $10.75. You could purchase one-and-a-quarter packages of Marlboro cigarettes or two bottles of Mexican Coca-Cola and a box of cool honey-flavored Altoids. You could get loads of chewing gum, a sandwich, perhaps a Cuban frita or two. But none of these treats would ever outdo the sushi-packed bento box lunch special at Shokudo, the Buena Vista restaurant famous for tasty Asian cuisine. Yes, buckaroos, you can get a steaming bowl of miso soup, half a California roll, salad, slaw, and a choice of two of the following: chicken or steak teriyaki, shrimp or vegetable tempura, gyoza, sushi, sashimi, and momo dumplings. Isn't that totally worth more than some Mexican Coke?

Pancho Taco

Call it "bar food" if you like. We call it "delicious." Sure, Pancho Taco isn't a full-fledged restaurant; it's a converted station wagon that serves bites to slightly inebriated Wood Tavern patrons in the gravel-covered, tarp-shaded backyard. But the eats are authentic Mexican street tacos. There are carnitas, chicken, and mushroom tacos to choose from. And they all come topped with onions, tomatillo sauce, and cheese if requested. They're freshly made, and damned if they don't hit the spot after a few whiskey and gingers. Each taco is priced at $2, but on Taco Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m., you can scarf down as many as you like for free. Yeah, you read that right. Free.

Swine Southern Table & Bar
billwisserphoto.com

Robert Ferrara is an odd bird. There he is, head down, more immersed in the task at hand than in chatting up the pretty girls who sip his drinks at the upstairs bar inside Swine Southern Table & Bar. That is, of course, until they ask him what's in the rose-hued cocktail they're savoring. Suddenly, Ferrara's eyes light up as he describes in loving detail the ingredients in his Mexican State of Mind. "I use fresh-pressed watermelon and some jalapeño for heat," he beams. "It balances the tequila and mezcal. Do you like the watermelon radish?" Ferrara, you see, is a bar geek — that rare breed of mixologist who exists for the cocktail itself. While some barkeeps are in it for the tips or the broads or the ego trip that slinging drinks can afford, Ferrara is a purist. For him, making the perfect libation is tantamount to climbing Everest — legendary and worthy of the sacrifice. And like a climber prepping for the summit push, Ferrara takes meticulous care in the making of his cocktails: collecting the perfect vintage glassware for each drink, procuring bourbon barrels direct from Kentucky so he can hand-age custom concoctions, making his own tinctures and infusions, and bottling his own sodas. Quiz him about that curious bottle on the second shelf to the far right and you'll get an education in the history of vermouth. Ask for a drink and he'll weave a tale about the evolution of the old-fashioned. After all of this bar trivia, you're thirsty. The wait is worth it, because Ferrara's cocktails — whether you indulge in one of his unnamed barrel-aged science projects ($13) or a Swine old-fashioned washed with bacon fat and made with Ferrara's own bitters ($15) — are complex, bold, and surprising. In the end, whether you're trying to get to the top of the world or the bottom of a barrel, obsession drives success. And geeks always win. Just ask Bill Gates. Or Rob Ferrara.

At first glance, you might think the Latin Macho burger ($8) is a slovenly sandwich. After all, once you unwrap the foil it rests in, you'll find a jumble of bun-oozing cheese, juice, and caramelized onions. As you try to figure out how to tackle this meat monster without wearing most of it, you flip up the bun and discover a veritable puddle of molten Oaxaca cheese combined with a slightly piquant red-pepper mayo and plenty of onions. This is where the burger gets interesting. You figure, What the hell, and go in for an exploratory bite. The patty, made from hand-ground chuck and chorizo, is meaty, spicy, and multidimensional. You take a larger bite and then another before realizing your burger is all but gone. So is your dignity as you try to lick the remaining juices from the collar of your shirt. But when a burger this juicy and savory comes along, there is no shame in enjoying it. As for your shirt stains? That's what washing machines are for.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®