Ethnic cuisine tastes best when it's prepared island-style — slowly and flavorfully. Island Restaurant, a quaint Jamaican eatery in the Hammocks in West Kendall, does just that. In the nine-table dining room, the walls are painted bright orange and decorated with iconic photos of the island, including a tokin' Bob Marley. The waitress, Teayanna, is sweet and attentive. She is accommodating and helpful with the menu, which includes many popular Jamaican dishes that might be unfamiliar to mainlanders. There's oxtail ($11.50) and callaloo with codfish ($8). Some dishes veer from traditional recipes — the red pea soup ($1.75 cup, $3.50 small, $6 large), for example, is chock full of carrots and other veggies, along with the traditional dumplings and hunks of beef. The patty ($2), a Jamaican staple, is baked to perfection — the orange-hued pastry is flaky yet tender, and the meat (either beef or chicken) is spicy but not intolerable. The store attached to the dining room sells Kola Champagne, the citrusy cream soda of the Caribbean. Patrons can also purchase chips, bread, and sauces imported from the island.

Ayesha's Fine Dining
Ayesha website

It hits as soon as you walk through the door: the mouthwatering smell of spices, curries, and flavors that you can't find anywhere else. No matter which location you choose, Ayesha's Fine Dining will take your palate on an exotic journey through the tastiest of traditions. Everything is delectable, from the lamb samosa to the chicken korma, the shrimp apna curry, and the tandoori. Make your taste buds happy with mild, medium, hot, or Indian hot. The naan is out of this world, the perfect mix of fluffy and crunchy, made in a variety of styles from cheesy to garlic and even Kashmiri. This place is no all-you-can-eat, regular old Indian joint. It's a bit on the pricey side — entrées average about $15 a plate — but it's well worth it. It's also an excellent spot for a date you really want to impress. Set the mood by pairing your dinner with a glass of terrific wine for about $8. Even if you're not trying to impress, Ayesha's is a must for Indian lovers. Hard-core fans will enjoy it, and novices won't be intimidated. What more could you ask for?

Maria's Greek Restaurant

A restaurant doesn't often transport you to its food's point of origin. At Maria's, the avgolemono soup — made with chicken and orzo in a luscious broth of stock, egg, and lemon — makes you feel like you're in Greece. Not the Greece of the Travel Channel or travel blogs, but the one of big gatherings and bigger plates. The Coral Way restaurant has been a family-run operation since 1982. Matriarch Maria Sotiriou has passed the reins to her daughter Angela and son-in law Costa Grillas, a co-owner of the Design District's Egg & Dart. But there's still the air of home cooking. It's easy to imagine being served Maria's souvlaki platter ($12.95) — more than big enough for two — in someone's home. "Keep eating! You look hungry!" they would say as they piled hunk after hunk of grilled pork and triangles of pita on your plate. "Try the tzatziki!" As if all of that wasn't enough, Maria's also delivers. Opa!

Burger Bob's
Burger Beast

"Fore!" After playing 18 holes on the Granada Golf Course in the Gables, there's no question you've worked up an appetite. Hunger takes over, your gut shifts into survival mode, and you frantically search for the nearest food spot. Calm down. Just walk to the course's clubhouse and into Burger Bob's. A hidden treasure, the diner run by Bob Maguire has been serving authentic American diner food for 20 years. Enter and you'll be transported to a real '50s or '60s hangout. The place has an endearing comfort because it doesn't necessarily realize its kitschy charm. It offers a casual, no-pressure, no-BS environment with great service from the moment you take a seat till the time you pay the check. (Cash only. Yeah, America!) The coffee tastes like actual coffee, and the cook knows the difference between over-easy, medium, and well. This is quality diner food that doesn't pretend to be something it's not. However, the burger is what keeps people coming back to Bob's. It's a perfectly sized and filling piece of meat that triggers backyard-barbecue memories for less than $5. Bob's, by the way, continues to exist even though it was almost closed as part of a large-scale development plan by the city. That would have been a tragedy.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®