Best Outdoor Dining 2013 | Mandolin Aegean Bistro | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Few things in life are guaranteed. However, choosing Mandolin Aegean Bistro for an intimate dinner almost guarantees you'll get laid. If you schedule a business lunch, you'll close that deal or make that big sale. You'll head to the nearby Louis Vuitton boutique to celebrate because that's how you roll. The magic happens on a red-and-brown cobblestone patio where sprawling off-white canvas umbrellas cast glorious cool shade during the day. Sandals and mirrored aviator sunglasses are the accessories of choice. White wine is poured happily, and there's no such thing as a superfast lunch. At night, candles in tall skinny glass jars give off a warm golden glow. Ground lights pointed skyward bring the emerald-green shrubs and flowers that wrap the patio back to daytime vibrancy. No one looks bad in that kind of light.

Photo by Deyson Rodriguez

Water laps softly against bobbing boat hulls. A setting sun turns clouds into wide streaks of orange and red against a purple-blue sky. None of it matters once you hear the sandy, gritty crunch of pale-orange stone crab claws being crushed. The cool evening breeze whooshing in off Biscayne Bay doesn't matter when you learn that Monty's Raw Bar in Coconut Grove sells medium Jonah crab claws (or stone crab claws in season) for $4 during a 4 to 8 p.m. happy hour on weeknights. You'd trade the water views for a blighted warehouse as long as the claws remain cheap and the oysters, clams, and peel-and-eat shrimp are still a buck. Yet add the views, the half-priced cocktails and discounted beer, and the din of a hard-drinking happy-hour crowd (many of them UM students), and you'll swear off those chichi seafood towers forever.

When you tire of lomo saltado, pan con bistec, and ropa vieja; when your digestive system longs for a little roughage and your taste buds for a cleanse; and when your Levi's are getting tight around the midsection, sniff out the greener pastures of Govinda's Garden. Hidden behind downtown's fading flagship Macy's, it's too easy to miss. Its forest-colored décor and smattering of chairs and tables are a serene respite from the rest of South Miami Avenue. Order the rainbow-hued quinoa salad ($9.50). You'll be presented with an artfully overflowing bowl of bright-green spinach leaves, crimson peppers, mint-colored cucumbers, burnished brown raisins, purple cabbage, and taupe cashews topped with a sunny yellow lemon slice. For $2.50, add perfectly browned tofu as a topper. Dressing is optional. Quiet, friendly waitresses will shoot coy smiles your way as you chomp happily on your rabbit food. Your innards (and outards) will thank you.

Michael Stavaridis

Afternoon turns to dusk in South Beach. At Juvia, the penthouse restaurant at the Herzog & de Meuron-designed building at 1111 Lincoln Rd., golden rays brush against lush, vertical gardens. The foliage is a creation of French botanist Patrick Blanc. Amethyst-colored elements — cushions, cloth napkins, crystals — dot the glowing 10,000-square-foot eatery, which features a terrace covered by a trackless retractable roof and a rectangular fountain. Designed by Alejandro Barrios-Carrero, the setting fuses nature and open sky with urbanity and concrete. It pairs peerless architecture with landscape and design. The restaurant is a James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Restaurant Design, 76 Seats and Over. It's also a spectacular spot for cocktails and dinner at sunset.

Oh, hunger, you are an eternal beast. Always on the prowl. Always in search of the next meal. This could be why Palate Party has a giant mouth as its logo — teeth bared in a never-ending quest for interesting edibles. But while some food trucks exist only to feed your hunger, this truck, owned and operated by chef Robyn Almodovar, seeks to entertain the beast through comfort foods made from fresh ingredients such as local produce and sustainable seafood. No frozen Sysco stuff for Almodovar, who, by the way, might look waifish in her tight red pants and chef's coat but is tough as nails. She had a trial by fire at the hands of Gordon Ramsay himself. This lady can cook, sass, and break into a wild dance that resembles Snoopy's suppertime freestyle. After a few bites of her food, you and your mouth — finally free from hunger's shackles — will likely join in the celebration.

If culinary icon José Andrés were an actor in a Hollywood flick, he'd probably be Tom Hanks in Big. Andrés, who's based in Washington, D.C., is as energetic at cooking as Josh Baskin is at playing "Chopsticks" on the piano at FAO Schwartz — only Andrés plays less with big instruments and a bit more with mozzarella and olives. Andrés would be like Chuck in Castaway — except Spanish tapas-style cuisine would be the unopened FedEx package. (The chef, after all, is credited with bringing Spain's cuisine to the United States.) Andrés, who owns nearly a dozen restaurants nationwide, is business-savvy like the band manager in That Thing You Do! and he perseveres like the FBI agent in Catch Me If You Can. So when José Andrés debuted the Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in South Beach, the one thought on everybody's mind was: If I were Rita Wilson, would that mean I'd get Andrés' bagel and lox — an edible cone filled with salmon roe and dill cream cheese — for breakfast every day? Well, a fan can dream.

Photo by Jeff Salter

— Burt, we never go anywhere nice anymore. Remember when you would woo me with dinners at that great sushi restaurant, the one with eight seats and impeccable fish? Why don't we go there tonight?

— Martha, there's no way I can get us a table at Naoe. Chef Kevin Cory is booked weeks in advance.

— I'm tired of excuses. I want uni, and I want it now.

— But it's just not that simple. Kevin Cory isn't your run-of-the-mill chef. He's a five-star sushi master acclaimed by Forbes. The New York Post called Naoe one of the best restaurants in the nation. Folks travel from out of town to go to his omakase-style joint — even though it starts at $160 a person. Imagine that!

— Oh, I get it. You think a night out with me isn't worth that kind of expense.

— Well, dear, I probably won't ever win this argument, but I do know one thing for sure: Kevin Cory's cooking is — and always will be — absolutely priceless.

Photo courtesy of the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

Vanilla ice cream atop warm apple pie? That's not Antonio Bachour's style. The executive pastry chef at St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort pairs perfect quenelles of mango, raspberry, or passionfruit sorbet with treats such as piña colada mousseline and chocolate-hazelnut bars. What about whipped cream atop a chocolate tart? Nope. That's not his MO either. Bachour pipes precise lines of coconut or milk chocolate cremeux next to tropical fruit foams and yogurt snow. He combines creamy lychee-rose water panna cotta with ephemeral raspberry fizzy. He garnishes desserts with vibrant edible flowers, and his chocolate bonbons are spattered with the textures of a Jackson Pollock painting and the vivacious colors of a Mark Rothko piece. Is Antonio Bachour simply a pastry chef? Uh-uh. He's more like an artist of all things frozen, beautiful, and sweet.

Ma! Pa! I've got some big news. Sit down, sit down. No, Mom, relax. It's not what you think. Listen, you remember my friend Roger Duarte?

Claro, the one who sells stone crabs?

Yup, that's the one. Well, I've decided to quit my job as executive chef of the Raleigh Hotel in South Beach. Roger and I are going to open a take-away seafood shack next to a hostel in SoFi. Isn't that an amazing idea?

Papi, you handle this one.

Son, are you saying that after moving to Miami from Colombia, graduating from Johnson & Wales University, working under famous chefs such as Laurent Tourondel in New York and Michael Schwartz in Miami, making Forbes' "30 Under 30" list, and receiving a nomination as Rising Star Chef by the James Beard Foundation, you're going to give it all up to sell ceviche and taquitos next to some hostel?

That's right, Pop. Forget haute cuisine. I'm almost 30 years old. Now is the time to do what I love: approachable, ultra-fresh seafood at a place we'll call My Ceviche. Don't you see? I'm more than just talent. I'm a trailblazer. I'm going to bring delicious and affordable fish to all of Miami.

Ay dios mio. I need to sit down.

Robert Is Here

Expand your horizons and your definition of "gourmet" at the Homestead staple Robert Is Here. No frills and no fuss, just excellent produce, freshly canned goods, and some of the best flavors South Florida and its farmers can offer. The fruit milkshakes ($5 to $5.50) are legendary, so grab one while you browse the unique sweet and savory dips, salsas, jams, and hot sauces. Oh, and out back there's a petting zoo and kids' splash area that transform this market into an attraction worthy of a day trip. The market is open daily except September and October, when the place is refurbished and prepared for winter produce. The motto here is "Come taste the unusual!" It's highly recommended you taste the unusual, unique, and absolutely delicious.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®