Best of Miami 1996

Mr. Coney Island
260 NE 167th Street
North Miami Beach

Since Nathan's closed down a few years back, there are only two real contenders for local wiener supremacy. One is Arbetter's Hot Dogs (8747 Bird Rd.), the other Mr. Coney Island. The two represent highly evolved and wildly divergent hot dog ideologies. Comparing them is like asking what's a better drink, a martini or a glass of chocolate milk. Arbetter's boils its dogs. To death. They're small and pale. The chili that figures into the chili dogs seems to be made of no recognizable natural substance. If all this seems to militate against a trip to Arbetter's, hearken: The smallness of the dogs allows one to eat up to four at a sitting. The kraut is superior. And this joint does nothing but dogs A the little roadside dive is a temple of wiener worship, with a veritable database of hot dog history and current affairs lining the walls. Mr. Coney Island, at the other extreme of the county, grills its dogs, which are big fat Isaac Gellis New York premier koshers; they're pinkish, not pale at all. One of their $2.65 foot-longs is a serious undertaking, a commitment to a long-term relationship. The mustard is fantastic, the chili as good as Arbetter's is bad. Besides truly excellent hot dogs, Mr. Coney Island has a lot of other stuff that escapees from New York find dear: egg creams, knishes, and hot corned beef and pastrami sandwiches.

2590 N. Federal Highway
Fort Lauderdale
2834 N. University Drive

For the best bowl of chili you must cross the border A into Broward. Not only can our neighbors to the north claim the Florida Panthers, they already own the rights to two Skyline chili franchises. As anyone from Cincinnati knows, Skyline is the king of the Queen City's ubiquitous chili chains. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to find this unique delicacy outside of Ohio. Skyline's signature dish is a runny, meaty mixture spiced with chocolate and cinnamon, served several different ways. We recommend the five-way, with the chili poured over spaghetti and topped with onions, kidney beans, and a mound of fresh cheddar cheese. When you consider that most people must travel I-75 to satisfy this addictive vice, the brief drive up I-95 is no big deal.

Metro Deli Sandwich Shop
70 NE Second Street

Every morning Metro Deli owner Joe Gangi makes the rounds to local meat and produce wholesalers, picking up only what he needs for each day's business so everything will be served fresh. And every morning Gangi buys a lot, because the sandwiches he crafts in his cozy downtown eatery are massive, towering creations that take up most of the red plastic baskets in which they're served. Metro is not the place for a light lunch. Open since 1942 and under the able wing of Big Apple native and long-time Miamian Gangi for the past four years or so, Metro has built a loyal following among downtowners who know a damn good sandwich when they grab one. Nearly everything on the menu costs less than five bucks. Corned beef and Swiss on rye is a thing of heavenly creation. Turkey on wheat renders Thanksgiving almost obsolete. And the hoagie-wrapped pastrami is A as any nutritionist would probably tell you A to die for. "It's very important to Joe that he make a good sandwich," says Gangi's wife Denise. "He always tries to please the customers." Indeed he does.

Readers' Choice: Rascal House

Lee's Bakery
23135 S. Dixie Highway
(No phone)

These are not the restaurant version, wherein sweetened condensed milk overshadows the tart lime and frozen graham cracker crusts stand in for old-fashioned effort. Bert Wexelbaum was one of the first to bring key lime pie north from the Keys back in 1952. His only advertising is the sign on the side of his cinder-block shack, yet his fans are legion. Richard Nixon, hiding out on Key Biscayne, used to send Secret Service chaps to buy Bert's entire daily yield. Whole pies cost $7.50, halves $4.50, a slice $1.65. Bert also sells key limeade and nine types of tropical fruit jelly. He opens soon after sunrise and shuts down when he sells out A usually by midafternoon.

Readers' Choice: Joe's Stone Crab

Jimbo's Shrimp
Sewer Line Road
(Off the Rickenbacker Causeway)
Virginia Key

For about 30 years, Jim Luznar has been smoking marlin, salmon, and the occasional wahoo in an oak-burning contraption behind his bait shop. No nods toward modernity here. Luznar remembers how Miami used to be, and he liked it. He sells a pound of his fish for five bucks, Buds for only a dollar. But prices are beside the point. Jimbo's regulars, including Mayor Steve Clark, come here because this is the way they wish the world could be. Slower. Easier. With a well-tended bocce court for those who want to cut loose without working up a sweat. And enough cold beer to go around.

Healthy Express
4702 Le Jeune Road
Coral Gables

If the radiance of owner Jessica Sassoon and her staff is any indication, the food at this takeout, delivery, and catering operation is indeed healthy. Very healthy. They call their fare "gourmet vegetarian and nouveau macro cuisine" and forswear sugar, preservatives, and dairy. Sound boring and scary? Fear not: It's darn tasty. Each day brings a new "daily lunch special" that includes soup, an entree, vegetables, and dessert, all for ten dollars (seven dollars if you skip soup and dessert.) A recent lunch menu included vegetable soup, brown rice, black-bean pizza, lotus root and tofu, and kale with radish and pumpkin seed. Other specials have featured tofu steak with cilantro sauce and soy-protein-stuffed zucchini with a couscous salad. Healthy Express also offers a varied a la carte dinner menu, from "Bombay Curry Supreme" to linguini with shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, and oven-dried tomatoes.

Readers' Choice: Last Carrot

Latin American Cafeteria
2940 Coral Way
Coral Gables

At the small semicircular counter, people loom behind those lucky enough to have already grabbed a seat. Hams hang overhead, waiting to become part of the pork, Swiss cheese, ham, and pickle sandwich just about everybody has come here for. Topped with butter, pressed almost pancake thin in a sandwich iron, and then cut into four mini sandwiches, the Cuban is big enough to share yet still small enough for one. But if big is your thing, there's more to love with the Cubano Especial -- slightly longer and stacked higher than the regular, and priced at a little more than four bucks instead of a little less.

Blimpie's Subs & Salads
Various locations in Dade and Broward

Served on Blimpie's bread instead of Cuban bread, and slathered with mayo. Oddly enough, it's almost as good as the real thing . . . maybe even better.

Two Sisters Restaurant
50 Alhambra Plaza
Coral Gables

The focus in this tony dining room is a weird one A Pacific Rim/Latin fusion. Or confusion, depending on how you look at it. But for those who wouldn't think of starting a meal without a traditional black bean soup, Two Sisters has the rich, authentic thang. Spiced with cumin, the beans are soft but whole, topped with a dab of sour cream and the kicker A a deep-fried wedge of manchego cheese. Of course, black bean soup is a tad difficult to handle with the house chopsticks. Unless you're looking for a husband, in which case, according to Chinese tradition, picking up 100 beans in a row marks you as great wife material. We think we'll stick to spoons.

Readers' Choice: La Carreta

Garcia's Seafood Grille and Fish Market
398 NW North River Drive

Yeah, the good folks at Garcia's offer a full range of appetizers, soups, salads, and an ocean's worth of freshly caught seafood. But if all they sold was their delectable grilled dolphin sandwich -- the one topped with shredded lettuce, a diced medley of tomatoes and red onions, and that delightful Parmesan pepper dressing -- that menu would be plenty full for us.

The Pit Bar-B-Q
16400 SW Eighth Street
West Dade

The secret: Pit owner Tommy Little smokes the meat overnight. Taking his time and allowing that wood-grill flavor to seep into every crevice gives Tommy's beef a unique taste that has kept people flocking to this little West Dade barbecue shack for more than 27 years. Add to that his secret barbecue sauce and homemade cole slaw and lunch never tasted so good. Those with hearty appetites are encouraged to try the Pit's special double-decker sandwich.

San Loco
235 Fourteenth Street
Miami Beach

Two words. First word, an abbreviation. Rhymes with taco. Second word, means "crazy" in Spanish. Say it: Guaco loco. Now bite into that double-decker taco, its hard corn shell wrapped in a soft flour tortilla spread with guacamole. Prices range from $3.75 to $5.00.

Mex Mess
1522 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach

More Tex than Mex, and anything but a mess. But misnomers aside, Eduardo Rios Ballestros, a former sous chef at the world-renowned Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, stuffs tender, flaky salmon into a burrito with cheese and spicy tomato sauce. At eleven dollars, a real reason to live the spicy life. As far as we're concerned, he can call it whatever he wants, as long as he keeps them coming.

Las Puertas
148 Giralda Avenue
Coral Gables

Chicken is mundane, beef boring, shrimp pale. No fajitas in town can compete with the duck version served up here. Duck breasts are grilled to order whole, then sliced into succulent medallions. Smear 'em with a little of Las Puertas's excellent guacamole, add a dab of juicy pico de gallo, fold it all into a soft flour tortilla, and you've got one daffy-looking, duck-delicious meal.

Canton Chinese Restaurant
2614 Ponce de Leon Boulevard
Coral Gables

Just because you're doing takeout doesn't mean you ought to lower your culinary standards: Your food should be freshly prepared, served in portions comparable to what you'd get in the dining room, and your order should be ready when promised A not before or after. On all counts, Canton delivers, so to speak. They offer all the standards, from appetizing egg-drop soup to incredible Peking shrimp. Egg rolls are objects to be savored. Vegetables are always fresh, ditto for the seafood, and the sweet-and-sour standbys are lightly covered in a sauce that offers a true balance between the two taste sensations.

Panini Coffee Bar
16 NE Third Avenue

As with many things French, Panini began as a concept. For reasons unknown even to himself, former fashion designer Robert Haik gazed upon the grimy streets of downtown Miami, full of greasy cafeterias, cut-rate electronics stores, and wholesale jewelers and thought: fresh food. "Cheap, healthy food made with zee best ingredients," is the way Haik describes his vision. And mirabile dictu: fresh-baked ciabatta bread made with olive oil and rosemary and stuffed with different combos of meats, vegetables, and cheeses. After lunch, stay for a freshly brewed java at one of the sidewalk tables. Third Avenue never looked so much like Boulevard St. Michel.

Paramount Cafe
1040 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach

Lean, juicy ground sirloin, shaped by hand and grilled to order. A warmed bun (or grilled Italian bread if you prefer) and a mess o' steak fries and a salad on the side. If you gotta have cheese, ask for goat or brie, two choices that are often in the house. As are we.

Readers' Choice: Fuddrucker's

Lila's Restaurant-Hialeah
4590 W. Twelfth Avenue
Lila's Westchester Restaurant
8518 Coral Way
West Dade

Lila's is famous for its palomilla steak smothered with French fries -- and not just because the steak's good. The fries, which for many dedicated customers are the main attraction, are literally the crowning touch: thin and crisp (but not too crisp), really tasty (but not too salty), just greasy enough, and so plentiful you'll need help polishing them off.

Readers' Choice: McDonald's

Various locations in Dade and Broward counties

Biga made a name for itself with fabulous olive-walnut, focaccia, sourdough country, and onion rye breads -- to name just a crusty, chewy few -- but sweets are pretty sweet here too. From biscotti to sticky buns, fresh fruit muffins and scones to fresh fruit tarts and cakes, Biga delivers the baked goods. Sandwiches excel too: Try Norwegian smoked salmon, cucumber, and red onion on multigrain bread with honey mustard, or chàvre with herbs and cucumber on ficelle with vinaigrette. Six locations prove Biga is bigga than ever.

Readers' Choice: Andalusia Bake Shop

Alton Road Super Market
1675 Alton Road
Miami Beach

This Latin grocery sells only one kind of freshly baked bread -- Cuban. And at 69 cents, less than the price of a cup of coffee. On busy days the crusty loaves leave the ovens every hour on the hour, and the aroma fills the store, leaking out to the sidewalk. Though the bread is kept warm under heat lamps near the cashiers, it usually doesn't stay around long enough to toughen. Buy at least two loaves -- the first one smells so good it won't last the car ride home.

Bagel Factory
1427 Alton Road
Miami Beach

The Factory rolls the best fatties. One bagel here eats like two anyplace else. Purists have faulted the size of the mutant strain in the past, but no one can argue that these crusty carbohydrates don't outperform the spongy specimens served up by the competition. Factory management recently installed a brand-new deli case, so now sandwiches and salads are also prepared on the premises, along with gourmet cream cheeses, whitefish salad, and the best fat-free tuna in the vicinity.

Delices de France
King's Bay Shopping Center
14453 S. Dixie Highway
South Dade

Pastry chef Patrick Baboun narrows his eyes suspiciously when asked where he learned to make his croissants so moist and light. "Some of the best schools in France," he offers grudgingly, reluctantly naming one, Le N“trie, a famous culinary school outside Paris. About the only other detail the Haitian-born Baboun will divulge concerning his training is the three-year apprenticeship he served before opening his own bakery in Paris. Delices de France, established in 1994, is his second venture. Baboun begins baking at 4:00 a.m., shaping each croissant by hand, creating this and all of his other confections A eclairs, fruit tarts, and a sinfully rich chocolate mousse cake, for example A from scratch. Let him keep the secret to his success a secret: This is culinary intrigue at its flakiest.

Oggi Caffe
1740 79th Street Causeway
North Bay Village

After three years in the biz, owner Eloy Roy's Oggi continues to dish up the most stunning semolina in town. Agnolotti and ravioli, stuffed with everything from ricotta and spinach to pumpkin, are favorites, as are the wide ribbons of pappardelle that cradle a sauce exceptionally. The wait for a table can be off-putting, but Oggi's reasonable prices more than make up for that.

Lyon Frores et Compagnie
600 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach

Under the watchful eye of chef Olvin Umanzor, students from the Johnson & Wales culinary school in North Miami cut, chop, mash, and mix at this upscale Lincoln Road market. The fare may appear elementary -- salad, soups, quiche, pasta -- but preparations are worked out to algorithmic exactitude. Vegetables are meticulously grilled, ingredients measured with laboratory precision. No matter that everything'll be dumped into plastic containers and toted away in paper bags. With every effortless mouthful, customers will be educating their taste buds.

Natural Food Market
1011 Fifth Street
Miami Beach

There has been something metaphysical about South Beach's overnight transformation from blighted neighborhood to exclusive destination, something that is perhaps best realized by Natural Food Market's sudden and felicitous ability to fulfill the area's latent craving for organic takeout. Who would have guessed there existed an untapped longing for seitan meatless loaf, for vegetable paella, for dairy-free spinach lasagna? Yes, it helps that the items are savory and reasonably priced, as well as irrefutably good for you. But how to explain the steady sales of aloe juice? Have scads of investment-return moolah lifted us to a new level of enlightenment? Has the change of scene been just too surreal? Or is the milieu so spiritually sickening that locals will eat anything in hopes of a panacea to stave off the self-centered Cindy Crawford wanna-be's, the rapacious developers, the sagging examples of the aging male ego at La Voile Rouge, and bring back the beach?!

Epicure Market
1656 Alton Road
Miami Beach

If you want to make fried chicken right, you've got to keep the meat juicy, not greasy. The breading must comprise spices that enhance (rather than overpower) the natural taste of the bird. Diner dwellers from Deep South fried chicken meccas might scoff at the grease-free and lightly breaded legs, thighs, and breasts served up at Epicure A but they'd be fools. This is fried chicken the way Nature intended it to be: hefty pieces with a light, lip-tingling coating, well worth their $4.95-per-pound price tag.

Norman Brothers Produce
7621 SW 87th Avenue

Yes, it's way the heck out in the 'burbs. And yes, the prices would make a self-respecting farmer pee in his overalls. But from the strawberries to the peppers to the zucchini to the tomatoes to the lettuce to the corn to the green beans to the cucumbers, it's all here, much of it grown just down the road in Homestead. Those whose tastes roam farther afield can satisfy their cravings, too, with exotic vegetables and fruits from all over the world A a dozen different varieties of apples, for instance, imported from a half-dozen countries, including Australia and France.

Readers' Choice: Norman Brothers

JoAnna's Marketplace
8247 S. Dixie Highway
South Miami

A meat counter. A fish counter. A sandwich counter. A prepared-foods counter. An on-premises bakery. A wine selection. A produce section. Cheeses out the wazoo, sliced to your specifications (including Parmesan cut, as it should be, from a big wheel). Imported pastas and other goodies that you have trouble pronouncing. Clean and well-lighted (as the man once said). Friendly, helpful service. Pricey. (Best, yes, but no one's perfect.)

Readers' Choice: Epicure Market

PK Oriental Mart
255 NE 167th Street
North Miami Beach
9501 SW 72nd Street

With the credo "Everything you need for Oriental cooking," PK continues to aptly anchor the burgeoning Asian corridor 167th Street has become. Hankering for live crab, eel, or sea bass? You've come to the right place. Ramen requirements? Not only that Japanese egg version but an entire row of dried noodles, from bean thread to rice flour to buckwheat soba. Same goes for seaweed. And a fresh vegetable case. Plus more soy and other sauces than you can shake a chopstick at. And yes -- plenty of chopsticks, too.

I Kyu Noodles
265 NE 167th Street
North Miami Beach

We could salute this small storefront operation, which recently moved from down the street to its current location right next door to PK Oriental (see Best Oriental Grocery), for its catchy name. (Get it? I Kyu?) Or noodlemeister Carlos Chan for his catchy name. (Imagine the advertising potential: Carlos Chan, Noodle Man!) But in all seriousness, any South Floridian with a measurable IQ should hurry to I Kyu to stock up on all manner of fresh Asian noodles and dumplings. From the thickest wormlike Shanghai noodles to the thinnest vermicelli, I Kyu's got it, made up fresh. Plus an amazing array of freshly made and flash-frozen dumplings, dim sum delicacies, and soup stockers stuffed with combinations of pork, shrimp, leeks, scallions, garlic, scallops, and more.

Tropical Chinese Restaurant
7991 Bird Road
West Dade

White-coated waiters push steaming steel carts around the dining room, stopping tableside to dish out soups and appetizer-size portions of dumplings, spring rolls, shrimp balls, pork buns, lotus paste buns, stuffed winter melon. Like the line to get in, the variety is seemingly endless. But don't let the resulting array of empty plates distress you. When the time comes to add up, your wallet will be just as pleased as your belly.

South Pointe Seafood House and Brewing Company
1 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach

A year ago no fewer than six investment teams were preparing to flood Dade with fresh beer. Some were planning brewpubs (definition: taverns that brew their own), others microbreweries (definition: breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 31-gallon barrels per year). To date only a few have tapped their kegs of expectation. South Pointe Seafood House launched its brewpub this past June, and a few months later the Miami Brewing Co. in Medley became Dade's first active microbrewery since the early Seventies. On Miami Beach's Sixteenth Street, the Abbey brewpub has developed into a cozy joint with good microbrewed beer, but the stuff is actually made in Key West by a so-called contract brewer. Del Sol Brewing Company has plans to brew its own at its pub on Sixth Street in South Beach but has yet to fire up the vats. For the honor of best brew, we give the nod to South Pointe, which under the direction of brewmaster Jeff Nelson has consistently offered a gulpable education, in the form of an amazing array: nineteen different original beers, including the mainstays Government Cut Light Ale, Cuda Red Ale, Hogsnapper Stout, and Black Beard's Gold.

Greenwich Village
1001 S. Miami Avenue

Anyone can come up with good romaine. It's the tableside preparation that makes or breaks the caesar -- and the dressing. Greenwich wins on both counts. Fresh garlic, anchovies, and extra-virgin olive oil mashed together with forks into a mousselike paste. Egg yolk and dijon mustard for creaminess, a dash of vinegar for tang, and freshly grated Parmesan for body and pep. The romaine is crisp and chilled, the croutons made from focaccia. Molto delizioso!

Readers' Choice: Christy's

Various locations in Dade

Founded by Tommy Pooch, notorious nightclub owner and promoter turned pizza pioneer, this chain has four links: two on South Beach, another downtown, and a new one in Kendall. The demand for Pucci's Brooklyn-style pizza would seem to be greater than the supply. Have your doubts? Check out the late-night crowd at the original spot at Sixth and Washington and see if you don't have to fight for the right to sink your teeth into the stringy, gooey cheese, peppery sauce, and snappy crust. For thick-crust lovers, the pillowy Sicilian pies are a can't-miss proposition. Dieters can get it nonfat. But Pucci's won't cater to everyone. So if you're looking for one of those gourmet ham-and-pineapple concoctions, forget it. At Pucci's, authentic is spelled p-e-p-p-e-r-o-n-i.

Readers' Choice: The Big Tomato

King Palace Chinese B-B-Q
330 NE 167th Street
North Miami Beach

This is not your typical American down-home barbecue joint. You can get barbecued chicken and pork here (on or off the bone). The sauce is lusciously Asian, red as a communist empire. Try a whole duck, or, if you're really feeling adventurous, go for the marinated pig intestine. Combo platters go for a bargain-basement $10.95. Substitute fried rice for mashed potatoes, Chinese broccoli for collard greens, and you've got a balanced barbecue meal.

Readers' Choice: Shorty's Bar-B-Q

Tino's Place
166 Giralda Avenue
Coral Gables

Half Italian, half Peruvian, Tino's takes ceviche de camarones to a new level. Shrimp are steamed, sliced in half, marinated in lime juice, cilantro, and red onion, and then scattered over a bed of butter lettuce and garnished with a ring of red pepper and the traditional choclo (a section of corn on the cob). The result is tangy, cooling, lightly refreshing A and, oddly enough, the ideal precursor to a plate of hand-rolled gnocchi.

Garcia's Seafood Grille and Fish Market
398 NW North River Drive

It's not on the way to anywhere, unless you're dropping off a truckload of stolen bikes on the Miami River, but Garcia's is worth the detour. Much of the catch is local, some from out of town, and you'll get the true gen about which is which and when what was caught. Garcia's stocks the freshest yellowtail, dolphin, and grouper, the prettiest blue and stone crabs, conch, shrimp, and lobster. If you're not certain about that kingfish, have 'em slap a piece on the grill and eat it out back on the waterside patio.

Islas Canarias
285 NW 27th Avenue

Forget about fancy flavors and teetering whipped-cream toppings. Coffee-drinking in Cuba isn't about exotic beans or gleaming, futuristic appliances. It's about the familiar comfort derived from sipping a demitasse of sweetened magma after a heavy lunch, the clarity that a well-brewed cafecito can bring to a convoluted conversation. Of course it takes special attentiveness to turn a nerve-jangling shot of caffeine into a soul-soothing tasa de cafe. But with almost twenty years of experience, the owners of this Little Havana dining institution have had plenty of time to calibrate their cafetera. Served up with affordable, appetizing entrees and generous doses of local gossip, the dark sweet coffee at Islas Canarias will never give you java jitters.

Readers' Choice: La Carreta

Night and Day Cafeteria
West Flagler Street and Douglas Road

Let's say you have a craving for a good strong cafe con leche at, well, let's say two in the morning. Where do you go? Look no further than the Night and Day. A neighborhood fixture located at the bustling intersection of two of Miami's main drags, this cafeteria serves up a sweet, frothy, delightful version 24 hours a day. The coffee is always fresh, the milk heated just so, the sugar expertly stirred in. And at 80 cents for a regular-size cup, you can buy a round for your fellow insomniacs.

La Pelota Vasca
11500 Biscayne Boulevard
North Miami

Not your abuelita's flan. This traditional sweet cream pie is like an inverted crä#me brnlee, turned upside down on a caramel sauce and topped with tiny crumbs rolled from confectioner's sugar. Supple, silky, and sensuous. No, definitely not your grandma's flan.

Fresháns Premium Yogurt
1600 Alton Road
Miami Beach
7704 N. Kendall Drive

At its best, frozen yogurt embodies the tension between indulgence and denial, between oral pleasure and punishment. As purveyors of the smoothest, creamiest, and tastiest frozen yogurt in Dade, Fresháns franchises dish up cerebral thrills by the slurpable cardboard cupload. How many calories in a small serving with a mega-topping of chocolate chips? Will a supersize portion of nonfat, Nutrasweetened pecan praline create a telltale tummy bulge? Tough questions whet the appetite, as a trip to Fresháns presents the thrill of dietary danger.

Burr's Berry Farm
12741 SW 216th Street
South Dade

The four sweetest months in Miami are January, February, March, and April. That's when Charles Burr harvests his twelve acres of strawberries and his wife Mary operates the roadside milk shake stand. The milk shakes come in three prices A $1.70, $1.95, $2.25. Varying with the time of the season and the volume of customers, the berries are mere minutes out of the field. The Burrs sell flats of strawberries and fresh vegetables, too.

Whip 'N Dip Ice Cream Shoppe
1407 Sunset Drive
Coral Gables

For the past ten years, George Giampetro has dished up chocolate cones and strawberry milk shakes in his family-run store, located a skinny quarter-mile from ice cream heavyweights Swensen's, Ben & Jerry's, and H„agen-Dazs. But Giampetro isn't worried about the competition. He doesn't do anything fancy to keep his customers, who on a recent evening included a wailing tot in his pajamas determined to force his dad to buy him an entire ice cream cake instead of just one measly cone, a group of Metro-Dade firefighters, and two teenage lovers. Simplicity is the key to Giampetro's success. His homemade concoctions, including tasty nonfat and nondairy varieties, are creamy and sweet. If you are good enough, you don't need a gimmick.

Readers' Choice: The Frieze Ice Cream Factory

Krispy Kreme Doughnut Co.
590 NE 167th Street
North Miami Beach

Scenic 167th Street offers plenty of options to the doughnut lover. Between I-95 and Biscayne Boulevard there are three different shops, including a Mister Donut and a representative of that Dunkin chain. But by far the best on this stretch or any other in Dade is Krispy Kreme, where you not only get to fill up on doughnuts, you get to watch doughnuts being made. This store, the only Kreme in Dade County -- and for the past 25 years the only Kreme in South Florida -- supplies crullers, chocolate frosteds, raspberry- filled, and the rest to Dade's grocery stores and public schools. Stop by any time you see the flashing orange "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign and watch through the picture windows as round white circles of dough progress through ovens, into vats of bubbling brown oil, and under a white shower of sugar glaze. Ask the clerk at the counter and she'll pull you a doughnut right off the conveyor belt. The melt-in-your-mouth taste is so sinful that it puts all other doughnut experiences to shame.

S & S Restaurant
1757 NE Second Avenue

Pumpkin. Apple. Cherry. Peach. For more than 50 years, the fine folks at the S & S have been serving up the four horsemen of pie with tender loving care. From the delicate crust to the ample homemade fillings, each massive slice is a testament to all that is wondrous and right with America. Pie may only be a three-letter word, but so is God. And at the S & S, Pie is God.

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