Top Five Restaurants in South Miami

Granted, nobody is going to mistake the dining scene in South Miami with that of Paris or New York. Or with that of Miami or Miami Beach. Or with that of downtown Milwaukee.

On the other hand, it does match up pretty well with the dining scene in Coconut Grove -- a very minor compliment, but you couldn't have even said that much a few years ago. So let's not commiserate over what South Miami doesn't have, but instead celebrate the following five restaurants that would make any neighborhood proud. Disagree with my picks? Impossible!

Café Pastis

This teeny-tiny bistro puts out fare filled with nothing but

big French flavors. Marseilles is the home of the café's namesake

liqueur, but it's also home to bouillabaisse, and Pastis's chef/owner, Philippe Jacquet, puts out as good a version as anyone in town. Most

entrées run in the $18 to $20 range, which is a bargain for this

caliber of French country cooking.

7310 S. Red Rd.; 305-665-3322

Captain's Tavern

The Captain has ruled the Pinecrest roost for decades, and we all

know why: really fresh seafood. You can pick up some at the market up

front, but it's way more fun to grab a seat in the throwback dining

room amid the antiquated nautical décor. The service staff is also a

throwback to the days when waiters were efficient. Prices are more than

fair, and the extensive wine list is known for having the best prices

in town.

9625 S. Dixie Hwy.; 305-666-5979

Lan Pan Asian Café 

You have to pull into Dadeland Station to hop this pan-Asian train, a

small price to pay for surprisingly inventive and consistently

delicious foods from Japan to China to Korea to Vietnam. And speaking

of small prices, just about everything is under $20, and most items are

less than $15. This is one of the true secret gems in town. Chef

Johnson Teh is also owner of the excellent Yuga in Coral Gables.

8332 S. Dixie Hwy.; 305-661-8141

Trattoria Sole

The Italian food at this casual indoor/outdoor eatery is always fresh

and tasty. Pastas, dried and fresh, are especially noteworthy, and the

various meat, fish, and poultry entrées are consistently good too.

Mains come with starch and vegetable, and just about every one is under

$25. While you're at it, you can grab a thin-crust pizza from sister Blú

la Pizzeria del Sole next door.

5894 Sunset Dr.; 305-666-9392

Two Chefs

After 16 years, Two Chefs and chef/owner Jan Jorgensen are still going

strong. The European-based American food would be considered among the

best in any neighborhood. Who else is putting out galantine of hen?

There are signatures such as escargots, meat loaf, and the amazing

soufflés, but this is no stodgy continental cuisine -- Jorgensen is

immersed in today's culinary goings-on like few others. The wine list is

one of the best in Miami, and the spirits collection is the best.

8287 S.Dixie Hwy.; 305-663-2100

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