Best Gourmet Market: Epicure
Since 1945, Miami Beach’s Epicure Gourmet Market has remained the best marketplace to find freshly prepared meals and gourmet foods. With three locations in Miami-Dade County, Epicure is famous for their homemade soups, bakery, deli counter and prepared foods created in their own commissary. Their prime meat, award-winning cheese department, high-end wine cellar and produce stand offer a full array of products to tease and please any palate.
Best Coffee Shop: Java Boys (Wilton Manors) and Tre Amici Wine & Espresso Bar (Ybor City)
Coffee shops have become more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee – they’ve become social centers where people can relax, read a paper, watch a little television and talk with friends. Nicky and Steve Rose have turned Java Boys in Wilton Manors into the place to relax and get away from it. Always attentive and with great service, Java Boys has received national recognition. Java Boys offers a wide variety of coffees and other beverages such as smoothies. There is also a small bakery and sandwich selection.
Tre Amici Wine & Espresso Bar at the Bunker in Ybor City is not a cookie-cutter café chain – they focus on what the community needs and not what some corporate structure wants them to do.
Tre Amici offers the best coffee and wine bar Ybor City has ever seen. They proudly serve organic/fair trade coffee and espresso, delicious teas, Italian sodas, imported beer and wine, pastries and a fresh mix of Italian and Cuban light fare including their original Ybor Sandwich.
Best place for Dinner: Le Patio (Wilton Manors) and Cityfish Restaurant (Orlando)
Tucked away in a little, unpretentious corner off Wilton Drive on NE 11 Avenue is Le Patio Restaurant and Wine Bar. Though the restaurant is small in stature, it’s big on quality. It’s Las Olas quality without the Las Olas prices.
Le Patio offers a great variety of French cuisine, and the French Onion Soup is very addictive. A high percentage of their business is from repeat customers who return time and time again to enjoy one of the finest eateries in the area.
Cityfish is a neighborhood seafood restaurant in Orlando that features daily fresh seafood and seasonal items. They offer a large menu of traditional and non-traditional seafood fare including seafood sandwiches. They have beer, wine and offer a full liquor bar. You have to check out their Panko and Potato Chip Crusted Broiled Sea Scallops. Cityfish represents an urban interpretation of the classic coastal fish shack and features a relaxed atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating.
Best Place for Sunday Brunch: Rosie’s (Wilton Manors) and Palace (Miami Beach)
Rosie’s Bar and Grill is an institution on Wilton Drive that features outdoor or indoor dining (with an outdoor flare). Most people seem to prefer eating outside as Rosie’s is a great place to people watch. Rosie’s offers a campy atmosphere, lots of great burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, wraps and snacks and a full liquor bar. The staff is always upbeat, and they always seem to be having a good time. Rosie’s Sunday brunch is a good reason to wake up and go out on a Sunday morning.
You know those places that look or make you feel like you’re in part of the backdrop for a movie? Well, at The Palace on South Beach you’re right in the middle of one of the most fun parts of Miami Beach’s famed Ocean Drive, and you’re also right on the corner by the 12th Street Gay Beach, which offers plenty of sights with all the girls and guys walking by. The Palace features a lot of healthy wraps and fun finger foods. If you’re in the mood for breakfast, they feature an all day/every day breakfast.
Best Place for Lunch: Painted Pickle (Wilton Manors) and Pasha’s (Lincoln Road Miami Beach)
Ever since it opened, the Painted Pickle on Wilton Drive has become the lunch time people pleasing place in town. Their goal is to stuff people with huge sandwiches: pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, honey smoked ham, smoked turkey, tuna, chicken and egg salad and more all on your choice of breads. Stop in for morning coffee, tea or espresso, and enjoy a hot bagel with a variety of spread choices, a plain or filled croissant or a fresh baked muffin.
Pasha’s offers healthy Mediterranean cuisine on Lincoln Road in South Beach (plus five additional locations in Miami-Dade County). Their Lincoln Road location is a beautiful two-story venue with both indoor and outdoor seating. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and have a terrific champagne brunch on weekends. Pasha’s foods are all natural with no preservatives, additives, trans-fats or MSG.
Best World-Famous Eats: Joe’s Stone Crab
In 1913, Joe Weiss opened up a small lunch counter on Miami Beach. At that time, Miami Beach was just a quiet, backwater town where people would stop by for a fish sandwich and fries. It wasn’t even known that stone crabs were edible, but Joe’s Restaurant decided to give it a try due to the urging of a Harvard ichthyologist in 1921. Weiss figured out how to cook them, serve them and what to serve them with.
Joe’s Stone Crab was born, continuing to this day and has never looked back. Joe’s Stone Crab was mentioned so many times on the ’80s television show “The Golden Girls” that the landmark deserved (but never got) a formal co-starring role. Oh, and don’t forget their Key Lime Pie.
Best Local Diner: Andrews Diner (Fort Lauderdale) and Christo’s Café (Orlando)
Alice might not live here anymore, but her spirit is carried on at Andrews Diner. It’s nothing fancy — but they don’t pretend to be. Andrews serves a great meal, large portions and great service at a more-than reasonable price. Andrews is particularly well-known for its breakfast menu, and you’d be surprised at some of the people you will see eating there before heading into their offices downtown.
After a night of debauchery, there’s nothing like an early morning stop at Christo’s. Their coffee is amazing, their food is hearty, and make sure you check out their omelets or biscuits and gravy. They also have great sandwiches, and you can eat outside on their patio. There’s something utterly lovable about Christo’s Diner. It’s cozy, inexpensive, and they serve up delicious comfort food.
Best Late-Night Dining: Courtyard Café (Wilton Manors) and Pizza Rustica (Miami and Fort Lauderdale Beach)
Some people think that the Courtyard Café never closes, which unfortunately, is not true. They are closed for about four hours on Monday mornings. (Don’t these people ever sleep?) Courtyard serves great food, indoors and out, with friendly, fast service. Their prices are more than reasonable, and the menu is longer than Cher’s farewell tour. You’re sure to find something you like.
With locations conveniently located near Score, Twist and Cameo in the Miami area and even more in Broward County, there’s no excuse for going to bed hungry after a long night on the town. Open every day until 4 a.m., Pizza Rustica offers terrific pizzas and Italian specialties, all served quick, hot and ready to please. If you’re looking for that perfect Italian dish, Pizza Rustica will leave you begging for more.
Best Breakfast: Simply Delish
As long as anyone can remember, there’s been Simply Delish on Wilton Drive. Everyone loves the two dining rooms with their eclectic collection of art and antiques, and everyone raves about the food, especially breakfast. Their near-endless breakfast selection is one of the best you will find anywhere, all served fresh and quick by their friendly staff.
Best Place to Watch a Drag Show While Dining: Lips (Fort Lauderdale) and Hamburger Mary’s (Ybor City)
Lips brings the best in drag dining from New York to Fort Lauderdale. The hottest divas can be found in this restaurant/lounge located near Wilton Manors on Oakland Park Boulevard. Lips is undoubtedly the world’s most-famous drag palace with fabulous food and delicious divas all under one roof. Make sure not to miss their Sunday Gospel Brunch; no kneeling required.
Eat, drink and be Mary at Hamburger Mary’s in Ybor City. Hamburger Mary’s offers nightly shows including their famous (or perhaps, infamous) Diva shows on Friday and Saturday nights which offer twice the fun. Hamburger Mary’s is always a great place to see and be seen in the greater Tampa area.
Best Dessert (Tie): Humpy’s Cupcakes and Sweeter Days
Humpy’s has become as famous for their great homemade cupcakes as they have their terrific pizza. You may also see them being delivered to some of the other local restaurants. Always tasty, always sweet and almost the size of large muffins instead of cupcakes, give one a try today.
Speaking of cupcakes, our readers also love the cupcakes at Sweeter Days Bake Shop on N. Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. In addition to cupcakes, Sweeter Days also makes their own cakes, cookies, brownies and other items to tempt your sweet tooth. They can also create custom indulgences for special occasions. They have a gift shop for some last-minute shopping to go along with their cakes, as well as bake ware and decorating supplies so you can make your own.
Best Romantic Restaurant: La Lupa Di Roma (Miami) and Hi-Life Café (Fort Lauderdale)
Since 1997, La Lupa di Roma has been a favorite of local Italians for its authentic, home-style meals, premiere wines, warm hospitality and casual, al fresco dining. La Lupa Di Roma is owned by the Nisti family, which includes Giorgio, Giorgia, Flavio and Rosanna. With more than 600 varieties, the restaurant is widely recognized for having the largest selection of Italian wines in South Florida. The family started with a restaurant near Piazza Navona in Rome, and after a customer commented that it was easy to do Italian food right in Italy, Giorgio decided to show him that he could also do Italian food right in Miami Beach. It’s the next best thing to dining in Rome.
Hi-Life Cafe has been named one of Florida’s top 40 restaurants by Zagat. The menu includes a wide variety of seafood, chicken, duck, beef and pork. With their award-winning contemporary American cuisine, Chef Carlos Fernandez and host Aude Weis receive you in an ambiance that feels as if you are a guest at a private party in their own dining room. The menu also includes pasta and salads. No hamburgers here. Their extensive wine list and dessert menu are to die for. Try the Southern Derby Pecan Pie and you’ll see what we mean. Each candle-lit dining table is adorned with a fresh rose in the romantic, softly lit dining room. Hi-Life Café is a unique, intimate restaurant featuring fine food in a great atmosphere.
Best Celebrity Chef: Paula Deen
Paula Deen has been a staple on Food Network since 1999 when she started to appear in episodes of other chef’s programs. She was given her own show in 2002 called “Paula’s Home Cooking.” Since that time, Deen’s been given additional shows on Food Network including “Paula’s Party” and “Paula’s Best Dishes.” Her down home southern country charm and recipes (some of which are so tasty and hearty looking you can hear your arteries clogging) has made her a favorite on the network talk show circuit. She has also written a total of four cookbooks. She was featured in “Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph and Success” and launched a lifestyle magazine called Cooking with Paula Deen.