WHERE TO EAT
An international range of cuisine tempts Miami diners. Try some new twists on fresh seafood, produce, and regional spices-- a trend widely dubbed "Floribbean" but also known as New World, Tropical Fusion, and Nuevo Latino. Dig in to rib-sticking Cuban dishes too.
$$$: Chef Norman Van Aken created Norman, a mainstay of top-notch service, excellent food, and superbly matched wines. For starters, try the cheese blintz with spinach-mango salad in bacon-balsamic vinaigrette ($10.50). Move on to wood oven-roasted pork tenderloin over Haitian grits with smoky plantain and a salsa of red onions, black beans, and sweet corn ($29.50). 21 Almeria Avenue, Coral Gables; (305) 446-6767.
Spotting celebrities is a popular pastime at Wish, the tropical-courtyard restaurant only slightly hidden from sidewalk view at The Hotel. Appetizers ($8-$16) on the ever-evolving menu range from baby greens with tomato, mango, and hearts of palm to foie gras. Entrées ($14-$32) include spicy seared tuna and roasted rack of lamb. 801 Collins Avenue, South Beach; (305) 674-9474.
Located off the lobby of Hotel Nash, Mark's South Beach roasts scallops and lobster, sautés shrimp, grills octopus and quail, braises grouper, and steams clams. The dessert of warm banana beignets with Key lime caramel, roasted pineapple, and lychee sorbet is a pleasant surprise. Appetizers: $11-$20. Entrées: $18-$38. 1120 Collins Avenue, South Beach; (305) 604-9050.
$$: Dine by the bar or under shade trees at Nemo, a casual South Beach favorite. Pulled barbecue sandwiches and hefty burgers loaded with extras cost $11 at lunchtime. Dinner begins with crispy duck confit ($12) and such entrées as wok-charred salmon ($24) and Indian-spiced grilled pork chop ($24). 100 Collins Avenue, South Beach; (305) 532-4550.
The chef at Astor Place, Johnny Vinczencz, shows a maverick streak at the Hotel Astor's dining room with wild mushroom pancakes, sunflower seed-crusted herbed goat cheese, and blue corn-crusted leg of duck confit cakes on the appetizer menu ($8-$18). Main courses ($20-$36) stretch all boundaries with such combinations as wasabi skillet-seared tuna steak marinated in a red curry sauce and served with pineapple sauce over stir-fried rice laced with spicy rock shrimp. 956 Washington Avenue, South Beach; (305) 672-7217.
$: You'll find Versailles in the heart of Little Havana on famous Calle Ocho (Eighth Street). This open-late combination diner, bakery, cigar shop, and neighborhood hangout offers hearty fare at low prices, as well as a window into a traditionally Cuban community. Linger over folded meat pies, rice and beans, mule-strong coffee, and thick toast (all for about $10). 3555 SW. Eighth Street, Miami; (305) 444-0240.
At 11th Street Diner, dig in to comfort food in a silver-skinned railroad dining car flanked by decks. Choose from Philly cheese steaks, turkey clubs, tuna melt sandwiches, mashed potatoes and gravy, or omelets at any hour--and most of it priced less than $10. The malted milk shakes ($3.50) are meals unto themselves. 1065 Washington Avenue, South Beach; (305) 534-6373.