- Prime One Twelve (South Beach; tel. 305/532-8112): This South of Fifth Street steakhouse sizzles with Kobe-beef hot dogs, aged and oversize steaks, and an unparalleled celebrity clientele that has everyone begging for reservations up to 2 months in advance. While the food may be second to the scene, it is inarguably a quintessential South Beach experience.
- Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (Design District; tel. 305/573-5550): Former New York Times dining critic Frank Bruni put Michael's at number 4 on his list of the 10 best new restaurants in the U.S. back in 2008. In 2010, chef/owner Michael Schwartz won a James Beard Award. Today, the restaurant is still one of the hottest reservations in town, thanks to its locally sourced, organic seasonal cuisine, out-of-control desserts, buzzy bar scene, and colorful crowd of foodies, hipsters, celebrities, and assorted culinary dignitaries.
- Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish (downtown Miami; tel. 305/375-0765): On the Miami River across from the spectacular Miami skyline, Garcia's is an urban oasis of fresh seafood with lots of local flavor.
- El Palacio de los Jugos (Miami; tel. 305/226-3141): For the true, frenetic, cacophonous Miami Cuban experience, this is the place to go, where heaps of gloriously greasy fare and sort-of-healthy fresh-squeezed juices have people coming in packs.
- Versailles (Little Havana; tel. 305/444-0240): This iconoclastic Cuban diner isn't as swanky as its palatial French namesake, but it is full of mirrors through which you can view the colorful -- and audible -- Cuban clientele that congregates here for down-home cuisine and hearty conversation.
- Island Grill (Islamorada; tel. 305/664-8400): Located right on the water right before a bridge, Island Grill is the place locals go to for fresh fish, views, and live music on any given day or night.
- Islamorada Fish Company (Islamorada; tel. 800/258-2559 or 305/664-9271): We're not sure which is better, the view or the seafood -- but whichever it is, it's a winning combination.
- Blue Heaven (Key West; tel. 305/296-8666): What was once a well-kept secret in Key West's Bahama Village is now a popular eatery known for fresh food (it's some of the best in town) and a motley, bohemian crowd.
- Cap's Place Island Restaurant (Lighthouse Point; tel. 954/941-0418): The only way to get to this rustic seafood restaurant, the former bootlegging and gambling hangout of Al Capone, is by boat, but don't be dismayed -- it's not the least bit Disneyfied. Churchill, Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, and Sylvester Stallone have all indulged in this delicious taste of Old Florida.
- Farmer's Market Restaurant (Fort Myers; tel. 239/334-1687): The retail Farmer's Market next door may be tiny, but the best of the cabbage, okra, green beans, and tomatoes ends up here at this simple eatery, frequented by everyone from business executives to truck drivers. The specialties of the house are such Southern favorites as smoked ham hocks with a bowl of black-eyed peas.
- Fourth Street Shrimp Store (St. Petersburg; tel. 727/822-0325): The outside of this place looks like it's covered with graffiti, but it's actually a gigantic drawing of people eating. Inside, murals on two walls seem to look out on an early-19th-century seaport (one painted sailor permanently peers in to see what you're eating). This is the best and certainly the most interesting bargain in St. Petersburg.
- Moore's Stone Crab (Longboat Key, off Sarasota; tel. 941/383-1748): Set in Longbeach, the old fishing village on the north end of Longboat Key, this popular bayfront restaurant still looks a little like a packing house (it's an offshoot of a family seafood business), but the view of the bay (dotted with mangrove islands) makes a fine complement to stone crabs fresh from the family's own traps.
- Singleton's Seafood Shack (Mayport/Jacksonville; tel. 904/246-4442): This rustic Old Florida fish camp has kept up with the times by offering fresh fish in more ways than just battered and fried, yet it has still managed to retain the charming casualness of a riverside fish camp. Even if you don't want seafood, this spot is worth stopping at, if only for a feel of Old Florida.
- The Boss Oyster (Apalachicola; tel. 850/653-9364): This dockside eatery is a good place to see if what they say about the aphrodisiac properties of Apalachicola oysters is true. The bivalves are served raw, steamed, or under a dozen toppings ranging from capers to crabmeat. You can even steam three dozen oysters and do the shucking yourself. Dine inside or at picnic tables on a screened dockside porch.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.