- Best for Celebrating a Big Deal: Prime One Twelve on Miami Beach (tel. 305/532-8112) is where everyone from Gorbachev and Clinton to Madonna and Beyoncé come to satisfy their carnivorous sides with fare such as $25 Kobe beef hot dogs, dried sticks of bacon at the bar in lieu of peanuts, and, if you must cheat, the best truffle-infused macaroni and cheese you'll ever eat.
- Best Romantic Restaurant: Casa Tua, in South Beach (tel. 305/673-1010), offers exquisite Italian cuisine in a Mediterranean villa that's hidden from the street with lush landscaping and an iron gate, resplendent outdoor garden, cozy Hamptons-esque dining room, communal kitchen, and intimate upstairs lounge and patio.
Best Waterfront Dining: It's a tossup between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, but whichever you prefer, there are two restaurants that provide front-row seats to both. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel's global fusion restaurant, Azul (tel. 305/913-8538), faces the Miami skyline and beautiful, tranquil Biscayne Bay, while Garcia's (tel. 305/375-0765) faces the scenic Miami River. Tough decisions, but both are winners.
In Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale, some of the most direct waterfront dining is on the Intracoastal, not the ocean. Taverna Opa (tel. 954/576-1630), China Grill (tel. 954/759-9950), and Le Tub (tel. 954/931-9425) all have fantastic Intracoastal views.
Louie's Backyard in Key West (tel. 305/294-1061) offers Caribbean cuisine and one of the best views of the Gulf you'll ever have.
- Best Restaurant Not Worth the Wait for a Table: The legendary South Florida institution known as Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant, in Miami Beach (tel. 305/673-0365), refuses to take reservations, but that doesn't stop people from clawing their way into the restaurant for a table -- despite a wait that's often in excess of 3 hours. Thing is, if only they knew about Joe's Take Away, directly next door, the only thing they'd be waiting for is seconds.
- Best Cuban Restaurant: There's always a debate on who has the best, most authentic Cuban cuisine, but for those of you who have never been to Havana, Miami's Versailles, in Little Havana (tel. 305/444-0240), is the quintessential Cuban diner, featuring enormous portions at paltry prices. For an even more frenetic, freshly squeezed Cuban dining experience, check out El Palacio de los Jugos (tel. 305/221-1615).
Best Old School Steakhouse: Miami's Capital Grille (tel. 305/374-4500) may be part of a chain, but its dry-aged steaks are still a cut above the rest.
In addition to Prime One Twelve , which is quickly on its way to becoming an old-school South Beach steakhouse at last, BLT Steak on South Beach (tel. 305/673-0044), Bourbon Steak in Aventura (tel. 305/279-6600) and Christy's in Coral Gables (tel. 305/446-1400), are other top carnivorous choices.
- Sexiest Restaurant: Hakkasan, at the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach (tel. 305/573-3355), brings an exotic, authentic Asian vibe to a place where even Italian restaurants serve sushi. The custom silk light fixtures from Paris separated by screens of dark walnut, elaborate latticework, and hand-carved decorative teak panels illuminated by washes of dimmed lighting give way to a very exotic, erotic Kama Sutra vibe.
Best Sunday Brunch: Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (Design District; tel. 305/573-5550) could win every one of our "best of" categories 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, but this brunch is truly in a category of its own. In a few words: kimchi Benedict and strawberry and yuzu Pop-Tarts.
At the stately Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Palme d'Or (tel. 305/913-3201) rolls out a regal buffet that's good enough to feed royalty. Delray Beach's Sundy House Restaurant (tel. 561/272-5678) features a gourmet all-you-can-eat $40 brunch including alcoholic beverages -- an unheard-of value that comes complete with a stunning outdoor garden setting.
- Best View: Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish, in Miami (tel. 305/375-0765), is all about gritty-chic, located on the Miami River, where tugboats and cargo ships slink by as you indulge in fresh fish under the glow of the brilliant downtown skyline hovering above. On South Beach, Smith & Wollensky (tel. 305/673-2800) has views of Fisher Island, Government Cut, and the occasionally passing cruise ship. Le Tub (tel. 954/931-9425) may not be considered fine dining, but when you sink your teeth into one of their incredible burgers while overlooking the Intracoastal, nothing could be finer.
- Best People-Watching: The News Cafe, in South Beach (tel. 305/538-6397), practically invented the sport of people-watching, encouraging its customers to sit at an outdoor table all day if they want, lingering over the passing parades of people while sipping a cappuccino. Lincoln Road's Euro-fabulous Segafredo Espresso cafe (tel. 305/673-0047), provides a front-row seat to the hordes of people who parade along the pedestrian mall.
- Best Comfort Food: Big Pink, in Miami Beach (tel. 305/532-4700), serves kitsch in large doses, featuring TV dinners served in compartmentalized trays. It's fun and funky, and the food's pretty good, too. For Cuban comfort fare for those whose grandmothers do not hail from Cuba: Versailles (tel. 305/444-0240) in Little Havana. For upscale comfort food including some of the best fried chicken and braised short ribs, well, ever, Michelle Bernstein's Biscayne Boulevard standout Michy's (tel. 305/759-2001) is the place to eat and be seen.
- Best Tapas: Star chef Michelle Bernstein of Michy's fame pays homage to her Latin roots at Sra. Martinez (tel. 305/573-5474), an upscale tapas restaurant housed in an historic post office. This isn't just meat and cheese either. Among the standouts: a sea urchin sandwich pressed and grilled with some soy-ginger butter. Ole!
- Best Italian Food: Miami Beach's Macaluso's (tel. 305/604-1811) would make Tony Soprano very proud of his Italian heritage, thanks to Chef Michael's expertly prepared Staten Island-meets-SoHo cuisine. Also stellar on South Beach, Sardinia (tel. 305/531-2228), where the wood-burning oven churns out some fabulous and creative fare hailing from its Italian namesake. For Little Italy in Coral Gables, Randazzo's (tel. 305/448-7002) is a knockout. For a taste of Tuscany in Fort Lauderdale or Boca Raton, people swear by Casa D'Angelo (tel. 954/564-1234) and its Southern Italian accents. Café Martorano, in Fort Lauderdale (tel. 954/561-2554), is where the cast of the former hit show The Sopranos eats when they're in town. Fugheddaboutit.
- Best Mexican: The fresh, authentic Mexican fare at Baja Cafe, in Boca Raton (tel. 561/394-5449), will have you swearing off Taco Bell forever. And the gourmet Mexican fare in Fort Lauderdale's lauded Eduardo de San Angel (tel. 954/772-4731) is Like Water for Chocolate and from the gods.
- Best Haute Cuisine: Star chef Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court Hotel and Beach Club in Palm Beach (tel. 561/655-6060) is sublime. Chef Zach Bell carries out his boss's signature French dishes with ease, grace, and skill that's unparalleled in these parts.
- Best Discovery in the Treasure Coast Since Gold: 11 Maple Street in Jensen Beach (tel. 772/334-7714) serves farm-raised meats and vegetables in this cozy New American find that some foodies say is the best in Palm Beach County, hands down.
- Best Sushi: Sunny Isles' stellar NAOE (tel. 305/947-6263) has a Hollywood vibe and serves up sushi with star-power.
Best Seafood: Sunfish Grill, in Pompano Beach (tel. 954/788-2434), is simple, unpretentious, and consistently serves the freshest fish in town -- any which way you desire.
In Miami, The River Seafood and Oyster Bar (Downtown Miami; tel. 305/530-1915), Area 31 (Miami; tel. 305/424-5234), and Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish (Downtown Miami; tel. 305/375-0765), are three of your best catches.
- Kitschiest Dining: Anthony's Runway 84 (tel. 954/467-8484) in Fort Lauderdale is pure Goodfellas kitsch, complete with mirrored walls, servers and waiters who all seem to be named Tony, and a cheesy '70s airliner theme -- the bar is even crafted out of plane fuselage. This is a good place to dine family style. For those with a morbid appetite, Heart Stoppers Sports Grill (tel. 561/276-5554) in Delray Beach serves its Artery Cloggers (also known as burgers) on gurneys with IV poles and seats you in wheelchairs.