The Best of South Florida by Miami Locals

Monday, August 17, 2009

As any vacationer knows, South Florida bubbles with "bests." Check out any list of haute hotels, beckoning beaches, memorable meals, and South Florida's lodgings, attractions, restaurants will be there.

But nobody knows this place better than those of us who live here. Below is a list "The Best of South Florida", chosen by the readers of The Miami Herald and Miami.com.
Here are the top three vote-getters in each category, listed in order plus my commentary in parentheses and italic font.

HOTELS with BEST VIEW
1. Grove Isle Hotel & Spa, Coconut Grove
2. Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six Resort & Spa, Fort Lauderdale
3. Epic Hotel, Miami

HOTELS with BEST POOL
1. Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables
2. Delano, Miami Beach
3. Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, Hollywood

BEST PARTY SCENE
1. Fontainebleau, Miami Beach
2. Tuesday at the Delano, Miami Beach
3. Plunge Bar atop the Gansevoort South, Miami Beach

BEST HOTEL BAR
1. Bleu Bar at the Fontainebleau, Miami Beach
2. Mondrian, Miami Beach
3. Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Fort Lauderdale

HOTELS with BEST KIDS PROGRAM
1. Hawks Cay, Florida Keys
2. Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
3. Westin Diplomat, Hollywood

BEST FAMILY GETAWAY
1. Hawks Cay, Florida Keys
2. Moorings Village, Islamorada
3. Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables

HOTELS with BEST VALUE
1. Cadillac/Courtyard by Marriott, Miami Beach
2. Rose Lane Villas, Key West
3. TIED Indian Creek Hotel and Townhouse Hotel, both in Miami Beach

BEST ROMANTIC GETAWAY
1. Little Palm Island, Florida Keys
2. Mandarin Oriental, Miami
3. Marquesa Hotel, Key West

BEST HOTEL RESTAURANT
1. Azul, Mandarin Oriental
2. Palme d'Or, Biltmore Hotel
3. Scarpetta, Fontainebleau

BEST-KEPT SECRET HOTEL
1. Kona Kai Resort and Gallery, Key Largo
2. Mutiny Hotel, Coconut Grove
3. Circa 39 Hotel, Miami Beach

BEST HOTEL SPA
1. Mandarin Oriental, Miami
2. Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
3. Canyon Ranch Spa, Miami Beach

BEST URBAN HOTEL
1. Mandarin Oriental, Miami
2. Four Seasons, Miami
3. Epic Hotel, Miami

BEST BEACHFRONT RESORT
1. Fontainebleau, Miami Beach
2. Casa Marina, Key West
3. Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne

BEST HOTEL BRUNCH
1. Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables
2. Pier Top at the Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, Fort Lauderdale
3. Ritz-Carlton, Miami Beach

SAVVIEST DESIGN
1. Fontainebleau, Miami Beach
2. Setai, Miami Beach
3. Mondrian, Miami Beach

RESTAURANTS BEST FOOD
1. Michael's Genuine, Miami
2. Michy's, Miami [On my "Top 10 list of Restaurants To Try" in Miami]
3. Palm d'Or, Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables

BEST SEAFOOD
1. Joe's Stone Crab, Miami Beach [The fried green tomatoes are the best!]
2. Captain's Tavern, South Dade
3. Blue Moon Fish Co., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

BEST STEAK
1. Shula's, Miami Lakes
2. Prime 112, Miami Beach [the hottest restaurant to eat and people watch; unless you're a rich regular or celebrity, wait time is 2-3 hours on Fridays and Saturday; but a drink at the bar offers plenty of spectator sport]
3. Manny's, Miami

BEST EXPENSE-ACCOUNT DINNER
1. Nobu, Miami Beach
2. Palm d'Or, Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables
3. A Tie between: Setai Restaurant (Setai Hotel) and Blue Door (Delano Hotel), both in Miami Beach

BEST FOR QUIET CONVERSATION
1. Ruth's Chris, Coral Gables
2. Joe Allen, Miami Beach
3. Aizia at the Westin Diplomat, Hollywood

BEST VIEW
1. Smith & Wollensky, Miami Beach
2. Pier Top at Pier 66, Fort Lauderdale
3. Wahoo's Bar & Grill, Whale Harbor, Florida Keys

MOST ROMANTIC
1. The Dining Room, Little Palm Island, Florida Keys
2. Azul, Mandarin Oriental, Miami
3. Baleen, Grove Isle, Coconut Grove

BEST WITH KIDS
1. Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor, Dania Beach
2. Big Pink, Miami Beach
3. Morada Bay, Islamorada

DISTINCTLY SOUTH FLORIDA
1. Joe's Stone Crab, Miami Beach
2. Blue Heaven, Key West
3. Nikki Beach, Miami Beach

BEST WATERSIDE RESTAURANT - FOOD
1. Louie's Backyard, Key West
2. Ocean Grill, Black Point Marina, South Dade
3. Calypso's, Key Largo

BEST WATERSIDE RESTAURANT - AMBIENCE
1. Morada Bay, Islamorada
2. Scotty's Landing, Coconut Grove
3. Blue Moon, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea

BEST CHEAP EAT (UNDER $20)
1. Islas Canarias, Miami [never heard of it; my curiosity is burning]
2. Rosita's Mexican, Homestead
3. Georgia Pig, Fort Lauderdale
Christine's Pick: POLLO TROPICAL

BEST CUBAN
1. Versailles, Miami [I was not impressed; food very bland; La Carretta is better]
2. Havana Harry's, Coral Gables
3. Habana Vieja, Miami

BEST ASIAN
1. Café Sambal, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Miami
2. Sushi Samba Dromo, Miami Beach
3. Matsuri, Miami

BEST ETHNIC (OTHER)
1. Daily Bread (Middle Eastern), Miami
2. Paquito's (Mexican), North Miami Beach
3. George's (French), Coconut Grove

BEST VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY
1. Sublime, Fort Lauderdale
2. Green Gables, Coral Gables
3. Gourmet Carrot, Miami Beach

BEST PIZZA
1. Anthony's Coal Fired, Dade and Broward
2. Big Cheese, South Dade
3. Pizza Rustica, Miami Beach and Broward

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY
1. Two Chefs, South Dade
2. John Martin's, Coral Gables
3. Berries, Coconut Grove (yes, a local favorite of mine; and you can bring your friendly canines)

BEST BURGER
1. Le Tub, Fort Lauderdale
2. One Burger, Coral Gables
3. 8 oz. Burger Bar, Miami Beach

ATTRACTIONS BEST MUSEUM
1. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Coconut Grove
2. Fort Lauderdale Museum of Science and Discovery
3. Miami Museum of Science

BEST HISTORIC ATTRACTION
1. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Coconut Grove
2. Deering Estate, South Dade
3. Pigeon Key, Marathon

BEST WITH KIDS
1. Miami Metrozoo, South Dade
2. Jungle Island, Miami
3. Seaquarium, Key Biscayne

BEST WITH GRANDPARENTS [agreed for all three!]
1. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables
2. Conch Tour Train, Key West
3. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Coconut Grove

BEST OUTDOOR ATTRACTION
1. Miami Metrozoo, South Dade
2. Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables
3. Everglades National Park

NIGHT SCENE BEST BAR SCENE
1. Tobacco Road, downtown Miami
2. Blue Martini, downtown Miami
3. Martini Bar, South Miami

BEST DANCE SPOT
1. Mansion, Miami Beach
2. LIV, Fontainebleau, Miami Beach
3. SET Nightclub, Miami Beach

BEST DJ
1. DJ Irie
2. Oscar G
3. Jessico Who?

BEST LATE-NIGHT BAR/CLUB
1. Pangea, Seminole Hard Rock, Hollywood
2. Club Space, downtown Miami
3. Mokai Lounge, Miami Beach

BEST LOUNGE
1. Florida Room, Delano hotel, Miami Beach
2. Segafredo Brickell, downtown Miami
3. Sunset Lounge, Miami Beach

BEST CELEB-SPOTTING
1. Florida Room, Delano hotel, Miami Beach
2. LIV at the Fontainebleu, Miami Beach
3. Seminole Paradise, Seminole Hard Rock, Hollywood

BEST VIP AREA
1. Mansion, Miami Beach
2. LIV at the Fontainebleu, Miami Beach
3. Karu & Y, downtown Miami

BEST UNDERGROUND SCENE
1. Purdy Lounge, Miami Beach
2. The Vagabond, downtown Miami
3. TIED: Buck 15, Miami Beach, and The Poor House, downtown Fort Lauderdale

BEST GAY BAR
1. Twist, Miami Beach
2. 801 Bourbon Street, Key West
3. Pearl's Patio for Women, Key West

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