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MIAMI: On the Waterfront
the magic of Waterside Dining...

Heaven is a waterside café where you can catch the last rays of the sun through the crease of the umbrella in your frozen drink.
In Miami there's something for every one: from the solitary No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne and the tourist-hopping Bayside Marketplace Downtown Miami, to the sexy stretch of South Beach's celebrated eateries and sophisticated bars. Miami River Front spots, and Key West family-style bayside shack in Coconut Grove share a taste of the unusual with the remote Matheson Hammock Park's Red Fish Grill.

By Simone Zarmati Diament

This summer, while Miamians find shelter in icy air conditioned rooms, or run away to colder climes, everyday thousands of tourists, avid for the laid back style South Florida has become famous for, flock to our shores, oblivious of heat, mosquitoes and traffic jams.

They've booked their tickets chanting magic names like Miami Beach, South Beach, Coral Gables, Bal Harbour, Key Biscayne, Brickell, Coconut Grove, conjuring visions of turquoise blue waters, palm trees and spectacular sunsets -- and great shopping bargains.

Not everyone is lucky enough to live in a world-class resort, as we too often seem to forget when faced up to the daily grind or when we are stuck in a traffic marred by the feverish building of luxury waterfront high rises.

As sultry weather swathes Miami, and the ample foliage of fiery Poincianas and pregnant mango trees is not sufficient relief from the heat, what a thrill it is to sink in a chair and let the eyes wander over the infinite blue of the bay while someone's there to fetch drinks, or to prepare a tropical feast.

Heaven is a waterside café where you can catch the last rays of the sun through the crease of the umbrella in your frozen drink.

But it doesn't have to be a fantasy. Surf and sand aside, whether safely indoors on the top floor of a high rise hotel or condo, or al fresco outside lulled by the sound of water lapping up a dock or a beach, that afternoon of glorious sunset, a cool beer and dining by the water, lunch or brunch with a view of ships bobbing on the calm bay are within reach.

People seek the magic of water. …

Looking for a place at a short distance ride or like me, you're in love with a man who is in love with his boat, and want to dock for a mojito and fried fish? Hop in your car or rev up the engines of your boat to explore the vast selection of Miami's waterfront dining.

Oceanside -on the coast of the Atlantic, bayside - along Biscayne Bay, and River side on the banks of the Miami River, there's something for every one: from the solitary No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne and the tourist-hopping Bayside Marketplace Downtown Miami, to the sexy stretch of South Beach's celebrated eateries and sophisticated bars. Laid back Miami River Front spots, and Key West family-style bayside shack in Coconut Grove share a taste of the unusual with the remote Matheson Hammock Park's Red Fish Grill.

Once you pause to look around you Miami can be a vacation destination for locals too. There are plenty of wonderful spots in the way of waterfront dining, and here are some of the best:

Downtown Miami

In what is now called The Wall Street of the South, the Brickell area with Brickell Key at the prow, The Five Diamond Mandarin Oriental Miami is a haven of peace and beauty, surrounded by water, with an Infiniti pool and with a little sand beach of its own.

Azul, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, 305- 913-8288, is the only Five Diamond restaurant in Miami. Downtown Miami's view of the water through the floor to ceiling windows never looked so good. Chef Clay Conley's cuisine with Mediterranean Asian is sublime. Consider pan-seared striped bass, meltingly tender roast duck with foie gras, a duet of Kobe beef and Morrocan lamb with smoked eggplant, for the 3-course prix fixe lunch ($25), à la carte lunch and dinner. $$$

Café Sambal, Mandarin Oriental, 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami, 305- 913-8288, with indoor/outdoor seating is directly on the water and offers breakfast, lunch, a sushi bar and dinner from an Asian-style vast menu of hot and cold "small plates" with salads and Asian noodles, and "large plates" such as Korean BBQued New York Steak. Chef Miller has created an elegant, oriental-style Bento Box with Miso Soup, Wakame salad, Tabbouleh, Blackened sea scallops and grilled chicken beast with roasted garlic fondue.$$

Mendoza, 1155 Brickell Bay Dr., Miami. 305-377-4442, is Argentine Chef Francis Mallmann's second restaurant in the US. The location is terrific and the view of Biscayne Bay magical, especially when there are fireworks, but the food is uninteresting..

Porcao at the Four ambassadors, Miami 801 Brickell Bay Dr., 305-373-2777, is an elegant and happy all you can eat rodizio-style Brazilian BBQ, with succulent roasted meats sliced at the table and an abundant salad bar, a meal in itself, gorged with meats, vegetables, pastas and even sushi, best washed down with caipirinhas.

Adjacent to Atrio in the Sky Lobby on the 25th Floor of the Conrad Hotel Espirito Santo Plaza, 1395 Brickell Avenue, 305 503 6500 -- an experience in progressive American cuisine with a creative and meticulously crafted menu with Spanish and Asian accents, is the dark and sultry Noir, the ying to Atrio's yang, a dark bar with lounge décor and telescopes aimed at the bay and the views of Miami's glittering nightlife...

Acqua, The Four Seasons Four Seasons Hotel Miami, 1435 Brickell Avenue, (305) 358-3535. Located off the main lobby on the seventh floor, Acqua features floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping vistas of the city and bay. An extensive wine display is the focal point of the restaurant, which is decorated in warm gold and ochre tones. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Acqua serves Italian food indoors and on the outdoor terrace.

Tony Chan´s Water Club in The Grand Double Tree Hotel,1717 N. Bay Shores Drive, 305-374-8888 (near the Miami Herald) is a recipient of the Five Star Diamond award Chinese -gourmet ,waterfront dining . The menu includes Peking Duck, live Maine Lobsters, Honey Walnut Shrimp Shark's fin.

Blue Water Café at the Inter-Continental Hotel, 100 Chopin Plaza. (305) 577-1000 A casual patio cafe and lounge with one of the best views at once of the Port and the Ocean and Downtown Miami and succulent appetizers like lobster tempura with wasabi horseradish and soy sauce and gourmet pizzas, a selection of fresh grilled seafood ,salads and gourmet sandwiches ,as well as tropical smoothies. Happy Hours Daily 5pm to 6 pm

Miami River

Big Fish, 55 SW Miami Ave. Road, Miami, 305-373-1770. at an unbeatable location tucked behind the rush and clutter of Brickell Avenue is right on the Miami River, where tugboats and cargo ships slink by the funky, comfortable, mostly Italian and seafood restaurant. Dock your boat and indulge in fresh fish and sip good Italian wine under the glow of the brilliant downtown skyline hovering above. Boat Docking

Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market, 398 NW North River Drive, Miami, 305-375-0765. With more than 30 years in the seafood business, the Garcia family knows fresh fish. Eating on the worn deck feels like you're sitting on a fishing pier with fishermen. It's a favorite among Miami's downtown business crowd. Drop anchor and eat dolphin sandwiches and grouper chowder with the freshest cole slaw, mutton snapper, lobster and stone crabs in season for lunch and dinner. There's a waiting line on weekends. Boat Docking

Close by, Joe's Seafood Market & Restaurant, 400 NW North River Drive, Miami, 305-381-9329, is another Miami River favorite where the seafood is as fresh as the view is soothing. Boat Docking

Coral Gables

Red Fish Grill, 9610 Old Cutler Road, Coral Gables, 305-668- 8788. Housed in a coral rock building it is ensconced in Coral Gables' Matheson Hammock Park and located on the edge of a saltwater lagoon, a setting so blissfully distracting, you may forget to pay attention to what's on your plate. You have an unparalleled view of downtown Miami and Key Biscayne.

Coconut Grove

Baleen, 4 Grove Isle, Grove Isle Hotel and Resort, Coconut Grove, Miami, 305-857-5007. The e xclusive Noble House property offers a stunning bayside view. Chef Donna Wynter's food, preceded by a hot, crusty Monkey Bread, is excellent. Be sure to try the crisp crab cakes with guacamole a nd the richly flavored lobster bisque. You can dock your boat at no charge when you come for brunch, lunch, dinner or even drinks, says general manager Raluca Leibowitz, either at the elegant dining room or outside in one of the most romantic pots in Miami with gauzy white drapes fluttering in the tropical breeze at night. Baleen is an elegant, upscale place with a family-friendly attitude. Boat Docking

Scotty's Landing, 3381 Pan American Drive, Coconut Grove, 305- 854-2626. You feel like you're on vacation somewhere in the Caribbean when you get to the recently refurbished covered area which, not long ago, used to be a shack. I often go there just to clear my brains. While you chomp on cracked conch fritters, peel & eat shrimp, grilled dolphin sandwiches, baby back ribs, and my favorite: seafood platter- shrimp, crab, fish conch fritters w/coleslaw with plenty of draft beer, you can contemplate the view of Biscayne Bay and amuse yourself with the sight of fishermen cleaning their catch at the hose. They also serve wine and a good espresso and have live music on weekends. Boat Docking

Monty's Stone Crab and Seafood Restaurant, 2550 S. Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove, 305-858-1431. Open since 1967, there are now locations in Miami Beach, Boca Raton and Key West. Stone crabs are the specialty here, but entrees also include cashew-crusted grouper, mango barbecue salmon and Key Lime garlic shrimp. The view includes a yacht-filled marina. Monty's Raw Bar 2600 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove, 305-856-3992 is a sea of tikki huts covering wooden tables served by pretty waitresses who bring baskets of fried foods and sandwiches, all washed down by tall glasses of beer, to the sounds of loud live music. Very informal Caribbean atmosphere with a low-cost menu. Boat Docking

The Chart House, 51 Chart House Drive, Coconut Grove, 305-856- 9741. Set on Biscayne Bay, this is one of a small chain of seafood restaurants that also offer fine chops and steaks. Boat Docking

Key Biscayne

No Name Harbor has served as a refuge for pirates, smugglers, and sailors, manatee and dolphin, fishes and tropical birds, and was a major rookery and feeding area in the 1800s for flamingo, egrets, herons and ibis, and other wildlife. Previously by Hurricane Andrew, and restored, it is now a quiet harbor known to few with a very popular restaurant serving mainly fish, seafood and Cuban fare. Boat Docking

Bayside Seafood Restaurant, 3501 Rickenbacker Causeway, 305-361-0808 Boat Docking

Sunday's on the Bay, 5420 Crandon Boulevard (305) 361-6777 A great outdoor spot right on the marina, especially when you dock after a long day's sailing. Plenty of sandwiches, fried finger foods, seafood and salads to choose from and with a fantastic reggae band on Saturday nights. Boat Docking

The Rusty Pelican, 3201 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne. (305) 361-3818. Located on the Biscayne Bay, this surf-and-turf restaurant offers one of the best views in the city, especially at sunset, when the view overlooking downtown Miami is stunning. Decorated with white-clothed tables and aquariums, the menu includes traditional steak and seafood items, like shrimp scampi and soft-shelled crab, and the popular Sunday brunch offers a selection of omelettes and waffles. But the draw isn't so much the food as it is the panoramic views of Miami, visible from just about every table Boat Docking

Cioppino, The Ritz-Carlton, 455 Grand Bay Drive, Key Biscayne (305) 365-4208 features simple Tuscan cuisine in warm and stunning surroundings. Bistecca Fiorentina, Caprese salad, creamy burrata mozzarella, fresh calamari and branzino flown in twice a week directly from Italy, Tuscany are just some of the items on the menu at this new waterside restaurant.

The Purple Dolphin Restaurant and Terrace at Sonesta Beach Resort, 350 Ocean Drive Key Biscayne, 305-361-2021 serves breakfast, lunch and dinner right on the beach, indoor or outside on the terrace. Chef Elizabeth Barlow's menu fresh Florida seafood cuisine list Key West Yellowtail Snapper, Couscous Crusted Dolphin, Chilean Sea Bass and Sesame Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna. Sunday Champagne Brunch is an extravaganza of stations and Friday Seafood Buffet a lavish spread of fresh shellfish and local catches prepared in a variety of styles (grilled, steamed, baked), as well as a cold selection of smoked fish and salads, and an abundant dessert bar. Every Wednesday and Sunday evening All You Can Eat Stone Crab night is available in stone crab season, from November to May.

South Beach

Without including all the restaurants lining up Ocean Drive in South Beach, or those in Hotels that overlook pools and beach.

Monty's Stonecrab Restaurant - 300 Alton Road,Miami Beach, 305.673.3444. Seafood and more seafood, indoor and outdoor, with plenty of cold beer while you see the huge cruise ships glide by at night. Downstairs is casual: there's a raw Bar on Fridays and the menu includes Florida Lobster Tail, Jamaican spiced snapper and all you can each stone crabs. Upstairs dining has a larger and more expensive menu. Boat Docking

Nikki Beach at Penrod's . One Ocean Drive, South Beach. 305-538-1111. Right on the sand, not too far from the surf, umbrellas give some shade to wooden tables and benches, and a truly funky atmosphere. Executive Chef Jason McClain at Pearl /Nikki Beach is a breakfast lover who will share his specialties Saturdays and Sundays at brunch with a menu of i tropical fruit plate; mixed seafood ceviches with guacamole and yuzu; Maine lobster salad with hearts of palm, as well as egg dishes like the trio of Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, Canadian bacon and spinach; French toast with sausages and ham; Cajun Crab cakes with mango avocado salad; Ahi tuna Niçoise; and Australian beef filet with lobster mash potatoes.

Smith & Wollensky, 1 Washington Ave., South Beach, 305-673-2800. Set at the tip of Government Point, this steakhouse is like a old- fashioned beachside restaurant gone 21st century. Lunch, dinner. Expensive. Steak ! Very large portions, all al-la-carte, very expensive. Waterfront view of ocean and miami skyline with cruise ships passing by via the government cut. Reservations are suggested at all times, dress code. Sitting on the tiered porch gives you a bird's-eye view of the Atlantic and the passing crowd on Ocean Drive.

North Miami

Renaisa, 620 NE 78th St., Miami, 305- 754-3985. a picturesque Bangladeshi-Indian joint on the river off 79th Ave., and Biscayne Blvd., serves a very moderately priced menu of fragrant Indian dishes like curries, fish soup, Tandoori fish and chicken, spicy lamb vindaloo and pistacchio ice cream with Indian seasoning.

Roger's Restaurant & Bar, 1601 79th Cuaseway, North Bay Village. 305-866-7111, a casual waterside American grill with affordable steaks, salads, burgers, and popular fish dishes such as pan seared Mahi Mahi with lobster mashed potatoes, as well as moonshine pork chops, ribs or raw bar and stone crabs served in large portions. Outside has a number of seats with breezy waterside tables as well as a tiki bar with seats all around. . Valet parking is complimentary. Boat Docking

La Palomilla on the Beach, 219 71st St, (305) 867-4414, Miami Beach, a casual waterfront family style restaurant with ceiling to floor windows, music and Cuban and Spanish dishes of lamb, beef, pork, chicken and seafood, salads, sandwiches, rice and beans.

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