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Miami - United States

Miami takes its dining scene very seriously. People come from all over the world to drink and dine in this sunny city by the Atlantic Ocean. Restaurants range from South American to Continental to Caribbean, while the local fusion cuisine known as "Floribbean" borrows influences from all three regions.

Many of the city's restaurants specialize in fresh, local seafood. Swordfish, yellowtail, lobster and oysters have a place on most menus. In the autumn and winter, stone crab season takes over. At restaurants such as the legendary Joe's Stone Crab, people wait for hours to enjoy the delicious crustaceans.

Many of Miami's eateries represent countries and regions of Latin and South America. Brazilian rodizio, Argentine churrasco and Peruvian seafood are just a few of the ethnic specialties local restaurants dish out. Dozens of Cuban eateries serve filling, tasty meals at a considerably low price.

For many diners, however, a restaurant's food is not the point. Neither is the decor, although a restaurant scores points for having a great view or a kitschy theme. To these people, the most important quality in a restaurant is its social cachet — dining is secondary to seeing and being seen. Restaurants often post lists or display framed pictures of celebrity patrons. If you're not famous, have no fear: you can get by on looks, charm or deep pockets.

Whether you're looking for a cheap and filling meal, a gourmet Italian feast or a night among the stars, you can find it in one of the districts of this splendidly diverse city.

South Beach is the epicentre of excitement and glamor. It is here, at restaurants like the China Grill that you're most likely to spot a celebrity at the next table. Although many of the restaurants are very pricey, places such as the ever-popular News Café offer a pleasant atmosphere, low prices and great food. Grab an outside table and enjoy wine and cheese as you ogle the SoBe street scene.

Although central Miami Beach is not as jam-packed with restaurants as its southern neighbour, there are plenty of excellent dining options, many of them located within the luxury hotels. At Bleau View, located in the famed Fontainebleau, patrons can savor the delicious American fare while enjoying the tranquil view of the ocean nearby.

Downtown Miami is popular with business people and other locals. Nightlife is nonexistent, but there's a flourishing restaurant scene. The various steakhouses serve delicious food with a local twist.

Coral Gables, a quaint village within Greater Miami, boasts a culturally rich entertainment and dining scene. Sample Jamaican gourmet cuisine at Ortanique on the Mile.

Coconut Grove, another small, trendy community within Central Miami, boasts a number of excellent casual and gourmet dining choices.

Key Biscayne's restaurants have a different feel from any other part of Miami - or any other part of the world. The dining establishments are characteristically laid-back and informal; most of the time, they open and close when they choose and menus can change daily. Grab fish and fries at a local spot and then venture over to Sundays on the Bay for a frozen drink.

Little Havana, located in Central Miami, has the greatest number of excellent Cuban and South American eateries. Versailles, while slightly more expensive than others, is famous for its food. Another excellent choice is Casa Juancho, where diners can enjoy authentic Spanish cuisine in a comfortable and elegant atmosphere with live flamenco music. The district can be somewhat unsafe after dark, so visitors are recommended to travel in groups.

Hialeah, a suburb of West Miami, caters to locals, and the prices tend to be more reasonable than in other parts of the city. Los Ranchos, a popular chain of South American steakhouses, is typical of the neighbourhood's restaurants. The food is excellent, the decor is attractive, and social climbers are rarely in attendance.

Aventura, best known for the gargantuan Aventura Mall, can claim its fair share of fusion restaurants, from expensive to reasonably priced. For inventive cuisine that doesn't stretch the budget, check out the Gourmet Diner.

Once you hit Broward County you're officially out of Miami, but many people consider it an extension of the Greater Miami area. A variety of excellent restaurants cater to tourists and seasonal residents here.

The roster of restaurants in the sprawling metropolis of Miami is impressive, eclectic and ever-changing. It's difficult to keep track of which restaurants are remodeling, moving, opening a new branch or changing themes. Most visitors or locals - no matter how dedicated - could not ever sample all of Miami's cuisine or enjoy every one of its bars. However, the city's boisterous and irrepressible spirit demands that while you're here you do your best to meet the dining and drinking challenge every day and on into the night. As far as challenges go, that isn't a bad one at all.
 
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