Best Gay-Owned-and-Operated Restaurant - 2001
Hi-Life Cafe - CLOSED
Gay restaurants are a dime a dozen in South Florida, and most of them have a life expectancy measured in months. But for more than six years now, the Hi-Life has been an oasis of stability and consistency. Transplanted New Yorkers Chuck Smith and Carlos Fernandez started out with an atmosphere-drenched, one-room eatery that quickly gained a devoted following. Fernandez worked the kitchen (pretty much by himself), while Smith worked the dining room. That hasn't changed. It's not unusual to find Chef Carlos busing tables; Smith still plays the ever-gracious host, circulating to make sure everything runs smoothly. But the restaurant has more than doubled in size to include a second room with a well-stocked wine bar, and the staff of good-looking, highly competent men has likewise expanded. The menu, meanwhile, has been honed to near-perfection, a small but versatile lineup that includes such standouts as Belgian endive topped with blue cheese, chopped pecans, and tomatoes and drizzled with champagne vinaigrette; searing jalape?os stuffed with cheese and shrimp and wrapped in bacon; chicken and penne pasta mingled with olives, capers, red peppers, onions, and tomatoes and tinged with balsamic vinegar; and a pan-grilled slab of salmon atop sautéed spinach, finished with a light Dutch Dijon cream sauce. It's the kind of place where same-sex couples can relax and be discreetly affectionate but also the kind of place you'd feel perfectly comfortable taking Mom and Dad.