Once upon a time a little girl dreamt of escaping her hometown to become a world-famous ballerina.

She even went to NYC to follow her dream, but ultimately her calling changed to cooking, and one day she became a famous celebrity chef, the darling of the Miami foodie world, at a restaurant that bears her childhood nickname. Another little girl dreamed of leaving her hometown of Santa Barbara, in western Honduras, to start a new life in the glamorous jewel of the tropics, Miami, FLA. She opened a cafe, but when the city went after small businesses to make Miami safe for developers, she had to close up shop. Luckily, she found a new location, and named it after her late, beloved, mother. This is the story of how, just nine minutes apart, yet light-years away, two restaurants nourish their customers. This is the story of Michy's versus Meche's. A meal at Michy's begins with, well, you better have a reservation. If you don't, you can always walk through the perfect-skin types, who drool over Chef Michelle Bernstein's latest confabulations, take a seat at the bar, and sip a sparkling wine mojito while you wait for a table, and bop your head to the cool Thievery Corporation tunes. The food at Michy's has stayed at a very high level for the most part, with its mix of high-prestige ingredients (Foie Gras ($24), Oysters ($36/Dozen), and 'Wild-Caught' Colossal Shrimp ($22-that's for one); and determinedly 'interesting' preparations, like Sweetbread “Scallopine”, and Gnocchi “Lasagna”. The rest of the menu is mostly comfort food, gilded with that special celebuchef touch: Short Ribs Falling Off The Bone, Chicken “Pot Pie”, with Burgundy Chicken Glaze, and Fettuccine “Carbonara” My Way (all ironic quotes (“) from the menu). Also, seventeen of the short menu's 23 'Plates of Resistance' (don't get me started) come in full or half portions. The half-portion of sweetbreads is a particular hit, flattened and crisped like a thinly pounded veal cutlet, and covered with a tart caper and pomegranate sauce, the sweetbreads tasting subtle, perhaps too subtle for some. The Gnocchi are fluffy yet vivid, and once they are eaten, no evidence is left on your tongue. The meat sauce and cheeses are sharp, but the composition of the dish is more haphazard than a lasagna, perhaps taking that name, I imagine, because everyone loves lasagna. The Short Ribs are also terrific. They are indeed off the bone, making it easier for those special Bernstein acolytes in the front of the house to gum them down, and they taste tenderly-cooked. The 'Creamy Mashed Potatoes' and 'Moroccan Carrots' sides are almost elegant. The most traditional dish is the Duck Confit. It is dark and juicy, and the accompanying classic Frisee Salad, with Lardons and poached quail eggs, makes the dish an authentic French Bistro treat. To drink I recommend the Höss Grüner Veltliner, at $48, a remarkable food wine, that will go with almost anything on the menu. Although prices have gone up here, and those $18 'half' plates can start to add up, the wine list has remained one of the better bargains in Miami. Another type of crowd-pleaser is Meche's, an authentic Honduran eatery, located on NW 2nd Ave and 31st St. This Wynwood strip could be called up-and-coming by optimists, and indeed, owners Dania Hernandez and Alba Montero got a nice bump from last December's Art Basel. Not just Central Americans, Cubans, Venezuelans, and other Latinos, but “Eurpoeans, Americanos,” says Alba, as she pats out the dough for freshly made Baleadas, a traditional dish from San Pedro Sula, which is similar to a Mexican taco, but the tortilla is closer to 10” in diameter. After grilling the dough, she dips a ladle into the big black pot of beans warming on the stove, and fills the tortilla with them, and a couple of strips of steak also get folded in. The freshness of the dough, and the slightly salty meat, along with thick beans, make a homey meal. Different fillings include eggs, cheese, cream, and chorizo, but the star is the dough, which tastes and looks almost like a freshly grilled Indian chapati. The owners, who are sisters, keep the place open seven days a week from 6AM-10PM. One or both of them is always in front of the stove. They use old family recipes, and it is evident in the rotating daily soup specials, which are served with fluffy rice and a tortilla, especially Sunday's Jaiba (crab, $8)), which is a hearty fish soup made from what might be called 'gumbo' crabs (not much meat, but they impart an amazing flavor to the soup), and which contains

al dente pieces of root vegetables, not mushy at all, hard to get right in a long-cooked soup. Wednesday's Sopa de Frijoles ($6) sounds straightforward. But this 'bean soup' contains what have to be the largest pieces of pork skin (chicharron de cerdo) I've ever been served, along with solid plantains and bits of beef, and tons of cilantro; all of it mixed in a full quart of soothing broth. Saturday's Mondongo, a clean-tasting tripe stew, is the best I've had in Miami. I also highly recommend the Catrachitas, which are like tostadas-a crunchy tortilla topped with thick, mashed beans, and cheese, that usually disappear in just a few bites. There is no beer or wine here, and that's just fine with Alba and Dania. It keeps their customers upright. And although there is no valet parking, like at Michy's, when you enter through the blue, wooden screen door, you get the same feeling of family, and two very different worlds seem as one. MECHE'S 7 Days Week, 6AM-10PM 3104 NW 2nd Ave, Miami 786-594-0830 Cash Only MICHY'S 6927 Biscayne Blvd, Miami 305-759-2001 Fri/Sat 6PM-11:30PM Sun, T, W, Th 6-11PM Closed Monday All Cards