South Florida's Status as the Country's Melting Pot Makes for Some Great Ethnic Eats

South Florida truly is a melting pot. People from all over the world, especially the Caribbean and South and Central America, have made our part of the world their home. This is good news for us, because that gives us access to authentic food. We've listed a few of our tried-and-true favorites below. Different flavors, different experiences, but they all have one thing in common — they put out delicious food.

Bravo! Gourmet Sandwich Shop

2925 NE Sixth Ave., Wilton Manors. Call 954-533-4350.

The postcard-sized menu at Bravo promises: "The best sandwich you'll ever taste!" Those are big words in the world of sandwiches, but the thing is, Bravo! just might live up to that promise. Bravo!'s Peruvian sandwiches are full of juicy pork, flavorful country ham, and well-spiced onions, all served on bulky, flaky buns that perfectly soak up the meat juices and spicy sauce. On Sundays, get a traditional Peruvian Sunday feast of fried pork chunks, slices of sweet potatoes, spiced onions, and a banana-leaf-wrapped tamale. It's served with one of those buns for a self-assembled sandwich. The desayuno plate costs $10, but it could easily make a meal for two. Pair it with a traditional Peruvian drink: chicha morada, which is made from red corn and spiced with apples and cinnamon. Bravo!'s also got fantastic yuca fries, or hold out for the alfajores ($2), flaky Peruvian cookies filled with dulce de leche.

Don Arturo

1198 SW 27th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-584-7966.

This little Cuban hole in the wall may be in need of an interior decorator — wood-paneled walls are a little too dark, plastic plants that need dusting more than watering — but what this restaurant lacks in ambiance it makes up for in flavor. Cuban food is not really spicy, so the food has to rely on the tenderness and freshness of the meat and seafood — usually seasoned only with garlic, salt, and citrus. The pork steak at Don Arturo is moist and juicy. Paired with beans and plantains, it's a solid meal. A pitcher of sangria seals the deal, as does a piece of home-baked tres leches cake. No need to drive to Miami when Don Arturo is right here in Fort Lauderdale.

Hot Pot

2876 N. State Road 7, Lauderdale Lakes. Call 954-797-7414.

There's quite a large Jamaican population in Broward, as evidenced by the many jerk restaurants in the central and western parts of the county. We choose Hot Pot when we're feeling the need for some jerk chicken or curry goat. A whole escovitch fish, marinated in vinegar and cooked with onion, is tangy and flaky, while braised oxtail and brown-stew pork are slow-cooked to fall-apart texture. Ackee and saltfish, the unofficial "official" dish of the island, is served for breakfast, as is mackerel and banana and liver and onions. Sure beats a bagel any day.

Madras Cafe

1434 S. Powerline Road, Pompano Beach. Call 954-977-5434.

Despite a sizable Broward population of immigrants from the subcontinent where vegetarian cooking is a high art, there's still a dearth of Indian restaurants here willing to venture into the uncommon cuisine of south India. But Madras continues to buck the trends, serving idli, sambar, and those delectable little savory doughnuts called dhai vada, plus lesser-known dishes from the southern coast — like the marvelous, hot-sour Malabar fish stew made with kingfish and curry leaves. Excellently cooked North Indian clay-oven specials are here too, like yogurt-marinated chicken tandoori that falls off the bone in one lovely bite. And anybody still craving lamb vindaloo and chicken korma won't go hungry. But it's the feel of the place, its bustle and warm scents, the melodious accents coming from the next room — where extended Indian families come for the buffet — that really makes Madras a place to lodge deep in your heart.

La Michoacana

636 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach. Call 561-514-3030.

Mexicans may be even more fanatical about ice cream than Italians and Argentines combined. The chain of La Michoacana ice cream parlors can be traced back to Tocumbo, a formerly nondescript village in central Mexico. Tocumbians developed paletas, fruit Popsicles, and sold them, along with ice cream, at paleterias. Today, all the stores are independently owned and operated, but conservative estimates place La Michoacanas at about 15,000. You can taste why the formula is so addictive at the West Palm Beach outlet, where fruit pops made from the pure juice of mangoes or strawberries are incredibly refreshing. For chunkier sweets, the ice creams, or paletas de crema, have swirls of fresh fruit in them.

Lovey's Roti

8336 W. Oakland Park Blvd., Sunrise. Call 954-741-9212.

Lovey's Roti is the place to go for West Indian-style roti and curry with a Trinidadian bent. Roti comes three ways (dhalpourie is with lentils, sada is thick like naan, and "buss up shut" is thin and ribbon-like), each made fresh to order. Chicken, duck, goat, and pork curries abound, as do some truly awesome "straights" — that's vegetarian dishes like channa aloo (chickpeas and potatoes), bhagie (spinach), and sweet orange pumpkin. Lovey's also serves excellent Trinidadian street food like doubles and aloo pie, two sandwich-like specialties made with fried bread and stuffed with chickpeas or potatoes and garlicky mango kuchela. Prices are cheap, but it's cash only.

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