Nick's Restaurant

105 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.

954-458-0363, nicks-restaurant.com

Sink your teeth into the Sage Bagel & Appetizer Shop's pastrami sandwich.
Sink your teeth into the Sage Bagel & Appetizer Shop's pastrami sandwich.
Harvey Fuerst, who nows runs the old-school Sage Bagel & Appetizer Shop; Sage's Matzoh ball soup and the smoked sablefish platter.
Harvey Fuerst, who nows runs the old-school Sage Bagel & Appetizer Shop; Sage's Matzoh ball soup and the smoked sablefish platter.

Every strip needs its greasy spoon, and on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, Nick's is it. Greasy patty melts with gooey cheese and sweet sautéed onions? Check. Open-faced turkey sandwiches? Got 'em. Best of all, perhaps, is that the place looks like it hasn't been redecorated since it opened in 1962. To take a seat in one of the laminate wood banquettes surrounded by beige wallpaper stamped with palm trees is to take a step back in time to when South Florida's high-rises first began jutting up out of the sand.

Padrino's Cuban Cuisine

2500 Hallandale Beach Blvd.

954-456-4550, padrinos.com

Padrino's in Hallandale is one of four locations where the Padrino family serves its classic Cuban cuisine. It all began in 1972, when Diosdado Padrino joined his wife and two children, whom he sent to South Florida in 1968 as Fidel Castro began to consolidate his power across the island. That first restaurant opened in Hialeah, which today remains an important albeit weird center of the Cuban community. The Padrinos, meanwhile, now run restaurants in Plantation, Boca Raton, and Orlando, so there's a crispy, creamy croqueta de jamón always within reach.

Yudy Bakery

300 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd.

954-455-2186, facebook.com/yudy-bakery

There are few Latin American cuisines that so unabashedly embrace deep-fat frying as Colombian. At Yudy Bakery, there are churros (fried dough), cornmeal empanadas filled with seasoned beef (fried, of course), and strips of pork belly with crisp skin thanks to hot oil baths. You could just go all in with the $35 Yudy Picada. The mountainous plate comes with all of the aforementioned fried goodies, plus chorizo, blood sausage, boiled potatoes, yuca, fried sweet plantains, steak, and chicken. Just be sure to bring some friends to help save your arteries.

El Tamarindo Coal Fired Pizza

712 Atlantic Shores Blvd., 954-456-4447

Many pizza joints brag about their wood-fired ovens. At El Tamarindo, in a deceivingly sketchy neighborhood north of Hallandale Beach Boulevard, massive pies come from a 750-degree coal-fired oven topped with mozzarella, Romano, and tangy alta cocina plum tomatoes. Try the broccoli rabe pie, topped with the bitter green and chunks of spicy sausage. Yet pizza isn't the end of the story, and there's a bit of Latin flare. Those fried zucchini sticks you order as an appetizer totally go with a griddled quesadilla filled with chicken, refried beans, and sour cream.

Chapultepec Mexican Bar and Restaurant

23 NW Second Ave., 954-456-0771

One of Chapultepec's best-kept secrets is the ad hoc taco stand that pops up outside the restaurant on Friday nights. Cooks grill juicy carnitas and carne asada in the South Florida breeze, hitting each fragrant stack of meat with chopped onion, cilantro, and lime before wrapping it in a corn tortilla. It's a South Florida scene like none other, and it's not uncommon to find whole families stuffing spicy tacos in their faces alongside construction workers, covered in sweat and grit after a day at a job site.

Falafel Benny

658 W. Hallandale Beach Blvd.

954-455-2118, falafelbenny.com

"Howz dee faylafell?," Ben Regev yells from behind a glass and granite countertop. Most people can only nod as they chew on soft pitas filled with well-seasoned green falafel topped with tahini and a rainbow of fresh and pickled vegetables. As a kid growing up in Israel, Regev used to skip school to work odd jobs to buy falafel. As an adult, they've become his life. He says even Muslims come into his small shop for falafel saying "kif imeh," which in English, he says, means "like home."

Sage Bagel & Appetizer Shop

800 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.

954-456-7499, sagebagelanddeli.com

Sage has everything a wayward, homesick Jewish New Yorker wants: chewy bagels; the extra-salty version of smoked, thin-sliced salmon called belly lox; and a cozy place to sit in a family-owned place. Sage is old-school Hallandale, rising from the sand in 1973, when nearby Aventura was only a dream. But through it all, the Fuerst family has overseen multiple expansions and opened a restaurant where you can sit down and enjoy a bowl of hot matzo ball soup alongside a platter of shiny, smoked sable with red onion and capers.

Il Mercato Cafe & Wine Shop

1454 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.

954-457-3700, ilmercatocafe.com

When Il Mercato's chef and owner, Emily Finne, moved to South Florida so her kids could be closer to their grandparents, "it was right in the middle of the recession, and [she] was trying to get a job doing something, anything." Il Mercato opened in 2010, hidden from view in a Hallandale Beach Boulevard strip mall, with the idea of it being a place for a good glass of wine and light bites. "The rent wasn't too bad," she says, "so we took a chance." Soon, people flocked from Sunny Isles, Hollywood, and Aventura, and now Il Mercato is a full-service restaurant offering everything from pasta carbonara to short-rib tacos.

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