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Best Of 2000


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Food & Drink

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Coffeehouse

If the coffeehouses of the 1990s are a throwback to the Cheers era, Chocolate Moose is a perfect example. It's a place where, if not everybody knows your name, at least owner John Helverson makes a point of it. "That's Joe," he says, pointing to a white-haired man in his fifties. "He's having some personal problems and comes here every night. It's his home away from home." The customers are an eclectic group ranging from teenagers to seniors. On a recent Thursday night, the place was packed for open-mic night (there's also singles' night, psychic night, and gothic night). Two dozen or so people sat at tables, at what passes for a "bar," and on recliners, listening to a young blond woman in jeans serve up a decent guitar-backed rendition of an Emerson, Lake & Palmer song, of all things. In the back of the room, a tattooed twentysomething couple sitting on brushed velvet couches played a lively game of chess. A bookcase offers such diverse fare as The Guinness Book of Records, Favorite Houseplants, and Smart Women, Foolish Choices. The owner samples hundreds of coffee beans before choosing his faves, and one of his proud inventions is the White Cow, a blend of espresso, white chocolate, and vanilla. There are also a few wine choices for those who prefer a stronger form of liquid relaxation, and the décor is warm and inviting, with a roaring fake fireplace, heart-shape candles, and miniature stuffed moose scattered throughout. But as on Cheers, the friendship and good-natured ribbing are what bring people back.

Best Restaurant Under $10

Don't say we never did nothin' for ya. Because if we had half a brain or one selfish bone in our body, we'd stay mum about Spicy Jenny's. This tiny, three-table storefront eatery, just off Lake Worth's main drag, is one of those little-known places so unfathomably good that we should just shut up about it, because the only good that will come of publicizing the place is that it will be overrun with hordes of lunchtime drones. So, just briefly: chicken thighs in Veracruz peanut sauce tempered with red wine, served over carrots and white grapes; pork chops in soy-ginger sauce with mango salsa and mashed potatoes; spinach enchiladas suiza. And those are just a few of the daily lunch specials. None is more than $6, and all are comparable to dishes you'd pay three times that amount for at any restaurant with amenities (like, say, table service). You want more? The best Philly cheesesteak in town, bar none; huevos rancheros that will leave you forever unable to eat the tepid eggs served at most breakfast joints; ham-and-corn chowder that will make you wish for a nice 30-degree day and a stiff wind; and… oh, forget it. We're off to Spicy Jenny's right now, before you unwashed masses tarnish the place forever.

Best Chain Restaurant
Samba Room

OK, so it's not much of a chain -- yet. This pan-Latin eatery, a conceptual sibling to T.G.I. Friday's, has only two other locations nationwide. Still, more are planned, including two in South Florida, and they're so uniquely suited to our region that we have no problem looking forward to more. Like everyday life in multicultural South Florida, the Samba Room menu puts various Hispanic dishes side by side regardless of country of origin. Where else could you find a ropa vieja sandwich next to Colombian arepas -- with a corn salsa, no less? Or wash down xinxim (Brazilian stew) with a Cuba libre? Granted, the Samba Room, named for a Brazilian dance, takes some liberties by fusing Latin ingredients with Asian ones and palming some Caribbean ones off on unsuspecting Anglos. But all in all, the place is good fun, especially late in the evening when the furniture is cleared away, the dancing begins, and the Samba lives up to its name.

350 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33301
Best Desserts
Rhythm Café

If the aroma of fresh-baked cookies wafting from the café's kitchen doesn't clue you in, allow us to do so: Proprietors Dennis Williams and Ken Rzab make their own. And they're not just tollhouse toadies, either, although the chocolate-chip yummies here are so popular the boys sell 'em by the dozen. This pair gets into the groove with sweets both simple (try the brownies) and sophisticated (sample the cappuccino-chocolate-chip layer cake). And as for the peanut butter cream pie, it straddles the line between delicious and, oh, how about rockin' good. Talk about rhythm -- the sweets here make your taste buds do the tango.

3800 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, 33405
Best Mexican Restaurant

What do you do when confronted with a horny green iguana? Drink it, and fast -- otherwise the aged tequila in this innovative martini might lose its just-shaken chill. Then, once you're sufficiently warmed, take time to examine the rest of the offerings at this splendidly creative Tex-Mex joint. This eatery on trendy Clematis Street has chile-napped winners in such items as chicken breast mole and tenderloin of pork with pumpkin-seed sauce. And you can't dismiss even what would normally be incidentals (that is, chips and salsa) in another restaurant, because every piquant sauce here is made on the premises. Indeed while the mixed drinks tame even the prickliest Mexican-food fans, the fare peps 'em right back up again.

Best Thai Restaurant
Eddie Hills and Sushi Thai
Anthony Cave

Granted, the name's a little strange, perhaps just a bit too weird to be taken seriously. And the sushi part can easily seem like a backup plan for non-Thai food lovers or for those disappointed in the pad Thai, for instance. And yes, the place doesn't look like much more than what it was before chef-owner Todd Boonya took over: a classic roadside diner. But once you're safely ensconced in a booth and served steaming tom yum soup, a brothy blend spiked with lime leaves, lemongrass, and chile peppers, you'll just have to trust your palate. This is fine Thai dining indeed. Mee krob is exceptional, neither greasy nor too sweet, and curries are supremely well balanced. Ask for your dish spicy and you'll get it that way, which makes Eddie Hills and Sushi Thai not only a pit stop for quick Asian fare but a cure for the common cold as well.

134 N. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, 33009

Best Coffeehouse: Chocolate Moose Coffeehouse


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