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Best Of 2003

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Best Of :: Food & Drink

Best Place to Take the Kids
Rainbo Café

Kids love stories, and the history of this place is quite a tale. Why are the men's room walls 16 to 18 inches thick? Because they are part of an old vault used by gamblers. See, the Rainbo opened in 1933 and was, until the 1950s, a casino that hosted gangsters including -- and this is documented -- Al Capone. It was closed until 1990, when Jim Durfy first unlocked the doors. In Rainbo's modern incarnation, scenes from the film Cape Fear, with Robert DeNiro, were shot here. Then there's the 124-year-old potbellied stove and the sitting area that Durfy has established in the front window. Our kids love wandering around the joint. They also get a kick out of the life-size dancing Santa Claus that Durfy, who is 70 years old, places outside the door every Yuletide. Our kids especially like the fact that there is no kids menu. If you are a clueless parent, you might not have realized that kids hate kids menus. Makes 'em feel inferior. But just a word to the waitstaff here and they will whip up kid-size portions. For breakfast, a pancake shaped like a rabbit goes for a mere $1.25. At lunch, a hot dog and fries sell for $1.95. But the real reason the Rainbo tops this category has little to do with any of this. Rather, it's that all of Durfy's nine children, as well as four of his grandchildren, work here. If he can deliver this many kids to this downtown Hollywood institution, then you should bring your tiny brood too. The place is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day except Christmas.

1909 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 33021
MAP
954-922-9767
Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Bombay Cafe <p>Readers Choice: Sweet Tomatoes

For Indian food regulars who want to avoid those awkward moments of ordering beef curry from a Hindu waiter, the simple way is to go vegetarian. Bombay Cafe has powerfully tasty vegetarian dishes that'll make most carnivores forget about the lack of animal flesh. The chick peas in the chole-bhatura are cooked perfectly al dente in a potent tomato-based broth, and the plain uttapam combines the simplicity of a poster-sized rice pancake with aromatic lentil soup. Everything at this simple restaurant is made on-premises, even the yogurt, which flavors the sweet lassi so well, and the roti, an oven-roasted bread. Best of all, your vegetarian feast will set you back only about $5 -- not a bad price for a clear conscience.

628 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, 33432
MAP
561-750-5299
Mark Militello

Q: Ever watch reality-TV shows?

A: I watch absolutely no TV. I work every night.

Q: Never?

A: All right, Monday. My day off. On Monday, I have to watch Fear Factor because my 10-year-old daughter, Margeaux, insists on it. It's kind of fun to watch with her. She's always comparing herself to the girls on the show. She says, "I could do that."

Q: Are there parts of the show you don't like?

A: When they eat slugs and things like that. I'm not crazy about that.

Q: Is that the restaurateur talking?

A: Not really. That whole segment of the show -- I usually walk away from it. It'll definitely kill your appetite.

Q: How about your daughter?

A: She can stomach it a little better than I can.

Q: Is the show in any way real?

A: It's interesting to see what people will do for $50,000. Is that real? I don't know.

Q: Can you learn anything from Fear Factor?

A: Jeez, I don't think so. It's kind of like a strange sports game.

Q: What does your daughter get out of it?

A: Just the sensation of it, I think. She's very competitive, very athletic. A major soccer player and a junior lifeguard. I think the competition is what she enjoys, especially when the girls are competing against the guys. That's Margeaux.

Best Seafood Restaurant

If the name seems like a mouthful, well, the large servings of fresh fish and shellfish justify it. A retail seafood market on one side and an attractive, casual dining spot on the other, Waves isn't all foam and froth like some of its trendy contemporaries. Yet its preparations are still modern -- Asian shrimp-noodle soup, coconut shrimp, lump crab "fingers," shrimp scampi with roasted tomatoes. Feeling traditional? Waves also offers lobster dinners à la beach parties in Cape Cod, with a Maine steamed lobster, mussels, clams, ears of corn, and new red potatoes. Best of all, your belly may make you feel as if you won't be riding any waves too soon lest you get a cramp, and your wallet won't be much lighter -- Waves is as reasonably priced as it is filling.

Best Restaurant with a Secret

It's no secret that Chinese takeout isn't always healthful. But there is hope. Wingloon's lengthy menu features all the traditional Chinese-American fare; sweet and sour chicken, moo goo gai pan, beef lo mein, among others. But this drive-through and takeout restaurant is looking out for today's health-conscious consumer. In addition to a vegetarian menu including broccoli and mushrooms with garlic sauce, and sautéed string beans, any of their chicken or beef dishes can be prepared with tofu, and they will omit salt, sugar, or cornstarch. You just have to ask.

Best Early-Bird Special
Spoto's Oyster Bar

Let's be honest. You're cheap, and you always will be. So you might as well put on the plaid pants and baby-blue blazer and go for the early-bird special at Spoto's. Between 5 and 6 p.m., the upscale raw bar in downtown West Palm Beach throws in a salad, dessert, and drink for the price of your entrée. That's a value of about $20, which, you might as well admit, is more than you spent on your mother's last birthday present. The deal includes a spicy tomato, mozzarella, and red onion salad with a well-aged vinaigrette. It's a good complement to the onion-crusted yellowtail snapper at $21.75. Or pair the house salad, with its wheat-beer vinaigrette, with the bouillabaisse, which includes a half-pound lobster, clams, mussels, and nearly still-swimming chunks of fish. Eat quick and you can be in bed by 8.

4560 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens, 33418
MAP
561-776-9448
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Best Place to Take the Kids: Rainbo Café

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