Best Of :: Food & Drink
This building has been a Texaco gas station, and more recently, the Poopie Doll Florist, but today, after renovations, owner Barry Hilton and his partner and executive chef, Roberto Sanchez, have transformed it into a rustic barbecue shack that serves the most authentic, wood-smoked barbecue around. According to Hilton, the secret to their success is in the smoker, the same one Sanchez used at a restaurant in Austin, Texas. It uses 100 percent wood logs to smoke the meat and absolutely no electricity or gasoline — something only a few restaurants in South Florida can lay claim to. Everyone's favorite: the beef brisket, which is given a secret spice rub and slow-smoked for 14 hours before it's fresh-sliced and served as a sandwich. "Here, we don't try to overload the meat with a lot of seasoning," Hilton says. "We let the wood and meat do its own thing."
Jacques Bruna is a man of many hats. A musician, a lyricist, a friend, a family man. In this case, Jacques (or "Bleubird") is a bartender, and a damned fine one at that. Working at Laser Wolf for just a little under a year, Jacques tends bar "to make helicopter cash," he says. Still, Bruna takes pride in his work, describing all of the hours there as "happy" when asked for advice on the best time to come in for a drink, and everything is "special." Ask him for a recommendation and Bruna will tell you that Laser Wolf "only serves the best beer, so you can't go wrong!" He knows your name, remembers your face, and if he doesn't say much, it's because he's listening. Fast with his wit, Bruna is even faster on his feet. When one night, a regular suddenly started looking ill and feeling even worse, the man stepped up when no one else would to drive this friend and patron home safely (because no one else knew how to drive stick). Don't rely on the bartenders at Laser Wolf as a regular cab service, but that is the stuff a Best Bartender is made of. "He really wasn't doing so good," Bruna says. "I had never seen him like that. Bartender or not—why wouldn't you help someone if you could?" After all, the sign on the door does say "No Jerks."
No category is more hotly contested than Best Pizza. Everyone has an opinion, and with so many former New Yorkers living in our midst, most of those opinions are negative. (We get it. New York has the best pizza.) But Annie's Pizza & Subs meets all the requirements for a perfect pie: Slices are bigger than your face. There's a good sauce-to-cheese ratio. And when you bite in — scalding the roof of your mouth a little because you just couldn't wait — the cheese stretches the length of your arm before breaking loose yet doesn't slide off in a cheese avalanche. At Annie's, when you fold the slice at the top, grease drips down your arm, and the tip of the floppy slice points downward at a 45-degree angle. Feel free to argue that you can't get good pizza down here and write an essay extolling the magical properties of New York water in the baking of pizza dough. After rousing from our pizza-induced coma, we're going to actively ignore you and eat another slice.
Run by Mohod Flafil and his wife, Hanna, this is not just a falafel stand. The goods here range from yogurt soda to hookah tobacco to halal meats from the deli. If you've been hunting down a rare ingredient or craving some baklava, this well-organized, clean, brightly lit little shop is the place to stop. Then, of course, there's the falafel. Hanna (who prepares the food) is not stingy — there are plenty of crispy chickpea balls in the nearly foot-long tube of pita bread — which is baked and delivered to the shop every day but Sunday. A falafel sandwich comes with tomatoes, onion, pickles, and tahini sauce, but they will gladly leave off any topping you don't want. The falafel meal includes a drink and a piece of baklava. (Do NOT skip the baklava.) Falafel balls are also available minus the sandwich for 70 cents apiece.
Tucked away in a converted house on the outskirts of Delray Beach's Pineapple Grove is the juiciest, meatiest, most delicious burgers that can be found in South Florida. On the corner of NE Third Street and Third Avenue, the appropriately named 3rd & 3rd creates burger magic. A firm brioche bun cradles a perfectly seared patty of luscious beef with lettuce, tomato, onion, and choice of pepper jack, cheddar, Swiss, or blue cheese. Those ingredients alone make for the perfect burger. Add the balsamic red onion jam and you have yourself a match made in heaven.
Traditional fries have an old-school appeal that means they'll always be the most popular kid in school: the quarterback, the letterman, the prom king. But like the intense, art-school loner who charms all the ladies, there's something special about the orange-hued uniqueness of a sweet-potato fry. And when they're hand-cut and fried to a light, gentle crisp, it's easy to pass up your average-joe potato. At the family-owned Gilbert's 17th Street Grill, you can pair 'em with a juicy burger or make 'em your main course — they're downright addictive. They'll come out piping hot, sitting coyly atop newsprint. Place your order at the counter and sit a spell in the casual, no-frills dining room. Once you've inhaled an order or two, you may need to be rolled out. But a tryst with these homemade treasures is well worth the aftermath.