Best Barbecue 2000 | Texas State of Mind BBQ | Foodstuff | South Florida
Ask a dozen barbecue aficionados about their favorite barbecue, and you'll usually get a dozen different opinions. But lately all eyes have been trained on the same prize: the meaty back ribs offered at this casual, laid-back joint. It's hard to quibble with both the quantity and the quality of the fare at TSoM, especially the beef brisket, which has been simmered until tender, or the chopped boneless pork. Extras are also worthy: The side dishes include rich baked beans and roasted corn on the cob; the appetizers range from jalapeño poppers to Texas chili rife with kidney beans and ground beef. Even the grilled chicken breasts are doublewide and juicy. Of course the star of the show is the sauce, which is tangy and aromatic. Wash it all down with a Texas-size iced tea, bring your friends, and watch 'em all fall in line with your -- and Texas' -- way of thinking.
Forget the old song of the same name about a woman who shot a man for two-timing -- this place is about love and crabs (but not the kind that ticked off Frankie). It's also about addiction, which is not uncommon in South Florida but is usually less justified. For lovers of shellfish, stone crab claws rival addictive drugs as desired pleasure, when they're in season -- and unfortunately that's not summer. The best place to get them cheap is from this produce-and-fish stand. They come only hours off a boat from the Keys for less than $10 a pound. That's less than half the cost of the fresh claws sold on East Las Olas Boulevard, for example. When the owners get the claws from elsewhere, such as the Chesapeake Bay, the price drops to $6.99 per pound.

We all know Margate ain't exactly Marseilles. In fact, it's strip-mall and fast-food-chain central. But in the midst of all this urban sprawl, this charming French café brings a little country into the city. Aside from the lace curtains and cabbage rose carpet, the restaurant offers up some excellent cassoulet, bourride (Provençal fish stew), and coq au vin. Indeed the French countryside dishes, mostly one-pot meals, are so yummy and filling it's hard to hone in on the more sophisticated fare like a Brie-asparagus omelet and puff pastry stuffed with shiitake and portobello mushrooms glazed with brandy. No matter. Whatever your order, you can't dispute the quality and care that go into the food here, which makes this restaurant not only "the life in pink" but also the life in sated pleasure.
OK, so the place isn't strictly Cuban. In fact pan-Latin might be a more appropriate modifier, since dishes like honey-glazed salmon with mango coulis and a half duck marinated in citrus juices and then glazed with raspberry-sesame sauce and honey are on the menu. But it's with his Cuban fare that owner George Quesada really proves himself: flavorful black beans and rice, terrific papa rellena. Two of his best appetizers, a tamal with pork and caramelized onions and crunchy-tender ham croquetas, are equally hard to resist. With all the Elián-inspired antics of late, Cuba's getting a bad rap. But trust Quesada to make sure that the island's cuisine never does.
Making our kids happy is important. There's no doubt about that. But entertaining ourselves is equally important, whether we admit it or not. That's why we take the youngsters to GameWorks. We start with dinner, where the kids get huge portions. The food is good, too, and we found the service to be excellent (as rare as that may be in our fair county). We went during a drink special and were lucky enough to nab a few $1 drafts. (Don't worry, the kids had soda.) But we didn't really come here to sit around and eat and drink. We came to play. The place encompasses 21,000 square feet and has a tremendous game room with all the beeps and pings and computerized explosions that light up the kids' imaginations. More than 100 games fill the place, from virtual batting practice to rowing through rapids to a hell of an Alpine ski experience, all three highly recommended. None of the stuff is, like, real, but it's all a kick. If you're too adult for those games, then you can kick back at the bar. With its easy-on-the-eyes lighting and constant pop-rock music playing, the place has the feel of a cheesy nightclub, which is pretty decent for a night out with the kids. After we were done, our family of four had gone through 70 bucks, which makes it a bit expensive. But for a now-and-then treat, it's worth it.
The logo here features a guy in chef duds trotting around with a tray of steaming bagels. We'd have to say that's pretty accurate. The bagels here are worthy of a chef's efforts. In fact they're what every picky New Yorker looks for -- crusty, chewy, with an indefinable sweetness to the dough -- and that in itself is a rousing recommendation. Not hard, dense, and stale, like some bagel shops' products, or slight and puffy as rolls, like the ones you get in the supermarket. In addition the Works has, well, the works on the premises: lox, whitefish, vegetable cream cheese, chopped liver, herring, tomatoes, onions. Fix up your bagel however you like. Just be aware that -- unlike in some places, where you have to pile on the toppings to cover up the bagel's flaws -- here you want to go sparingly and let the virtues shine through.

When you're talking pub fare, you're not referring to delicate little bites of carefully arranged goodies. No, you're looking for home-style country dishes that elicit moans of joy before eating, when the diner is confronted with a steaming platter of well-prepared food, and groans of satisfaction after, when the diner is too full to move. Sally O'Brien's fits the bill. Despite its BeachPlace location, this authentic Irish pub is hardly commercial, what with its dimly lighted interior, live Irish music, and draft beers. Best of all, the grub is authentic: corned beef and cabbage, potato soup, shepherd's pie, and even a full Irish breakfast (eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, and sausage), which means that not only does Sally dish out the best pub fare, it also dishes out the heartiest breakfast.
Here's a quick geography lesson: Peru is on the continent of South America. Now here's a quick history lesson: Peru has a large Chinese community. So large, in fact, that Chinese food is a staple in that country. Traditional Chinese fare influenced classic Peruvian cuisine, and the results are served at little places called chifas. Kona Kai, Sunrise's own chifa, continues in the grand tradition of Latin-Chinese fusion with dishes like stir-fried chicken with tangy tamarind sauce or roast pork with pickled turnips. The décor here isn't much, but that's not a problem, since all eyes are usually on the sea bass eggs, and all mouths are busy with pork lo mein.
This five-year-old, family-run restaurant -- once a fancy French restaurant, hence the dark woods and linen tablecloths -- is not only the best place for walleyed pike, it's probably the only place. At least that's what owner Eddie D (short for D'Ambra) says. He wouldn't even be serving it if it weren't for some business associates who once took him fishing in Minnesota. From then on he was hooked on this cold-water whitefish. So mild. So tender. So flaky. So delicious when it's sautéed in lemon butter and white wine, which is how Eddie D prepares it. Served with fresh vegetables and your choice of starch, the pike, flown in from Minnesota, will set you back $17.95. But go ahead anyway, and while you're at it throw in another three bucks for the authentic Rhode Island clam chowder (the D'Ambras are from Providence), a clear version not to be confused with the creamy New England variety.
You can scorn Toojay's for being a chain. You can forswear it for trying too hard, for having a huge menu with every type of Eastern European delicacy imaginable. You can even boycott it for its non-delilike name. Go ahead. That just leaves more for us. And we not only don't argue with the quality of Toojay's delicatessen, we laud it. Corned beef here is flavorful without being fatty. Matzo balls are light, rather than heavy like the cement found at other local delis. Blintzes, potato pancakes, and chopped liver could all win over Grandma despite her best intentions to remain loyal to her own recipes. But you don't have to take our word for it. Stop in yourself for a deep whiff of the spices that fill the air. When it comes to delicatessens, the nose, as they say, knows.

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