Best Live Music in a Restaurant 2002 | Fisherman's Wharf | Foodstuff | South Florida
Not only does Fisherman's Wharf have the finest coconut shrimp in the known universe (though we are convinced at least 40 percent of that yummy goodness is in the sauce) but it is also one of the few restaurants to bring in national acts. Competing head-to-head with clubs of equal and even greater size, the Wharf has brought down a few well-known names such as David Gans, the Grateful Dead Hour host who also happens to be a surprisingly accomplished singer/songwriter. And speaking of the Dead, South Florida's Deadheads know the Wharf as the place to be on Thursday nights at 10, when Grateful Dead cover band Crazy Fingers plays its weekly show. The place isn't completely tie-dyed, but much of the music has that boogie-woogie groove, so bring your dancing shoes (or sandals) -- as well as your appetite.
Drag shows are a dime a dozen in much of gay-friendly South Florida. Drag shows in which the performers also serve you dinner, however, are the sort of thing you don't expect to see this side of Lucky Cheng's in Manhattan -- that is, unless you've been to Lip Service at Georgie's Alibi. One Monday night a month for the past two years or so, the little New Orleans-style café adjacent to the sports bar in this ever-popular bar complex has been transformed into a reservations-only dinner party for 50 or so people. And that's not the only transformation: Three area bartenders -- Rickie Lee (who runs the show), Snowy, and Diva -- get gussied up in their finest female gear to entertain even as they're dispensing dinner, which comes not from the café's regular menu but from a more elegant one designed especially for the occasion. There's also usually a theme that runs through both show and décor. Last fall's Back-to-School Lip Service, for instance, started out with the servers delivering cocktails while decked out in full nun habits. They reappeared later as "schoolgirls," and before the night was over, they and their assistants (waiters dressed as nerdy schoolboys) morphed into the Brady Bunch. All this for $21.95, which, for dinner and a show, is certainly no drag.
Like most steak houses these days, Angelo & Maxie's is a chain. Even more telling, in some people's opinion, is that it's a chain run by the folks of Chart House fame, those who first took the idea of fine dining and made it a comfortable commodity for the middle classes. Well, they've applied that concept to the formerly formidable steak house, and the fact is, it works. The Payless of meat palaces, A & M offers quality product for not so much money. And in keeping with the upcoming summer shoe season, it's mostly wedges -- of lettuce with blue cheese dressing, of veal chops, of filet mignon. Order a couple of sides of creamed spinach and garlic-laden smashed taters, a martini (you can keep the glass for an additional fee), and a dessert that will no doubt be served à la mode, and you, along with the Angelo guy and that Maxie dude, have got it à la made.
There isn't much in Juno Beach except pine scrub, sand, and ocean, and the locals like it that way. It isn't Old Florida anymore -- too many condo communities now blanket the coast -- but the sense of connection to the sea lingers. Boating is a big deal here, and some of Palm Beach County's most dedicated fishermen call the area home. Bringing high expectations to the dinner table when they're in the mood for seafood, these folks skip the crab-house tourist traps around the Jupiter Inlet to the north and head to this inconspicuous boite on U.S. 1. A casual atmosphere, moderate prices, and succulent fresh fish, any style, are the heart of the place. The chef's flair for pastas and appetizers by way of the bayou and the islands is a kicker. The joint is jammed every night in season, but it's worth the wait.
From the street, this place looks like any old nameless waterfront dive bar. No windows but for the two small portholes in the doors. But at the Southport Raw Bar, many people don't enter from the street. Here, patrons can pull up in their boats, dock, and take a seat at a table to order a pound of Old Bay-seasoned shrimp, prepared just the way they do it in Maryland (home of all things Old Bay). In fact, no less a personage than Jimmy Buffett dubs this place tops. The king of the Parrotheads was a fixture here for a number of years and still makes the occasional appearance when he manages to get to this neck of the woods. If you're a fan of seagoing finger foods and a cold pitcher of Key West Ale or three, you could find yourself turning into a regular as well. If you own a boat and have yet to visit, what the hell is wrong with you?
The top diner around has to fit a few criteria. First, it's got to be open 24 hours a day. Second, down here in the South, it's got to have at least a minimum of Southern-fried fare. And finally, a convenient location along a major thoroughfare is preferable. And while it nearly gets the nix for the lack of biscuits 'n' gravy on the menu, Joe's nevertheless fits the bill. Situated just off SE 17th Street, where A1A and Federal Highway merge, Joe's never stops dishing out the grub, whether it be noon or 4 a.m. The breakfast items are suitably greasy, and the lunch stuff is usually served hot and in large portions. And while rumors persist of a secret passageway linking the diner with the School of Culinary Arts with which it shares a wall, the food served here is the sort no chef would claim, lest they be the short-order kind.
A buffet by any other name usually smells the same. Not so at Kyojin, where the sushi buffet offers some of the freshest fish around. The only odors you'll get from this 50-item assortment are of seaweed and wasabi. Of course, if you move on down the line, you can inhale some steam from the soba noodle soup and the hotel pans replete with spring rolls, sesame chicken, and tempura vegetables. At the far end of the feast, a grill chef waits to cook you a steak or shrimp to order, much like the omelet chef at a brunch. The beauty part is, you don't have to stand and wait for it: Kyojin's servers are happy to bring it you, putting the lie to the rumor that all a waiter in a buffet restaurant has to do for 15 percent is fill your water.
Fish and chips shouldn't be a stumbling block for a British pub, but all too often, the results are greasy and unpalatable. Not here, where the fish is flaky, the coating a light golden-brown, and the chips as perfectly fried as a swimsuit model. Of course, basic fare isn't the only thing this upscale pub does well. Windsor onion soup with clotted cream and port is an appropriately English take on the French classic. Baked tilapia stuffed with scallops and shrimp and napped with a brandy-sweet pepper sauce entices the palate away from standard bangers 'n' mash. And West Country pork tenderloin slowly cooked in a Devon cider reduction makes a proper diner forget all about ordering a burger -- even if said burger is a half-pound of mouth-filling beef that goes down oh so easy with any of the 25 drafts, some of which are so rich and hearty that they can be counted as meals in themselves.
The nonsmoking section, 4:30 p.m.: "I want a nice hamburger, that's all."

"Ma, look at the menu."

"You eat. I don't have to eat. It's this medicine."

"Ma, you're gonna be hungry later."

"How much is the hamburger?"

"It's better to get the whole meal. You get more for your money. You get coffee, soup or salad, and dessert. With the chicken parmigiana, that's $8.95."

"I don't want that much."

"Well, you're the one who asked about price."

"Hmph. I guess you know better than me. I'm eating too much. I don't want to get fat."

"One pound. You gained one pound."

"One and one makes two, and then what do you got, hmm? How much is the hamburger?"

This cheerily painted, tin-roofed eatery is doing for Jamaican food what Pollo Tropical has done for Cuban food -- offering traditional favorites in a fast-food setting, complete with drive-through -- but the menu at this favorite Lauderdale Lakes lunch spot is far more varied and traditional than its Greater Antillean-inspired counterpart. Case in point: Chicken is offered in jerk, mango barbecue, and simply grilled. All are well-prepared, tasty, and go for a paltry $2.99 including rice. But what really wins us over is the pumpkin rice, in all its orange, slightly sweet glory.

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