Chef-proprietor Michael Blum calls his market restaurant "The Cure for Boring Food." Perhaps an equivalent credo for the wine list would be "The Remedy for Over-Oaked Chardonnay." Blum has put together a reasonably priced group culled from small producers that runs the gamut from vin blanc to vin rouge. Given the extensive refrigeration at the back of this appealing place, you can count on a perfectly chilled bottle of Far Niente or Bonny Doone (for examples on both sides of the wallet). Keep an eye out for cult cabs and niche pinot noirs too: Michael's Kitchen has promise as Michael's Cellar as well.
Ah, the bloody Mary: the ultimate hair-of-the-dog drink. Crazy but true. Who would ever have guessed that a hangover would be so gently assuaged by a mix of vodka, tomato juice, Tabasco, salt, and pepper? And in another surprising twist of fate, Café Iguana at BeachPlace makes a great bloody Mary. Have them use Absolut Peppar if you want the real deal. With any luck, as you smack your lips over the spiciness of this thick, red cocktail, you'll forget about all those shots you downed the night before. Step across the street for a swim in the ocean. Your hangover cure is complete.
What sets this restaurant bar apart from every other watering hole in Fort Liquordale is its bartender, Steve, who can mix more than 35 kinds of margaritas. Even when he's not on duty, the place offers plenty of agave goodness: For $4 each weekday happy hour (4 to 7 p.m.), you can try any of the 47 brands of tequila Olé Olé offers, including the Beverly Hills-grade Herradura. For flavor, choose from strawberry, melon, peach, raspberry, mango, or guava. Steve, who works until midnight on most weekends, says the strangest margarita he's ever made was a Pineapple Mango Mist with a splash of guava. By the time we ordered that, we had trouble speaking. It's a good thing Steve happens to be fluent in sign language.
You might think that with a name like Swig, this place would be destined to win this particular award. And indeed, we do admire the countless martini combinations you can glean here, from sour apple to chocolate to classic cosmo. We also love the way the servers bring iced shakers to the table and pour the wonderful substances out into a chilled glass that beckons the diner's lips the way a baby does a kiss. But our real favorite isn't about vodka or gin; it's about shrimp. Specifically speaking, the shrimp martini, a few colossal specimens curled over the rim, just waiting to be dipped into the puddle of tangy key lime cocktail sauce. The only problem? This appetizer might tempt you into ordering a bloody Mary instead of a traditional gin-vermouth combo. But don't fret. At Swig Bartini, you can get anything -- even your check -- served in a martini glass.

The printed menu in this breakfast/lunch/early dinner eatery isn't much to marvel at: some grilled chicken and fish, a tuna-salad sandwich, a quiche du jour. But the old British-style décor, proper china, and candlelight practically scream "high tea." Fortunately, for countess wannabes, Talula complies with a reasonably priced midafternoon opportunity to pour out the Earl Grey, munch on cucumber or tomato sandwiches, and spread some clotted cream on scones. It may be a bit heavy for a Florida summer afternoon, but the air here is cool enough and the tea hot enough to remind us all of more temperate climes.

Know what? You can eat frog's legs. Sure you can. They're yummy! They taste just like fish-flavored chicken. And they're bigger than you'd think -- these Catfish Dewey's frogs must have been strong jumpers, what with those quadriceps. Just a few words to the wise: Though Dewey's specializes in all things fried -- shrimp, fish, oysters, et al. -- eschew the hot-oil treatment when you order the legs and opt for sautéed instead. You'll be glad you did. Unlike the frog, of course.
Ahh, CityPlace! Who could ask for anything more? Well, actually, let's not get into that right now. Let's think pleasant thoughts. Let's take a little stroll a couple of blocks east to the as-yet-ungentrified blocks of Dixie Highway, where an unassuming little storefront houses Pita Place, a humble lunchroom serving Middle Eastern foods. There isn't much on the menu, but what's there is fresh, tasty, and cheap, cheaper, and cheapest (unlike the fare at some faux-urban mall dining spots we could name). Vegetarian is the way to go, though the richly flavored chicken noodle soup is mighty tempting. Baba ganoush and tabouleh make reliable platters, but don't miss the falafel sandwich. At right around three bucks, it's nutty-sweet and wholesome, the scrumptious chopped chickpea balls spicy and crunchy under a small mound of romaine and tomato drizzled with yogurt sauce to take the edge off the chickpea mixture's faint peppery heat. A meal in itself, and a darn yummy one. Get it while you can: The CityPlace effect on local rents probably spells doom for a small-fry like Pita Place.
Americans don't truly have a counterpart for the Spaniards' tapas. Sure, we've got bar snacks: popcorn and peanuts, the occasional breaded, deep-fried whatever. And tapas too have traditionally been served as bite-sized morsels to sop up the deleterious effects of sustained quaffage of beer and wine. Tapas, however, aren't a sideshow to drinks; they get equal billing. Anyone who's spent any time at taverns from Bilbao to Barcelona has witnessed the faithful throng that attends the tapas bars. Unfortunately, tapas remain scarce around these parts. Thank the heavens for Café Seville, in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, which offers up the genre's essentials: treats like Spanish sausage sautéed in sherry; mussels simmered in tomato, garlic, wine, and red pepper; garlic-sautéed escargots. Create a tapas fete at your table with goodies whose prices range from $5.95 to $9.95.
Admittedly, it's not cheap to eat here, and men will need a jacket to dine in the main dining room. Lunch entrées run $12.50 to $20, and dinner main courses cost $18 to $35. But it's an experience guaranteed to renew your faith in Italian food. As you are seated, you are walked past a window to the kitchen where someone is preparing the day's cannelloni, rigatoni, angel hair, fettuccini, and ravioli. Arturo's is a family operation, and the namesake, Arturo Gismondi, now retired, spends his winter days tending the extensive herb garden that lines the sides and back of the restaurant. Arturo's son, Vincenzo, and Vincenzo's wife and children are intimately involved with running the kitchen. Vincenzo's daughter, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is the pastry chef, and it certainly tastes like she chose the right profession. The wine cellar is fantastic, with an enormous selection from Italy and virtually every wine-growing region in the world represented. If you're a high-roller hosting a dinner party for ten to fifteen people, you can request that dinner be served in the wine cellar. The family has been in the business so long it doesn't need the services of a sommelier, even though the restaurant has won awards for its wine list from Wine Spectator for the past several years. Some of the favorite pasta entrées are the fettuccini with black truffles, rigatoni con porcini, mostaccioli al cognac, and the bane of all cholesterol-busters, fettuccini al la carbonara, prepared at your table. In addition to the noodles, you can get all the carne and pesce dishes you would expect from an old-world Italian restaurant. In a place where restaurants come and go, Arturo's has been consistently great since the late '50s.

Best Neighborhood Restaurant in Palm Beach

Henry's

If your neighborhood contains folks who like window treatments designed by Ralph Lauren and upscale comfort food cooked by chef-partner Grant Johnson, formerly of Max's Beach Place/Prezzo fame, then Henry is your man... er, dog. Owned by Burt Rapoport, who named the restaurant after one of the most important members of his family -- his Prince Charles toy spaniel -- Henry's is an urban version of a country bistro. Pine hutches filled with ceramic knickknacks and an open kitchen and wine room fill the air with as much rural warmth as Johnson's pork T-bone with sweet potato gratin and country chicken casseroles bring to the belly. The only drawback: Henry's has become so popular with the locals that it's tough to squeeze in even for an after-movie hot fudge sundae. But no one really minds. After all, rubbing designer-clad elbows in a tightly engineered space that dedicates itself to a spaniel is precisely what dining in a Palm Beach County neighborhood restaurant is all about.

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