Best South American Restaurant 2003 | Argentango Grill | Restaurants | South Florida
Competition has become tough in these parts for Argentine steak houses. There are just so darn many of them. That's why it's the ones that stay tender -- like Argentango Grill -- that win out. But juicy, marinated steaks and grilled sausages aren't the only reasons this place rules the Latin roost. Argentango also presents delicious South American and Italian options ranging from excellent empanadas to superior pastas, tangy shrimp ceviche to succulent Caprese salad, and grilled sea bass to caesar salad. The result is that you feel neither energetic nor sexy enough to follow a meal with what the name of the restaurant implies, but at least your palate will be dancing in delight.
Take into account the décor, dotted with memorabilia and photographs. Consider the manner of service, warm and hospitable. Above all, note the menu, dotted with dishes like "Grandma Kay's farfalle," "pollo alla Alfred," and "Ginny's shrimp fra diavolo." Clearly, the quintessential Italian family is alive, well, and cooking in Pembroke Pines. Indeed, Bruno's claims that it is "proud to celebrate the time-honored traditions of La Familia Italiano... shar[ing] love, laughter, and of course, the most wonderful food." In turn, we're just as proud to honor this family restaurant for permitting others to partake of the love, laughter, and especially the lasagna.
Remember the good ol' days, when chain restaurants like TGI Friday's were good enough to inspire hour-long waits for tables? Those days are here again at Houston's, and it's due in large part to the quality and consistency of the largely wood-grilled, American food. This is the place to count on for an accurately cooked steak, a juicy piece of chicken, a tender rack of ribs, and a decent and fairly priced bottle of California Cab to wash it all down. It helps too that the atmosphere is buzzworthy, that the bar is an ideal place to either take or pick up a date, and that no one throws peanut shells on the floor, wears silly buttons on their uniforms, or sings obnoxious songs in honor of some patron's tenth birthday. In short, Houston's is a chain restaurant for our inner adult, a part of ourselves we all must learn to understand and indulge.
Drive east on Atlantic Boulevard and evidence of the Brazilian enclave of more than 20,000 leaps out at you, from flag symbols on hair salons, cafés, and newsstands to the Saturday special called feijoada served up by Panorama Restaurant. The eatery has been preparing top loin steaks such as picanha e alcatra panorama, picanha a cavalo, and other favorites such as oxtail stew and tripe for a largely Brazilian clientele for nearly a decade. The only other thing that may divert your attention from the waft of seasonings coming from the kitchen is the large-screen TV in the front that broadcasts the jogo bonito -- the beautiful game that is Brazilian soccer.
When you're in Mulberry Street, do as others do: Order as many courses as you think you could possibly eat. Then, after you tuck into the first dish, order three more, making sure to drip whatever it is you're eating onto the menu. That way, diners who come in after you can follow in your knowledgeable, if greasy, thumbprints. The desire to sample a wide variety of the delicious fare is by far the biggest reason Angelo's has been launched into the "expensive" category. In other words, things tend to add up, especially if you ask for a bottle of the Ornellaia Super-Tuscan to drink with dinner. But in the end, the quality and value of the portions jibe so right with the Little Italy pedigree of the restaurant that chances are you'll remember the meal and "fuhgeddabout" the final bill.
Given the lack of a written menu in this trendy, eat-what-they-serve Italian bistro, prices are an equally unknown entity. Allow us to give a general guideline -- they're high. Really high. You just don't know it till the bill arrives. Which is why it's always wise to be supping with someone whose favorite phrase is (insert South Philly Italian accent) "Lemme take care of that." When it comes to chef-owner Steve Martorano's establishment, where gangster movies play ad nauseam and the scenes where characters get beaten down get turned up by The Man himself, trust us: There's no forgot-my-wallet, dishwashing option here.
Go ahead, write in to the editors. We know that technically, this isn't a new restaurant. The Sundy House, where De La Tierra is located, was restored about five years ago and has since undergone various menu and design changes. But the most recent transformation, which took place at the end of summer last year and continues in its evolution to date, is the one that has truly made Sundy House a dining destination of national note. The truth is, we could have given the De La Tierra restaurant any number of awards -- Best Outdoor Dining for its tables poised under fruit trees so ancient they could have inspired Adam and Eve to sin with a mango instead of an apple. Best Organic Fare, not just in terms of the lack of pesticides that many of the tropical, locally grown ingredients boast but in the sense that the New World dishes derive naturally from the very land on which they are served. And let's not forget Best Chef on the Fast Track for a James Beard Award, Johnny Vinczencz, who migrated northward from South Beach and has recently been tapped to cook at the James Beard House in New York City. So you might prefer the word reinvented or maybe even renovated. But we'll stick with new, not just because this eatery has been so dramatic in its turnaround but because that's how we feel -- new as a just-born, subtropical, martini-lovin' babe -- every time we dine there.
Every year, it has become a challenge not just to find a truly fine Mexican establishment to rave about but to find the one that will topple chef-owner Eduardo Pria's long-running institution from its near-permanent number-one position. The obstacles for newcomers are many -- they have to visualize items like fresh diver scallops that have been dry-rubbed with Mexican herbs, skewered on sugar cane, pan-seared, and finished with a smoked chipotle aioli. Or learn to make empanadas like the ones filled with duck and topped with a green chili-toasted pumpkin seed sauce. Or become such an expert with chili peppers that pistachio nut-crusted pan-seared Keys yellowtail spiked with guajillo chili sauce is simply par for the course. So far, the only real competition has been Anita's -- and that Coral Springs restaurant is Eduardo's sibling. But we're begging you. Isn't there any chef worthy to take up the blue crab-stuffed Gulf shrimp with pickled jalapeño tapenade gauntlet?
The best part about eating at Yíasou comes when you order the flambéed cheese appetizer. A slice of the salty saganaki cheese comes sizzling to tableside in a shot of vodka that's quickly set on fire. That's cool, but what comes next is even better: The owner, or another family member working at this quaint restaurant, yells out "yíasou," the Greek word for "hello," as the alcohol sends flames to the ceiling. You might be thinking this sounds as genuine as the "Happy Birthday" songs at chain restaurants, but the sincerity of the gesture is indicative of this family restaurant. Follow the saganaki with the chicken Mykonos, a stuffed breast filled with spinach, feta, onions, and tomatoes. Finish with the unpronounceable galaktobouriko, a custard pie in honey-glazed phyllo.

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.

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