West Palm Beach Green Market
Browsing through the produce section of your average supermarket, you have to wonder: What the hell are we eating? What is all that white stuff on apples and plums? And who sat on the tomatoes? The more sensible thing, however, would be to do your weekly fruit and veggie shopping at the West Palm Beach GreenMarket. Not that produce is all the place has to offer; there's also lots of fresh tea, pastries, nuts, and pastas, as well as an assortment of plants and flowers from more than 60 vendors. But before the shopping begins, start your morning off with a cup o' joe from Cappuccino Express ($1.25 small, $1.75 tall) or a nice pancake breakfast courtesy of Tuxedo Gourmet Catering ($4 plain or with strawberries), which has a booth set up in front of the City Hall building. Or if you prefer something a little spicier, go get some jerk chicken ($5, kabobs) from the nearby Jamaican food vendors. Either way, you'll be serenaded by live music while breakfasting in the shade. Afterward, you can check your health with a free blood-pressure screening by West Palm Beach Fire-Rescue. Try getting all of that at Winn-Dixie. The West Palm Beach GreenMarket is open Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. from mid-October through the end of April.

Laurenzo's Itialian Market
What most "gourmet" markets fail to understand is that the finest foods needn't be fancy; they just have to taste good. Laurenzo's Oceanside lets the competition focus on the fusion of multitudinous, multinational imports, instead carving a nice niche for itself as the best purveyors of old-world Italian specialties -- truth be told, the only store in South Florida to do as good a job is the original Laurenzo's in North Miami. It's not that there is anything wrong with pistachio-crusted meatloaf with wasabi mashed potatoes, but if you want a takeout dinner to lend the comfort of home cooking, might as well get the real thing. Like manicotti, stuffed shells, and lasagna prepared with Laurenzo's ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Like Italian sausage and peppers, eggplant parmigiana, and meatballs that would make Tony Soprano cry. We're talking one-stop shopping too, as you can turn your main course into a full meal by picking up some antipasti from the prepared foods section, freshly baked Italian bread from a North Miami bakery, a bottle of appropriate wine from a well-priced selection, fruit and salad greens from the produce department, and freshly stuffed canolis for dessert. Yes, it's all a bit pricey but still a bargain compared to what you'd pay for the same dinner in a restaurant.

Looking for a ten-hour votive candle? A tortilla maker? You could go to Sedano's in Hollywood, as so many of the ordinary do, but why, when a visit to this muy amable grocery in the middle of Fort Lauderdale's version of Little Havana proves you're the cultural adventurer you think you are? Owned by the Linares family for seven years and patronized by people who know from marinating sauces and chorizos, Santa Barbara Grocery packs more variety of selections in its few hundred square feet than most larger "power" markets do in 10,000; it also boasts a neighboring bakery with superb café cubano and a nearby "Latin Sounds" CD store that blasts the latest salsa from an outdoor sound system worthy of Juan Peron. On the Santa Barbara grocery counters, you'll find choices of dried beans and rice, enough types of spices for an Indian wedding feast, and hundreds of Food World mysteries. The meat selection may cause most gringos to pull out their dictionaries, and some basic Spanish won't hurt you when approaching the friendly staff. But how hard is it to say "¿Que es?" when you're holding a package of what looks like corn husks? Go ahead. Ask. They really are corn husks.

Houston's
The etymology of romaine is about what you'd expect, given that it sounds like a Frenchman's lip-squishing pronunciation of Roman. The stuff dates back, you know. Likewise, romaine tastes about as you'd expect it to, given that it's lettuce. As lettuce, if it's to taste like more than the popped polysaccharides of a plant cell wall, you've got to pour on the dressing. The Deli Den does that fine and then goes Caesar one better by adding splinters of grated parmesan, dense croutons, and mandarin-orange sections like plump wads of knuckle skin. Slap some chicken ($8.95) or salmon ($9.95) on that baby and heap it all in a bowl like an upturned umbrella and you're ready to top off the gratis pickles, slaw, and soup (try the matzo ball) that arrive just after the ice water. Readers' Choice: Houston's
Back when you were small, when you and your fellow neighborhood rugrats gallivanted carelessly through the streets attacking one another with palm fronds, you'd occasionally receive an invitation for dinner at Vince's house. You never turned it down. That's because the food at Vince's, made with spice-filled sauces so tasty and meaty that you could eat them separately, was cooked with the love only a devoted Italian madre can provide. Those were the days. But they ain't over. Reno's Pizzeria on Hollywood Boulevard specializes in making authentic Italian-style feasts to go at rock-bottom prices (expect to be stuffed for less than $10 per person). Whether it's a Blockbuster night or a romantic dinner for two in the backyard, you can always swing by Reno's and pick up an appetizer of fried calamari and two tasty Stromboli specials. And don't forget the cheesecake, capretto. It's just like the way Vince's mama made it.

Dragon Gate Chinese Restaurant
So your sizzling Latin mate is in the mood for a spicy dinner, the couple on the couch across from you are vegetarians, and your visiting sister and brother-in-law won't try anything they haven't eaten a thousand times before. Give Dragon Gate a call and order piquant beef in garlic sauce and Szechuan soft-shell crabs for your better half, vegetable egg foo young and fried tofu with red pepper sauce for the noncarnivores, subgum chicken chop suey for the in-laws. Add some hot-and-sour soup, the meatiest of barbecue pork ribs, and moo shoo pork for yourself. The bill will be outrageously affordable, the food fresh and delectable, the guests occupying your living room sated so that hopefully they will merely thank you profusely and leave you alone with your grateful mate. Just pray they don't return an hour later for more.

Toa Toa Chinese Restaurant
It's a good thing when you go out for authentic ethnic food and the restaurant is packed with families of that ethnicity who are laughing and eating happily together. This is what you should expect when you arrive at Toa Toa, home to a genuine Hong Kong-style dim sum since 1989. Translated as "to touch your heart," dim sum is the Chinese equivalent to 'round-the-clock brunch, just without the mimosas. Toa Toa has a full menu complete with pictures to guide the novice. There is a variety of small plates of appetizers including sticky shrimp dumplings, fried scallop cutlets, a number of different rice pastes, and even marinated chicken feet -- scrawny, bent-pipe-cleaner-shaped things covered with red gelatinous goop. Brave virgins should just close their eyes and point their fingers at the menu, a good way to ensure variety. Top off whatever you land on with a baked custard bun and a pot or two of tea. Toa Toa is inexpensive (from $2.85 for a small dim sum to $6.95 for silver noodles) and tasty too, a bona fide culinary field trip. Even better, you can get dim sum there all day every day but Wednesday.

Diss the oncoming condo parades if you must, but if saturating downtown with monied, sushi-hungry aristocracy allows more restaurants like Shizen to open, then sunsets be damned. Bring on the noblesse and their concomitant garish high-rises. How else are you going to find a proper rainbow roll ($9) at 1:30 a.m. served in a stylish and chill joint? The servers at this 6-month-old restaurant are gracious, and the owner, Tom Kamioka, sometimes makes the rounds, even quite late, to introduce himself and welcome diners. Consider it fine Japanese dining without snobbery. Heck, after midnight, some morsels are two-for-one. Now who's feeling conspicuously wealthy, eh? Another round of spicy tuna rolls and sake already!

Sushi N' Thai
At first, it seems that very little about this unassuming, pedestrian, but perennially popular strip-mall eatery is outstanding. The Thai dishes are good if unspectacular, and most of the cooked Japanese fare is just perfectly... adequate. However, the raw fish served at Sushi Thai is unbeatable. No fancy places, no jam-packed out-the-door place, not even your favorite tried-and-true neighborhood standbys can possibly match the simply spectacular off-the-boat freshness of S-T's sushi and sashimi. Artsy presentations, innovative preparations, and obscure oddities are available all over South Florida. Go ahead, knock yourself out at the conveyor-belt place where the sushi travels to you on a plastic boat and the chefs wear silly hats (and the fish tastes like dry cat food). But raw-fish eaters who demand a consistently perfect product will not find better than Sushi Thai. Master Sushi Chef Sevee Mongkolsin is adept at the most crucial aspect of the sushi trade -- selecting the very finest fish available from wholesalers. Years of studying the sashimic arts have proven that the salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and scallop (did we say salmon?) sold here beat the competition fins down. Best times to visit are Monday and Tuesday nights (5 to 10:30 p.m.), when dollar specials on sushi and items like gyoza make it fun to indulge.
Ages: 36; 35

Hometown: College Park, Maryland; Weymouth, Massachusetts

Claim to fame: Co-owners of Hamburger Mary's Fort Lauderdale, a premier hangout in Wilton Manors for the gay community.

What they've done for us lately: The restaurant, which opened in 2002, seats 225 but regularly has a wait.

What it takes: "A tremendous amount of teamwork, all different backgrounds and age groups. We have a great mix of gay and straight, old, and young. We both work 60 to 70 hours a week. We try to make a lot of changes. It takes a lot of patience. The most fun thing we've done was a Hamburger Mary look-alike contest... She really is a trashier Dolly Parton... Dolly out of a trailer park."

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