Forget the usual mega-brunches, with their prix fixe prices, "whatever"-service, and trips back to the empty salvers. Here in this two-room corner cafe that throbs with highly caffeinated conversation, major hallooing, and some of the wisecrackingest service this side of Rosie on a roll is yet more proof that the gay gene extends to the concept of brunch. On a late Sunday morning, it seems that wise straights have discovered this reasonably priced (average $8 per meal) little secret too. It all works thanks to the sensible kitchen, which turns the usual brunchly ducklings -- taffy-pull pancakes and omelets Firestone could patent -- into swans. The cook even gets the temperature of the food right, dish after dish turning up neither retro-warmed nor colder than winter in Murmansk. Helping it all go down is coffee as fresh as a slap. While eavesdropping on dialogue worthy of Carson on Queer Eye (tables are that close), admire the Liberace-meets-Auntie Mame décor. Rarely has more been better. Typical of brunch, timing is everything, and during peak hours, lines can form faster than a face-lift on Joan Rivers, but be patient -- the waiting ones disappear just as quickly, sucked into this happily spinning vortex of the well-toned and quick-tongued.

Does this lawyerly eatery have an impressive tort-quashing track record? Or maybe a helpful friend at the small-claims courthouse?

South Florida is a long way from home for the several thousand Finns who spend the winters in Lake Worth. For a little taste of the motherland, many of them come to Scandia Bakery, which has become something of a city hall for snowbirds from the Helsinki hinterlands. They discuss news from the north over custard-filled Danish at breakfast, plates of meatloaf ($6.75 for a whole meal) for lunch, and cabbage rolls (two for $4) at dinner. Specials are written on paper plates taped to the back wall, and a shelf of goods displays all things Finnish, including bags of ultra-strong coffee that would make those Scandinavian winters bearable. After lounging for a few hours on the L-shaped couch under the front windows, you can buy a warm of Russian sourdough from owners Aune and Taisto Kaanto. And you'll be glad you did. All of it is a lot easier to digest than the Finnish language. Example: Thank you is pronounced kiitos. The place is open for breakfast and lunch but closed during the summer.

With 14 draft beer choices (among them, the 1988 British Grand Champion Old Thumper and a crisp, dry Shipyard Light Ale) and a no-strangers bar, the Tap Room defines itself as winningly as Charlize Theron negotiating the red carpet at the Oscars. While this may not be high dining, its score of tables hugs the Bahia Mar Marina. Just finishing its first year, the Tap Room can be proud of its have-no-fear menu, which accents appetizers such as crab cakes ($9.95), highly decorated burgers and sandwiches ($6 to $9), and a list of entrées ($16 to $19) that boasts a swanky piece of salmon served on a cedar plank. All of this good food, a sunset remindful of Key West's Mallory Pier, and the chance to rub elbows (and more?) with some of the owners of the 90-foot yachts docked a few feet away make this spot one of our favorite new dining additions. Best indication of the quality: Even the staff likes to eat here. Readers' Choice: Dada
About the same size as the cabin of an executive jet and as darkly intime as Antonio Banderas' eyes, this dinners-only slice of high dining has been enjoyed for 35 years by luxe Lauderdale. And it doesn't need to raise its voice to declare its utter suitability for proposals of any kind. You, however, may scream in delight over the 23-out-of-30 2004 Zagat rating, the wrinkle-erasing lighting, and the suggestive lapping of the waters drifting by your table overlooking the quiet canal. It's a high-priced-and-savagely-worth-it spread. Taken over by new owners a year ago from the Romano family that moved it from Brooklyn in 1970, La Tavernetta has a menu that leans more toward the tastes and colors of northern rather than southern Italy. And the wine list has expanded its breadth and depth (ah, those Chiantis!). But nothing else -- not even the easy-to-miss side entrance -- has changed here.

English clergyman Sydney Smith claimed, "Soup and fish explain half the emotions of life." Spot-on, Syd. Since at least half of the menu at this pan-Asian place is one or the other and since at least five are among the best liquids you'll ever swallow (a tom yum seafood soup will send you into a swivet), this 2-year-old transplant from the 79th Street Causeway in Miami-Dade County is one moving experience. Here are curries ($12 to $17) that will make your mouth -- not your eyes -- water and a selection of Thai noodle dishes that would qualify for Madame Nuh's last supper. Sushi-Thai is longer on atmosphere than many of the very good competitors. Servers here never ask "Is everything all right?" but glide by discreetly at just the right times. The place is a lucky charm on a bracelet of local Thai spots. Lunch, dinner, and delivery too.

The no-holds-barred crowd that often lines up in early evenings to get into this 20-plus-year-old spot is a mix of bikers, surfers, condo-nauts and prowling tourists -- all eager for their electronic buzzers to light up and tell them it's their turn to cram into this little combo tavern/fishhouse, which anchors all the glamour that is downtown Deerfield. Once inside, they'll get a taste of rough-hewn walls supporting more nautica than an Americas Cup yacht and a staff that gives as good as it gets. Not to worry. Elbows are soon too busy flying as diners dig into either the why-be-fancy? raw bar items such as fresh clams, oysters, and regular or rock shrimp (a house specialty) or more prettified choices including oysters Rockefeller, clams casino, and escargots. Prices range from $4.25 per dish to whatever the market will bear. And don't forget to try the whale fries -- Capt. Ahab would have gladly given up Moby Dick for a few mouthfuls of these.

The name of the restaurant is misleading, as this surely isn't a joint but a handsomely designed room with cherry-wood floors, warm mahogany highlights, and two separate rooms for parties and corporate events -- exactly the sort of environment that hobos have, throughout their colorful history, tended to avoid. It is, however, a joint venture that was started a decade ago by husband/executive chef Steven LaBiner and wife/general manager/sommelier Janet Ribera-LaBiner. Hobo's has expanded over the years, but the emphasis on ultrafresh and delectable seafood remains the same. A wide range of fish and shellfish is on hand, each customized according to patrons' desires regarding cooking method and sauce. Whether it be grilled mahi-mahi with lemon butter or pan-seared grouper with sizzling Thai sauce, the flavors of the fish come through vibrantly. Dinners are as generous as they are delicious, accompanied by artesan breads, sprightly salad, and a smart array of flawlessly cooked starches and vegetables. Consistently great seafood, professional service, comfortable family ambiance, moderate prices, and a wine list bestowed with Wine Spectator magazine's Award of Excellence make Hobo's one very classy joint.
It's about time we found a place where both you and the kids can let down what's left of your hair. This low-profile Lauderdale landmark tucked along the downtown stretch of the New River is just the place. Here, by the dockside restaurant (a more formal dining area is upstairs), the kids can cannonball into the decent-sized pool and eat $3.25 hamburgers -- or chicken fingers for the same price if you're watching their waistlines -- and you can clock back at the bar, watch the boats idle by, and pretend you're young again. On Sundays, there's live music, and the performer is happy to let the whippersnappers get up and karaoke to their fave tunes (beware the American Idol wannabes). Meanwhile, you can explore the bounties of the well-stocked bar, banter with the lively and capable wait staff, delve into the sandwiches-salads-and-baskets menu with its reasonable prices and play-it-safe choices, and generally put your feet up and your mind at rest. Caution, however: One of you adults will have to lifeguard at the pool. But there's always a price, isn't there?

This place wins for personality and service hands down; it's an added bonus that the food is tasty. And the Horizon's got history too. This location opened a year and a half ago after its namesake on Davie Boulevard burned to the ground on Christmas Day. Owned by middle-aged Greek couple Spiro Passakos and his wife, Thecla (known to the regulars as "the Boss"), and staffed fully by members of the family, you'll think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Housed in a nondescript little space on one of the less attractive stretches of U.S. 441, the joint is set up in classic diner fashion: booths along the windows and stools at the counter, and prices are good too. Typical diner fare with an emphasis on Greek cuisine: moussaka (think eggplant parm with way less sauce, $5.95), spanakopita (spinach pie, $3.75), gyros (for the last time, it's pronounced "yee-ros," $5.95), and souvlaki (pork or chicken chunks on a stick, $6.25). Of course, if you want a club sandwich, burger, or BLT, they got those too.

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