More than 300,000 South Floridians describe their primary ancestry as non-Hispanic Caribbean or West Indian. That's a good thing, because it means there are plenty of places to get really good West Indian food. Heck, you could throw a rock almost anywhere within Broward and Palm Beach counties and it would probably fly through the window of a Caribbean restaurant. Well, wind up, Dontrelle, and cast your stone toward Caribbean Choice Restaurant and Bakery in West Palm Beach. Owner Don Smith brings his island flavor from Jamaica via the Bronx and serves up Caribbean favorites such as beef patties, jerked chicken and pork, and roti. And if you're in the mood for fish, escovitched snapper and steamed kingfish are on the menu as well. Add pigeon peas and rice and you've got good times. Whether dining in for a quick sitdown meal or eating on the run, every wanga gut (big eater) this side of Kingston can get his or her fill. Readers' Choice: Bahama Breeze
Pity poor Haiti, wracked by poverty and continual political unrest. Judging by Pollo Kreyol, these put-upon islanders must take great solace in the zesty fare they've concocted through the years. Housed in a defunct fast-food joint, this eatery is a magnet for Creole speakers and offers handy drive-through service as well as sitdown. You won't find any menus, billboards, or placards explaining the food, however; you'll have to ask if you're unfamiliar with this cuisine. The three or four meat dishes are lined up cafeteria-style, and for the set price of $5, you get a massive mound of your choice of meat, rice, beans, and plantains. If the gods are favorable, you'll happen in when that day's offering is pig feet stewed with okra. If you need a little time to build up courage for the hooved end of pork, there's always beef, deep-fried pork, chicken, and goat main dishes, delicately curried with green peppers, potatoes, and onions. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

Duck confit, a specialty of southwestern France, is one of the world's oldest preserved foods and, because of the technique involved in its preparation, serves as the ultimate litmus test for judging the skills of a French kitchen. First, the duck gets dry-rubbed in herbs, spices, and coarse salt. Next, it is soaked in brine, drained, dried, cooked slowly in fat, covered in fat, packed tightly in a jar, and tucked away in a cool dry place. Finally, the duck gets removed from storage and placed in a hot pan until the skin is crisped and the meat warmed (don't worry about this being bad for your diet -- no carbohydrates!). Chef-owner Claude Pottier's duck leg confit is, quite simply, the finest around. But those who want to duck the confit can find equal comfort in duck pâté, escargots drenched in garlic butter, and all manner of fresh seafood. Cafe Claude also boasts a heady wine selection, friendly service, moderate prices, and a dessert cart so complete that it resembles a patisserie on wheels. Last, and least, Claude's early-bird special is Deerfield Beach's finest. Readers' Choice: Chez Laurent
Results from a recent government survey on diet and health show that the average person gained three pounds from just perusing the menu at European Deli & Restaurant. A breakdown of the numbers reveals that those who read only the menu sections regarding Friday and Saturday specials put on only a pound; these include Wiener schnitzel, schnitzel à la Holstein (with egg, capers, and anchovies), sauerbraten (marinated beef in sweet and sour gravy), and roulden (beef rolled around bacon, onions, and pickles). A glimpse at the descriptions of homemade smoked kielbasa, stuffed cabbage with boiled potato, fried leberkase, and pig knuckle with sauerkraut added a pound and a half. The final half-pound was tacked on by combining the knowledge that all dinners come with dumplings or spaetzle and the understanding that you can't really eat here without indulging in at least one tall, iced pilsener glass of Erdinger draft. The conclusions of this survey didn't take into account the European Deli's numerous imports or prepared foods, and further experiments are under way to gauge the possible poundage put on by reading about the numerous thick and succulent sausages. The wurst is yet to come!

No matter how amazing Charlize Theron might be in her next role, it's money in the bank that she won't win another Oscar in 2005. Why not? Same reason that Mark's Las Olas hasn't copped a New Times Best Of restaurant award since 1999: Panels don't like to repeat themselves. Still, Mark Militello remains one of Broward's very elite chefs, and though his South Beach, Mizner Park, and City Place restaurants have their strengths, after ten years, this Las Olas branch remains the true Mark of excellence. Cozy booths, luxuriously rich mahogany tables, and a bustling open kitchen set the stage for Militello's cutting-edge cuisine, a magical mix of classical cooking techniques, the freshest of ingredients, and a menu that changes daily to accommodate what's in season. Whether it be the simple pairing of chilled Washington state Kumomoto oysters with green apple mignonette, the inspired glazing of duck with mango honey, or the hearty, homestyle plating of pork tenderloin with braised cabbage, chestnuts, and apple jus spiked with Southern Comfort, Militello hits the mark every time. Desserts such as Dutch Forreli pear and blueberry caramel tart with made-on-the-premises white chocolate almond-crush ice cream, seriously attentive service, and a faultless wine list seal the deal for Militello's flagship establishment. Enjoy this accolade, Mark -- like Charlize, next year you'll likely relinquish the crown. Readers' Choice: Chez Laurent
Over the past decade, chef Johnny Vinczencz, formerly known as "The Caribbean Cowboy," has traveled from town to town or, more specifically, from Astor Place in South Beach to De La Tierra at Sundy House in Delray Beach, titillating diners with robust American cuisine dashed with Spanish and Caribbean additions and a healthy dose of gastronomic ingenuity. Now, he's settling home on the range or, more specifically, on Las Olas Boulevard, with an eponymous place all his own. A great restaurant, however, relies on more than just a respected name. It begins with distinctively delectable food, like Vinczencz's signature "short stack" starter of buttermilk pancakes, grilled portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomato butter, and sweet balsamic syrup and on daring, unexpected gestures like a special of Tibetan yak. A great restaurant has a certified sommelier to help navigate a first-class wine list -- or, more specifically, someone like Steffan Rau, who previously served this function at Jean George's Vong restaurant. It features waiters who, like those at Johnny V's, are amiable, accommodating, and above all professionally trained. It isn't necessary for a top eatery to offer 30 exotic cheeses and a lounge where tasty tapas tantalize between cocktails in order to qualify for greatness, but it doesn't hurt. Nor do desserts like a tall wedge of dark, dense chocolate cake layered with bananas, caramel, and peanut butter mousse, with a scoop of malted milk ball ice cream on the side. Johnny V is the new kid in town -- or, more specifically, the premier new kid. Readers' Choice: Sublime
To win this category, you must be located in an interesting neighborhood, serve top-drawer chow, and be reasonably priced. That is indubitably the case with Sushi 1. The ambiance is nothing. Zero. But the sushi is some of the freshest that we have ever eaten, and daily specials, which generally cost less than $5, are knockouts (and come with three courses). Then there're those rolls. Try the dancing eel and spicy tuna. There are also bento boxes, salads, and soups. It's all family-made and can be enjoyed at one of the few tables inside or in the parking lot. The best thing about this place, though, is its convenience to the new downtown Fort Lauderdale. If you are moving into one of the panoply of condos under construction down there, this should be your regular joint. Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

This place has two lives. In the winter, snowbirds inundate Cuoco Pazzo Café, making the wait on weekends often longer than two hours. The café is actually a sister establishment to the Cuoco Pazzo restaurant next door, and the old codgers know you can eat cheaper, and just as well, in the café. But the real time to go is summer, when Cuoco Pazzo becomes just a quiet Italian joint with the best pizza and pasta in downtown Lake Worth. What's special about Cuoco Pazzo is its simplicity. You won't find those fat guys from Carrabba's messing up lasagna here. The veal saltimbocca ($17) is as traditional as you'd get in Roma. The chicken paillard ($14) seems straight from a grandmother's kitchen, with roasted peppers and a delicate lemon chardonnay sauce. The place gets more creative with its cioppino ($18), a saffron stew of clams, mussels, lobster, scallops, and shrimp over black linguine. They say cioppino comes from California, but after eating it here, you'll swear it's Italian.

Statistics show that nine and seven-eighths of every ten new dining establishments go belly up within 15 minutes of opening -- or something like that. Which means that either the management team, kitchen crew, and service staff perform admirably right from the start or the signage on the restaurant marquee will be gone faster than you can say "Boy George in Taboo." The Southwestern-inspired Sol Kitchen has thus far beaten the odds -- it started out steamy and is getting hotter by the hour. Owned by the same restaurant group that opened Delray's already sizzling 32 East (located just up the block), Sol has the advantage of experience: its chef, Ryan Brown, was chef de cuisine under Nick Morfogen at 32. Perhaps it's because these two worked together on this brash and sassy menu that the food exudes a confidence not often seen in such a short time. After you taste sunny dishes like the mahi-mahi taco with shredded cabbage, grape tomatoes, and lime; golden brown burritos packed with slow-braised pork; and grilled dolphin with mojo-soaked Cherokee heirloom tomatoes, you'll know why patrons have taken a quick shine to this boisterous, dimly lit room from the get-go. Desserts have a veteran hand in the making as well: 32 East's one-time pastry chef, Robert Malone, putting out a Cuban coffee flan so coffee-intensive that it's likely to keep you as awake as the proprietor of a new restaurant the night before opening. Readers' Choice: Sol Kitchen
It is said that the same yardstick used to critique the arts can be applied to reviewing restaurants: mood, tone, theme, setting, and harmony. The Restaurant's elegant setting is defined by its sweeping arched entrance, which is flanked by palm trees, a fountain, and tropical flowers. Once indoors, you'll find a refined tone set by colored marble in shades of creamy beige, columns of textured stone, breathtaking floral arrangements, and hand-painted silk Chinese murals. A classical mood is provided by the pianist's mellifluous notes floating from the Champagne Lounge at the far end of the room. And the epicurean theme orchestrated by Hubert Des Marais is a brilliant take on Southeastern regional fare, which includes influences from the Deep South, Caribbean, and South and Central America. Marais' tendency is to start with such stirring preludes as a salad of Florida lobster with mango, avocado, plantain, and essence of truffle or seared foie gras with starfruit johnnycakes and scotch-bonnet mango caramel, then segue into larger, richer, more luxurious movements, like char-grilled veal chop with crispy foie gras potatoes and deep morel reduction or his signature guava-braised short ribs of beef with truffle-scented cress salad. A light seafood interlude of yellowtail snapper with watermelon relish, lemon thyme, and tangelo sauce shows off the maestro Marais' versatility as well as his surprising knack for being utterly original. An underlying theme is the reliance on local products like passion fruit, mangoes, goat cheese, Okeechobee frog legs, and Indian River she crabs. A big, brassy wine list hits all the right notes. The meal rises to a crescendo with the soufflé overture, soon after which the crowd offers its accolades and files out contentedly. Readers' Choice: 32 East

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