Sure, you say, "You think I'm going to drive across hundreds of acres of sugar-cane fields just for a piece of meat?" Well, take heart in this: You'll float back home after you try this melt-in-your-mouth slab o' heaven. Jellyroll's offers a solid assortment of "upscale" soul food, but the chicken-fried steak and brown gravy, for $6.95, is the best. It includes a choice of two side dishes, among which are green beans and ham, black beans and rice, and collard greens (cooked with liberal portions of pork). The steak is lightly breaded and fried to a delicate crispiness. The restaurant is visually appealing too, with antique collectibles and old-time photos of Pahokee displayed throughout its brightly lit interior.

Maybe you've noticed the high price and low quality at the supermarket: America is currently undergoing a tomato famine. Well, not so much a famine as a shortage, which makes the sumptuous, fresh-tomato-topped slices at the Cannoli Kitchen all the more impressive. Existing in the culinary nether-region between New York thin crust, Chicago deep dish, and California gourmet, Cannoli Kitchen's slices come in 17 "signature" styles, like chicken fiorentina with ham, spinach, and mozzarella; Mexican with ground beef, salsa, lettuce, tomato (fresh!), green peppers, and cheddar cheese; chicken Alfredo; portobello; and the divine artichoke with sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, capers, and mozzarella. Takeout slices ring in at just over $3, and there are plenty of other Italian specialties -- including awesome hot and cold subs, pasta, and seafood, all at modest prices. If you like thinking in the long term, grab three fresh-frozen slices for five bucks. Now that's a cool deal.

As Zagat, Fodor's, or any assorted tourist map will tell you, the best breakfast around is at John G's. But the line at this place is often too much; it frequently snakes out the door and around the building. So here's a trick: Cut up to the takeout counter and bring your eggs to Lake Worth's public beach, which is just across the parking lot. G's is famous for its pancakes, with the blueberries baked inside ($5.95), but the best omelets you can find on or off the beach are also here. Their Italian is full of sausage, peppers, pepperoni, and melted cheese ($8.50), or try the Hawaiian, chock full of sautéed vegetables, a grilled pineapple slice, and cheese sauce ($7.95). G's will pack up your beach brunch, and then you can eat it blanket-style as you laugh at the poor schmucks waiting in line.

Pizza Rustica

They call it a slice, that slab of pizza in front of you. It looks about the size of a laptop and sits on two paper plates. Cut from Pizza Rustica's signature square pans of the stuff, these are a meal cut into three-bite squares. They come with a laundry list of toppings, including imported prosciutto, yellow squash, and shiitake mushrooms. There's the campagnola -- with sweet sausage, roasted peppers, sweet onions, and plum tomato sauce. Or the pizza putanesca, covered in Sicilian anchovies, kalamata olives, jalapeños, red onions, and pepperoni. Finish them off with a pizza filled with hazelnut chocolate. The slices cost $2.75 to $3.75 and the full pies $11.50 to $29. But what makes these slices better than the competition is the fact that you don't have to leave the house: Pizza Rustica delivers any order of three slices or more. Why order so much? You don't need more than a slice for a meal. But if you order just a little, you have to leave the couch.

Cafe Del Rio

Here's a little story about the fajita that could. One day, the fajita looked at his peers with their white, flaky tortillas, boring veggie mixes, and dry, flavorless meats and said, "There's got to be more than this." So he left his tiny taco stand in Nowhere, Idaho, and headed for Florida, Land of the Unique and Daring. Here, he encountered the folks at Cafe del Rio, who promised a makeover that would make him unrecognizable to those stale fajita friends he left back home. So the Del Rio people tossed chicken, steak, and shrimp into a tumbler with seasonings and marinades to make them flavorful and exquisitely tender. Then they added some yellow squash and zucchini to the standard veggie mix of onions and green and red peppers and adorned the sizzling skillet with a shiny, jade-colored pepper and a little silver cup of butter touched with cilantro and jalapeño. Why butter, you ask? Well, my child, butter makes the flavor of the meats richer (just ask someone at Ruth's Chris), and it adds a nice flavor to the golden and puffy tortillas that Del Rio makes fresh to blanket the whole affair. Of course, the guacamole, sour cream, diced tomatoes, Tex-Mex rice, and refried beans topped with melted shredded cheese were thrilled with the results, and they agreed that the prices asked were more than fair (just under $12 for beef or chicken, a little shy of $14 for shrimp, and nearly $15 for a combo of the three). And they all lived happily ever after in my stomach. The End.

The salsa at this modest and friendly joint isn't the finest only because it's free and plentiful but also because it's damned near perfect. Color: A bright, beautiful pink from the combo of diced tomatoes and onions. Taste: Like God has decided to prove to the world that he really does exist. Texture: Crisp and fresh. "We make it five times a day," says Eduardo Argueta, general manager of the Riverfront location. "And we throw away what's left at night and start fresh the next day. It has to be fresh to be tasty." But at Olé Olé, it's not just about the salsa. The fare is all first-rate. If you're with a friend or two, try the fajitas for three, which runs only about $23 and comes with a mountain of your choice of chicken, shrimp, or steak (or any combo of the three). And enjoy the margaritas. They're always strong enough, of good quality, and totally authentic, like the rest of the place.

This place is famous for its stellar beef, which is the very heart of good chili. Hamburger Heaven has long been one of Palm Beach's only moderately priced lunch spots, with crowds waiting in line far out the door to enter the 60-year-old diner. Most of 'em have come for the burgers, like the aptly named Beverly Hills, which comes with avocado and ranch dressing. But Hamburger Heaven's chili ($2.95 a cup or $5.95 a bowl) makes a good rival; it has big chunks of ground beef, red beans, and a sauce that's tangy but not spicy. Even though Hamburger Heaven is most certainly a diner, its chili doesn't have that diner feel -- you know, the sticky, murky texture that comes from being in a crock pot for a week. This sublime dish has a smooth consistency so that the floating chunks of beef and beans stand out. It's astounding, but if you simply can't pass up getting a burger when you visit Heaven, try the San Antonio ($9.95), which is smothered in jalapeños, cheddar cheese, raw onions, and, as you guessed, a mound of chili. Best Barbecue

Gou Lou is a fleshy spectacle unmatched elsewhere in Broward. A hole-in-the-wall with only two small tables, the carry-out restaurant devotes most of its space to a behind-glass display of roasted ducks, chickens, and pigs. You'll easily identify the species: Each animal is roasted whole, usually with heads attached. On a recent visit, ducks and chickens hung by their heads or feet, each a shimmering golden brown. A roasted pig dangled from a stainless-steel rack, its crispy head lying below it. On a nearby rack, succulent, deep-red ribs dripped with juices. Your order is chopped to your specifications as you watch. Honey-barbecue ribs or honey-roasted pork cost $6.50 a pound. Roasted ducks are $13.95, or $7.50 for a half. Chicken with head is the bargain of the bunch at $3.75 a pound.

When it comes to creating the perfect barbecue experience, there's more involved than putting a rib on your plate. Alligator Alley has all the requisite trappings: a down-home vibe, the Meters on the jukebox, and icy Native Lager on tap (because a barbecue joint without beer is like a bistro without Bordeaux). As for the main event, it's true the menu lacks the baby backs and quarter birds that are the cornerstone of many a rib shack. That's because owner Carl "Kilmo" Pacillo has mastered -- mastered -- the pulled pork sandwich ($6.95), and you won't find a more delectable example in South Florida. Period. Three made-from-scratch sauces -- sweet, tangy, and Carolina-style -- add just the right spice to the tender, oak-smoked meat, which emits a pungent, primal flavor that stands up to copious saucing. A healthy dollop of creamy cole slaw (included with the sandwich) cools down the fire sublimely for a three-way balancing act worthy of Ringling Bros. Along with the pork po-boy, the Alley serves up a killer chicken breast sandwich ($10.95) that is also smoked out back in a house smoker just big enough for a few items. The alligator ribs are always fresh and tender, and Kilmo's gumbo is award-winning. If you're smart, you'll finish the feast with a slice of tangy, locally made key lime pie. Calling Alligator Alley a bar is a disservice; it's a vital part of the community. Calling its menu "bar food" is outrageous -- it's an epicurean wonder.

Sure, the baloney sandwiches in prison offer more nutritional value, but this menu item could come in handy when your wallet's thin: "The Inflation Beater: two stale heels of bread wrapped around a freshly frozen ice cube." Cost: 2612 cents.

Oh Cyrille, Cyrille, how we adore you, you big rouille-making brute you, with your leek tarts, your duck confits, your chicken pot pies, your soufflés au fromage! Our hearts simply break in two over your mystical lentil soups ($4.50) and surreal espresso milkshakes, your plates of assorted cheeses ($15.50), not to mention the BLT that is like a reinvention of the BLT ($11.50), a sandwich that somehow both confounds and enchants. It's as if you dreamed of mayonnaise, awoke, went to your kitchen, and in a moment of tortured genius conceived a sauce so tender and sad that it would suffice as the last meal -- with a simple boiled egg, perhaps -- for your dying beloved. All this we divine in you, Cyrille, and yet -- we are less than nothing to you, and you once told us (admittedly, you were a bit in your cups at the time, and we had been perhaps overlavish with our praise, embarrassing you) that you "didn't give a damn" whether we liked your cooking. You are so French in that slightly haughty but magnetic way that it makes us swoon, Cyrille. But most of all, how thrilled we are that this bright and lovely little café is now yours entirely, since you have bought it outright, and that you serve a prix fixe dinner (which is very expensive but no doubt worth every blesséd franc) from Thursday to Saturday, but only for four persons or more, and only for two tables per night, and only if reserved in advance. We wouldn't expect any less, Cyrille, from a man of your qualities.

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