Moonlite Diner

Sometimes, when it's 3 a.m. and you're half-drunk, you're prone to imagining things. In fact, you might very well think that your mind is playing tricks on you as you stand outside Moonlite Diner. Built to resemble a highway café from the 1950s, the place features stools and bars of the John F. Kennedy-era malt shop style. There's also enough rock 'n' roll memorabilia on the walls to make Buddy Holly proud. Then there's the food. This restaurant serves good, cheap eats 24 hours a day. Highlights include crab cakes ($7.69) served with a fiery Cajun sauce; the Mediterranean omelet ($6.29), an unpredictable egg dish with feta cheese and spinach; and the Meatloaf Blue Plate ($9.29), a hunk of oven-baked beef seasoned and shaped with the same love and care that your mama gave it. Finish everything with one of Moonlite's 24 flavored malts and shakes ($3.99) and you'll be left with the wherewithal to sleep off that nasty hangover.

It doesn't take long for international ex-pats in South Florida to congregate with their own kind: Uruguayans have their clubs, Panamanians their hairdressers, Haitians their takeout restaurants, Poles their Friday-night dances. And the French have their bakeries. At Croissan'Time, you know you're in the right vicinity not just by the unmistakable scent of warm, layered pastry but from the recognizable buzz of French-speaking customers crammed together over tables crowded with beignet and brioche. Owner Bernard Casse opened Croissan'Time in 1986 after a string of apprenticeships and baking gigs in France and New York, including La Grenouille and Regine's. Locally, he wowed the Palm Beach crowd with delectable confections at the Little French Bakery before moving to Lauderdale. Casse and crew are still turning out hundreds of filled and plain croissants daily, hot from the ovens every couple of hours. You'll recognize chocolate or almond paste-filled varieties, but you may never have experienced the guilty pleasure of croissants stuffed with sour apricots and custard, tart raspberries, silky prunes, or walnuts, apples, strawberries, cinnamon, ham and cheese, or guava ($1.25 small, $2.25 large). They're flaky, buttery, each better than the next, and impossible to tire of. But if you're still craving variety, try the coffeecakes, the tourtes, a selection of charcuterie that includes mergez and boudin noir, game meats like pheasant and partridge, homemade ice creams, freshly cut cheeses, paté sandwiches, bacon bread, cream puffs -- a short, delicious tour of French gastronomy for any Lauderdalian who loves Paris.
Best Bread: An NPR commentator once asked a French chef if he thought the Atkins Diet would ever catch on in France. "Mais non," the chef replied haughtily. "In France, we must eat one pound of bread every day for good health." No doubt for other reasons of vigor and well-being, that pound of bread must also be slathered with sweet cream butter, n'est-ce pas? And washed down with just a cup or two of hot chocolate to aid the digestion? The baguette ($2.50) at Le Petit Pain is the place to start if you're planning to follow the good chef's advice: the long, thin loaves, crunchy and buttery on the outside, pocked with delicate holes when you break them open, come warm from the oven a couple of times a day. The proprietors, a handsome and charming family hailing from Paris, have evidently picked up a few baking skills in their native country that have translated exquisitely to ours. They serve the finest from the baguettes, which have an unsettling tendency to become as necessary to daily existence as air, to their beautiful cakes, pies, butter cookies, fresh croissants, and filled crepes -- also highly nourishing when eaten in quantity.

Best Bakery: It's clean, it's bright, and it serves confections so sweet that your teeth almost rot just looking at them. Gone are the days of Grandma's neighborhood bakery, where only muffins, brownies, and loaves of bread were available. When this company was founded nearly two decades ago during the "Let's Get Physical" '80s, more than 50 flavors of cheesecake and dozens of pies, tortes, and other cakes were delivered to the hungry masses by Celebrity's chefs. Through the no-fat '90s and the "anti-carb" new millennium, this bakery has continued to thrive with loads of options for anyone from the carb-conscious to the reckless. This is your go-to joint for Hello Dollies and brownies ($2.75 each), custom cakes (slices $3.25 to $3.50), platters, and seasonal selections like egg nog and cranberry pumpkin cheesecake ($3.50 to $26). What else makes this a great spot to visit? Lots of little tables, decent cups o' Joe, evening hours, and a personable staff. Cooking classes are held for kids and adults too so you can learn how to make more than just Betty Crocker.

Josh's Organic Garden

This market guarantees that its fruits and vegetables were picked within 48 hours of the time they were laid before your eyes here. And like the shingle says, it's all 100 percent organic. The market is open all day Sunday, and it pays to be early to beat the crowds and swoop up items that grow more scarce toward the end of their season. There's no guarantee you'll find the same items from week to week, because the market relies much on Florida's growing seasons. During winter, the bounty is spectacular, from the routine to the exotic. For $3.99 a pound, pick up crispy red and yellow peppers, fresh garlic, pungent parsley, or exotic dandelion greens. You'll find Josh's on the Broadwalk behind the old Hollywood Beach Hotel, which is just south of Hollywood Boulevard.

On his first trip to Rorabeck's, my true love brought to me: 12 yellow onions, 11 sweet potatoes, ten heads of lettuce, nine ripe tomatoes, eight colored peppers, seven fat zucchinis, six Chinese eggplants -- fiiiiiiive finger-lings. Four sprawling herbs, three tan yams, two garlic cloves, and the chaaaange from a twe-e-enty. It goes without saying that my beloved made a few more trips to Rorabeck's, still flush with his astonishing success. I sent him out for a nine-foot potted palm tree ($50), a bucket of jalapeño peppers ($1), two bags full of bronze and black muscadine grapes ($5), a flat of Florida strawberries ($4), some flowering impatiens ($1.50 each), an obscenely sized watermelon ($3), half a dozen Georgia peaches ($2), a gigantic bunch of basil ($1), and a couple more of those giant zucchinis, roughly the size of Paul Bunyan's forearm, which I needed to whip up a vat of ratatouille for my true love and his extended family.

Baja Smoothie Café may not have 10 gazillion trademarked flavors like those giant-blender joints, but it's pretty damned close. Besides -- is anyone anal-retentive enough to need ten different strawberry-flavored blends to choose from? Baja has cooler names for its smoothies anyway, like the Twisted Sister or Bananas for Bono (though it might want to rename the Blue Baja Tsunami before some overly sensitive customer raises a stink). The basic nutritional info is listed for all smoothies (which range in price from $3.95 to $5.25), so you know how many calories, vitamins, carbs, and grams of fat you're ingesting -- and that you're getting more than just a cup of sherbet run through a blender. If you have any leftover room for solid food, the café has plenty of fresh salads and wraps, all made with your calorie count in mind. And check this -- the café has subscription-free wireless Internet service, meaning you don't need to sign up with T-Mobile just to browse the Web for ten minutes. All you gotta do is turn on your laptop and you're on the Web. Damn, all that and all you wanted was a Hawaiian Five OH!

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