Best Desserts 2008 | Canyon Southwest Grill | Food & Drink | South Florida

"Life is uncertain. Order dessert first," goes the old saw. Restaurants are uncertain, too, so you'd best order your dessert from Canyon. Anything as delicious as Canyon's bread pudding, for instance, should be in a morality-free zone: It's OK to eat all of it. Without sharing. At some indecent hour. Thankfully the pudding is large and varied enough to constitute a well-balanced meal on its own. Served in a bowl the size of a kiddie pool, it cavorts up and down every tier of the food pyramid: dairy in the cream, protein in the eggs, bread in the bread, vegetable in the chocolate, fruit in the berries, and booze in the booze. Canyon chef Chris Wilber and his staff have been turning out happy variations on this bread pudding for years. Along with toasted pecan pie, homemade ice cream, and vanilla bean cheesecake, it's just one of the reasons customers sometimes wait an hour or two at Canyon for a table. Go after the rush is over, around 9:30 p.m., and you can get right to it.

The word "diner" typically suggests chrome and neon. You won't find either at the Coral Rose Café, but you'll salivate when you discover its homemade breads and other tasty treats. Who needs neon when you have the best brunch grub in town? Whether you devour the behemoth servings of coconut pancakes, build your own eggs benedict (we like spinach, tomato, and feta), or sample any other decadent item off the eclectic menu, you'll digest better knowing that it was all made from scratch. Feeling parched? Knock your bounty back with fresh squeezed juices. While there's no shortage of sumptuous menu combinations, there can be a shortage of seating on weekend mornings, when regulars arrive in droves.

Italian restaurants specializing in Roman, Sicilian, Corsican, and Milanese fare are a dime a dozen, but we have yet to run across another trattoria whose passionate love affair with the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of Italy is so intense. Perhaps that's because owners Beth and Josef Shibanetz, an American woman and her Austrian chef husband, came to that area as strangers and fell in love with its fusion of East and West. In Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, world cultures collide: French, Hungarians, Slavs, Celts, Austrians, and Italians — Catholics, Jews, and Muslims — have settled peaceably in the northeastern tip of Italy, and the evidence of cross-cultural conversation is part of the allure of this odd cuisine. Dishes such as ravioli filled with wild mushrooms and truffles in a light veal sauce or halibut cooked with mushrooms, spinach, and Riesling embody contradictory culinary impulses with delicious results. Dining at Josef's is like learning a delightful secret about one you love. The Shibanetzes also have chosen wines from the area, and the space is charming and intimate.

Top Ten Reasons to Eat at Sunrise Pita:

10. The free pickle bar: cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage, and olives, oy vey!

9. The roasted eggplant salad, garlic tahini, and dreamy hummus.

8. Three words: Meat on spits.

7. Glatt and ORB certified kosher. L'chaim!

6. A massive meal under $10? How thrifty!

5. Best. Grape leaves. Ever.

4. Oh my, that's friendly service. And so fast!

3. Try the baklava, bubbeleh. It's to die for.

2. The falafels are crunchy little balls of heaven, I tell ya.

1. Because you're addicted. We'd say seek help, but would you want to?

You're accustomed to seeing greenmarkets in bustling downtown districts or in parking lots off busy roads. But a greenmarket with an ocean view? You can only get that on Hollywood Beach. Every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:31 p.m., parking anywhere near the market is a test of patience — families come bounding out of narrow alleyways in massive SUVs, octogenarians in spaceship-sized Buicks sit and wait in the middle of the street for nobody in particular, and ecstatically successful market patrons skip gaily through it all, their eyes barely peeking out from behind their crates of produce. Josh's stand has become such a must-do affair that most of Hollywood (and a considerable amount of other rogue veg-heads) turns out to see what surprises Josh has in store that week. Josh is a high-energy, multi-tasking wonder, and he's loaded up with essential vitamins F.U. and N. He springs from crate to crate, announcing which produce is the freshest and most delicious. He kisses regulars on the cheeks as he doles out samples of local, organically grown heirloom tomatoes, dinosaur plums, and other juicy, colorful orbs. If you're more inclined to drinking your fruits and veggies, hit up the juice bar. Every thirst-quenching drop is served out of compostable PLA "plastic" cups (made from corn instead of the usual petroleum). And if you ask for them, your produce bags can be PLA as well. In addition to keeping things fresh and tasty, this market manages to keep its prices down-to-earth. And really, there's no better way to start your week than that.

Somebody oughta franchise this concept. Oh, they have! The Wong-Chow family, who've been running upscale Asian restaurants in the Lauderdale vicinity for many years, decided to try their hand at the kind of food chosen from a laminated menu posted on the wall and served in a cardboard box, only this ain't no cheeburger. Noodle Box sells made-to-order quickie noodle dishes from a mix 'n' match selection of sauces, proteins, and pastas — choose fat, round udon; fragile, hopelessly tangled cellophane; blocks of wavy ramen; or luscious egg noodles, and pair them with any of a dozen sauces, from fiery Korean chili to Malaysian satay. Add your meat (pork, beef, chicken, tofu) and for eight or nine bucks you've got the first of many thousands of variations to make your lunch hour a lot more interesting. Don't miss their flavored bubble tea, served with extra-wide straws so you can suck up the chewy, tapioca bobas.

It's doubtful the great French Fry Debate will get settled in this century, much less in a single issue of New Times. But let's throw down the gauntlet here. The finest fries on which you will ever sear your tongue are doctored fries. They're adulterated and tweaked, they're cosmetically enhanced — the spudly equivalent of Joan Rivers only not so scary, and unlike Joan, you can make them disappear. Hurricane Grill and Wings, the brainchild of Florida franchise wingman Chris Russo, offers three variations on the one and only vegetable nobody ever spit into a napkin or sneaked to Fido. The first, based on Russo's original wing sauce, douses crispy taters with gritty parmesan cheese and garlic butter; another is fashioned from sweet potatoes glazed with maple and habanero syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar. In a third, "obscenely loaded" fries, the potatoes constitute a kind of tabula rasa for the inscription of melted cheese, bacon bits, jalapeño rings, tomato salsa, and ranch dressing. Naturally the basic fry must be, and is here, of first quality, free of transfats, crisp of shell and pillowy within, served still chuffing steam from the recesses of its greasy paper cone. Pick your poison and prepare to be blissed.

Difficult as they can occasionally be to deal with, the French have contributed much to the world's storehouse of pleasure. They've given us champagne, Shalimar, Chanel handbags, chanterelles, and a cuisine quotidienne — that's everyday food at everyday prices — amazing enough to inspire truck drivers and sailors to poetry. And they've bequeathed us the bistro to eat it in, places like Pistache, in downtown West Palm Beach, where us regular folk go to worship thin, beautifully seasoned steaks with pommes frites, hearty soupe à l'oignon, folksy cheese plates and chicken pies, sautéed fish with lemony green salad, and the honest carafe of red wine drawn from the cask behind the bar. Of course there are giant mirrors, red leather banquets, and marble floors straight out of some Left Bank brasserie, but it's the perfectly executed tarte tatin that makes you gasp merci, merci.

The owners of Taverna Kyma have had plenty of practice serving skordalia, hummus, and moussaka. With a half dozen other Greek restaurants in South Florida, places synonymous with an Aegean brand of paaaaartaaay, they've cornered the market. As much fun as the other joints are, with all that smashing crockery and table dancing, Kyma has turned out to be our favorite. Let's say the vibe is a little less vibrant, the Med-club music on the sound system a little cooler, the clientele a bit more likely to be falling in love than falling into the Intracoastal. Kyma seems to have smoothed out the kinks with better service and food than its trashier sisters. And with fewer distractions, you can better focus on their four versions of saganaki (flamed with brandy, seared with tomato, served with shrimp, feta with oregano); the umpteen seafood appetizers (crabs, scallops, shrimp, mussels, octopus, sardines, smelts, squid); the whole spit-roasted lamb or pig (order in advance!); the kebabs and vegetable meze. Add a few Kyma Koukla Cosmopolitans and you'll want to hop on a table, too — but take it on home.

Gustavo Rojas

Sonny's is what you might call an institution — by the time its birthday rolls around on May 29, it will have been sitting in the same quaint spot just north of Taft Street for 50 years. It's a family joint, with papa Sonny having passed down his legacy to his sonny, John Nigro, who's continued the fine tradition of honest, blue-collar food prepared exactingly. And although Sonny's is best known for its Philadelphia-style steak hogies (not "hoagies"), cut from rib eye beef and wedged into a housemade roll, they also serve one mean hamburger. They call it a hogie burger: An oblong, griddle-cooked patty of freshly ground beef that fits nicely on one of Sonny's famous hogie rolls. And it's nearly perfect. The burger is immensely beefy and charred on an age-old griddle. When you bite into it, the thing drips with a slurry of rendered fat, most of which gets soaked up by the luscious, cornmeal-studded roll. A 6-ounce burger will set you back only $3.75, and it's a meal on its own. Slather it with sweet, pickled peppers provided at every table, or add cheese for just $.50. Either way, it's a beef sandwich worth returning for, be it tomorrow or 50 years from now.

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