Somehow, the era of the $25 or $30 bottle of wine with dinner feels so distant, it might as well have been our Stone Age ancestors who were extracting corks from the Beaujolais with hand-carved flint tools. Restaurant wine has rocketed out of reach for regular people: Now we're guzzling a hurried glass at home before heading out. But that's never been the case at Hi-Life Café, a neighborhood favorite that takes its name seriously. Chef Carlos Fernandez (a Top Chef contender) and host/partner Chuck Smith have long known that food + wine = happiness. Thus, their breezy, California-centered list offers lots of bargains: pinot noirs from the Russian River Valley priced in the mid-30s, California merlots that start at $24, Australian shirazes at $32 and $34, a Spanish sauvignon blanc at $26, half bottles of yummies like Robert Sinskey pinot blanc and Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon, plus many more very drinkable grapes at friendly prices. The wines, naturally, pair perfectly with the down-home luxuries on Fernandez's all-American menu, from his chicken fried chicken and braised short ribs to roast duckling glistening under a blanket of merlot sauce.

C. Stiles

If there's one food that pairs best with beer, it's a good burger. This must be why Big Bear, an independently owned and operated brewpub in Broward's western annex, puts as much thought into its stellar burgers as it does into its award-winning suds. Each of the half-inch-thick patties is made from ground-daily chuck and griddle-cooked for the perfect amount of juiciness. They're then laid to rest on an airy, sesame-seed-coated kaiser roll and topped in a few distinctive ways. Our favorite is the bistro burger, a pungent offering that's slathered with balsamic caramelized red onions, roasted garlic mayonnaise, Applewood smoked bacon, and a slab of runny Brie cheese. The black-and-blue burger is great too — it's dusted with a Cajun rub and paired with gobs of salty blue cheese and red-pepper mayo, then set against a sweet slice of Canadian bacon. These burgers may be high-class, but they're all low-cost, each clocking in under $12. Which means you'll have plenty of cash left to pair them with a stellar brew, say a pint of Trappist-style Kodiak Belgian Dubbel, which, at 7.5 percent alcohol by volume, is as big a friend as any burger needs.

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