Mystic Water Kava Bar

Walking through the doors of Mystic Water Kava Bar is like being on a psychedelic trip. In one fell swoop, you'll go from standing on a concrete sidewalk to being surrounded by a magical, fairy-tale forest. The interior looks like a giant tree house illuminated by purple and green fireflies. Paintings of mystical wizards adorn the walls, casting a spell on your senses. Although the bar serves only kava — no liquor or beer — the décor alone will have your mind feeling tipsy.

Kapow Noodle Bar
CandaceWest.com

Here's a happy-hour riddle: If the way to a man — or woman's — heart is through the stomach and not the wallet, how is it that flat, flavorless beer and baskets of deep-fried appetizers became synonymous with the postwork pick-me-up? Sure, that cup of Coors and basket of breaded-and-battered whatever may come cheap, but at what cost? The "happy-time" block offered weeknights at Kapow! doesn't half-ass it with the low-cost offerings. House wines and draft beers — an ever-changing assortment of familiar and strange domestic crafts and imports — are half-off from 4 to 7 p.m. But the real kicker is the menu of $3 bar bites. Instead of offering odds 'n' ends that you'd shovel down only if forced to by a beer buzz and budgetary concerns, these are treats — steamed buns, shishitou peppers, roasted cauliflower — that are well worth full price, drunk or sober. Add to that the cool tunes, hip décor, and energetic crowd and you've got a solution to the mystery of how to build a happy hour that doesn't compromise standards.

Pelican Landing

There comes a time in every drinker's life when you realize New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day are for amateurs and that it's much more pleasing to stay home to make one's own party. Similarly, there comes a time when you turn away from three-for-one shots, put down the Solo cup of Budweiser, and go toward the light — which is shining from the end of the docks behind the Hyatt Hotel at Pier 66. Pelican Landing, one of the Hyatt's restaurants, is a little tricky to find. Wander behind the hotel, past an assortment of multimillion-dollar yachts to the little building on the water and up the stairs above the marina office. There you will find stunning sunset water views, a lovely calypso musician bonking on his steel drum, perfectly refreshing specialty cocktails, and some of the tastiest ceviche this side of Peru. Best of all, drinks and select foods are half-off from 5 to 7 p.m. weekdays.

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Carrie Bradshaw and her gang of high-heeled NYC ladies popularized the art of drinking pink martinis. However, there are two things Ms. Bradshaw never told us: (1) Walking in heels while attempting to sip from a martini glass isn't easy; and (2) cosmopolitans may look pretty, but they're rough going down the hatch. Luckily, places like Dapur know how to make martinis taste good. The venue's signature drink, the "dartsmoor," is comprised of fresh lemon juice, gin, and St. Germain and topped off with a cucumber slice. It's like a spa day for your taste buds. But ladies, beware: This drink is so refreshing, you'll barely taste the booze.

Bridge Hotel

When you're penning your postcards poolside at this hotel, it's certainly not the dreary eggs Benedict you'll be waxing poetic about. The cuisine at this waterside bar/restaurant is of the standard mid-'90s hotel issue: bland, likely frozen at some point, and largely forgettable. Service can, at times, be painfully awkward. Best to avoid this altogether and make a beeline for the bar. Order a few bottles of imported beer or a festive tropical mixed drink and take in the watery panorama, watching as luxury yachts cruise from Lake Boca Raton through the inlet out to the Atlantic. When spring break is nigh, you may be able to ogle some hotties taking a dip or catching rays at the adjacent pool. If humans fail to entertain, take a short stroll to the railing on the lower deck, peek over the edge, and watch the rainbow of tropical fish that congregate on the seawall abutting the restaurant.

Lester's Diner
Photo by Kristin Bjornsen

Some things about America really are all they're cracked up to be. Like the diner: lots of chrome, a carousel of cakes, raspy grandmas behind the Formica counter, and free refills in a tiny mug. Occupy a booth or air your grievances at the counter: This is food for the 99 percent at its most satisfying and no-nonsense. Chicken-fried steak is a crispy caloric splurge; an omelet's enough to see you through most of the day. For a few bucks, you can dig into a more advanced diner staple like a meat-loaf sandwich, or check out the full dinners to forget about all those fussy ahi tuna sliders you've been scarfing with your silly nouveau-riche pals. It's a great place to bring friends from out of town on the way to or from the airport; those from more diner-friendly climes will quickly recognize Lester's as the real deal. The loyal clientele includes cops, firefighters, and other such people you really should be eating breakfast with more often.

Darbster
Candace West

Darbster has a way of lulling even finicky carnivores into a veggie adventure. Start with a palm-cake sandwich, which pairs the restaurant's popular hearts of palm crab-cake knockoff with arugula salad on a wheat bun. The lightly fried palm cake crumbles in your mouth, and the crunchy veggies round out each bite. For those eager to go raw, try the flax tomato sandwich. The bread is nutty and rich, covered in a garlicky spread and bright, beautiful slices of avocado and tomato. This concoction is better than a slice of cheesy pizza and skips the lump of grease in your stomach. Equally tempting are the raw wild berry pancakes and the tempeh Reuben sandwich. Rather than drown ingredients in oil and spice, Darbster highlights the fresh, essential charms of nature.

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From the exterior on Las Olas Boulevard, Luigi's seems a standard pizza joint: a modest sign, a red awning, basic tables, tiled floors. And then you see the menu. Though meat eaters will find what they're after, vegetarians will absolutely rejoice. A "small" salad — with fresh mixed greens dressed in citrus as the base, then layered with olives, pickled peppers, ripe tomatoes, green onions, and feta — serves three people. A vegetarian pizza offers a trio of peppers, tomatoes, and rapini. Paninis on terrific bread are stuffed with seasonal greens, pesto, roasted sweet peppers, and mozzarella. So much better than picking at another veggie burger.

Shawn & Nick's Courtyard Cafe
Shawn & Nick's Courtyard Café serves serious pancakes with a heavy dose of sass, any hour of the day. After-hours, the place is loaded with boys wrapping up a night at Bill's Filling Station, giggling girls out on the town, and crews of concertgoers postshow. The place is open till 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 24 hours Thursday through Saturday, and until 3 a.m. Sundays. A special late-night menu is stacked with goodies — sandwiches, burgers, salads, and fried foods, plus a whole page of breakfast items. Do yourself a favor and try a full-plate omelet, forsaking hash browns in favor of the café's golden brown tater tots, or go Hawaiian and indulge in a side of Spam. A signature slice of the day's pie makes for a happy ending.
11th Street Annex

The two sisters who run this homey little lunch spot think menus are boring, so they don't offer one. Instead, they write four or five choices on the "specials" board every day and trust that their customers are equally weary of the same old, same old. Falling into a rut is not an option, so diners are essentially forced to mix it up every day of the week. There's always a meatless option and sometimes even a vegan choice. Because nothing is deep-fried or made with highly processed crap, it doesn't sit in the gut waiting to derail an afternoon meeting. From a goat cheese and tomato tart to fennel pear soup or a tuna salad served with house-made crackers, the choices are varied, but the quality is always consistent.

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