When pondering what makes a good rack of ribs, two things naturally come to mind — heavy metal and Coral Springs. Rock N Roll Ribs is run by Nicko McBrain, drummer for legendary band Iron Maiden. Though the interior of the restaurant looks more like an Iron Maiden shrine in a teenaged boy's bedroom than a rib joint, this place knows barbecue. The coma-inducing combination of crispy charred pork slathered in the restaurant's sticky, sweet, and tangy barbecue sauce is a recipe for one totally bitchin' rack. Sauce junkies looking for a fix can load up on three additional barbecue sauces — mustard, hot, and tangy. These smoky, fork-tender baby back ribs present diners with the enjoyable challenge of eating the meat before it slides off the bone. A full rack of baby back ribs, two sides, and a thick-cut slice of garlic toast will run you $18.95, but the Iron Maiden videos on a loop are free.

The tourist's dream of fresh fish at a beachside pub is often a fantasy in South Florida. Too many restaurants offer the same dry, tasteless grouper between slabs of boring bread. Not here. The Whale's Rib is the neighborhood dive where Hillsboro cops grab takeout while a constant horde of shorts-and-sandals customers queues up for a seat. Inside, the wood-paneled walls are decorated with license plates and the mounted jawbones of a 305-pound bull shark. Kids slurp Coke out of small pitchers. From the kitchen in the center of the dining room, someone shouts, "Dolphin sandwich." That's why many people are here — the fresh dolphin Key West sandwich. The spice of the blackened fish pairs perfectly with creamy Thousand Island dressing, topped with crunchy red cabbage and melted Swiss cheese, all on a hearty, toasted bun. Eat this with a bowl of thin-sliced potato "whale fries" and you'll never need a Big Mac again.

Charm City Burger Co. took home the top award at this year's Riverwalk Trust Burger Battle, its beloved burgers holding sway in a heated battleground for beefy supremacy. But the restaurant deserves another honor, for its creamy milk-shake concoction: the Binge. A genius and outrageously addictive blend of caramel and sea salt, the Binge is made with Blue Bell ice cream, and the quality shows. This is one of the most indulgent sweet treats in all the land (and it's enough to make a vegetarian venture into Charm City's meat-perfumed air on a semiregular basis).

The idea is that we should name a specific dish at Ristorante Sapori, an item for readers to hone in on with laser-precision focus. But that would be something of a disservice both to the reader and to chef/owner Marco Pindo. Pindo — like anyone for whom a passion for good food and cooking runs deep — uses instinct and experience to dictate "what's good tonight" instead of being a slave to the menu. His Thursday-night pasta sessions bring the craft of pasta-making out of the kitchen and into the dining room, where guests can watch the meals come to life. On these nights, Pindo will create a few specials that put the freshly rolled and cut pasta center stage. The carbs are dressed with light sauces or olive oil, topped with fresh vegetables, and perfumed with herbs plucked from the restaurant's patio garden. Choose whatever sounds good out of the two or three dishes being offered, or ask Pindo for his recommendation. Just be flexible and trust that what you get will be simple, clean, and prepared with considerable skill.

Alex Broadwell

Quick! Close your eyes and think of the perfect mashup of foods. OK — open your eyes. Did your dream meal include creamy cheese, slow-braised beef, and tater tots? If so, you're going to want to head over to the next food-truck roundup starring Dim Ssäm á GoGo, an Asian-fusion truck covered with tattoos, for an order of chunk'd tots. A gentle rain of creamy cheese sauce flows over a mountain of tots (tots are back, friends) before being smothered in sweet, spicy, Kalbi-marinated beef, slow-braised until practically falling apart. At $7.99, this is an indulgent dish that can be shared as a side or gobbled up all by your greedy self.

Circumstances and the economy being what they are, a trip across the Atlantic for authentic Italian gelato isn't likely to happen for most of us. In the meantime, the hazelnut gelato from Sonny's Gelato Cafe will help us pretend. The environs are in no way reminiscent of those little Italian villages where tourists whisper sweet nothings to so many tiny cups of frozen cream, but the Boca store's freshly made gelato acts as a tasty little stand-in for the experience. The ratio of sugar to cream is just so; this isn't one of those gut-busting frozen scoops that will leave you gasping for water and swearing off sweets. If anything, it borders dangerously on demanding a weekly habit.

The "World Famous" designator is generally as meaningless as calling oneself an expert: Says who? Although we can't speak to the real-world measure of fame afforded to Terry's Famous pies, it's fair to say they enjoy a steady following. This classic version of Florida's official state pie is tart and creamy with a crumbly graham crust. Though the whipped topping — instead of meringue — may make some purists balk, it's hard to argue that this isn't one delicious slice of Sunshine State nostalgia. Part of the appeal of a Terry's pie is taking a Saturday-afternoon trip out to Davie to the Old Florida roadside fruit stand to pick one up. Slurp down a delicious fruit shake and grab a bag of oranges while you're at it.

Naming a best pizza place is like kicking the hornet's nest. There's no faster way to stir shit up between two otherwise reasonable adults than by asking them to agree on the style, region, or topping selections that make for the perfect pie. It's a divisive issue, to say the least (particularly if one of the people involved hails from NYC). That said, there's little to argue about with Tucci's, unless it's whether to choose one of its signature coal-oven pies (we suggest the savory eggplant pizza or the simple Margherita) or to go rogue and build your own using piles of arugula, Kalamata olives, broccoli rabe, or prosciutto. Patience is required, as these puppies are made-to-order and won't be served until the crust has achieved just the right amount of char, the cheese has browned on the edges, and the sauce is blistering to the touch. Let others argue about the merits of thick versus thin; there are better ways to make use of your mouth in the presence of such flavor.

When pork belly and tasting menus have pummeled your diet, stop in at PL8 for a break in more ways than one. PL8 offers lovely salads with delicious accompaniments, such as this arugula favorite, lightly dressed in mustard vinaigrette, complemented with a cascade of wood-roasted corn. Toasted almond slivers add crunch, while strawberries punctuate with sweetness. The salad is the work of chef Joel Christy, who took the helm at PL8 in early January. The restaurant transformed from a neighborhood restaurant like Himmarshee Bar & Grille to a small-plates menu in September, to much fanfare, and this is another indication that it was a fine change indeed.

Tabatha Mudra

"We're all about flavors here," says proprietor Will Rubino. They're also about the cake décor. A tower of frosting and intricate toppings add extra flourish to cake that's spongy, moist, and fresh. Stop in the shop for a latte and watch bakers at work behind the glass divide. If you're lucky, you'll see them piping buttercream and adding the finishing touches to make these sweet treats even sweeter. Cupcake flavors include salty caramel, red velvet, Boston cream, lemon dream, Key lime, carrot cake, and a specialty creation called Seventh Heaven — a mix of dark-chocolate fudgy cake with chocolate chunks.

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