Bistro Mezzaluna

For years, Bistro Mezzaluna sat in a small shopping center, quietly wowing customers with its Italian-American classics. After moving from its long-term locale to a space four times its size just a couple of years back, the place has increased its romance potential tenfold. A palatial piano bar is the perfect place to prep for the impending amore over a martini (or three). Two dining rooms boast pristinely set tables. Its outdoor patio offers a mood-setting cascading water fountain. With 14,000 square feet total, this place does love in epic proportions. However, even with the massive space, a meal here is an intimate experience. The secluded tables and booths are ideal for indulging in simple yet spectacular fare like shrimp and scallop ravioli ($27), 20-ounce bone-in rib eye ($48), and Maryland crab cakes ($29). Throw in a list of 300 wines and you and your sweetie are going to have one heck of an amorous night. Just hope it continues.

The 500 block of Clematis Street is paradise. Rodney Mayo has done his due diligence in transforming the tiny piece of downtown into an indie oasis, with his restaurants and bars over the years having included Respectable Street, the Lounge, Lost Weekend, and Hullabaloo (to say nothing of his establishments like Howley's diner and Dada in other hoods). It's a stretch of street for those unwilling to accept dress codes but in need of a guaranteed good time. There are good eats aplenty on the 500 block, but one rises to the top. LongBoards is the physical embodiment of South Florida in restaurant form. The vibe is straight chill, with surf videos running constantly. A giant bar looks like one big surfboard. Heck, there are even surfboard chairs. The choices measure up to the ambiance with a small, rotating beer tap, a worthy bottle selection, and a tropical cocktail menu. But it's the happy hour that takes the cake... crab cake, that is. Five-dollar food bits include crab cakes, clams, a special tropical twist on chicken wings, and more goodies like $1 Gulf oysters and half off anything in your wildest imagination from behind the bar. These three hours of escape take place every day from 4 to 7 p.m., but if you don't make it, you can still score a solid fish dinner or slick lobster Benedict at brunch. It's the go-to spot that hits the spot. Take everyone you know.

Atlantic Surf Club
candacewest.com

In contrast to the dark wooden caverns that serve sports bar food items in the majority of Beach Place, Atlantic Surf Club emerges like a cool ocean breeze. With varying shades of blue, pops of orange, and accents of stainless steel, this place is the perfect frame for the stunning panoramas of the beach. Nautical light fixtures, eclectic barstools, and fashionable rustic woods are just as on point, creating a stylish yet laid-back beachy vibe. As on-trend as the décor may be, that's not going to be the first thing you or anyone else will see; everything points to the view of the sea. The high-top tables, large open bar, and open window countertop seating are all about giving you what you went there to see: a perfect outpost for watching the waves gently rolling onto the beach — and all the good-looking, half-naked people running around in board shorts and bikinis.

The Whole Enchilada Fresh Mexican Grill
John Linn

Sure, the wheel is cool, but the burrito has to be the best invention in the history of the universe. Can you eat the wheel? No. Is the wheel warm and soft? Quite the opposite. Is the wheel filled with delicious meats, rice, guacamole, and salsa? Wait a minute... I'll be right back. Never mind, that wouldn't work. Back to my point: the burrito! Oh, it's lovely. But beware: Not all burritos are created equal. All burrito lovers have been betrayed at some point, biting into a fat tortilla only to discover cold meat, hard rice, and beans that taste like toes. It's not fun. But now you can let your guard down. It's safe to love again, burrito lovers, because the Whole Enchilada is never going to hurt you like that. No, you'll only ever find soft tortillas, warm queso, fresh guacamole, and happy burritos stuffed with everything from black tiger shrimp to mahi-mahi to the good old steak and chicken. And with both an Oakland Park and Fort Lauderdale location, you'll never be too far apart. Love is alive and well. And it lives inside a tortilla.

Dos Caminos
Candace West

All right. Here's what you can't do. You can't double-dip. You can't scoot it closer to you. The bowl has to stay equidistant from all dippers. You can't mix salsa into it. You can't use more than 60 percent of the chip to dip. You can't talk about how it's not as good as the kind you make. We've tasted yours. This is better. You can't dip more than once while I'm in the bathroom. You can't refuse to pay for it if you've had more than 10 percent. You can't waste chips; they are a precious resource. You can't dip twice unless at least one other person has dipped in between your dips. You can't take the last bit without the table's consent. And you can't complain about how full you are if you're still eating. You can, however, enjoy it. Because guacamole is perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to your mouth.

Himmarshee Public House
Candace West

Street food should be easy to eat, straightforward to make, packed with flavor, and in close proximity to copious amounts of alcohol. Tacos are the epitome of said food group. And while not strictly Mexican, this global comfort fare spot has some of the tastiest around. Several fillings are offered, but the steak tacos ($10) are the clear winner of them all. Warm house-made flour tortillas are filled with skirt steak, queso fresco, grilled onions, salsa fresca, and crema for a handheld dish that hits all the right spots; it's savory, dripping with juice, and it soaks up the booze in an instant. Yeah, this place might be a bit fancier than your average roadside shack or cart. But it's freaking delicious — and right smack dab in the middle of downtown Lauderdale.

JoJo's Tacos

No one wants to eat subpar food. Some items, however, are bearable. Crappy pizza is doable. An uninspiring burger is perfectly consumable. A bland chicken sandwich: You probably had one this week. But mediocre fish is the absolute pits. No matter the preparation, there's no overcoming shoddy seafood. And when it comes to a fish taco, it's serious business. It combines the best of the food world in one easy-to-eat package. When it's good, it's an enlightening experience — if it's bad, you're probably getting sick. Jojo's Tacos' Cathy's Catch ($5.50) hits every taste receptor with a bang. Fresh fish is flash-fried to create the perfect crisp exterior without the grease. It's topped with a heaping portion of sweet and zesty cilantro honey lime slaw and crunchy pepitas (pumpkin seeds). The heat is added with a bright and creamy serrano tartar. It all sits atop a perfectly toasted soft-shell corn tortilla; this thing is so chock-full of flavor and toppings, one could constitute an entire meal by itself. Just try finding such a well-thought-out taco on the side of the road.

This mobile venture started nearly two years ago in Fort Lauderdale and has picked up so much steam that owner/founder Christopher Lee is expanding and taking applications for would-be dog slingers. Now, that's packin' some meat, bro. What is it about these darling dogs that made the list? Well, first off, hottie Lee wears an adorable '50s-era uniform, a nostalgic hat and a tie, and chats up customers while he tops off each dog. His cart is decorated with a nod to bygone days and offers a romantic throwback to a more innocent time. Now, let's talk menu. Creativity is a must. Items like the Swanky Frankie ($5), loaded with caramelized onions, cheese, and barbecue sauce, is served up oh so nicely. The "Claaassic" ($5) is dressed up with avocado, chili, potato sticks, French-fried onions, and a secret sauce. Oh, and if that doesn't make your mouth water, pick your own toppings, from pine­apple to sriracha to hummus. Beef, vegan, and vegetarian options are available, so bite in, baby. Follow @FrankieDogs on Twitter and Facebook to track 'em down.

Burger & Beer Joint

There seems to be a new burger joint opening up every other day. Each has its schtick: from special cooking techniques to famous owners to cheap and easy, something is always supposed to stand out. At this point, it's not even really news when a new place stakes a claim in Burgerland. Unless, of course, you head to Burger and Beer Joint in Pembroke Pines. The Broward outpost of the famed Miami Beach hangout offers suburbanites the same glorious meat-patty sandwiches that can be found at the original digs. Gourmet burgers come with interesting topping combinations. The Hotel California ($13.99) features a half-pound of Angus beef with guacamole, grilled Vidalia onion, jalapeño relish, cilantro sour cream, sharp cheddar, and sunny-side-up fried egg tucked between a brioche bun. The Mustang Sally ($16.99) takes  a brioche bun and stuffs it with eight ounces of Wagyu beef, red onion marmalade, Brie cheese, and sliced prosciutto. Everything is big, but it's not all about the beef here. The Turning Japanese ($19.99) puts five ounces of seared rare ahi tuna, avocado, watercress, jalapeño relish, and spicy garlic mayo on an onion bun, served with tempura onion rings and jalapeño-cheddar sauce. And there's always a perfect beer to pair; the craft brew list could rival some of the best microbrew lists in the area. Good brew, great burgers, and no gimmicks.

Side dishes have been relegated to the less-respected part of the plate since the dawn of time. From sad salads to soggy baked potatoes, these accompaniments are often considered mere afterthoughts. Most of the time, no one seems to mind — or even notice; however, it's a deep sense of injustice when a cold, flaccid French fry turns up on your plate. Such an incident should never become of such a glorious, noble vegetable as the potato. And it will certainly never happen at Best French Fries. The Palm Beach County-based food truck proffers its perfectly crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside fried potatoes at roundups and special events around the region. For four to six bucks, guests get to choose from an assortment of "fries," cooking methods (healthy folk can opt for baked), and two dozen dipping sauces (such as aioli, spicy horseradish, wasabi ginger, curry ketchup, and ancho chili lime). Owner Debbie Harris has upgraded the humble French fry (or, really, Belgian frites) to a meal in and of itself.

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