Best Caribbean Restaurant 2016 | Curly's Caribbean Flava | Food & Drink | South Florida

Chef-owner Ryan "Curly" Golaub's 9-year-old restaurant has no sign and can be difficult to spot between the Duds 'n' Suds Laundromat and a barbershop. Come lunchtime, however, a revolving door of patrons place to-go orders or scarf down goodies at a counter by the window. The most popular items here are standard Jamaican dishes, all about $10: jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish, curry goat, and a stellar fried chicken—Goulab's own recipe. Hot soups ($4/$8) are on rotation: chicken flavored with pumpkin; beef; or a chowder-like conch. But on Friday, it's a traditional mannish water, or goat's head soup. And no Caribbean culinary escapade is complete without coconut water or fruit juice, here made locally by Fort Lauderdale's Da Jus Mon. Don't leave without a taste of the restaurant's rum cake, which is the consistency of fudgy brownies with a spicy, mellow flavor.

Jamaica's official motto—"Out of many, one people"—works equally well to describe the nation's melting-pot cuisine. You can truly taste the country's history in its food, from jerk chicken and curry goat to stew peas and rum cake. Luckily, Jamaican expats looking for tastes of home have plenty to keep them satiated at Kersmon Cuisine in Greenacres. Here, chef-owner Althea Drummond, a Negril native, prepares everything that leaves her small kitchen daily. Regulars know to call ahead for larger orders or specialty dishes, as many take as long as two hours to prepare from scratch. The menu offers everything from poached snapper escovitch ($24) bathed in a heady citrus marinade to a yellow curry-spiced goat served with chunks of a sweet, homemade bread made with coconut milk. Harder-to-find traditional dishes include cow foot and a Rastafarian vegetable dish known as Ital stew. Drummond's jerk chicken ($12) is the best dish here—tender pieces of whole chicken submerged in a rich, gravy-like brown sauce with enough heat to flush your cheeks, each bite redolent of pimento, clove, cinnamon, garlic, and a fresh-grated ginger base.

Hidden in the back of an otherwise unremarkable strip mall, the Gem Eatery is well-named. Once you find it and make your way inside, the bustling kitchen and welcoming smell of freshly baked goods will reassure you. Breakfast and brunch options abound, from some of the best cheese grits you'll find in these parts to warm, fresh Belgian waffles. Order just about any combination of eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns you like, cooked any way you prefer. We recommend the Farmer's Omelet, made with eggs, heavy cream, onion, mushroom, pepper, potato, and your choice of ham, sausage, or bacon, along with a dollop of chive cream cheese. There's also the egg white omelet, if the Farmer's Omelet sounds a bit too caloric. You should really save your calories for the cinnamon bun anyway. Made fresh in-house, this gooey creation is topped with cream cheese icing. Bring friends and share it with the table if you have to, but whatever you do, don't resist it.

Anyone who tries to tell you "brunch is so over" is just trying to be annoyingly contrary. Brunch will never die, especially not around here where we have plenty to keep us out late on the weekends. Late risers need to recover, refuel, and recharge. But don't settle for just any breakfast-lunch hybrid. How about one that keeps the party going? Salt7's brunch goes a step beyond. You could walk in still wearing your clothes from the night before, having never gone to bed, and you'll fit right in with the girls dancing on tabletops to house music. Reservations begin at 11 a.m., and at 2 p.m. the automatic curtains roll down, the lights dim, and champagne bottles are delivered with sparklers. Sip on bottomless mimosas as fog rolls from machines. Or, if you're feeling really baller, order up a Sunday Communion punch to share with your friends—for $190-$240. You'll probably need to eat something to soak up the drinks, so go ahead and sample the butter-poached lobster or $37-a-plate filet mignon—or, you know, the $12 French toast. You will need reservations to get in, but the party lasts until 6 p.m., at which point you can stumble right out to start your night again.

Courtesy of the Sticky Bun

The Sticky Bun could have also been awarded Best Breakfast as they certainly know how to make a good one. We recommend the egg, bacon, and cheese biscuit in particular. The biscuit, fluffy and crumbly in just the right proportions, is baked fresh on site, and the bacon has a nice caramelization, giving it a hint of sweetness to go with the salt. You'll also want the sticky bun that gives this joint its name. Baked fresh daily and then warmed before serving, you'll find a hot, gooey center beneath a sweet outside dotted with raisins and walnuts. But fear not, this won't be a sugar bomb. The sweetness is mellowed just enough by the pastry to leave you wanting more.

If you don't love a good diner, then just get out of America right now. The greasy spoon is a proud U.S. tradition, serving up strong coffee and good pie to weary travelers and late-shift workers. Ally's Comfort Cafe has the feel of a café more than the roadside diners of yore, but all the diner hallmarks remain. The menu is varied but consists mostly of casual, familiar fare: sandwiches, soups, burgers, and breakfast foods. A rotating offering of lunch specials ranges from quiche to pot roast. There's also evidence of South Florida's influence in the mahi mahi fingers and the matzoh ball soup. But perhaps the most diner-like part of Ally's is right in the name—it's so comfortable. The kids can fill the pages of coloring books as their adult minders linger over coffees, and single diners can even select from an offering of books to read while they eat. No one will rush you out of Ally's.

Readers' choice: Lester's Diner

Bagels, like pizza, are one of those things that people just love to say you can't get down here. And just like with pizza, that's a load of BS nostalgia for New York. It's not the water and it's not the air, and it's not something magical in that one place that was your favorite spot. There are lots of good bagels in the world, many of them outside of the five boroughs. The one thing that matters most in creating a traditional NYC bagel is that it is boiled. Most of your modern and chain bagel spots use a machine that steams the bagels, rather than giving them a traditional boiling. This actually is hard to find outside of New York, but you will find it at Bagels and a Whole Lot More in Coral Springs, where they give each dough loop a proper boil in the kettle. It's that boiling step that gives bagels their shiny exterior and that soft chew. While you're there, grab some egg platters or sandwiches with Boar's Head meat.

Readers' choice: The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Co.

Chelsea Scholler

In theory, buffets should always be awesome. You're stuffing your face with your favorite food mere minutes after parking your car. Fantastic! The only thing that can ruin the buffet experience is, well, the food. Nothing is sadder than walking into a poorly lit dining room full of chafers that have obviously gone untouched for hours. This is a tragedy that never happens at Shin Ju in Coral Springs. The place is glorious, filled with fresh, amazing, well-prepared Japanese cuisine—as in, 45 kinds of fresh sushi prepared right in front of you, and hot dishes offered of all kinds ($11.95 for lunch, $18.95 for dinner). Because the staff is attentive and the dining room is constantly full, the food on the line never sits there for long.

The words "bar food" usually conjure up visions of chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, and quesadillas. But at Southern Railway Taphouse located inside Off the Hookah, executive chef Alain Brodeur says he just tries to make regular food better—and that starts with his mac-and-cheese egg rolls. He improved on mac and cheese by sticking it inside a fried egg roll, drizzling a sweet and salty maple bacon jam on top, and accompanying it with a slightly tart bacon sour cream for dipping. Guess you could say he's "raising the bar."

When the weather is hot and you're craving seafood, Coconuts will provide. From coconut shrimp to lobster rolls to raw bar options, the bounty of the sea is on full display here—as are cabana-style frozen beverages with generous rum floaters. But there's one landlubber departure that should be noted here, and that's the wings. While the conch fritters or peel-and-eat shrimp might call to you, go with the jerk chicken wings. The island influence is in full effect, with allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers in the mix, as well as optional spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. And since jerk is a dry rub, you won't find yourself dripping in sauce.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of