Best Coffee Shop 2016 | The Alchemist | Food & Drink | South Florida
Nicole Danna

Outside, two roasters spin continuously on a small table. Inside, coffee bubbles in clear decanters atop glowing red burners. Cold brew sits in flasks. A freezer in the middle of the floor is filled to the brim with coffee cubes. And coffee scientists behind the bar turn coffee beans into some of the best beverages in South Florida. This small cottage is packed every morning with people seeking Mason jars full of Alchemist's concoctions. While you can get the usual cappuccinos and lattes, the lab mixes up better creations. The iced coffee blends 24-hour cold brew, condensed milk, and brown sugar. Become "Bulletproof" with a mixture of coffee, coconut oil, and grass-fed ghee (a clarified butter used in traditional medicines). If you're hungry, grab a Slicer, an open-faced sandwich with a topping like Nutella or avocado. Then, grab a seat on the outdoor patio and enjoy.

Readers' choice: The Grind Coffee Project

Almost everything on the menu at the Fresh Squeeze costs less than $8. Even better: Most of the items are meant to uplift one's mind and body. Drinks run the gamut from ginger and wheatgrass shots ($2.99) to more substantial options like the Revitalizer ($5.99), made with carrot, orange, lemon, pineapple, and ginger. The shop offers a full breakfast and lunch menu, with plates like avocado toast ($4.99), bagels, breakfast burritos, and a classic bacon egg and cheese on a toasted croissant ($5.99). Sandwiches and wraps ($6.99) can be loaded up with tuna, vegetables, cold cuts, and cheese. Cap off your meal with a Panther Coffee espresso shot or a cortadito.

When Louise Dutton was diagnosed with a wheat allergy, she decided to create gluten-free bread that tasted yummy— not the imitation cardboard commonly found in commercial stores. About a year later, she thought, "Why stop at bread?" Now, Weezie's Gluten Free Kitchen (which incorporates her childhood nickname) cranks out chocolate chip pancakes ($6) and cinnamon bun waffles ($10), plus breads, cookies, pies, and cakes, all GF. Her café is open every day except Monday, offering breakfast and lunch to hungry diners with a gluten intolerance—or those who are just curious how good gluten free can taste.

On October 18 of this year, Corey Jones was fatally shot by a plainclothes Palm Beach Gardens police officer. The 31-year-old drummer was waiting for a tow truck. His death struck a chord within the national debate about police officers' use of force, especially against people of color. But closer to home, in Delray Beach, Jones' passing resounds more deeply at an eatery along NE Second Street. At the New Vegan, Jones' cousin Rahein Jones and his wife Patricia carry on, serving superfood burgers, palm heart toona sandwiches, quinoa and falafel pastas, and walnut brownie desserts. Their food is all vegan, and some is even free of soy, wheat, gluten, and GMOs. They've even opened up a food truck. After Jones' death the shop closed for two weeks, and it's still hard not to think of Corey when the most popular side dish is Corey Rice, a recipe he conjured up of brown rice, peppers, and onions. "RIP Corey Jones" remains stenciled on the front door.

If you consider yourself a simple eater with an unrefined palate, the idea of a bánh mì spot for a cheap lunch might sound a bit intimidating. It's a lot less so when you discover a bánh mì is basically a big sandwich. A sub, a hoagie, a hero—it's a big sandwich on a long roll; there are few food items with which Americans are more comfortable. The bánh mì is the Vietnamese name for such a dish, made with a long French-inspired baguette, a cultural exchange from years of French colonialism. What sets the bánh mì apart at places like 545° Bánh Mì Cafe in Davie is the filling. For just $4, order the Korean BBQ Beef, the Curry Lemongrass Tofu, or the Headcheese & Pate. If you're looking for something more familiar, go for the pork meatball or the marinated grilled chicken. Every sandwich comes with the optional toppings of pickled carrots and daikon (a kind of radish), cilantro, cucumber, jalapeño, and a housemade mayonnaise. They even have a loyalty program in which you order 10 sandwiches and get the 11th one free. So, break out of your sandwich rut, simple eaters. Be brave—but still cheap.

Courtesy of Pink Sub

A good sub is the quintessential American lunch. The Pink Submarine takes that concept and turns things a bit on their heads with playful sandwich sobriquets that would make any Wilton Manors resident proud. Daily specials include such creations as the Melted Mozzarella Mary, the Ain't Moby Dick Tuna Melt, and the irreverently named Try Our Balls ($6.50-$9). If you prefer a cold sub, try the Admiral, which features prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil, roasted red pepper, and artichoke heart, topped with herbs, oil, and balsamic vinegar. For something different—and with a little bite—choose the Tug, topped with Gouda (how often do you find that in a typical sandwich shop?), mustard, lettuce, tomato, roasted garlic aioli, green peppers, roasted red peppers, and banana peppers.

Back in the day, moms made grilled cheese sandwiches as a simple treat: butter slathered on white bread with a couple of Kraft singles. Did you bite right in, pulling it apart to see the cheese stretch, or dunk it in a piping hot bowl of tomato soup? Nowadays, restaurants like the Grilled Cheese Gallery serve up cheesy goodness with a modern twist. Grab a seat at this 5-month-old Northwood diner and listen to Motown while chowing down on 13 comfort food creations. Order the Chesterfield for a traditional cheddar-on-white with tangy BBQ pulled pork and sweet caramelized onions. The Mac Daddy includes macaroni. Other gourmet grillers include lobster, sterling hanger steak, prosciutto, and even tofu. But there's always the Classic, a simple cheddar on hearty white. For you dippers out there, feel free to add a side of tomato basil soup.

Spanky's Cheesesteak Factory is a little rough around the edges. There's a bit of a hole-in-the-wall vibe. Two booths sport Pittsburgh Steelers black-and-yellow pleather seats with rips and tears in them. NFL ceiling fans spin above to circulate the smell of meat sizzling on the grill. The staff is friendly but straightforward, with notable accents. And all of this wondrousness is what makes Spanky's so popular. Of course, the Philly cheesesteak is the real draw here. The classic Philly comes with finely chopped steak, onions, mushrooms, hot peppers, and creamy, melted American cheese. You can also try it with chicken or sausage. Want to change it up? Try the Reuben Philly loaded with lean corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut. Or substitute the Philadelphia hoagie bread for Texas toast. There are plenty of items on the menu for under $11, so getting your Philly fix is cheaper than buying a plane ticket.

The strip mall location is simple and unassuming, and memorabilia from Chicago sports teams fills the wall space. No frills. Nothing fancy. Just good, old-fashioned dogs—with spicy mustard, onions, pickled tomatoes, sport peppers, celery salt, and neon-green dill relish, the signature toppings for any Chicago street dog. The dogs are usually cooked up by Howie himself, a man who grew up on the north side of Chicago and knew since seventh grade that he wanted to serve hot dogs as a career. He offers a few variations: the $3.49 New York(-ish) dog, which the menu admits is "not a real NY Dog; we are a Chicago place." The Chicago Italian beef ($6.49) can be topped with either sweet or hot giardiniera (Italian pickled veggies). The Just Make Me Something ($9.99) comes with a side and a drink, but no special requests. Howie will also officiate your nuptials for a mere $36. Yes, that's actually on the menu.

Readers' choice: Hot Dog Heaven

Nicole Danna

Some restaurants specialize in giant patties. Others prize fancy meat blends. And some source buns that can stand up to all that fatty, juicy, meaty glory. You'll find all of the above and more at Burgers & Suds in Pompano Beach. Here, owner Curtis Deckman has composed an impressive menu of half-pound, charbroiled burgers. A special blend of meat is ground fresh each day by a local butcher, and brioche-based buns from a nearby baker are dense and doughy. The menu offers more than 20 specialty selections, most named for either notorious criminals or Deckman's friends and family members. There's the Escobar, a patty topped with blue cheese crumbles, hot sauce, and blue cheese dressing, a nod to drug lord Pablo Escobar. Or there's the Ponzi scheme-inspired (Scott) Rothstein burger, a satisfying combo of Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing. Not everyone is a bad guy, however. One of Deckman's first menu items—the mac-and-cheese- and bacon-topped Wilson burger—is named after his landlord. And Ray's Rodeo Burger—a patty layered with barbecue sauce, pepper jack cheese, bacon, and an oversized hand battered onion ring—is his dad's favorite combination. A longtime favorite, however, is the Smuggler, a breakfast-style take with American cheese, hash browns, maple syrup, and a single perfectly fried egg. Each of the bar's 24 gourmet burger creations is fantastically priced for less than $10 and can be washed down with a cold pint of one of the bar's 20 craft beers on tap.

Readers' choice: Farmer's Table

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