Best Falafel 2016 | Gyroville | Food & Drink | South Florida

Somewhere along the way, some genius marketing person sold the idea that falafel is a health food. After all, it's ground-up chickpeas—no meat! Must be health food! If it is, then so are french fries because falafel is deep fried, my friends—or at least it should be. If you've been eating falafel that actually has been made over into health food, you've been horribly cheated. Like hush puppies, falafels should be rolled, then tossed into a deep vat of scalding hot oil. Far from light and airy, they should be dense with a crispy outer crunch giving way to a grainy (but not mushy) interior. They should also be wrapped in a not-whole-grain pita and smothered in tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tabouli. This is how you'll find it at Gyroville, a local chain with eight locations, including Fort Lauderdale. The way to go here is with the make-your-own-combo option so you can pick your protein—falafel, obviously—and then load it up with any toppings you want.

The most traveled air route in the world connects the Empire and Sunshine states. And every single New Yorker you meet will, at some point or another, lament the lack of "good pizza." It's enough to frustrate even the most easygoing native Floridian. This time, just nod and aim the car at Dolce Salato Pizza & Gelato in Wilton Manors. Respond with empathetic "hmms" and "I knows" as you park the car and hold the door open. See if the complainer notices the Italian accent of the kind gentleman taking his order. He will definitely notice the large, floppy slice of pie laid before him... and he will not be disappointed. Authentically Italian and in the proud tradition of New York-style pizzerias, Dolce Salato inspires you to go big with the Capricciosa, topped with ham, mushrooms, black olives, and artichoke hearts. Or go truly traditional and order La Margherita Classica. The most simple of pies, it's made with Ovoline mozzarella and housemade tomato sauce and sprinkled with fresh basil. And if your friend with the Brooklyn accent still has the nerve to defame our pies, shut him up with a cold gelato.

Readers' choice: Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

The origins of garlic rolls go way back to the Third Century when Macedonians would use flat loaves of bread as plates. After they sopped up whatever spices dripped onto a bread, they'd eat that, too. In America in the 1940s, Italian restaurants popped up all over, and the garlic roll has since been perfected at Sebastiano's. This Hollywood restaurant serves freshly baked rolls with oodles of olive oil and minced garlic complimentary before every meal. But be warned: They will destroy your appetite as you find yourself asking for your basket to be refilled again and again. Need more? Of course you do. Dine in or take out at a half-dozen for $2.50 or a dozen for $3.95.

You can buy cheap ones at Publix in Styrofoam cups, but higher-end traditional ramen noodles are gaining steam in South Florida. One of the pioneers in the area is Cha-Cha Japanese Café. Located in a strip mall along State Road 7 in Wellington, it's a no-frills, nothing-fancy, quaint café serving up Japanese comfort food. The menu offers 14 different styles of ramen, a Chinese-style wheat noodle in either a soy- or pork-based broth. The Tonkotsu Yasei is a treat, with sautéed vegetables and slices of tender roast pork. Or kick it up a notch with the Hot and Sour Ramen, a more noodle-heavy version of the popular Japanese soup. Soft Nabeyaki Udon is made with a thick wheat noodle plus chicken, shrimp, and vegetable tempura, as well as an egg, in a hot pot. You won't spend more than $15, but the place has gotten so popular it no longer offers takeout.

Ryan Yousefi

There's a new bánh mì boss in town, and her name is Tiffany Huong. Huong opened up shop in Lauderdale Lakes late last year, and since her quaint Vietnamese cuisine to-go bistro got cooking, it's been a huge success. The star of the Huong's Bistro show is the bánh mì menu (choose from six varieties, ranging from $5 to $5.50). Nobody is slinging sandwiches the way they are here. Crusty-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside bread teams up with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and your choice of meats (anything from BBQ roast pork to an amazingly moist pork meatball) to put together a sandwich sent straight from heaven. Each bite gets better until the very last, which will make you sad. Unless... you order more than one! (That's a hint.) Many restaurants are attempting to pull off what Huong's Bistro is doing, but none comes close. This place is the undisputed bánh mì champion of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

John Linn

What makes a bowl of pho un-pho-gettable? The best bowls share a few simple characteristics: slippery, firm noodles; a steaming, fragrant, rich beef broth; sheets of finely sliced meat; and a mountain of add-it-yourself cilantro, mint, and bean sprouts served on the side, allowing you to customize each bowl. Over the past few years the soup has grown on South Florida, and today there are dozens of places you can find it. At Saigon Cuisine, nestled in the heart of the Crossroads Shopping Center in Margate, owner Young Le has been serving authentic bowls of pho for close to ten years. There are portion sizes ranging from a kid's cup size ($4.75) to an extra-large bowl ($10.25), and choices of brisket, flank, beef meatballs, tripe, tenderloin, grilled pork, chicken, or seafood to flavor it up. At each table sits a tray stacked with ceramic jars, each filled with chili oil, chili paste, and poison sauce for spiking the broth as you see fit. Executed perfectly, a steaming bowl of pho—a balance of clean flavors, aromatic herbs, crisp vegetables, hearty protein, and rich broth—can be near euphoric.

Courtesy of Shooter's Waterfront

Shooters was once known for its amazing waterfront location and its hot-body contests. Now it's known for its amazing waterfront location and its menu. And seriously, you could go to Shooters just for the desserts. Enjoy fantastical creations like the Key lime baked Alaska ($11), a way of dressing up a classic Floridian dish with a tuft of torched meringue, Key lime custard sitting in a creamy white puddle of coconut-scented daiquiri sauce. The restaurant sells at least 40 each night. A Caribbean-bread-pudding flan ($9) is no less stunning, marrying a Latin staple with American comfort fare. Neither too sweet nor too dry, the chocolate fudge cake is quite a spectacle, so large the restaurant considered calling it the Big-Ass Slice of Chocolate Cake ($10). All humility is gone once it arrives at the table with the restaurant's name scrawled in powdered chocolate on the plate. Ask to take it home and they'll devise a way to use several to-go containers to pack it up.

Ah, the most American, blue-collar breakfast: coffee and a doughnut. On any given morning, local shops that deal in both often have lines so long you'd swear they were giving their goods away. And they pretty much are. For $1.58 apiece, a good doughnut is worth every penny—especially when layered under a veil of decadent toppings or filled with creamy goodness. At the old-fashioned Dandee Donut Factory in Hollywood, owners Frank and Laura Pucine have been in the business for more than 20 years. Open at 5 a.m. daily, the Pucines' place offers 62 hand-cut, hand-dipped, and homestyle varieties, from jelly-filled and cake doughnuts to specialty yeast-raised selections. The most popular include the sour cream glazed cake, their signature honey-dipped plain glazed, and the longtime favorite—a coconut-crusted doughnut the size of a large bagel finished with a tuft of homemade dulce de leche, chocolate, or vanilla frosting. If you happen to get your hands on one later in the day, these babies are just as good for dessert.

Almost everything on 1-year-old Brgr Stop's menu reads like a challenge straight out of Food Network's Man vs. Food. Forget healthy eating, special meal plans, and dietary restrictions; Brgr Stop goes straight in the opposite direction. Begin your meal with buckets of candied bacon, a tower of onion rings, or a signature burger loaded with macaroni and cheese or a pile of melted peanut butter. The most intimidating items on the menu are the shakes (each $6.95). The craft milkshakes are owner Michael Buchinski's signature creations — made with cereal-infused milk, a flavor that perfectly re-creates the milk left at the bottom of your morning breakfast bowl. Buchinski sells up to 300 of these a day. Other selections are brand-name inspired, incorporating punishingly sweet Fruity Pebbles, Cap'n Crunch, and Lucky Charms. New additions include a Rice Krispie Treat shake.

Jess Swanson

This tiny shop, situated on a one-way street off Hallandale Beach Boulevard, is run by a sweet little dark-haired woman named Im Kupradit who sits at a desk in the front beside a large poster of the Thai solar calendar. In the afternoons, her 5-year-old son helps her stock shelves in his school uniform. The size of the shop might be limited, but its aisles are full. One aisle carries sauces and curries—anything from oyster sauce to sriracha and even preserved duck eggs. Another aisle is teetering with its spread of ramen, lai fun, and vermicelli noodles. They also import all kinds of South Pacific delicacies like shrimp-flavored chips, bamboo shoots, green tea desserts, and Pocky, a Japanese biscuit stick coated in chocolate. Im reports that customers travel from all over South Florida for specific ingredients from her shop. She welcomes everyone to call ahead to check if she has a particular item or to stop in on their own.

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