Best Margarita 2016 | Canyon | Food & Drink | South Florida

At Canyon, chef-owner Chris Wilber has been making his famous prickly pear margarita ($12) since long before it was fashionable to infuse cocktails with fresh fruit. It's been the bar's signature drink since the restaurant opened in 1994—a bright pink drink served on the rocks with a salt rim or up for a simple martini-style cocktail. It looks so simple, but it's actually a lot of work: Every few days the restaurant receives a wooden crate of ripe prickly pears. From there, Wilber slices and dices them into small-batch containers with the house Sauza Hornitos tequila, then lets it sit for several days—long enough for the cactus fruits to bleed purplish-pink juice and sweet, exotic flavor into the mix. From there, the bar staff mixes the fruit-infused tequila with a fresh-squeezed lemon-lime sour mix and just a touch of triple sec. On a busy weekend the bar will serve up to 200 glasses a night.

Readers' choice: Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar

The Cupcake Galleria nails the formula for the perfect mini-cake: a fluffy inside and just the right amount of toppings to make it creative but not overdone. Each Galleria cupcake is made from scratch in-house daily. The shop offers more than 14 signature flavors ($3 each) including vanilla buttercream, banana truffle, chocolate Nutella, s'mores, and hot fudge sundae. Some are topped with peanut butter cups, and others are finished with cookies, sprinkles, mountains of icing, or all of the above. Its most decadent creation is the Cake Shake, in which a cupcake and a milkshake are fused, making a sweet drink topped with a cupcake (or two) of your choosing. During a Monday happy hour, mini-cupcakes can be snagged for 75 cents apiece.

This sweet shop brought rich, wholesome ice cream from one coast to the other. Creams and Dreams, founded in California, is known for its liquid nitrogen concoctions, which are free of artificial additives and preservatives. Each batch is made to order, though once you take it home, it can be frozen for months at a time. (Though what kind of freak would let it just sit there like that!?) Flavors continually rotate, but there are about 10 different ones available at any given time. Expect varieties like orange honey ice cream, made with milk base, fresh oranges, and honey; affogato, which blends a few scoops of liquid ice cream with a shot of espresso; and other flavors like green tea, fresh avocado, and cookies and cream.

Spreading his wings after a couple of decades overseeing the door at Rodney Mayo's Respectable Street Cafe, Paul Klov has taken his finely tuned sense of what's hip, plus his taste for avant-garde art and music, and nestled down in shabby/chic Northwood, West Palm's coolest neighborhood. Here, his boundary-busting gallery hosts late-night affairs like performances, art installations, live figure modeling, local bands and DJs, and the occasional tarot card reading. Plus, there's first-rate gelato and sorbetto— locally sourced, small batch, all-natural, no high-fructose corn syrup, no additives, no artificial colors, and no preservatives (with a line of vegan, nut-based ice creams on the horizon!). Lick, drink, and be merry.

Look, I'm no sommelier. I've never been to Wine Country, and though I might typically opt for a bottle in the $10 to $15 range, I am certainly not above a trusty five-buck Chuck. Some evenings call for a quiet night in, when that first sip of chilled Pinot instantly slackens all the day's tensions. Other occasions require something more refined—elaborate chalkboard menus; dim bauble lighting overhead; a steady, hushed chatter over the tinkling of smooth jazz. And still other times call for a visit to your regular neighborhood spot, the place where the staff will just as readily recommend you a great glass of Cab as a new punk band to check out. In downtown Hollywood, that neighborhood spot is Hollywood Vine. Part wine bar, part retail space, the laid-back watering hole on Harrison Street also doubles as a venue for parties, fundraisers, and other special events. In addition to the 600 competitively priced wines selected by store operator Steven Krakow from all over the world, Hollywood Vine also stocks spirits, artisan cheese, beer, and gourmet foods, and it hosts free tastings every Tuesday featuring guest speakers on topics like regional wines and food pairings. But what really makes the place stand out is events like a pop-up record store where vinyl lovers congregate to trade wares and exchange stories (Sundays, quarterly), or an "un-"cooking class with Raw Chef Carla (monthly).

Readers' choice: 33rd Street Wine Bar

The Blind Monk opened in downtown West Palm Beach nearly six years ago. The wine and tapas bar has European-style outdoor café lighting, a long glass coffee table filled with corks, and a floor-to-ceiling wall of wines from around the world. It's a connoisseur's paradise—but it's also welcoming to those of us who choose wines based on price or what animal is on the label. The selection is not as massive as a big box liquor store, but there are always about 30 wines available by the glass, making it easy to experiment with brands, regions, and years. Over the course of a few weeks or months, owner Ben Lubin (a certified sommelier) and his manager Lauren Samson (also a certified sommelier, who's in charge of the wine program) rotate the selection. Whether it's a Malbec from the southwest of France or a Pinot Noir from Oregon, the Blind Monk will always have something remarkable on hand, guaranteed.

Candace West

Drinks are good and all, but it takes a greasy burger or a salty fry to truly make your happy hour happy. Let's face it, no one's going to order a salad with their jack and coke. ROK:BRGR takes classic bar food to the next level by adding some flair. Different snacks include beer-battered onion rings with jalapeño as well as fries with cheese curds and brown gravy. Fourteen handcrafted burgers include the Fat Elvis, garnished with peppered bacon, peanut butter, and local strawberry jam. The standards are rounded out with chicken and waffles with candied bacon in addition to a short rib grilled cheese. Satisfy your cravings on a Saturday night out, then follow that with a Hangover Sandwich—an over-easy egg with maple pepper bacon, sriracha aioli, cheddar cheese, tomato, and avocado—at Sunday brunch (when mimosas are free for ladies, BTW). The bar uses farm-fresh local ingredients... but let's not kid ourselves; there's a breakfast mac and cheese on the menu.

We have evolved. As beer drinkers. As carnivores. As overall human beings. We crave complex flavors and beverages our ancestors would never have dreamed of experiencing. Tradition is fine, but we must also make our own paths. Thankfully, Tucker Duke's Lunchbox is bulldozing new tastebud roads that should take us into the year 2075. Besides carrying the craziest and newest local craft brews, they offer treats and dishes that make eyes burst just reading about them. Fried PB&J Bon-Bons, pork belly sliders, smoked beef brisket sandwiches, bacon-topped delights, and most popularly, their signature Tucker Duke burger (which cooks refuse to alter because you're wrong for trying to mess with perfection). We swear, scanning up and down the Tucker Duke's menu is a treat in itself. Sometimes after you order, you just want to keep it as reading material while you plan your next trip.

Rod Deal

Riverside epitomizes the basement bar hangout in an area where basements don't exist. Although most restaurants have begun to offer craft beer, the Market still does it best with coolers stretching across the walls, tempting shoppers with more than 500 different beers from all across the world. The self-service is key to the experience; walk up, stare intently, and agonize over which to pick. Then snag it, open it yourself, and take a seat like it's your own living room. Pizzas and sandwiches pump out of the kitchen, so there's something to go with your can of White Oak Jai Alai or your draft of Dogfish Head World Wide Stout. Always be on the lookout for a sighting of Julian's Secret Stash, the owner's select offerings of unique and rare beers.

Photo by Doug Fairall

Can a brewery be both a beacon of culture and a regional captain of industry? Surely. Funky Buddha continues to be a craft beer powerhouse, bringing bold and bombastic flavors all the time. An imperial barrel-aged Maple Bacon Coffee Porter? Yes. Red ales with raspberries and just enough habanero peppers to make your tongue sizzle? Hell yes. Buddha's beers make headlines across the country and throughout the world, and its beer festivals have gotten so big they've had to move to Jaco Pistorius Park. Being so busy, it's amazing that they were able to install a kitchen this year... meaning that there's never really a reason to leave the brewery anymore.

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