The American Heart and Lung Association would probably give this outstanding restaurant its vote, since the entire place is smoke-free. But while we are as politically correct as the next alternative weekly, that's not why we love it. We're delighted because after it took this veritable Southwestern institution just about a year to complete a much-publicized and much-anticipated move into larger, more sophisticated quarters, the eatery didn't lose any of its luster. In fact, it gained some via a reworked wine list that offers cult vintages and a menu that loyally supplies regulars such favorites as grilled ostrich tenderloin with a port wine-sun-dried cherry sauce or cedar-planked salmon with a chipotle-mango barbecue sauce. And just like it used to, the new version of Armadillo tries to incorporate Davie as much as possible, going so far as to source hydroponic greens from the town's producers. As evidenced here, loyalty is not always its own reward.
To be honest, we weren't sure Johannes would make it when it opened up in this eatery-heavy stretch of Boca Raton. Though we were confident in former Plum Room coordinator and Johannes chef-owner Johannes Fruhwirt, we just didn't think the neighborhood would respond to this exclusive -- and exclusively priced -- South Beach-style eatery. Fortunately, we were wrong. Not only has Fruhwirt managed to maintain with only a handful of tables and a velvet rope to his name; he's thrived. A few years later, patrons are returning to lay out the big bucks for his vichyssoise with caviar and his entrecôte with veal-bone marrow sauce. Though we're risking our own easy access to a table here, we'll also tell you the secret to finding the no-name place: A big J-shaped handle on the door. Pull it open and you'll quickly see that you've arrived.
The Breakers has always been known for the quality of its services, and that operating credo extends to its restaurants. At L'Escalier, the waiters are more like butlers, just waiting to pull out your chair or refold your napkin should you retire to the restroom. Water glasses are filled like pools -- should the liquid drop below a certain line, an infusion is immediately added. And like the service, the fare is as exquisite as the tapestries that grace the walls: venison carpaccio, vegetable-hazelnut cannelloni, roasted duck with eggplant caviar, and mascarpone strudel. Only a year old, L'Escalier provides such a beautiful yet unpretentious experience that we wish other hoteliers and restaurateurs could take classes here. Is that too much to ask?

Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

3030 Ocean

Pan-roasted, soft-shell crab with lemon cream and smoked bacon: $12.50. Bakers dozen sampler plate of raw oysters: $20.

Grilled beef tenderloin with braised short ribs and Brussels-sprouts mash: $31.

Venezuelan chocolate mousse with praline foam and peppermint ice cream: $7.

A glass of Louis XIII cognac: $120.

The moment your father-in-law picks up the check: priceless.

South Florida chefs always pride themselves on their willingness to help. Ask just about any high-profile toque to participate in a fundraiser like Taste of the Nation and you can be sure that plenty will volunteer. But world-renowned Yamaguchi (chef-proprietor), Theisen (executive chef of the Boca location), and Olinsky (pastry chef at the Boca location) don't wait for the big events that will help national organizations. They go to the community. For instance, Yamaguchi will be hosting "Tastefully Yours" on May 20, a fundraiser to assist the Haven, a nonprofit group residence for abused, abandoned, and neglected children and teenagers from Broward and Palm Beach counties. Theisen gives free cooking demonstrations at malls. And Olinsky visits the schools to make cookies with the kids. None of these activities is high-profile, but all are beneficial. If you think of your dinner check as helping to fund these projects, it certainly makes a meal at Roy's a worthy investment.
Tipico Cafe
Tabatha Mudra
United Nations Resolution #02-2002ROW WHEREAS the following nations are represented by cuisine found in and about the Gateway strip mall, to-wit: Mexico at Tipico Café; Colombia at Archives Book Café; Japan at Heart Rock Sushi-Grill; Thailand at Sukho Thai; Italy at Big Louie's Pizzeria and Il Mulino; Texas at Canyon Southwest Café; New York City at Subway; and Transylvania at Monster Subs;

THEREFORE, be it RESOLVED that this patch of real estate is hereby designated a restaurant row.

Not only does Fisherman's Wharf have the finest coconut shrimp in the known universe (though we are convinced at least 40 percent of that yummy goodness is in the sauce) but it is also one of the few restaurants to bring in national acts. Competing head-to-head with clubs of equal and even greater size, the Wharf has brought down a few well-known names such as David Gans, the Grateful Dead Hour host who also happens to be a surprisingly accomplished singer/songwriter. And speaking of the Dead, South Florida's Deadheads know the Wharf as the place to be on Thursday nights at 10, when Grateful Dead cover band Crazy Fingers plays its weekly show. The place isn't completely tie-dyed, but much of the music has that boogie-woogie groove, so bring your dancing shoes (or sandals) -- as well as your appetite.
Drag shows are a dime a dozen in much of gay-friendly South Florida. Drag shows in which the performers also serve you dinner, however, are the sort of thing you don't expect to see this side of Lucky Cheng's in Manhattan -- that is, unless you've been to Lip Service at Georgie's Alibi. One Monday night a month for the past two years or so, the little New Orleans-style café adjacent to the sports bar in this ever-popular bar complex has been transformed into a reservations-only dinner party for 50 or so people. And that's not the only transformation: Three area bartenders -- Rickie Lee (who runs the show), Snowy, and Diva -- get gussied up in their finest female gear to entertain even as they're dispensing dinner, which comes not from the café's regular menu but from a more elegant one designed especially for the occasion. There's also usually a theme that runs through both show and décor. Last fall's Back-to-School Lip Service, for instance, started out with the servers delivering cocktails while decked out in full nun habits. They reappeared later as "schoolgirls," and before the night was over, they and their assistants (waiters dressed as nerdy schoolboys) morphed into the Brady Bunch. All this for $21.95, which, for dinner and a show, is certainly no drag.
Like most steak houses these days, Angelo & Maxie's is a chain. Even more telling, in some people's opinion, is that it's a chain run by the folks of Chart House fame, those who first took the idea of fine dining and made it a comfortable commodity for the middle classes. Well, they've applied that concept to the formerly formidable steak house, and the fact is, it works. The Payless of meat palaces, A & M offers quality product for not so much money. And in keeping with the upcoming summer shoe season, it's mostly wedges -- of lettuce with blue cheese dressing, of veal chops, of filet mignon. Order a couple of sides of creamed spinach and garlic-laden smashed taters, a martini (you can keep the glass for an additional fee), and a dessert that will no doubt be served à la mode, and you, along with the Angelo guy and that Maxie dude, have got it à la made.
There isn't much in Juno Beach except pine scrub, sand, and ocean, and the locals like it that way. It isn't Old Florida anymore -- too many condo communities now blanket the coast -- but the sense of connection to the sea lingers. Boating is a big deal here, and some of Palm Beach County's most dedicated fishermen call the area home. Bringing high expectations to the dinner table when they're in the mood for seafood, these folks skip the crab-house tourist traps around the Jupiter Inlet to the north and head to this inconspicuous boite on U.S. 1. A casual atmosphere, moderate prices, and succulent fresh fish, any style, are the heart of the place. The chef's flair for pastas and appetizers by way of the bayou and the islands is a kicker. The joint is jammed every night in season, but it's worth the wait.

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