When you have a taste for some authentic Jamaican fare, do what the Jamaican locals do: Stop by Aunt I's for some tasty jerk chicken, ackee and codfish, or oxtail. Don't be put off by the location, in the middle of a nondescript strip mall; Aunt I's may not have the fanciest digs (maybe that's why it does a brisk takeout business), but it has dibs on down-home island cooking, served up in generous portions with a warm smile. And it's a safe bet Jamaican native Aunt I is busy in the kitchen preparing your food.

The coolest thing about Lester's Diner isn't the vast menu, although it's an impressive one: daily specials, 70 or so different sandwiches (including such quirky combos as meat loaf and fried egg), nearly two dozen salads, homemade soups du jour, 35 desserts "baked on the premises daily," Greek and Italian specialties, a children's menu, and such mainstay entrées as chicken, seafood, steaks, and chops. And no, the coolest thing about Lester's isn't the equally comprehensive "served anytime" breakfast menu, which runs the gamut from simple (ham and eggs) to snazzy (Belgian waffles, eggs Benedict), or the diner's famous 14-ounce cups of Colombian coffee. The coolest thing isn't even the old-fashioned fountain, which dispenses banana splits and ice cream sodas, shakes, and sundaes. The coolest thing about Lester's? The ambiance, which is part classic diner décor, part clientele. The latter, at least in the case of the original State Road 84 site, has to do with location: Situated as it is, conveniently accessible from both I-95 and downtown Fort Lauderdale, it attracts a mix of locals and out-of-towners that gets only more surreal as the hour gets later. On a really good night, you can dine with truckers on their way in or out of Port Everglades on one side and drag queens from nearby discos the Copa and the Saint on the other.
If you want the absolutely best quality margarita around, there are, admittedly, better places than Mexican Cantina. However, there is something to be said for quantity, and this home of the 46-ounce margarita has that in spades. One does not quite grasp what 46 ounces of margarita looks like until that massive glass is set in front of you. A goldfish could live happily -- very happily -- in this glass. And the Mexican Cantina's atmosphere only lends itself to imbibing heavily from the trough of José Cuervo. The whole place fairly reeks of a never-ending fiesta, from the live bands on Friday and Saturday nights to the considerable piñata collection hanging from the ceiling. Put down a couple of these $12 gargantuan potables and you'll be ready to dance to the band and maybe even take a few swipes at the décor.

Javier is behind the bar tonight, not that it would really have mattered. The stalwart drink slingers of California Café are all experts in the art of the martini. "On the rocks or straight up?" There's only one right answer to this question. Upon hearing "Straight up," he nods and flashes a smirk, suggesting that he would have scoffed at any other answer. Good answer. He then properly prepares the vodka -- ask secret agent 007 how this feat is accomplished -- and pours it into the glass. He adds the requested twist of lemon in the form of a slice of rind an inch long, cut to regulatory perfection. He wipes the rind once around the rim of the martini glass, then adds it to the drink. Finally he takes a small atomizer from a shelf near the cash register and adds a fine mist of vermouth -- one spritz only -- as the crowning touch. Javier sets the finished product down on a cocktail napkin and inquires, "Anything else?" How could there be? James Bond would weep.

You know meat loaf, right? It's greasy, dense as a brick, and forced upon you by your mother; the kind of meal that makes you want to cough, shovel everything into a napkin stashed in your lap, then head for the john. Well, when you travel to Jamaica, you can forget everything you know, or think you know, about meat loaf. In parts of the Irie Isle, it's closer to a loaf of fresh, steamy, scrumptious bread with ever-so-pleasantly spicy meat inside. And closer to home -- at the Jerk Machine in Fort Lauderdale, to be precise -- you can enjoy this flaky crust and moist filling for a mere $1.79. Though there are seven Jerk Machines in North Miami-Dade and Broward, the Fort Lauderdale store is the only one where you'll find this meat loaf. "We've been test-marketing it for the last month and a half," says manager Deanna Allen. "Sales have been really good." So next time you're in the market for something fresh, cheap, and better than a burger, stop loafing and sample what the Machine is cranking out.
If you think of the Mediterranean as a crossroads-type culinary region, then you'll have no problem assimilating this joint. Headed by owners and chefs whose heritages include French, Belgian, and Israeli, Finjan takes all those influences and swirls them into an intriguing compendium. In other words it's the perfect place for a little salade Niçoise with your falafel and a touch of apple strudel with your baklava. Add the upscale décor and a comprehensive, world-ranging wine list, and you've got yourself an eatery that brings the Mediterranean lifestyle to funky West Palm Beach -- and, we hope, keeps it there permanently.
You have to love it when a restaurant offers a special called the "10-Ounce Sauteed Lobster Tail with Fresh Muscles." We always told you those homonyms were tricky. Sea watt wee mien?

The gringo lingo of the appellation doesn't give much clue here that chef-owner David Peraza's fare is not just authentic Mexican, but haute as well. Yet one glance at the tongue-twisting menu, filled with items such as ixtapa poblano (guajillo peppers stuffed with blue crabmeat, green olives, and Chihuahua cheese) and xochimilco (an ancho chili-flavored crepe stuffed with cuitlacoche, or corn fungus, and serrano peppers), and you'll be convinced. A little cultural interference comes via American items such as chicken wings on the menu and a '70s disco pretending to be Studio 54 upstairs, but nothing short of an earthquake could interfere with the palate's pleasure here -- and that would only be if, thanks to the shaking, you accidentally bite your tongue.
Adam Fine's career began in his living room as a hobby. Then he got the idea that has propelled him to become a veritable pioneer in Broward County. The thought process worked kind of like this: South Florida is really hot. Hot climates tend to call for lighter beers, but a lot of people really love dark beers. So he came up with 11, a dark beer that is at the same time refreshing and not as heavy as, say, Guinness. He toiled over his home-brew lab, and when he came up with the right recipe, he took it to a microbrewery in Orlando and, lo and behold, he had himself a little business, which he calls Fresh Beer, Inc. Today, Fine markets four types of beer, which one can find at several bars in South Florida, the most centrally located being The Poor House in Fort Lauderdale. Swing by one night and raise your glasses to South Florida's number one braumeister.
To take a look into this Israeli deli, you'd never know it's "new." The place is always so full of loyal customers it might as well be called Old Tel-Aviv. The eatery's signs and menus are written in both Hebrew and English, and the place is Glatt kosher. That means you won't find any dairy on the premises, but you'll hardly miss the milk when you taste creamy tahini that substitutes beautifully for dairy-based toppings. With the lamb shishlic, beef kebab, and chicken schnitzel sandwiches, you'll find plenty of protein to fill your belly. Salads -- hummus, baba ghannouj, Israeli, and Turkish -- are tangy and flavorful. And those are just for starters. Tel-Aviv also carves up a mean pastrami on a kaiser and offers fresh whole fish. If you stop by on a Tuesday, you can even score some couscous. Just don't expect to get brunch Saturday mornings.

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