We wish we looked as good in black leather pants as Canyon's cool wait staff or got seated as quickly as its high-profile regulars. But most of all, we'd like to be the prickly pear. The key ingredient in Canyon's famed margarita, it spends its whole life swimming in top-shelf tequila. Sip this pale pink drink, and everything seems Southwestern, including the tasty tuna tartare with wasabi cream. So what they ain't got tuna in Albuquerque? Canyon's inventive menu is inspired by the Southwest, and after eating here, you will be too. Consider growing cacti or naming your new puppy "Adobe." Hang a dream catcher -- just don't start a conversation with, "Chipotle lately?"

Granted, the name of the venue is a little confusing. Formerly one of two West Broward places known as Parrilla's Latin Grill, the restaurant's neon sign still reads Parrilla's. But the billboard advertising the eatery now calls it Rumba's, since the Parrilla's partners split, each keeping one restaurant. And you might be a touch baffled by the menu, which lists a zillion dishes with a dozen different Latin-American influences ranging from Mexican to Argentine to Cuban. But you won't be a bit bewildered when the fare is served: Beef is the name of the game here, and the quality of the meat is uniformly excellent. Skirt steaks are marinated and grilled to juicy perfection, while vaca frita is shredded and pan-fried, then tarted up with a bit of lime and dressed with white onions. Looking for a little gringo action? Check out the ropa vieja potato skins followed by an inches-thick sirloin. Unlike most steak houses, Rumba's does not offer side dishes à la carte, which means that every enormous serving of meat is accompanied by red or black beans, a scoop of buttered white rice, and sweet, caramelized plantains. In the end there's really no question of befuddlement at all: Walk into Rumba's -- or Parrilla's, whatever you want to call it -- and you'll roll out in a carnivorous daze.
Subs, hoagies, grinders -- call them what you will, the essence remains meat, cheese, veggies, and bread, over and over again, no matter where you go or whom you patronize. How then does one differentiate the good from the bad? It's the little things, really: the crisp sweet peppers and nutty provolone playing tag on your tongue, the lettuce shredded instead of chopped, the turkey breast sliced thick enough to be tasty but thin enough to provide that quintessential sub "mouth feel." By these measures Monster Subs are the best around. Hey, it says so right on the door, and who are we to argue? The stores may be Spartan, but subs have never been about fine dining. Monster sweats the details to bring you sandwiches that stand out from the rest of the submarine fleet.
Cookie-cutter sushi bars abound in South Florida. But if you took a picture of Kyoto's product -- some of the freshest fish around -- and compared it to the outputs of three other random sushi bars, you'd quickly notice that one of these things is not like the others. The reason is simple: Chef Lee, proprietor and master sushi chef extraordinaire, keeps his fish and shellfish iced down and refrigerated at all times. So even items on display at the bar itself are a comfortable number of degrees away from spoiling. Then, too, there's Chef Lee's fascination with eel. He offers more than ten rolls made with the slippery sea dweller, of which the roasted-almond-studded Nuts About Eel roll is particularly delicious. Kyoto also displays some more-innovative concepts when it comes to cooked fare, providing diners with items like the bonzai chicken, which is a rolled-up, deep-fried chicken breast oozing spinach and Gruyère cheese. And lest we forget the "sake" part of the name here, allow us to recommend that you imbibe as greedily as you eat. It's the Kyoto way.

When the takeout menu features the phone number in letters as big and scarlet as the proverbial A and includes numerous full-color photos of the dim sum for which this place is legendary, you can rightly assume that these folks do to-go in style. You can order anything for pickup, even the most tricky dishes, such as shrimp fried in shredded taro or smashed red-bean pancakes. The dim sum, made to order, offers the most authentically Hong Kong tastes, while the regular menu advertises a host of Cantonese, Mandarin, Hunan, and Szechuan specialties. But whatever you choose, you can rest assured it's going to tumble out of those cartons steaming hot and sizzling with flavor. Our only regret? That there isn't a Toa Toa Two Two.
As new property owners and the city continue to spruce up Wilton Drive, this little free-standing gem remains a delicious constant, its neon sign beckoning locals to partake of its peerless Southeast Asian fare. For two decades the brother-sister team of Sam and Patty Suwanpiboon has warmed the hearts and burned the tongues of Thai-food lovers with such fine starters as nam sod (ground chicken in lime juice with peanuts) and kai tom kha (chicken-and-coconut milk soup with straw mushrooms); a searing selection of curries (regular and panang); and a pad Thai that harmoniously blends noodles, ground pork, and shrimp. When you tell them you like it hot, they take your word for it -- so choose your words carefully. The four-star level of spiciness is about as much as any mortal can bear.

Best Thing to Come from Albania Since John Belushi

Tony's Pasta & Pizza

The high point of Lake Worth's Albanian archipelago of pizzerias is Tony's, where head chef Muharrem (founding brother Tony went on to work for a food distributor) turns out superb, crusty, New York- style pizza and homemade pasta with sauces of surprising delicacy. So good is his product that for some five years Palm Beach's five-star Four Seasons Resort made Tony's the bespoken pasta maker to the smart set. The ravioli -- pumpkin, spinach, or mushroom-saffron with pine nuts -- aren't part of the menu at his retail joint, but you can still order them for the home. It's an unadorned storefront, so don't expect any ambiance. In fact bring your own cutlery or suffer the cheap plasticware. It's worth it.

It's the eternal Zen question: How many links makes a chain? In chef-proprietor Mark Militello's case, we think the answer is several, all located in South Florida. With the recent addition of Mark's CityPlace in West Palm Beach, "Trade-Mark" Militello has expanded the empire he began in North Miami, then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and South Beach. Many chefs of his James Beard Award-winning caliber think a namesake restaurant is sufficient, but we know that, when it comes to talent, a single venue is only one hand clapping. But four -- now there's some real regional noise in the making.

Is it a good sign when a restaurant's wine list offers too many vintages to count? We think so, especially when at least one third of those bottles are from lesser-known international vineyards and priced less than 30 bucks. With this policy the folks at City Oyster declare that they're not out to screw us with triple the retail. Rather they're here to educate our palates with sips of such diverse wines as the Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or the King Estate pinot noir from Oregon. Sure, you can invest $180 for a bottle of full and luxurious Opus One here, but you can also spend as little as $21 for a bright and pleasant E. Guigal Côte du Rhône red. The kicker, of course, is what you can also get by the glass, ranging from a Chateau Souverain zinfandel to a froth of Taittinger Champagne. Good-bye house wine, hello bubbly.

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