Sushi N' Thai
At first, it seems that very little about this unassuming, pedestrian, but perennially popular strip-mall eatery is outstanding. The Thai dishes are good if unspectacular, and most of the cooked Japanese fare is just perfectly... adequate. However, the raw fish served at Sushi Thai is unbeatable. No fancy places, no jam-packed out-the-door place, not even your favorite tried-and-true neighborhood standbys can possibly match the simply spectacular off-the-boat freshness of S-T's sushi and sashimi. Artsy presentations, innovative preparations, and obscure oddities are available all over South Florida. Go ahead, knock yourself out at the conveyor-belt place where the sushi travels to you on a plastic boat and the chefs wear silly hats (and the fish tastes like dry cat food). But raw-fish eaters who demand a consistently perfect product will not find better than Sushi Thai. Master Sushi Chef Sevee Mongkolsin is adept at the most crucial aspect of the sushi trade -- selecting the very finest fish available from wholesalers. Years of studying the sashimic arts have proven that the salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and scallop (did we say salmon?) sold here beat the competition fins down. Best times to visit are Monday and Tuesday nights (5 to 10:30 p.m.), when dollar specials on sushi and items like gyoza make it fun to indulge.
Ages: 36; 35

Hometown: College Park, Maryland; Weymouth, Massachusetts

Claim to fame: Co-owners of Hamburger Mary's Fort Lauderdale, a premier hangout in Wilton Manors for the gay community.

What they've done for us lately: The restaurant, which opened in 2002, seats 225 but regularly has a wait.

What it takes: "A tremendous amount of teamwork, all different backgrounds and age groups. We have a great mix of gay and straight, old, and young. We both work 60 to 70 hours a week. We try to make a lot of changes. It takes a lot of patience. The most fun thing we've done was a Hamburger Mary look-alike contest... She really is a trashier Dolly Parton... Dolly out of a trailer park."

Within the pink walls of this 1950s-style diner, it's not just about the French fries themselves (although those are available in straight-cut or crinkle-cut and get sliced up in the kitchen from fresh potatoes). It's also about what you can get on them. Gravy! Chili! Cheese! Chili and cheese! Cheese and gravy! Prices begin at $2.95 for plain fries and are a bit more with chili and cheese. The waitresses -- costumed in old-fashioned pink dresses -- can also serve you fries in a waffle cut or cut from a sweet potato (those types arrive frozen but get cooked to crispy perfection). The staff also whips up a mean mashed potato, for which there's a secret recipe. So, settle onto a stool at the old-fashioned ice cream counter, put some doo-wop on the jukebox, and hope the buttons don't pop off your poodle skirt as you scarf down fries beneath the omnipresent pictures of Elvis and James Dean. Readers' Choice: McDonald's
Georgia Pig
C. Stiles
Georgia Pig has been around for more than half a century, which says a lot in restaurant-fickle South Florida. And not much seems to have changed except the jukebox, which now runs on CDs, and the parking lot, which was expanded a few years ago at this always-busy little eatery. The Pig still doesn't accept credit cards, and it retains its '50s-style atmosphere, which relies heavily on what can only be described as retro swine chic: ceramic pigs, carved-wood pigs, plastic pigs, etc. There's still a big heap of oak piled out back, and as you make your way to the restaurant, you can smell the smokiness provided by that wood. You get the picture. But the best thing that hasn't changed is the barbecue that dominates the small menu (in the form of a paper placemat). Sure, you can get breakfast and even burgers, shrimp, Brunswick stew, and daily $5.75 specials. But why would you want to when you can have some of the most succulent Deep South barbecue in South Florida? It comes in almost every imaginable variety: sliced pork and beef platters, spare-rib and chicken combos, even "small fry" portions. The standout, however, is the good, old-fashioned chopped pork (or beef) sandwich, which comes overstuffed with lean, tender meat you can enhance with a house barbecue sauce or hot sauce. There are a dozen or so tables and booths, but treat yourself and sit at the counter, where you can watch as the guy at the pit digs in deep to shuffle big chunks of meat around as they slowly cook, occasionally pulling one out to chop... and chop... and chop. Try not to drool. Readers' Choice: Tom Jenkins Bar-B-Q
Jack's Old Fashion Hamburger House
Chelsea Scholler
This place, Jughead's idea of heaven, is so good that you'll overlook the missing "ed" after "fashion" in its name. The atmosphere is starker than Ellsworth Kelly's tomb. Sink your teeth into a half pound's worth of ground-fresh-daily-from-whole-briskets-of-USDA-inspected-beef burgers. Why not? They're individually pattied on the premises, grilled to order, and traditionally seasoned. Then they're stuck between buns large enough to soak up some of the drippings but small enough that you don't feel like you've put your mouth around Hawaii. Jack's offers no nostalgia besides what you'll find in the get-real menu, which is happily bereft of fad-burgers and silly dressings. This place offers homemade relishes and keeps the prices regular ($3 to $4 for burgers) and stays focused on the beef (though a few sandwiches and hot dogs are offered). Cute capper: You can get a Cherry Coke here. Now, what about a Green River? Readers' Choice: Cheeburger Cheeburger

Yes, there's a lot of local competition in this category -- from specialty spots to chains that play with your memories of ballpark dogs of yore. But forget those ghosts of ballpark 'furters past -- and the circle-of-hell crowds in the parking lot. Right here, right now, you can have it all -- if all means a mouthful of a quarter-pound, plump, steaming beef-a-plenty kosher dog that is juicier than the young Sophia Loren in a peasant blouse. And -- natch -- it's cheaper than the competition: $1.59 for a dog, a 20-ounce drink, and your choice of trimmings, including mustard, deli mustard, onions, sauerkraut, and ketchup. You don't even need to be a Costco member to sit down at one of the tables and chow down. Sound implausible? Believe Millie Goldstein of Davie, who sat next to us on our last visit. Says Millie: "Dad was from Coney Island. He knew from hot dogs and said these were the best." Go know.

Java Boys Coffee House
Chris Bellus
Hiyeee! And, like, so totally welcome to the 8-month-old baby bean, Java Boys in Wilton Manors. Oh my God, like, what should you get? The regular coffee ($1.50 to $1.90) is supposed to be pretty killer -- not like that corporate diarrhea, eww -- but bore your taste buds to death! Come on, so at least get a frothy latte ($2.50 to $3) or one of their iced lattes and mochas ($2.75 to $3.25). Seriously, speak truth: Do you feel the munch? Break that starvation diet for, like, ten seconds and take a bite of this carrot cake ($3.95). Fine, go get your own crème brulée cheesecake ($4.25). You know you're just going up there to flirt with (owners) Ly and Steve. OK, OK, just kidding. But tell them about your pink faux fur handcuffs, 'cause precoffee-shop leisure life, they were both law enforcement studs. Such a major turn-on. Faux fur, tell them. Dare you. OK, meet you on the plush couches, where we can watch videos of Kylie Minogue sunbathing and Madonna and Britney almost making out until superlate (midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays) when they throw us out with their big, muscular arms. Readers' Choice: Starbucks

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