Think going out for kosher means standing at a deli or crowding into a neighborhood hole-in-the-wall? Well, Baraka offers gourmet glatt and a classy milieu for the observant set -- and gastronomes of any religious bent, for that matter. Upscale kosher restaurants are a rarity in these parts, but Baraka's eclectic menu provides a variety of ethnic cuisine to hold your interest over repeated visits: seared tuna, sushi plates, Mongolian marinated veal chops, Cornish game hens, and tofutti cheese ravioli. The wine list includes whites and reds from Israel, as well as standard Italian and California vintners. Entrée prices are, as our French friends say, dear, running from $24 to $38. But hey, the Talmud never promised it would be easy. Baraka is open most of the year Sunday through Thursday, 5 to 11 p.m., and by reservation on Saturday evenings. Days and hours are reduced from May to September, however, so call before making the trip.
Whether your definition of a power lunch involves discussing serious business decisions, impressing venture capitalists, or simply socializing with local politicians, Mario's is likely to fit (but not foot) the bill. The casual upscale Italian restaurant, tucked in a small off-the-beaten-path shopping plaza just east of Town Center Mall, offers either a diverse menu for à la carte dining or a reasonably priced lunch buffet featuring a salad bar, several hot pasta dishes, and a variety of handmade pizzas. Choose the indoor booth seating for meetings requiring privacy, or dine outside for the social schmooze-type lunch. The cordial and professional service makes for both a pleasant meal and a distraction-free meeting. Lunch buffet is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays. Don't miss the restaurant's heavenly garlic rolls -- but don't forget to pick up a mint or two on your way out.
A phalanx of ornate hookahs keeps a stately vigil atop the pastry display case in this spacious Middle Eastern restaurant. They're an eye-catching bunch -- blue and green glass bowls, brass and silver stems, curlicued tubes resembling spotted goat tails. Purely decorative, they add a certain je ne sais quoi to this strip-mall eatery, but the restaurant's extensive menu stands on its own. By no means pass up one of the half-dozen hummus appetizers. El-Salam whips chick peas and tahini (a crushed-sesame seed cream) into a beige delight. First-timers should order fatet hummus, which comes with a crunchy pita, lemon, and parsley.
OK, so the burger we have in mind here isn't the usual patty-on-a-bun job. It's more of a patty-on-a-salad. But that's precisely why we like it. The Fat Cat's Salad is a toss of lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and peppers, topped with mushrooms, bacon, mozzarella stick, and a quarter-pound of ground, freshly grilled beef. Creamy ranch dressing ties the whole fattening thing together the way a good mayo does on a classic sandwich. But if you're not a greens kind of guy or gal, you can always go the Original Fat Cat route and get two quarter-pound burgers on a hoagie roll. With fried cheese and waffle fries stuffed in with the condiments, this baby puts the Big Mac to shame.
If a phrase like "Gimme the Big One" sets your heart a-pounding, then you, as we did, probably had a thing for the 'boys. Direct from the classiest armpit on earth -- the Jersey shore -- Fatboys gave us double cheeseburgers that horrified our doctors and mystified our private trainers: hip-stretching, medium-rare beef slathered with melted cheddar cheese, chili, onions, and (wouldn't ya know it?) French fries. No doubt, we'll miss the quick caloric fix, though can't say we mind not trotting all those extra miles on the treadmill. And for the record: We never really did believe that "gourmet" bit.
Ah, cornado! You need no help to complete yourself. No tangy tomato sauce. No mustard goo. You skinny, you golden, you crunchy, you subtle, sweet corn-based variation on les pommes frites. At a crepuscular table overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, with a scallop and shrimp wrap and a Bass draft, in the gloaming of a day. Mmmm. Tasty.
The unspoken ending of this name is obvious: When in Rome, eat pizza. The owners of this ultrapleasant wine bar and café also run three eateries in Rome, so if you bet that the goods in the Fort Lauderdale place are authentic, you'd win. What's the prize? How about the thinnest crust imaginable, topped generously with items like prosciutto, capicolla, eggplant, black olives, or even a whole fried egg? Simply put, this isn't designer pizza. It isn't outlandish. It doesn't compete with local pizza chains or take-out/delivery empires. But it is as classic and timeless as Rome itself, and when it comes to pizza, that's plenty.
Admittedly, a British pub is not the first place you'd look when seeking out good chili. You'd expect to find it at someplace called Big Ed's Bean Bonanza or maybe the Lone Star Bar and Grill. But the Brits put on a surprising show at Ye Olde Falcon Pub. A bowl of chili at the pub (which also has a decent beer selection) comes steaming hot and in large quantities, the way chili ought to be. It's lip-smackin' spiciness could make a good ol' Texas boy pull his guns and shoot out the lights -- except that would be ill-mannered. 'Tis a British place, after all.
When an order of spare ribs goes by the moniker "James Brown Gettin' Down!" and a full slab of baby-back ribs is called "Baby Got Back," you know you're in the right place for a little pork on the bone. Make that off the bone, as in falling off. The barbecue here is Tennessee-style, slow-cooked over smoky oak and softened with a just-sweet sauce that has diners hard-put to tell the difference between the edible parts of the ribs and their own sticky fingers. Sides work for us, too -- the cornbread muffins are homemade, and the mac-and-cheese pleases the pickiest kid -- but we'll return for the ribs first and foremost. And despite the casual packaging of Styrofoam and plastic, you don't even have to hit the road to dig in, as "2 Go" implies: A half-dozen picnic tables are available for those who just can't wait.
Nothin' says lovin' like good barbecue. Heck, there's really no such thing as bad barbecue, only barbecue that isn't quite as good as other barbecue you've tried. Jack's, however, is damn good barbecue. A good smokehouse can be judged on the quality of its pulled meats, and Jack's has some excellent pulled beef. And then there are the high-caliber sides. Collard greens are not too sweet, cornbread is steaming hot, and mac-and-cheese comes with the little burnt bits of cheese that say it's homemade. Of course, sauce can make or break a barbecue pit, and Jack's sauce is just tangy enough, with each meal served with plenty of it. This is barbecue the way it's supposed to be.

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