You are not a number; you are a human being. Now try telling that to the hostess at one of the big chain delicatessens that are to Palm Beach County what automobile factories once were to Detroit. It's true that the assembly-line pastrami sandwiches at these places are usually flawless, but you can get the same perfect specimen at Poppie's without having to wait for the three-digit number on your little white ticket to be called. During season, there are lines to get into Poppie's too, but once seated, you'll be treated in the most civilized fashion: a basket of bread and a bowl of pickles at dinner and a seasoned waitress asking, "What can I get you, bubbaleh?" Well, lessee, try some chicken soup, a knish, a side of creamed herring -- or gefilte fish? A corned beef platter with creamy potato salad -- maybe a side of chopped liver instead of the herring? A Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray, one of those shiny black & whites from the pastry department, halvah, cup of coffee with no cream or sugar (you have to watch your weight), and a loaf of Poppie's delicious seeded rye to go. Save the smoked fish and bagels for another day.

Readers' Choice: Too Jay's

Tie pins, French cuffs, the finest wools, complexions aglow from heavy gym-time and stock options -- all are as prevalent as Britney before a CD release at this 4-year-old bastion of the New Lauderdale, which packs a Wayne (Huizenga)-meets-Terry (Stiles) degree of clout rarely seen locally outside the Tower Club. Modeled after the old chophouses of New York City and Chicago and offering mezza-Italia presentations of pastas ($10 to $11), panninis ($9 to $13), and seafood ($13 to $15) among the veal and chops, this spacious set of dark-wooded dining rooms-plus-bar leaves fuss at the front door. It provides a staff so accommodating that only their ages make you doubt they might be ex-Up with People singers. Better yet, one need not give the chauffeur the day off to afford lunch (unless you're going for a dinner-sized portion of a chop, which can run you up to $29).

Yes, Betty's turns up on winner's lists all over the place, and yes, it might be great to find a new champion, but who can argue with the royal richness of the Red Velvet cake or that reasonably priced ($8.25) but unreasonably good fried chicken (done up in heart-conscious canola oil)? Then there's the fun of the three televisions staging channel battles in various corners of the room and those waitresses who can still sashay while bearing four orders of superb biscuits and sweet potato pie ($2.50 for all desserts). These are only a few of the reasons Betty Taylor's 20-year-old, ten-table-plus-lunch counter watering hole still reigns as the queen of the fast-emerging Soul Food corridor along Fort Lauderdale's Sistrunk Avenue. Some others? It opens for breakfast at 6 a.m. (closing's at 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, midnight on weekends), the neighborhood doesn't make a white man jump, and there's a jukebox with selections that may give even you rhythm.

A fascinating cultural collision plays out daily at Joy's, a bustling East-meets-West Indian restaurant tucked in a corner of the Lauderhill Mall. Delicious curry goat would be the standard (and most popular) option at $7, but chicken, oxtail, shrimp, conch, beef, and veggies are also available, rolled up in paper-thin Indian flatbread. At only a buck, you gotta try some of the other tasty items on the menu: aloo pie is a puff-pastry filled with potatoey goodness, for instance. Or have a go at a plate of phulowrie, battered balls of split pea and saffron. Shout out your order over the booming sound system and take a number. Regardless of whether you grab a roomy booth to enjoy it there or get your food to go, you'll have plenty of time to down a bottle or two of Carib (Trinidad's favorite beer) or a shandy (half beer, half ginger ale) while you wait. After all, you're on island time, mon. The place has seven comfortable tables. So relaaaax.

The traditional Spanish regional cuisine at Cafe Seville is cooked to order, which means you may have to sit awhile in the quaint dining room, sipping one of the restaurant's excellent wines, perhaps snacking on tapas or a cold platter of Spanish Serrano ham, manchego cheese, chorizo, and stuffed olives. Soon enough, your patience will be rewarded with mouth-watering dishes like a bright rendition of Andalusia's renowned gazpacho; roasted leg of lamb, leg of pork, and rabbit with rosemary; corvina swimming in a sauce sharked with garlic, parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, and white wine; a bold cazuela de mariscos, duck, veal, chicken, or steaks. Then there's a paella so well-stocked with shellfish, chicken, and pork that it's not quite right to call it a rice dish. The robust cuisine, crisp service, and charming Old World ambiance suggest an extravagant bill, but Seville's prices are moderate, with just about every entrée under $20.

Smack in the middle of what may be the hippest little shopping center in South Florida (if we need to tell you the name, you're over), Tipico boasts a menu that says it all: "American Style -- Mexican Flavor -- Spanish Flair," with selections that jitterbug from Mexico to Cuba and on to Kansas City (cheeseburgers, caesar salads?), flaunting a catholic sense of cuisine as confidently as do all the other local Mexican-and-more places. Milton has his version of paradise. This is ours, with a $9.95 chili relleño in place of an apple. The light streams through the lace café curtains onto the polished wooden floor; the white-shirted staff smiles at you with something other than dollars in their eyes. There's hep-cat '80s rock on the sound system, and you're scarfing down a Veracruzana combo (chicken tostada, cheese enchilada, beef taco for $10.95) so spunky and fresh, you'll swear the Central American chef knew you were writing this. Churrasco steaks ($11.95), carnitas ($9.95), arroz con pollo ($9.95), and the wonderful campeche burro ($8.95) are highlights. Open most days from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., the $10-average prices don't make you feel like you're paying by the square foot, but during peak hours (7 to 8 p.m.), you may want to trade in your Navigator for an Escort when wrangling for a parking place (try the street behind the shopping center). Don't be discouraged. La comida es perfecta!
Our mission ultimately led to this unassuming little eatery in a nondescript strip mall in Lauderdale Lakes. Its references were good, and it lived up to the reputation. There's not much in the way of atmosphere; there are only a dozen or so tables, and the service is friendly. But you'll immediately notice that a sizable segment of the clientele is Asian, always a good sign, and that most are having a noodle soup as part of their meal, another good sign for a place that bills itself as a "noodle house." Our party of five had so much trouble deciding among the menu's 40 or so offerings (not including beverages) that we ended up sharing all of the first seven items (appetizers and house specialties) and then another three (noodle soups and a grilled shrimp rice plate). The emphasis here is on fairly basic Vietnamese food, although it's easy to pick up on the other cuisines that have influenced the country's turbulent culture, including Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indian, and French. There's a bewildering array of beef noodle soups with various combinations of rare beef, well-done beef, beef tendon, beef tripe, and beef balls. A less intimidating handful of soups features noodles combined with beef, seafood, chicken, pork, and other ingredients. Condiments include the classic Vietnamese nuoc mam dipping sauce (based on fermented fish), a Thai-style peanut sauce, a chili sauce, and a hot pepper paste, all of which work well with just about any dish. There's no bar. Our grand total for ten dishes: $64 and change.

Daril and Denizio Corti's 12-year-old Brazilian restaurant isn't big on being big. There is no ostentatious décor, no room-length salad bar, no rodizio wherein men carve large pieces of meat at your table. Panorama concentrates instead on cooking up genuine Brazilian specialties that you just can't find elsewhere, all flavorfully prepared and simply presented at an affordable price. Try a picaha skewer of juicy red hunks of beef or salt cod simmered with potatoes, onions, and pepper or shrimp stuffed with yucca or mugueca, which is fresh fish poached in coconut milk. With its authentic cuisine, live Brazilian music Thursday through Sunday, and satellite feeds of Brazilian soccer games and soap operas, you're bound to be a bit disappointed when you leave Panorama and realize that the beach in front of you is Pompano, not Ipanema.

With its high ceilings, graceful archways, large wooden tables, upholstered chairs, and rustic fireplace, Coral Springs' landmark Runyon's Restaurant looks more like a country inn than your typical steak house. It is only when you dig into giant, succulent meat like the famous prime rib with puffy popover of Yorkshire pudding or Texas-cut rib eye that you can be certain you are indeed in an honest-to-goodness, all-American house of prime meat -- and a dandy one at that. Other steak-house favorites are also on hand, like hefty beefsteak tomato salads and oversized Idaho potatoes, but, in another note of distinction, side dishes are included with the meal. Which isn't to say Runyon's is a bargain. In true steak-house fashion, prices here are as big as the outlandishly rewarding cuisine.
Oh sure, the Knife has a salad bar, vegetables, pasta, and the like. They got pork too, along with chicken, if you're in a fowl mood. But this place is all about the beef. We're talking brisket, roast beef, flank steaks, T-bones, ribs... all things bovine. The place has got dead cow aplenty. Hell, you can feel Clara Peller's ghost hanging in the room. And best of all, it's all you can eat. That's right. For dinner, plunk down $20.85 (Monday through Thursday -- weekends, two dollars more) and eat meat until your arteries crystallize, your heart palpitates, and your digestive system grinds to an oh-so-satisfying halt. Mainline the grease, if you like, though the place is BYOIV. Our only regret is we don't have four stomachs like our big, dumb, delicious friends. We cavemen; watch us eat.

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