With more than 200 items, including stone crabs, snow crabs, and mussels on the half shell, this buffet restaurant is an obvious choice for little piggies. Help yourself to the Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and American fare time and again -- the cafeteria-style eatery is all-you-can-shove-in-your-face. Even vegetarians and Atkins dieters can get into the action, as an extensive salad bar features a variety of fresh choices and a carving station presents an array of sliced meats. Best of all, the prices -- weekday lunch for $6.39 and dinner for $8.99 -- stand in stark contrast to the serious amount of food, which makes this place the best not only for gluttons but for misers as well.
Fort Lauderdale's Mezzanotte, one of four South Florida locations in a chain owned by Tom Billante, has been serving fine Italian dishes on the New River for a little more than two years. It ain't cheap, but it's pretty. From the 30 outdoor tables, you can soak in the live tunes, gawk at tourists, and watch yachts ply the urban waterway. And the food is as good as the view. The veal and pasta are solid offerings, but we recommend going all the way: Lobster Fradiabolo includes a one-and-a-quarter-pound Maine lobster over linguine with mussels, clams, and shrimp in a spicy marinara sauce for $25.95. While you're at it, try a bottle of Opus One for $220 or some Cristal Champagne, which goes for $293. If you're paying these prices, you've probably pulled your yacht into one of the nearby boat slips for your meal.
Clematis Street is still out there trying, but it has nothing on Atlantic Avenue. This once-struggling thoroughfare virtually teems with eateries of every type, from haute Mexican to modern American to classic oyster bar. Interested in Italian? You got it. Crave a coffeehouse? That too. Perhaps even more significant are the extensions of the restaurant row. Now that it's practically filled up, side streets and off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods are benefiting from the spillover, and Japanese, Thai, and Middle-Eastern places are popping up all over. Note to Clematis: What is the holdup? You have the example, now follow it!
Here's what unlimited wealth can get you: A powder blue Rolls-Royce à la the dude formerly known as Puff Daddy, Gucci accessories, and the right to rule CityPlace via a table at Mark's. Feeling more like a poor relation than a privileged Palm Beacher? Never fear. Chef-proprietor Mark Militello doesn't care who takes care of the check as long as it gets paid. So wait till your more-established folks come to town or save up for a special occasion. Then you won't cringe quite as much when you discover on the daily-changing menu that a caesar salad with calamari might run you $11 or a Gorgonzola-stuffed burger could cost $12 -- and that's for lunch. Dinner price tags can peak at $16 for starters like the sea scallops with Jamaican-spiced oxtail, $23 for risotto with black trumpet mushrooms from Oregon, or $32 for the oak-grilled New York strip with white-truffle "Mac and Cheese." No matter what, a meal here is gonna cost -- if not you, then somebody else. The upside is that you're almost guaranteed a James Beard- worthy experience.
PL8
Here's a word we like to throw around but rarely get to apply appropriately: consistency. Fortunately we can use it to describe HBG every time, because this is one restaurant in Broward County where you can bet that the braised short ribs with boniato mash and roasted calabaza will be falling off the bone every time. Actually, gambling might be an inappropriate metaphor here, because dishes such as the roasted Chilean sea bass in port wine sauce and the filet mignon with caramelized onion mash are nearly always perfect. Indeed any menu item at this modern eatery, run by Peter Boulukos and Tim Petrillo, is confidently prepared and strikingly delicious. Only one consistent element at the five-year-old HBG can be called a drawback: You can count on a wait for a table.
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It only makes sense that this year's ribbon-taker here is last year's Best New Restaurant. We knew from the moment we stepped into this elegant bistro, owned by chef John Belleme and partner Allison Barber, that longevity could be billed along with homemade lobster won tons on the New American menu. The kitchen still turns out stimulating preparations of day-boat seafood in brothy nages, spice-crusted game birds, and cuts of beef and lamb moistened with demi-glace. Service is at worst professional and at best personalized -- another winning combo. 'Course, with all these accolades, we're cutting our own culinary throats: It's already difficult to snag a reservation. Now it's going to be dang near impossible.
The name pretty much states outright what a diner can expect -- that is, if you have any idea what to expect from a Tahitian barbecue. Here's what not to expect: grass skirts and flaming batons. The only flames here are the ones chef-owner Darroll Tekurio applies to his exuberant barbecue, with its tangy, bright sauces and authentic island side dishes such as fafa (a spinach-chicken dish) and ipo (coconut dumplings). He does ribs especially well: They're lean but not mean, succulent but not sloppy. If you're ready to expand your barbecue horizons beyond Texas and the Carolinas, then Taro's is ready to take you on a saucy tour of the South Pacific.
Take a lot of fresh air, add some tables, and top it all off with some of the most buttery fried clams in the business, and voilà! You have an equation for perfection, otherwise known as Fins. The seafood is served with a sense of humor here -- try the "shrimp and crabsicles," deep-fried pops of juicy seafood. The fishies of the day -- and there are always many -- change often, and preparations are both extensive and inventive. And OK, we know full well that homemade carrot cake isn't seafood, but who can resist it? Not us, certainly; we won't even try. In fact the only thing we'll be attempting in the future is to make good on our promise to dine here more often.
Lord, what foods these morsels be! At Joe Bel-Air's, conventioneers, Port Everglades dock workers, art students, and Fort Lauderdale's common folk (what's left of 'em, anyway) converge at this retrofitted '50s-era diner for no-nonsense grub. The plates of breakfast fare, lunch items, meat loaf, and baked desserts originate, ostensibly, from the kitchen. However, it's worth noting that Joe Bel-Air's kitchen backs up directly against the Culinary Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Judging by the quality of some of Joe Bel-Air's late-night pies (such as the yummy Boston cream), one of those broom closets must have a false panel through which baked goods of extraordinary power and energy are surreptitiously passed into the realm of mortals. Asking the pink-clad waitresses at Joe's to confirm or deny these rumors will win you a quizzical stare -- further proof that we're right.

Moon Thai & Japanese Restaurant
If you want your plate to be served from the left and picked up from the right, don't go here. If you want your water glass to be aligned with the tip of your knife and all other beverages to be placed to the right cater-corner of your agua, see ya later. If you want tuxedo jackets with seams as straight and narrow as W.'s unreadable lips, then bye-bye now. But if you like it when the waiters and waitresses, garbed in traditional Thai uniforms, not only know your name and face but remember what you ordered last time, then this is the place. At Moon you can actually utter those famous, longed-for words: "I'll have the usual."

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