This cheerily painted, tin-roofed eatery is doing for Jamaican food what Pollo Tropical has done for Cuban food -- offering traditional favorites in a fast-food setting, complete with drive-through -- but the menu at this favorite Lauderdale Lakes lunch spot is far more varied and traditional than its Greater Antillean-inspired counterpart. Case in point: Chicken is offered in jerk, mango barbecue, and simply grilled. All are well-prepared, tasty, and go for a paltry $2.99 including rice. But what really wins us over is the pumpkin rice, in all its orange, slightly sweet glory.
Rustic Inn Crabhouse
Candace West
Any way you look at it -- from a blue, golden, stone, or king crab perspective -- if you order the signature dishes in this overgrown waterside shack, you'll be hanging around for a while. That's because portions of the crabs, especially the blues steamed in garlic and oil, a house specialty, are large enough to satisfy the biggest eater in your life. Because wooden mallets are mandatory utensils here, flecks of shell and drips of oil tend to mark patrons after they've consumed even just one crab. But rest assured, you can separate the gluttons from the pack by the state of their clothing. They're the ones proudly strutting straight to the dry cleaner's, who can (most of the time) get out all the stains. So stop making excuses, prospective piggies, and get cracking.
Haitian food is no different from regular Caribbean fare, right? There's no good reason to seek out authentic Haitian grub, right? Wrong. While Haitian cuisine has a similar body to Jamaican -- a lot of chicken, goat, ox tail, plantains, and red beans and rice -- it's dressed up in a totally different set of clothes. Haitians don't do jerk or curry; the sauce is thick, soupy, and red, with onions and hot peppers and garlic to spice it up. Reflection Restaurant, hidden in the snug corner of a little strip mall along Sunrise Boulevard, does a beautiful version. The sauce is just spicy enough to make your mouth sing but not so hot as to make it scream. Once you start eating, it's hard to stop, so it's a good thing the fine and friendly folks at Reflection hand out generous portions. They offer poisson (fish), legumes (vegetables), queue boeuf (ox tail), griot (fried pork), cabrit (goat), ragout (cow's feet), lambi (conch), and kalalou (okra and beef), most of which can be had with a mountain of beans and rice for a mere six bucks. Relax and eat inside the diner-like atmosphere of tables and booths with red-and-white-checkered tablecloths. Or order out. Either way, you're in for a Haitian treat.
Tasties Jamaican Restaurant
As you sit before a heaping platter of rice and beans, white cabbage, and curried goat at Tasties, the fullness of its spice builds slowly, from tropical depression to storm to hurricane. Halfway through the meal, your face is hovering over the plate, vacuuming like a water funnel. The piquant sauce brings on a kind of equatorial madness, a subtropical food lust. Your mind maniacally calculates when next you'll hunger, what next you'll order -- perhaps the curried oxtail, cowfoot, or chicken. Some day, you revel, there will be a chance to feast on the jerk dishes. A five-spot covers most of Tasties' meals, which are served 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
If you think Miami's the capital of Cuban cuisine, then you haven't been to Delray lately. What Miami has in numbers, Delray has in quality: Cohiba, a mami-and-papi shop that offers above-and-beyond black beans. A pounded palomilla proves its pedigree, while lechon asado and ropa vieja vie for slow-cooked honors. But it's the seafood and fish flesh -- garlic shrimp, lobster Creole, fried grouper -- that's the real hook here. Paella Valenciana is a good way to guarantee yourself some plentiful shellfish, but it's made-to-order. How to cope with the requisite one-hour wait? Two words: stuffed yuca. Sit in front of the palm tree mural and pretend you're back in the home country. At Cohiba, it's that easy.
El Rinconcito Colombiano
Anthony Cave
This "Little Colombian Corner" will warm the heart -- and the belly -- of not only the homesick paisa but of anyone seeking simple, hearty, skillfully prepared fare in ridiculously large portions. Pull up a chair at one of the tables or just belly up to the bar under the eaves of the barrel-tiled faux balconcito and tuck into a breakfast of arepas, white cheese, and the soft, sweet, cheese-infused rolls known as pan de bono -- baked on-premises and also sold at the pastry shop next door. Come on back for lunch: Perhaps an appetizer of papas rellenas (mashed potato dumplings wrapped around ground beef, then dropped in the fryer) and one of the stick-to-your-ribs soups -- the Saturday special of sancocho de gallina (hen soup with onions, potatoes, yuca, and plantains) is a can't-miss. For dinner, go all-out for one of the bandejas, a huge platter offering a skirt steak, rice, red beans, two kinds of sausage (options include not only the standard chorizo but the very authentic morcilla blood sausage), a strip of chicharron (fried pork skin), and a fried egg. Or perhaps you'll opt for the sobrebarriga, a falling-apart pot roast stewed in a tomato-onion sauce and served with yuca. Whatever you choose, you'll have plenty left over for lunch (and possibly dinner as well) the next day.
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Joshua++Prezant
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Once the bastion of fast-food joints, now Coral Springs gets a nod from gourmets, thanks to fine-dining restaurants like Anita's. See, we're not talking chicken burritos here at this sibling of Eduardo de San Angel; we're talking cilantro-flavored crêpes filled with cuitlacoche (corn fungus), onions, and chopped Serrano peppers. And we're not looking at your standard chile relleno; we're gazing at a poblano pepper, fire-roasted and filled with salmon mousse that's been enhanced with minced pasillo chilis and topped with a creamy ancho chili sauce. In fact, chili lovers can peruse the full palette here, from the guajillo sauce that dresses the grilled yellowtail fillet to the cascabel barbecue rub that enhances the grilled, 16-ounce pork chop. Nor do you have to worry that with all this highly spiced fare, you'll be hung out to dry. Service is as professional as the chef, which means frequent refills on water and wine, replacement of silverware, and a much-welcomed, no-rush policy.
Just in case you were wondering, the "Porto" stands for Portuguese, as in one of the peoples who settled the Brazilian region oh-so-long ago. Oh, OK, they usurped it. But aside from its obvious (and somewhat dubious) gift of salt cod to the area, Portugal isn't ultimately represented in the cuisine at this authentically ethnic Brazilian eatery. Instead, the native influences and the imported African influences are more widely seen in dishes like moqueca, a fish stew, and picanha, a steak topped with a double bonus of two fried eggs. For dessert, crema catalana is given a tropical influence with passion fruit, but the real passion inspired here will be your own -- a desire to return for some traditional, well-prepared Brazilian fare that takes as much care with quality as a Brazilian teenager does picking out that perfect thong bikini. Now that's serious business.

Face it, herbivores: In these parts, going vegetarian means going ethnic -- usually Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, or Asian. And if the Red Thai Room isn't already at the top of your meatless-dining list, it should be. Heck, the place even writes "Lunch, Dinner & Vegan" on its takeout menus. Said menu also features a helping hand -- a little icon in the shape of a hand giving the "peace" sign -- to guide the fleshphobic to their very own tasty treats. One peace sign means no meat; two means vegan -- no animal products of any kind. And those who are used to finding veggie meals banished to the back of the bus will be happy to spot those little hands all over this menu: three of twelve appetizers, four of six rice/noodle dishes, and 13 of 19 specialties are meatless (all have a couple of vegan options). And the taste? The pat khi mao, with its spicy chili paste, julienned bamboo shoots, bell peppers, and mushrooms, is a great example of the subtle flavor and delicious heat these meat-free meals offer.
Yes, this joint tucked right next to a movie theater does offer beef, lamb, and chicken selections on the menu, but there is no shortage of vegetarian choices. The place is open until 10 p.m. every day of the week, which means a real dinner after a movie is no longer out of the question for vegetarians. Many of the vegetarian selections are actually vegan. Go for lunch and the server will immediately bring a pitcher of cold water and a basket of warm, fresh slices of pita bread with butter. (Why not hummus? Small quibble.) Follow that up with a bowl of hearty, nutty, red lentil soup, and it just gets better from there. There are no fewer than nine vegetarian entrées to choose from, including dolma (stuffed cored zucchini and green peppers), spanakopita (spinach pie), türlü (vegetable medley in red sauce), and eggplant sauté. All are less than $15. So why doesn't this place make it as veggie heaven? The small matter of the rice, which is made with chicken stock to give it added flavor. That'll scare off the vegans -- which leaves more of those tasty stuffed grape leaves for the rest of us.

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