The etymology of romaine is about what you'd expect, given that it sounds like a Frenchman's lip-squishing pronunciation of Roman. The stuff dates back, you know. Likewise, romaine tastes about as you'd expect it to, given that it's lettuce. As lettuce, if it's to taste like more than the popped polysaccharides of a plant cell wall, you've got to pour on the dressing. The Deli Den does that fine and then goes Caesar one better by adding splinters of grated parmesan, dense croutons, and mandarin-orange sections like plump wads of knuckle skin. Slap some chicken ($8.95) or salmon ($9.95) on that baby and heap it all in a bowl like an upturned umbrella and you're ready to top off the gratis pickles, slaw, and soup (try the matzo ball) that arrive just after the ice water.
Horizon Diner II
This place wins for personality and service hands down; it's an added bonus that the food is tasty. And the Horizon's got history too. This location opened a year and a half ago after its namesake on Davie Boulevard burned to the ground on Christmas Day. Owned by middle-aged Greek couple Spiro Passakos and his wife, Thecla (known to the regulars as "the Boss"), and staffed fully by members of the family, you'll think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Housed in a nondescript little space on one of the less attractive stretches of U.S. 441, the joint is set up in classic diner fashion: booths along the windows and stools at the counter, and prices are good too. Typical diner fare with an emphasis on Greek cuisine: moussaka (think eggplant parm with way less sauce, $5.95), spanakopita (spinach pie, $3.75), gyros (for the last time, it's pronounced "yee-ros," $5.95), and souvlaki (pork or chicken chunks on a stick, $6.25). Of course, if you want a club sandwich, burger, or BLT, they got those too.

Poppies Restaurant & Delicatessen
Liz Dzuro
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.
Back when you were small, when you and your fellow neighborhood rugrats gallivanted carelessly through the streets attacking one another with palm fronds, you'd occasionally receive an invitation for dinner at Vince's house. You never turned it down. That's because the food at Vince's, made with spice-filled sauces so tasty and meaty that you could eat them separately, was cooked with the love only a devoted Italian madre can provide. Those were the days. But they ain't over. Reno's Pizzeria on Hollywood Boulevard specializes in making authentic Italian-style feasts to go at rock-bottom prices (expect to be stuffed for less than $10 per person). Whether it's a Blockbuster night or a romantic dinner for two in the backyard, you can always swing by Reno's and pick up an appetizer of fried calamari and two tasty Stromboli specials. And don't forget the cheesecake, capretto. It's just like the way Vince's mama made it.

Timpano Italian Chophouse
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).

Dragon Gate Chinese Restaurant
So your sizzling Latin mate is in the mood for a spicy dinner, the couple on the couch across from you are vegetarians, and your visiting sister and brother-in-law won't try anything they haven't eaten a thousand times before. Give Dragon Gate a call and order piquant beef in garlic sauce and Szechuan soft-shell crabs for your better half, vegetable egg foo young and fried tofu with red pepper sauce for the noncarnivores, subgum chicken chop suey for the in-laws. Add some hot-and-sour soup, the meatiest of barbecue pork ribs, and moo shoo pork for yourself. The bill will be outrageously affordable, the food fresh and delectable, the guests occupying your living room sated so that hopefully they will merely thank you profusely and leave you alone with your grateful mate. Just pray they don't return an hour later for more.

Toa Toa Chinese Restaurant
It's a good thing when you go out for authentic ethnic food and the restaurant is packed with families of that ethnicity who are laughing and eating happily together. This is what you should expect when you arrive at Toa Toa, home to a genuine Hong Kong-style dim sum since 1989. Translated as "to touch your heart," dim sum is the Chinese equivalent to 'round-the-clock brunch, just without the mimosas. Toa Toa has a full menu complete with pictures to guide the novice. There is a variety of small plates of appetizers including sticky shrimp dumplings, fried scallop cutlets, a number of different rice pastes, and even marinated chicken feet -- scrawny, bent-pipe-cleaner-shaped things covered with red gelatinous goop. Brave virgins should just close their eyes and point their fingers at the menu, a good way to ensure variety. Top off whatever you land on with a baked custard bun and a pot or two of tea. Toa Toa is inexpensive (from $2.85 for a small dim sum to $6.95 for silver noodles) and tasty too, a bona fide culinary field trip. Even better, you can get dim sum there all day every day but Wednesday.

Betty's Soul Food
Candace West
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.

Diss the oncoming condo parades if you must, but if saturating downtown with monied, sushi-hungry aristocracy allows more restaurants like Shizen to open, then sunsets be damned. Bring on the noblesse and their concomitant garish high-rises. How else are you going to find a proper rainbow roll ($9) at 1:30 a.m. served in a stylish and chill joint? The servers at this 6-month-old restaurant are gracious, and the owner, Tom Kamioka, sometimes makes the rounds, even quite late, to introduce himself and welcome diners. Consider it fine Japanese dining without snobbery. Heck, after midnight, some morsels are two-for-one. Now who's feeling conspicuously wealthy, eh? Another round of spicy tuna rolls and sake already!

Joy's Roti Delight
Chelsea Scholler
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.

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