No matter how amazing Charlize Theron might be in her next role, it's money in the bank that she won't win another Oscar in 2005. Why not? Same reason that Mark's Las Olas hasn't copped a New Times Best Of restaurant award since 1999: Panels don't like to repeat themselves. Still, Mark Militello remains one of Broward's very elite chefs, and though his South Beach, Mizner Park, and City Place restaurants have their strengths, after ten years, this Las Olas branch remains the true Mark of excellence. Cozy booths, luxuriously rich mahogany tables, and a bustling open kitchen set the stage for Militello's cutting-edge cuisine, a magical mix of classical cooking techniques, the freshest of ingredients, and a menu that changes daily to accommodate what's in season. Whether it be the simple pairing of chilled Washington state Kumomoto oysters with green apple mignonette, the inspired glazing of duck with mango honey, or the hearty, homestyle plating of pork tenderloin with braised cabbage, chestnuts, and apple jus spiked with Southern Comfort, Militello hits the mark every time. Desserts such as Dutch Forreli pear and blueberry caramel tart with made-on-the-premises white chocolate almond-crush ice cream, seriously attentive service, and a faultless wine list seal the deal for Militello's flagship establishment. Enjoy this accolade, Mark -- like Charlize, next year you'll likely relinquish the crown. Readers' Choice: Chez Laurent
Johnny V Restaurant
Michele Sandberg
Over the past decade, chef Johnny Vinczencz, formerly known as "The Caribbean Cowboy," has traveled from town to town or, more specifically, from Astor Place in South Beach to De La Tierra at Sundy House in Delray Beach, titillating diners with robust American cuisine dashed with Spanish and Caribbean additions and a healthy dose of gastronomic ingenuity. Now, he's settling home on the range or, more specifically, on Las Olas Boulevard, with an eponymous place all his own. A great restaurant, however, relies on more than just a respected name. It begins with distinctively delectable food, like Vinczencz's signature "short stack" starter of buttermilk pancakes, grilled portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomato butter, and sweet balsamic syrup and on daring, unexpected gestures like a special of Tibetan yak. A great restaurant has a certified sommelier to help navigate a first-class wine list -- or, more specifically, someone like Steffan Rau, who previously served this function at Jean George's Vong restaurant. It features waiters who, like those at Johnny V's, are amiable, accommodating, and above all professionally trained. It isn't necessary for a top eatery to offer 30 exotic cheeses and a lounge where tasty tapas tantalize between cocktails in order to qualify for greatness, but it doesn't hurt. Nor do desserts like a tall wedge of dark, dense chocolate cake layered with bananas, caramel, and peanut butter mousse, with a scoop of malted milk ball ice cream on the side. Johnny V is the new kid in town -- or, more specifically, the premier new kid. Readers' Choice: Sublime
15th Street Fisheries
If you haven't taken a boat on the Intracoastal, you don't know Fort Lauderdale. Seeing the multimillion-dollar mansions gives you an idea of why there's so much corruption here. These people need to steal just to pay their damn property taxes. But if you're looking for a good place to drop your own hard-earned coin, get to the Fisheries. Climb on the water taxi at Riverwalk, fork over five bucks, and motor there in style. The two-story restaurant is really two establishments: downstairs is casual, with live music and $8 baskets of fried food. Upstairs is all about fine dining and great service. It's expensive -- expect to spend about $30 for an entrée -- but the ambience and waterfront view are enough to justify the price. Built in the 1970s, it's not that old, but the late, legendary architect Bill Bigoney gave it the feel of an old packing house. Even the urinals are cool; they're wooden with old-fashioned water closets over them for flushing. And the food is wonderful, from the little shrimp salad to the sunflower wheat bread to the audaciously thick tuna filet mignon. If you're in an adventurous mood, go for the alligator and kangaroo, though we'd recommend prawns, lobster, or the Asian-sautéed snapper. The service is great too. All you have to do is kick back and enjoy the ride.

Sushi One Take Out
Tabatha Mudra
To win this category, you must be located in an interesting neighborhood, serve top-drawer chow, and be reasonably priced. That is indubitably the case with Sushi 1. The ambiance is nothing. Zero. But the sushi is some of the freshest that we have ever eaten, and daily specials, which generally cost less than $5, are knockouts (and come with three courses). Then there're those rolls. Try the dancing eel and spicy tuna. There are also bento boxes, salads, and soups. It's all family-made and can be enjoyed at one of the few tables inside or in the parking lot. The best thing about this place, though, is its convenience to the new downtown Fort Lauderdale. If you are moving into one of the panoply of condos under construction down there, this should be your regular joint. Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Meal in a Pie
South Africans call them just "pies," their fast-food equivalent of the American hamburger. But there's nothing plain about the meat and vegetable pastries served by Rod and Tracey Wiggill, the SoAf ex-pats who run this storefront charmer. Service is deli-style, but two cozy tables await if you want to eat in. The pies, most under $4, are thick, bingo-card-sized delights, the kind of layered decadence crabby nutritionists campaign against. Stuffed inside are blends of meat, veggies, and gravies. The most popular among South Africans is the bobotie, which is crammed with Cape Malay curried ground beef and raisins. The Wiggills have modified one traditional favorite, chicken and mushroom, by tossing out the 'shrooms and adding peas and carrots. "It's more like the chicken pot pies everyone's used to here," the missus says. Not into meat? Try the spinach and feta cheese or the vegetable thai. The Wiggills also offer frozen pies, which you can bake yourself for a hot-pastry meal in about 20 minutes. South African groceries are also available.

Cuoco Pazzo Cafe
This place has two lives. In the winter, snowbirds inundate Cuoco Pazzo Café, making the wait on weekends often longer than two hours. The café is actually a sister establishment to the Cuoco Pazzo restaurant next door, and the old codgers know you can eat cheaper, and just as well, in the café. But the real time to go is summer, when Cuoco Pazzo becomes just a quiet Italian joint with the best pizza and pasta in downtown Lake Worth. What's special about Cuoco Pazzo is its simplicity. You won't find those fat guys from Carrabba's messing up lasagna here. The veal saltimbocca ($17) is as traditional as you'd get in Roma. The chicken paillard ($14) seems straight from a grandmother's kitchen, with roasted peppers and a delicate lemon chardonnay sauce. The place gets more creative with its cioppino ($18), a saffron stew of clams, mussels, lobster, scallops, and shrimp over black linguine. They say cioppino comes from California, but after eating it here, you'll swear it's Italian.

My Market & Deli
Have you ever eaten a sandwich from a convenience store? They're fucking horrible. They're soggy. They're stale. That's certainly not egg salad, my friend. My Market is different. You've probably driven by it before. You might have stopped there to get tampons or perhaps a Slushy or a Powerbar. But have you even bothered to walk to the back of My Market? Because if you had, you would have noticed a full freakin' deli that's been there for the past 12 years and serves the best and biggest sandwiches allowed west of the train tracks. Turkey, pastrami, ham, roast beef, rye, whole wheat. It's all there, waiting. For instance, the Pee Wee ($5.50) consists of a mouth-watering combination of maple-glazed turkey on grilled rye bread with American cheese, mayo, brown mustard, lettuce, and tomato. It's served hot. Just give it a chance, baby. It won't hurt you this time.

Mama's Latin Cafe
Sometimes you can't get to Havana -- or even Miami. Sometimes, this five-table, 8-month-old splinter of a café at the western end of the Southland Shopping Center is as far as you make it for a Cuban sandwich fix so satisfying you'll wonder why Mama isn't front-page news. Oh, there are lots of breakfast items (topping out at $4.50) and soups ($2 to $3) and croquettes ($1.50) and the usual Cuban-y things on the menu -- like you care. What you came for is what you'll pull up your barstool to the blue plastic malachite countertop for: ham pork and thinly sliced Swiss cheese and pickles and mustard, all between bread ironed flatter than Bubba's forehead, blending neatly to form a taste as unique as a kiss. The low-overhead prices are much more in line with those of Havana than South Beach (where a Cuban sandwich can run $9). Although you hear mostly Spanish among the customers, gringos are welcomed by the capable staff. Mira. That means you. Open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Sunday, Mama's packs 'em in at lunchtime, so drop by nearby Big Lots until the rush dies down. Either way, you're on to one of the real bargains in town.

Statistics show that nine and seven-eighths of every ten new dining establishments go belly up within 15 minutes of opening -- or something like that. Which means that either the management team, kitchen crew, and service staff perform admirably right from the start or the signage on the restaurant marquee will be gone faster than you can say "Boy George in Taboo." The Southwestern-inspired Sol Kitchen has thus far beaten the odds -- it started out steamy and is getting hotter by the hour. Owned by the same restaurant group that opened Delray's already sizzling 32 East (located just up the block), Sol has the advantage of experience: its chef, Ryan Brown, was chef de cuisine under Nick Morfogen at 32. Perhaps it's because these two worked together on this brash and sassy menu that the food exudes a confidence not often seen in such a short time. After you taste sunny dishes like the mahi-mahi taco with shredded cabbage, grape tomatoes, and lime; golden brown burritos packed with slow-braised pork; and grilled dolphin with mojo-soaked Cherokee heirloom tomatoes, you'll know why patrons have taken a quick shine to this boisterous, dimly lit room from the get-go. Desserts have a veteran hand in the making as well: 32 East's one-time pastry chef, Robert Malone, putting out a Cuban coffee flan so coffee-intensive that it's likely to keep you as awake as the proprietor of a new restaurant the night before opening.
Boulevard Subs
A sub is a sandwich made on a lengthy loaf of crusted bread that is layered with cold cuts, lettuce, tomato, and numerous garnishings, splashed with olive oil and vinegar, and dashed with salt, coarse ground pepper, and, if you're lucky, oregano. You can also call a sub a hoagie. Or a grinder. Or a hero. Or a Blimpie if you hang with the wrong sort of people. The right sort would be the types who frequent Marco's Boulevard Subs, where they pile on the ham, salami, capicola, and provolone and top it with salad, pickles, and peppers -- hot and sweet. A dozen types of hefty cold-cut-based subs are tossed together with aplomb, including a kick-ass BLT. Sub rolls come in whole wheat too for those who wish to delude themselves into thinking they're eating health food. Does Boulevard finish its sandwiches with a sprinkle of oregano? Of course -- this is, after all, the top stop for those to whom subway means only that train in NYC.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

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