Does this lawyerly eatery have an impressive tort-quashing track record? Or maybe a helpful friend at the small-claims courthouse?

Side Bar
So you just ate the best meal of your life, but you're not sated. You still need that little buzz that makes a damn good meal perfect. You could smoke a cigar, but that's not allowed these days. Pot? You crazy? So how about a snifter of the finest French cognac? No better place to try this final step toward gastronomic paradise than Side Bar at the Himmarshee Bar & Grille. They have the three top brands -- Courvoisier, Remy Martin, and Hennessey -- in both VSOP and top-drawer types. Side Bar is connected to the restaurant -- which is fantastic -- so you can just walk around the corner for a toot or drop in after eating somewhere else. Prices range from $9 to $25. So relax, whirl it around a little, and let the fumes make your head spin, then sip slowly. All is well with the world, no, mon ami?

South Florida is a long way from home for the several thousand Finns who spend the winters in Lake Worth. For a little taste of the motherland, many of them come to Scandia Bakery, which has become something of a city hall for snowbirds from the Helsinki hinterlands. They discuss news from the north over custard-filled Danish at breakfast, plates of meatloaf ($6.75 for a whole meal) for lunch, and cabbage rolls (two for $4) at dinner. Specials are written on paper plates taped to the back wall, and a shelf of goods displays all things Finnish, including bags of ultra-strong coffee that would make those Scandinavian winters bearable. After lounging for a few hours on the L-shaped couch under the front windows, you can buy a warm of Russian sourdough from owners Aune and Taisto Kaanto. And you'll be glad you did. All of it is a lot easier to digest than the Finnish language. Example: Thank you is pronounced kiitos. The place is open for breakfast and lunch but closed during the summer.

"Don't be a chickenshit!" "Smack my ass and call me Sally!" These are two of the more involved names of the 12 sauces (four regulars and eight rotating ones) in the bar at Tijuana Flats Burrito Co., daring you -- make that double-daring you -- to "Give heat a chance." As soon as you walk in the door, you're seeing red; the walls are a deep shade of it and decorated with photos of hot-sauce survivors. (If you're a glutton for punishment, try the aptly named "Ass in Hell.") The sauces, of course, are all there to accompany Tijuana Flats' budget-conscious menu, which includes drool-inducing dishes like the toasted blackened chicken burrito ($5.75) and the spinach artichoke quesadilla ($5.50). In fact, the most expensive thing on the menu comes out to a whopping $7.75. But your pockets won't be the only thing paying.

Florida Tap Room
With 14 draft beer choices (among them, the 1988 British Grand Champion Old Thumper and a crisp, dry Shipyard Light Ale) and a no-strangers bar, the Tap Room defines itself as winningly as Charlize Theron negotiating the red carpet at the Oscars. While this may not be high dining, its score of tables hugs the Bahia Mar Marina. Just finishing its first year, the Tap Room can be proud of its have-no-fear menu, which accents appetizers such as crab cakes ($9.95), highly decorated burgers and sandwiches ($6 to $9), and a list of entrées ($16 to $19) that boasts a swanky piece of salmon served on a cedar plank. All of this good food, a sunset remindful of Key West's Mallory Pier, and the chance to rub elbows (and more?) with some of the owners of the 90-foot yachts docked a few feet away make this spot one of our favorite new dining additions. Best indication of the quality: Even the staff likes to eat here. Readers' Choice: Dada
Rustic Inn Crabhouse
Candace West
Face it: Our primordial ancestors had the right idea about how to eat shellfish. They'd find a handy club or fist-sized rock, smash it down on the calcium carbonate-layered sea creature, and finger out the fleshy parts. Early in our lives, however, too early to resist parental persuasion, Mom and Dad thrust a spoon and fork between our fingers and opposable thumb at mealtime. We're witless and soon come to accept those cursed utensils as the proper way to deliver food to the ol' piehole. That's why the Rustic Inn is such a fine place to get in touch with your inner Neanderthal. Tucked away in the industrio-wasteland west of the Hollywood airport, Rustic Inn staff spread newspapers over the wide tables and equip diners with wooden mallets. The crab meals -- blue and golden garlic -- begin at $21. More expensive crabs include the blue steamed, Jonah, queen, and king. For the ultimate meal, order the $63 king colossal crab, which comes with parsley potatoes and veggie (as if you'd have room for one). Once the heaping bowl of crab legs arrives, you just bash away. Forget the fork; dig that meat out with your seawater-soaked hands. Suck the tiny pieces out until you're blue. A caveman paradise. Open Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 10:45 p.m. and Sundays 2 to 9:45 p.m.

About the same size as the cabin of an executive jet and as darkly intime as Antonio Banderas' eyes, this dinners-only slice of high dining has been enjoyed for 35 years by luxe Lauderdale. And it doesn't need to raise its voice to declare its utter suitability for proposals of any kind. You, however, may scream in delight over the 23-out-of-30 2004 Zagat rating, the wrinkle-erasing lighting, and the suggestive lapping of the waters drifting by your table overlooking the quiet canal. It's a high-priced-and-savagely-worth-it spread. Taken over by new owners a year ago from the Romano family that moved it from Brooklyn in 1970, La Tavernetta has a menu that leans more toward the tastes and colors of northern rather than southern Italy. And the wine list has expanded its breadth and depth (ah, those Chiantis!). But nothing else -- not even the easy-to-miss side entrance -- has changed here.

Tarpon Bend Food & Tackle
Michael McElroy
So you're drunk, having lots of fun, and you spill a greasy something down your shirt. It's after midnight. What's a slob to do? Well, if you are at the downtown hot spot Tarpon Bend, pick up one of the $15 all-cotton T's in the front. There's a pun-opoly to choose from, emblazoned with the following: "Nice Bass," "Master Baiters Welcome," "Spawn Till Dawn," "Best Piece of Tale in Fort Lauderdale," and that old classic, complemented by a picture of a very large fish: "Size Matters."
Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q
Anthony Cave
Don't be harsh on those folks who go to Tom Jenkins and order the barbecued chicken. They're not bad people, just misinformed. It isn't their fault nobody's told them the ribs here are the thickest, meatiest, and smokiest that you can possibly find this side of the Mississippi and that it's the ribs that set Tom's jaunty old barbecue joint apart from the rest. Besides, the deep, brick-red barbecue sauce here is so seriously and piquantly delicious that it can make even poultry seem irresistible. Tom's has other things going for it, like great corn muffins, slow-cooked ham-hocked greens, and an authentic Southern barbecue ambiance with African-Americans, good ol' boys, Latinos, and Jews sitting side by side not only in peace but openly communicating with one another -- as in "Could you please pass the paper towels?" Still, if you find yourself seated at Tom's next to someone eating chicken, don't pity or denigrate; just politely offer them one of your precious ribs. They will likely remember the gesture the rest of their lives. A rack costs $16.95. It's only $17.95 with two side orders and bread.

Sushi Thai Siam Kitchen
English clergyman Sydney Smith claimed, "Soup and fish explain half the emotions of life." Spot-on, Syd. Since at least half of the menu at this pan-Asian place is one or the other and since at least five are among the best liquids you'll ever swallow (a tom yum seafood soup will send you into a swivet), this 2-year-old transplant from the 79th Street Causeway in Miami-Dade County is one moving experience. Here are curries ($12 to $17) that will make your mouth -- not your eyes -- water and a selection of Thai noodle dishes that would qualify for Madame Nuh's last supper. Sushi-Thai is longer on atmosphere than many of the very good competitors. Servers here never ask "Is everything all right?" but glide by discreetly at just the right times. The place is a lucky charm on a bracelet of local Thai spots. Lunch, dinner, and delivery too.

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