Dolce Vita Gelato Cafe

The perfect meal ends with a good dessert and this small store on Hollywood Boulevard -- the fifth of a small chain founded in Miami Beach -- makes the perfect sweet. This is not an exaggeration. The creamy stuff served by Italian/Argentine/American Julio Bertoni and his partner, Hector Enede, is unforgettable. There are 48 flavors, from chocolate to rum raisin to dulce de leche to super sambayon, a combination of egg yolk, marsala, and cream. Ay, it'll make your head spin. Prices for the stuff are as low as $3.50. Bertoni and Enede are ambitious. They are establishing free delivery at the year-old Hollywood store -- the first in Broward -- and plan to open places in Houston this year. They also serve the stuff at fancy hotels like the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key. But don't worry about all that. Just stroll in here after a meal on Hollywood Boulevard, taste to your heart's delight, then enjoy some of the most beautiful, cool flavor you've ever dreamed about.

Belle & Maxwell's

Ladies who shop and then lunch have enjoyed leisurely afternoon tête-à-têtes at Belle and Maxwell's for years; it's time they scooched over their Chanel-clad fannies and made room for the rest of us. In the heart of West Palm's Antique Row, where uniformed chauffeurs keep the Bentley running while Madam dickers over the price of a Louis XIV end table, Belle & Maxwell's is an excellent place to lean back with a pot of Earl Grey and forget for the moment that the social contract is crumbling around us. The space is surpassingly luxe, calme et volupté, full of flowers and plump pillows; a back door opens onto a tiny, sunlit patio. Try the pear and gorgonzola salad ($9), a brie baguette with apple and walnuts ($8), or a slice of homemade quiche with gazpacho ($9), but damn it, don't skimp on the sweets! They're homemade by the ladies who run the place: key lime pound cake, chocolate croissant bread pudding, an almond joy tart, apple praline pie, chocolate espresso truffle cake. Ten bucks buys you a "sampler choice of four." Go get your just desserts. Open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Moonlite Diner

Sometimes, when it's 3 a.m. and you're half-drunk, you're prone to imagining things. In fact, you might very well think that your mind is playing tricks on you as you stand outside Moonlite Diner. Built to resemble a highway café from the 1950s, the place features stools and bars of the John F. Kennedy-era malt shop style. There's also enough rock 'n' roll memorabilia on the walls to make Buddy Holly proud. Then there's the food. This restaurant serves good, cheap eats 24 hours a day. Highlights include crab cakes ($7.69) served with a fiery Cajun sauce; the Mediterranean omelet ($6.29), an unpredictable egg dish with feta cheese and spinach; and the Meatloaf Blue Plate ($9.29), a hunk of oven-baked beef seasoned and shaped with the same love and care that your mama gave it. Finish everything with one of Moonlite's 24 flavored malts and shakes ($3.99) and you'll be left with the wherewithal to sleep off that nasty hangover.

Al Salam Restaurant

To embrace Middle Eastern culture is to learn to enjoy overeating. Liberate yourself from those blindered Western values by throwing on a flowing, figure-concealing thobe and heading for this cultural island out west. The menu and service at al-Salam epitomize Middle Eastern generosity and hospitality in spirit, if not in the exact details; rather than press upon you a roasted filet of camel, Salam's gracious servers ply you with familiar Mediterranean dishes and a few scrumptious things that you probably haven't stumbled upon lately. Begin with a complementary starter of dates, olives, and pickled turnips. Move on to appetizers like kibi, hummus, and koddsieh ($3 to $7.49), then settle into the heart of your meal with selections from the evening buffet, which includes potatoes with tahini sauce, stuffed tomatoes, red peppers, and cabbage, chicken soup, and hummus ($11.99). Or try an order of shawerma ($7.99). It's considered polite to eat and pass plates with your right hand, so feel free to count calories with your left. A cup of cardamom-laced Arabic coffee is final proof of Allah's beneficence.

It doesn't take long for international ex-pats in South Florida to congregate with their own kind: Uruguayans have their clubs, Panamanians their hairdressers, Haitians their takeout restaurants, Poles their Friday-night dances. And the French have their bakeries. At Croissan'Time, you know you're in the right vicinity not just by the unmistakable scent of warm, layered pastry but from the recognizable buzz of French-speaking customers crammed together over tables crowded with beignet and brioche. Owner Bernard Casse opened Croissan'Time in 1986 after a string of apprenticeships and baking gigs in France and New York, including La Grenouille and Regine's. Locally, he wowed the Palm Beach crowd with delectable confections at the Little French Bakery before moving to Lauderdale. Casse and crew are still turning out hundreds of filled and plain croissants daily, hot from the ovens every couple of hours. You'll recognize chocolate or almond paste-filled varieties, but you may never have experienced the guilty pleasure of croissants stuffed with sour apricots and custard, tart raspberries, silky prunes, or walnuts, apples, strawberries, cinnamon, ham and cheese, or guava ($1.25 small, $2.25 large). They're flaky, buttery, each better than the next, and impossible to tire of. But if you're still craving variety, try the coffeecakes, the tourtes, a selection of charcuterie that includes mergez and boudin noir, game meats like pheasant and partridge, homemade ice creams, freshly cut cheeses, paté sandwiches, bacon bread, cream puffs -- a short, delicious tour of French gastronomy for any Lauderdalian who loves Paris.
Japan Hill/Da Mee Rak

If heaven exudes a fragrance, it's the one that awaits when you step into Da Mee Rak. Korean barbecue is the specialty of the day here, with marinated beef, pork, and seafood sizzling and snapping atop each table-top grill. Once you've partaken of this distinct Asian cuisine, you'll wonder why there isn't a K-BBQ joint on every street corner. For first-timers, the best bet is the BBQ for two for $33.95, which includes your choice of three beef, chicken, shrimp, and pork plates. It's served with 12 side dishes -- many of them variations of kimchee, which is vegetables pickled in garlic, red pepper, and ginger. As you nosh on this bounty, the first plate of raw meat grills before you; you can tend it yourself or, if you want to concentrate on eating, leave the work to the skillful wait staff. For the more adventurous, there's beef tongue for $16.95 and marinated conch for $19.95. After you become a regular, try the octopus, eel, and "marinated intestine of cattle." Obviously, it pays to dine here as a group to get a wide tasting of meats. Wine and Korean beer are available for $3 to $4. Reservations are recommended.

Le Petit Pain
Christina Mendenhall

An NPR commentator once asked a French chef if he thought the Atkins Diet would ever catch on in France. "Mais non," the chef replied haughtily. "In France, we must eat one pound of bread every day for good health." No doubt for other reasons of vigor and well-being, that pound of bread must also be slathered with sweet cream butter, n'est-ce pas? And washed down with just a cup or two of hot chocolate to aid the digestion? The baguette ($2.50) at Le Petit Pain is the place to start if you're planning to follow the good chef's advice: the long, thin loaves, crunchy and buttery on the outside, pocked with delicate holes when you break them open, come warm from the oven a couple of times a day. The proprietors, a handsome and charming family hailing from Paris, have evidently picked up a few baking skills in their native country that have translated exquisitely to ours. They serve the finest from the baguettes, which have an unsettling tendency to become as necessary to daily existence as air, to their beautiful cakes, pies, butter cookies, fresh croissants, and filled crepes -- also highly nourishing when eaten in quantity.

Pegasus Pinoy Restaurant

Quick, name your favorite Filipino dish. If you're stumped for a response (roasted poodle is not an answer), it's time to go back to foodie boot camp for a refresher course in delicacies like dinguan and bulalo, the national dish of the Philippines. The outré ingredients of Filipino cooking have been denigrated by some, and you may have to screw up your courage as you scan the menu at Pegasus Pinoy. But if entrées like pork cooked in pork blood ($6.50) and deep-fried pork belly ($6.95) don't satisfy your yen for authenticity, nothing will. In fact, as exotic as it may sound to cook a beef stew of coconut milk, onions, bell peppers, green peas, and olives, one taste of kalderetang baka ($7.50) makes you wonder why you haven't been whipping up a pot of the stuff every Sunday morning. Even the wildest dishes are tamed by the spicy, sweet, and sour dipping sauces -- like one made from vinegar, sugar, and liver paste. Real men eat daing na bangu, grilled milkfish marinated in vinegar, garlic, pepper, and salt. But even the faint of heart will tremble with anticipation when a plate of peppery pancit guisado ($6.95) -- wheat noodles with sautéed shrimp garnished with julienned carrots, celery, cabbage, and green beans -- is put down in front of them.

This market guarantees that its fruits and vegetables were picked within 48 hours of the time they were laid before your eyes here. And like the shingle says, it's all 100 percent organic. The market is open all day Sunday, and it pays to be early to beat the crowds and swoop up items that grow more scarce toward the end of their season. There's no guarantee you'll find the same items from week to week, because the market relies much on Florida's growing seasons. During winter, the bounty is spectacular, from the routine to the exotic. For $3.99 a pound, pick up crispy red and yellow peppers, fresh garlic, pungent parsley, or exotic dandelion greens. You'll find Josh's on the Broadwalk behind the old Hollywood Beach Hotel, which is just south of Hollywood Boulevard.

Though the raw (and cooked, for that matter) fish is stellar, Kiko is best-known as perhaps the region's finest -- only? -- country-style Japanese restaurant. Instead of the flashy, neon-drenched techno-meal you'd find in the hip sections of Tokyo, this clean, bright space in the Fountains Center offers food you'd discover a farmer serving to guests in the old country. Ramen and other noodle dishes are outstanding, as is the deep-fried pork cutlet with panko breading ($13.95), a true comfort food. Try nabemono, with vegetables cooked together in a clay pot, or yakimono, with various samplings of meats or seafood in different sauces. The provincial fare is heartier and less delicate than what Westerners are used to -- some of the menu is a rather radical departure from our usual strip-mall sushi spots -- but it's authentic and served with artistic flair in a Zen-like realm. Kelp salad, brown rice, and tofu galore set Kiko apart, but on those rare, cold and rainy subtropical days, nothing warms body and soul like a steaming hot bowl of udon soup with fat, chewy noodles, Japanese cabbage, and big chunks of chicken (starting at $6.95).

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