Ulysses and his hearty crew sailed the dark canals of Broward County. As they approached Pembroke Pines, Ulysses ordered his men, good and true, to lash him to the mast. For they approached Pitios, whose siren scent of deliciousness called to the stomach and could drive hungry men mad. The crew stuffed beeswax in their nostrils, and Ulysses ordered he not be released under any circumstances. As they passed Pitios, Ulysses caught a whiff of the Greek sausages, gyros, imported feta cheeses, and phyllo-wrapped spinach pies. "In the name of Zeus!" Ulysses gasped as he worked against the leather bindings. Then he beheld the pita bread: freshly baked, soft on the inside, with an ever-so-slight crunch on the outside, just like his mom, Anticleia, used to make. "Agamemnon, free my anxious maw!" he yelled to the heavens. Change jingled in his toga, surely enough to buy any one of the affordable entrées that run from $3.25 to $9.25. Owners Michael and Katerina Giannomoros stood waving. "Oh, Styx," he groaned, "cheap and authentic Greek food."

Seasons 52

You'd never dream of setting foot in an Olive Garden, much less a Red Lobster, but that doesn't mean their parent company, Darden Restaurants Inc., is giving up on you. Darden introduced a high-end, low-cal restaurant this year that's drawing yuppies as inexorably as a Prada close-out sale -- Seasons 52. Here's an idea whose time has come: delicious, elegantly plated little morsels, grilled in olive oil rather than butter, incorporating seasonal ingredients, whole grains, and lightly cooked vegetables -- promising a caloric content below 475 per dish. Among those we recommend: grilled deepwater sea scallops, cedar plank salmon, and mesquite roasted pork tenderloin. Prices range from $8 to $21.75. And, get this: If you're vegetarian, vegan, or on any kind of fad diet -- like the amazing new chocolate and vodka diet (it really works -- call us and we'll fill you in!) -- Seasons' kitchen will accommodate you without flinching. OK, so the thimble-sized desserts, gargantuan wine list (more than 60 wines by the glass), and plush Intercontinental Hotel-flavored setting don't have the personality of your Aunt May's frayed living-room rug. But heck, it's even better this way. So tuck your oh-so-precious politics in your back pocket, relax, and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Kamzaman

To hunt for the perfect cup of coffee is to separate the men from the boys, the women from the girls, the NBA from your neighborhood pick-up game. There's a lot of crap out there. Mediocrity, really. But rest assured, at Kamzaman, there's no frou-frou soy, decaf double lattes. Instead, you'll taste the richest, smoothest Turkish coffee of your life for the ridiculously low price of $3. The caffeine elixir is brought to your table in a piping hot vessel, which you then poor into tiny ceramic cups for you and your guests. And what goes as well with good coffee as tobacco? Luckily, Kamzaman is a spacious smoke shop in a strip mall north of Sunrise Boulevard that's become a hotbed of Middle Eastern shops. Its walls are a continuous mural of scenes of Saharan life. For $8, they'll deliver a hookah to your table, and you can choose from among 15 types of tobacco.

A reasonably bright chimpanzee could be taught to make a faultless key lime pie: There's one immutable method, and it allows for no deviation. The recipe involves a can of condensed milk, a couple of eggs, a box of graham crackers, a stick of butter, and a handful of key limes. To see so many reasonably bright human beings in local restaurant kitchens floundering around with meringues and preformed crusts, Persian limes -- or worse -- bottled lime juice, whipping cream, and God-knows-what-all, is to witness the awful human compulsion to fiddle with what ain't broke. That being said, exceptions do exist. The pie-in-the-sky concoction dreamed up by pastry chef Gus Hernandez at River House is certainly one. His "key lime pie baked Alaska" is a delicious joke composed of a Brazil-nut graham cracker crust, a tower of sweet limey mousse, a rakish chapeau of browned Italian meringue, and many decorative swivels and swirls of berry coulis. That you can sit outdoors at a table under the stars to eat this pie between the glittering lights of two august mansions and the lazy New River makes variations like this one seem necessary.

Crazy Buffet

Our American romance with Asiatic foodstuffs shows no signs of slowing -- and now some genius has dreamed up a gigantic, all-you-can-eat Eastern food complex adapted to our very Western waistline -- Super Size Me-San. At Crazy Buffet, a budding Florida franchise with outlets in Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm, discerning diners can fork over $19.99 to begin at the sushi bar, which features 50 kinds of sushi, sashimi, and rolls, a lineup stretching as far as the hand can reach. A full dinner plate of dragon rolls, rainbow rolls, kimchee rolls, chunks of glistening raw tuna, yellowtail, and salmon is just a little something to whet the appetite. Next stop: the seafood table, for snow crab legs, shucked oysters, cold boiled shrimp, marinated mussels, seared scallops. And for a little variation, the salad bar offers cold comforts. A fourth course entails tough choices: pick your own beef, chicken, and bean sprouts for the chef to stir-fry, have a steak or a mess of shrimp grilled on the hibachi, or both. Or all. Just don't forget to stop by the Peking duck-carving station on the way back to your table. Finally, it's crucial to save a little room, maybe roughly the size of your small intestine, for a dessert table laden with cakes, pies, and ice cream -- because there will be no taking home leftovers in doggy bags -- you gotta live for the moment.

Johnny V Restaurant
Michele Sandberg

Thirty years from now, when you're a full-blown diabetic jabbing your beleaguered index finger to test your blood sugar for the fourth time in a day, bemoaning your descent into infirmity and disease, you will think back. You will remember, with morning-after regret, the diminishing returns of those Pepsi refills, the cheap half-thrill of real sugar in your espresso, a lifetime of licking whole whipped cream off strippers' netherquarters. Then you will remember Johnny V's tiramisu martini, its spiced pumpkin mascarpone steeped in chocolate liqueur and antlered with ladyfingers. You will recall a warm mango tart soaked with the nectar oozing off a dollop of cinnamon sorbet, the sweet burn intertwining with the sugary sour. You will hark back to a mound of soft-centered chocolate cake that guttered an intoxicating syrup-sludge onto the chocolate-covered strawberries of the chocolate sampler plate. It was all worth it, you'll say, even at $8 to $10 per dessert. It was all worth it.

The top views in Hollywood come courtesy of the ocean-facing tables at Hasan Kochan's 13-year-old restaurant on the Hollywood Broadwalk. Those tables have withstood annual flocks of snowbirds, the gentle if charming weirdness of the area, and a handful of hurricanes. But taking the long view must be Kochan's talent. The Broadwalk is coming in for a big revitalization that's bound to pay off for him -- that is, unless somebody decides to plunk down a high-rise next door. In the meantime, you can take advantage of those tables, particularly offseason, for the panorama they offer of the skaters, bikers, and scallywags who ply the two-mile walkway. The food is homemade and moderately priced ($3.95 to $9.95 for small plates, up to $16.95 for entrées). Among our favorites are the feta- and parsley-stuffed cigars, the little Turkish pizzas topped with lamb and vegetables, and the dish of fried sardines with a side of thick cacik -- a yogurt and cucumber salad as mild as an ocean breeze.

Emack and Bolio's

Brian Miller spent 20 years in Boston selling computers. Sometimes, he stopped in at the Cape Cod Emack and Bolio's for a couple of scoops of Twisted Dee-Light and Deep Purple Cow. Then he moved to Boca to open an ice cream store of his own -- every nerd's fantasy. Emack and Bolio's started out 30 years ago as a late-night hangout for rock 'n' roll types; it was owned by entertainment lawyer Bob Rook (hence the ice creams nostalgically named for '70s and '80s bands). Today, there's plenty to keep the tykes occupied (like 100 flavors), but a new line of milkshakes, glad to say, is for grownups. They're called "frappes" these days, of course -- gotta change with the times -- and five flavors ($5 each) are designed to keep you up all night bangin' head to your old Twisted Sister discs. Choose from Irish Coffee, Italian Coffee, Dirty Monkey, Caramel Thriller, and Nutty Monk, all made with ice cream, a good splash of French roast coffee, a dash of the appropriate flavoring, and a cap of homemade whipped cream. Miller says he's adjusting just fine to the life of an ice cream man -- long "hours of boredom punctuated by moments of panic." Sounds kinda like the way we remember those old Deep Purple records. "Smoke on the Water," anyone?

Cornell Cafe

The state of dining in many museums is disappointing. You're part of a captive audience. What a pleasure, then, to know that after you've strolled the goldfish ponds and other loveliness of the Morikami's gardens, some fine and affordable Japanese food is waiting at Cornell, which overlooks all the flora and babbling brooks. Start with the seaweed salad, a plentiful plate mixed with sesame seeds and mild hot peppers in a vinaigrette sauce for $4.50. Tuna, shrimp, grouper, and salmon rolls run $4.50 to $5.50. But it's the luncheon specials that make the day. For the budget-minded, the beef bowl, at $6.95, is a meal in itself, with strips of stir-fried beef, onions, fresh mushrooms, and carrots. Jumbo shrimp in Asian leek sauce is a steamed delight that includes rice and vegetables for $8.95. For vegetarians, there's Asian eggplant with garlic sauce for $6.95. For the true Japanophile, there's the eel bowl, in which this favored seafood is baked in sauce and ladled over rice. Cornell is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission into the museum is $9 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for kids.

Boomerang Coffeehouse

Across from the comfy half-moon couch in a corner of this roomy caffeine bar hangs a large black-and-white drawing of a rhinoceros. The animal's eyes glare menacingly, and his nostrils flare. Hasn't had his coffee, obviously. Or perhaps he just hasn't found the right place to drink it. Relax, big boy, you're at Boomerang, which is a bona fide coffeehouse, the kind the Northern folks take for granted. There's conviviality between patrons and staff that makes this a warm place to come. There is, of course, the lengthy and varied menu of coffee drinks, from the basics -- a cuppa joe for $1.51 or a single espresso for $1.42 -- to the more specialized concoctions, like a white mocha, which is espresso, white chocolate, steamed milk, and whipped cream, for $3.35. But it's the atmosphere that makes this a "house." On a recent Saturday morning, a jazz guitarist set up his laptop computer, which served as a backup band, and then began strumming a soothing sound. One young woman read a book as she reclined on the sofa. Others chatted quietly at tables. Of course, the rhinoceros was none too happy with the whole thing. But what the hell; he's only a picture.

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