Zona Fresca
Seriously, it'll drive your friends and co-workers crazy, but you really can go to Zona Fresca every day and never tire of this independent eatery's fresh Cali-Mex fare: fish tacos on Monday, steak burrito on Tuesday, char-broiled chili rellenos on Wednesday, quesadillas stuffed with cheese and cut-from-the-cob corn on Thursday, ceviche on Friday, nachos on Saturday, and a Baja chicken caesar salad on Sunday. After 17 straight days interchanging the burritos, tacos, and quesadillas with steak, chicken, fish, and veggies, you'll still crave the creamy guacamole, the hot salsa, and the tart roasted tomatillo sauce. Scoop it all up in the crunchy and warm chips. If your regular lunch buddies ever tire of the Zona, find new friends.
Casablanca Cafe
Lauderdale architect Francis Abreu designed this terrific Moorish folly of a house facing the beach on AIA in the 1920s; almost 100 years later, it's still sucking up salty breezes and swirling them around in a vortex of pale stone rooms that look like Scheherazade's digs in Key West. Your main difficulty at Casablanca is deciding where to sit. Depending upon the way you prefer to configure your "outdoors" and who you're dining with, you can settle down at a candle-lit bistro table on the aged brick patio facing the ocean or just slightly indoors behind billowing curtains under high wooden ceiling beams and hanging lanterns or facing Alhambra Street at the open-air bar with the telly tuned to ESPN. Or climb the circular stone staircase to a second floor fit for Rapunzel, where the doors are thrown open on the night and a handful of tables line a secluded balcony with a panoramic sea view. Although the menu is Mediterranean eclectic, the best dishes here are the simplest preparations: aged steaks and burgers, grilled fish, chocolate mousse for dessert, many glasses of wine, maybe a little discreet necking behind a column. Casablanca doesn't take reservations, and it's usually packed. The trick is to time your arrival after the midevening rush has peaked. After brandy and cake, take a post-prandial hop to the beach across the street.
Olio
Christina Mendenhall
Maybe the best wine list is no wine list. Restaurateur Tony Boueri and his brother Joseph have been collecting far-flung wines for a couple of decades and serving them to customers at Boheme Bistro on Atlantic Avenue. But three years ago, Tony built a better place to store those precious extra bottles. Around the corner on SE Second Street, Boueri bought a two-story Mediterranean-revival building and renovated it as Olio Bistro, installing a wine room at the rear of his new restaurant. The floor-to-ceiling racks hold 5,000 to 15,000 bottles, some of them old enough to have acquired a coat of dust. At night, the wine room — with its polished woods, crystal glasses, magnums, splits, jeroboams, rare cabernets wrapped in tissue paper, and, occasionally, a raucous private party — is as rich and strange as a scene in a fairy tale. Choose your bottle from an eccentric selection of California vineyards and the best of Italy and France, priced from $20 to several hundred (an Opus One goes for $150). The corkage fee you pay to sip your prize with a good shrimp curry or a bowl of Prince Edward Island mussels might be the easiest $15 you ever spent.
Bizaare Avenue Cafe
Bizaare celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, an enduring testament to a good idea that's persisted through Y2K, 9/11, a celebrity baby boom, a decade of the Donald's comb-over, and the final episode of Friends. In fact, owner Al Salopek credits that NBC megahit as the inspiration for his insidiously comfortable and enduringly popular café — plop down on a corner sofa with a good pal and you won't be getting up anytime soon. Salopek spiffed up this old brick two-story (formerly a thrift store) and installed plush couches strewn with throw pillows, overstuffed retro chairs, and low coffee tables (all for sale), lighting the space with antique lamps and filling a clawfoot bathtub with wine bottles. Couples have been making up and breaking up over tapas plates, salads, gourmet pizza, and snifters of pinot ever since. In 2005, Salopek added Upstairs at Bizaare. Now we have twice the space in which to gossip, canoodle, and plan our next ten years.
Prime Catch
Despite its corporate gleam, the nautical paraphernalia, and a sedate view of a patch of the Boynton Beach Intracoastal, Prime Catch (owned by the same folks who gave us Banana Boat) is a waterfront restaurant that makes good on the old Florida promise of easy living. There's enough space in this enormous, vaguely Bahamian-inspired complex (tropical foliage, wood shutters, brass fixtures) so that you can almost find a room of your own — whether it's a window next to the busy bar, in the subdued dining area, outside by a railing on the deck, or cozied upstairs in the wine room. The surprise here is not necessarily the view, although sitting dockside on an early spring evening as sailboats drift under the bridge is deliciously pleasant. It's that such a variety of seafood has been brought in fresh, filleted in house, and gussied up with preparations that elevate these dishes a couple of large notches above high-tourist mess hall. There's cilantro oil and beurre blanc, pecan crab relish and Creole seasonings, orange mango hollandaise sauce and red onion marmalade. And it's all married to a range of fish and shellfish that includes yellowtail, grilled Scottish salmon, mahi, Gulf shrimp, Maine lobster, sole, swordfish, and sea bass. Add appetizers like lobster fritters and oysters Florentine and Prime Catch demonstrates that waterfront fine dining doesn't have to be a contradiction in terms.

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