Betty's Place

Betty's isn't your typical soul food joint. The quaint west Hollywood restaurant serves breakfast and lunch to folks looking for a taste of home — for breakfast, mounds of eggs done any way, with grits, pancakes, salmon croquettes, and fish platters; for lunch, fried shrimp, barbeque chicken wings, braised oxtail, and smothered pork chops. But their signature dish doesn't come directly from the backwoods South; instead, it takes a meandering turn through Jamaica. It's Betty's ultra-spicy jerk chicken — a destination-worthy plate of poultry if ever there was one. The southern soul comes from barbecuing on a barrel smoker out back. Then the island creeps in as the bird is chopped into knuckle-sized, bone-in chunks and slathered with Betty's super-secret jerk sauce, a furious paste of garlic, habenero, and loads of coarse black pepper. The succulent chicken clings to the bones with an infant's grip, its once-tactile collagen load now serving double duty, enabling the piquant jerk sauce to take hold of your palate for hours. Spice this fervent can be dangerous. Fortunately, Betty's stellar rice and peas, collard greens, and braised cabbage (with big ol' chunks of ham hock) lower your internal temperature to a slow boil.

Our favorite steak frites have everything the classic dish should have — except the steak. This darling, inexpensive bistro and bakery does serve a perfectly presentable, even delicious, plate of beef with fries. But for a truly gourmand frites experience, go for the mussels. The first time we ordered the mussels with frites at Rendez-Vous, our waitress nearly keeled over with pleasure she was so happy for us, and when she finally toted over the steaming bowl on what looked like a sort of rustic cutting board, roughly the size of our entire table, we knew that even with her encouragement we weren't going to be able to finish those dozens of shellfish bathing in their own winey broth, much less the mile-high fortress of gleaming shoestring fries. Luckily, she had a plan, and when we finally dabbed our greasy chins and pushed away from the table, she detailed for us at length exactly what we should do when we wanted to reheat and finish them at home the next day. Then she shooed us out the door with a complimentary paper bag full of pastries and a cheerful bonne nuit.

Cut 432
Liz Dzuro

The group of foxy young dudes who opened Cut 432 in Delray Beach have taken the fusty old concept of a steak house and tossed out everything but the rib eye. Instead of cavernous rooms filled with sanguinary red plush, they've outfitted their long, sleek, Pullman car of a restaurant in silver and ice; it's like dining inside a very dry martini. The fat cats go elsewhere; here the clientele is dazzling and vivid to match the crystal chandeliers overhead. Cool, cool, cool, Cut 432 whispers; a single room so narrow waiters have to squeeze between bar and tables with trays of sizzling chops balanced on one upstretched arm. The place has been packed every night since it opened a couple of months ago; a coterie of regulars has already settled in to sample boutique wines and fork up thick, charred New York strips and cowboy steaks. Side orders like "blue cheese tater tots" flecked with green onion and scented with truffle oil are as delish as cold blue crab starters, authentic Caesar salads sporting sheets of Reggiano, and oversized oysters Rockefeller.

Fernanda's International Market
Tabatha Mudra

Don't tell Jared, but Fernanda's is the home of true sandwich artistry. Sure, it's a bit more expensive than Subway, and preparation takes an extra minute or two. But that's because the meat and cheese isn't sliced until you order it, which is the first mark of a marquee sub shop. And there's about a half-pound of it, piled high on bread still hot from the oven. Choose from among 18 special sandwiches, each with surprising ingredient combinations. While you're waiting for your order, cruise the market aisles for a rare wine or an exotic spice.

Rosie's Bar and Grill
CandaceWest.com

Rosie’s is just a nice place to be. Their lanai is big and cool and blessed with a funky Hawaii-lite aesthetic that somehow demands a mimosa (which they serve in “French,” “Italian,” and “Grand” varieties, the last involving Grand Marnier). And at brunch-time — unlike, say, any other moment of the week — Rosie’s is quiet enough that you can actually hear your tablemates. Not that you’ll want to. Rosie’s brunch menu is filled with things that are a lot more appealing than a hung-over attempt at conversation. Like “Miss Truny’s Deep-Dish Southern Style Not-So-French Toast,” baked with a pecan-praline glaze, or “The Nelly Frittata,” an egg-white frittata with sausage, chicken, bacon, spanish onions, and red and green peppers. This is actually more delicious than it sounds, even when your stomach is doing loop-de-loops in flight from last night’s excesses. Heavy fare like this has a wonderful stabilizing effect. But there’s light stuff, too — fried green tomatoes with avocado, a delicious Greek omelet called “The Un-Teeny Santorini,” and a Belgian waffle topped with bananas, pineapple, mango, blueberries, and whipped cream that goes down like a confection and may even be healthy.

Sozo Sushi Bar

Has sushi jumped the shark? These days your average American sushi bar seats 300 and serves baseball mitt-sized rolls filled with tropical, tex-mex, and Mediterranean ingredients. Italian restaurants hawk tuna tataki along with ravioli and garlic bread. Suddenly the ultra-minimalist Sozo Sushi looks very cutting-edge. The tiny bar in Wilton Manors seats just a handful of customers and serves only raw fish and a few appetizers; the proprietors, a transplanted family from Manhattan, are so focused it's scary. Their less-is-more philosophy pays off in extremely light, blissful mouthfuls of steamed crab shumai, glistening shrimp with chili cocktail sauce, ceviche of the day, and rolls that might combine, say, king crab, shrimp, tobiko, and wasabi vinaigrette, or eel with cucumber and avocado, but never steak, banana, or manchego cheese. Rolls and sashimi, from snapper and wahoo to toro and sea scallops, are made to be eaten in a single bite, perfect motes in a supersized world.

Though the risk of employing the most unfortunate double entendre ever printed in this paper is high, we'll say it anyway: The cabeza de res at La Fondita Mexi-American Restaurant has to be the finest head we've ever gotten. And believe us, we love our head. Here, fatty bits of the slow-steamed meat are pinched off the cheeks of a cow head, spread onto two plush corn tortillas, and painted liberally with diced onions and frilly cilantro. That stuff is bliss, we're telling you, but if head isn't your thing, Fondita has a range of other meats — some adventurous, some more staid — to fit your fancy: pungent chorizo, shredded chicken, carne asada, and al pastor — pork carved shawarma-style off a thick spindle. Along with your tacos you'll get a basket of freshly fried corn chips and three bowls of salsa to dip, slather, and splatter on everything (a chipotle rich rojo, a peppery tomatillo, and a thin and smooth tomato variety). Show up on a Saturday, park your behind on one of the cute stone patio tables out front, and sip on a Modelo Especial while you eat, and you'll feel as close to noshing at a Tolucan taco stand as you can get here in South Florida.

Cafe Emunah
The pleasures of tea-drinking come from the taste, health benefits, and environment. Fortunately, Café Emunah, a Kabalistic café and tea bar, has you covered on all three. The teas are garden-direct and organic and contain all the antioxidants you'll need to get through the next five flu seasons. The café itself is an uplifting corner of calm billed as an "oasis for the mind, body, and soul." Its soft light, classy glass tables, friendly staff, and comfortable lounge area (with wi-fi access) make the place a perfect spot for relaxation or pleasant conversation. Sit back and lower your blood pressure with a cup of ancient emerald lily tea, rich with the flavors of melon, wild flower, and toasted nut. If tea-drinking works up your appetite, you should know that Emunah is also a kosher restaurant that offers sushi, salad, and seafood to sate your cravings.
Bangkok Palace

Husband and wife Richie and Noi Kasinpila have imported the brisk, invigorating flavors of their native Chiang Mai to the Lauderdale Lakes strip that's become ground-zero for lovers of the Orient; the Bangkok Palace is a few doors down from the Chinese Silver Pond, an Asian barbecue, a Vietnamese café, and a couple of groceries selling bean buns and fish flakes. Bangkok Palace has settled beautifully into this milieu, answering the prayers of we who can't live without a bi-weekly infusion of authentic green papaya, catfish, or crunchy fried egg salad larded with basil, cilantro, and grape tomatoes. The menu is based on gentle Noi's family recipes: hearty seafood clay pot, chicken laab gaii, kew nam chicken noodle soup, and egg-battered frog's legs, each dish tweaked precisely to turn up the volume on a different composition of herbs and spices. And the Kasinpilas' hospitality is as warm as the reds and oranges on their painted walls.

El Chamol

"Upscale" doesn't have to mean expensive or snooty. At El Chamol, chef Lamberto Valdez's contemporary Mexican restaurant in suburban Lake Worth, it means impeccable service and beautiful table settings — waiters who pull out your heavy wooden chair and unfold your napkin; painted Mexican dinner plates and pale-blue-and-green goblets. It means ravishing dishes arranged with an eye for color and composition and a chef who periodically emerges from the kitchen to greet customers or see to a table's special order. And the place is still as laidback as an afternoon in a shaded hammock. The Mexican-born, French-trained Valdez goes far beyond guacamole and chips to experiment with goat cheese and puff pastry, with cactus paddles topped with corn and shrimp, with lobster stuffed into a quesadilla, and with huitlacoche (fungus-filled corn) as a condiment. Even the guacamole is served with flair, handmade to order and scooped from a stone molcajete with corn chips the colors of the Mexican flag. Look for the coarsely chopped and lime-infused tomato salsa, their specialty margaritas, beans simmered all day and served in a cast iron pot, and tortillas that taste like the Mexico of your dreams..

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