The Cottage
Christina Mendenhall

We're going to assume that you're not dining alone by choice. Go to the Cottage. Like a well-planned party, it's designed to make people mingle. Three seating arrangements on its patio provide sophisticated ways to get to know the stranger beside you. At the bar, if you order a couple of small plates — say, a Sultan Wrap, or a tuna tartare bruschetta — you'll likely find yourself beside the president of the local chamber of commerce, or a loud anarchist, or maybe a couple of girls who just ditched their boyfriends. Discuss the '80s film playing on the wall above the bar. Next, escort your new coterie to one of the high patio tables, where you're so close to your neighbors it would be rude not to introduce yourselves. Later, take your after-dinner drink to one of the lounge chairs under the palm trees. You'll look mysterious in the moonlight. People will want to meet you.

Tropical Acres Steakhouse

Gramps knows from class. Hell, he toughed it through the Depression, so don't tell him what is and isn't hip. Just ask and he'll tell you: shrimp cocktail surrounded by a parsley ring, a well-dressed gentleman playing the piano, and steak. No, wait: a really big steak. Those things are timeless, which is precisely why you need to dote on your... more established relatives, by taking them to Tropical Acres. Inside Acres, men still wear dinner jackets, seafood is often deep-fried, live music is never electrified, and the cocktail bar is Turner Classic Movie-grade. That's because Acres has been in Dania since 1949 (before it started calling itself Dania Beach), and staying classy is what's kept this place operating for nearly 60 years. Let those newfangled joints open with their fusion this and raw that; Tropical Acres will outlast them all. And it'll do it in a way that makes Gramps proud, with recession-proof prices and refinement.

Greg McMenaman has come up with a concept to spur any flagging appetites at Blacktip Reef: a pet shark that trolls its wall-sized tank immediately adjacent to tables where you're chowing down your Delray fish taco or Bermuda conch chowder. There's something about that vision of pure, insatiable hunger that makes you want to keep ordering conch fritters and raw oysters, and keeps you longing for pan-seared grouper with a little mango risotto on the side. Blacktip Reef is as much neighborhood bar as it is gourmet fish house — the crowd ordering baskets of steamers at the bar, or showing up for "shark hour" drink specials, is drawn from a cross-section of Delray. Here's where the minnow swims happily with the barracuda, the lobster with the hammerhead: lawyers, deep sea fishing guides, secretaries, the temporarily unemployed, bricklayers, PR ladies, and yachtsmen glide fin to fin in Blacktip's Caribbean-hued light, only baring their teeth for another bite of blackened wahoo.
Woodlands Indian Cuisine
Eric Barton

So you have a vegetarian girlfriend. It's cool, man, it happens to the best of us. Thing is, she's awesome — sweet, thoughtful, and totally willing to accompany you on your weekly trips to Casa Del Carne, doing it all for the glory of love (cue Peter Cetera of Chicago). That means a lot, you know, so it's time you showed her you care by adopting her lifestyle for an evening. Take her to Woodlands Vegetarian Indian Restaurant. You won't find a single dish with meat on the menu, and most are completely vegan, too. You won't be fulfilling any cravings for rib eye steak, but you will feel an unsettling urge to ravage their fabulous chana bhatura, a pumpkin-shaped balloon of fried dough and accompanying sweet-curried chickpeas. You won't miss lamb or chicken curry either, not when there's baigan bharta, avail, and mutter paneer to sop up with your naan. And you'll swear there was meat stock in the sambar, because Woodland's version of the ubiquitous South Indian soup is so savory. But there's not. See, this is a place where you can feel vindicated in relinquishing your carnivorous ways. You're going to fall in love, but that's OK. Just do us meat-eaters a favor: When your girlfriend wants to go out again, don't tell her it's Woodlands you're secretly pining for. We've got appearances to keep up, after all.

Shooter's Waterfront
Courtesy of Shooter's Waterfront

Chaz: Let's take my baby out for a spin this weekend.

Jackson: No man, it's my turn.

Blake: Aw shucks, fellas, how am I ever gonna pick up babes if I'm cruising the Intracoastal in my buddies' boats? Let's take mine!

Life is indeed rough in the "Venice of America," especially when you and all your friends own yachts. But fear not, well-heeled one. Shooters has space to dock your 25-footer. Their dockmaster even takes reservations and offers valet service. The best part? Everyone at the café gets to see you walk off your very own boat. Chicks will be swarming!

Rachel's Adult Entertainment & Steakhouse

When we rope a high-roller, we make them take us to Rachel's, where we end up with more filet and filly than we know what to do with. In fact, we have buddies we cultivate for nothing so much as their willingness to let us tag along and share their strip (New York), their tail (lobster), their hot potatoes, their creamed spinach, and the gaggle of lovelies that materialize whenever VIPs come through the door. The fun at Rachel's is as bottomless as the dancers, and the ATM situated conveniently at the entrance; the night as endless as a loop of "Me So Horny" — Rachel's serves dinner with a side of booty and late breakfast until 1:30 a.m., and it serves drinks until 4 on weekends. The ladies are tireless in their attentions. By the time your pal's bankroll gives out — "Sir, we're sure the ATM is not broken" — you won't remember a thing."

Mustard Seed Bistro
Photo courtesy of Mustard Seed Bistro
Consider for a moment the potato chip. This forgettable culinary staple dresses the side of many a lunch plate, but more often than not it's hastily exchanged for coleslaw or the more health-conscious fruit salad. But at the Grapevine Gourmet, the potato chip has been elevated to an art form. Order any of the artfully prepared sandwiches at this West Broward lunch spot and they'll be accompanied by a cascade of potato perfection you'd be a fool to turn away. The secret is in the waffle-cut — it's what makes the Grapevine's frites so uniformly crisp, yet at the same time as light and airy as a starch-enhanced cloud. The cut also works to wick away excess oil, so you end up tasting potato, not fry-o-lator. Just one helping of these bad boys and you'll be hitting up the take-away counter on your way out the door, buying 'em up by the bagful (at only $5 per pound) for further adventures in chipland.

Pa' DeGennaro's Restaurant

The only relationship Pa' deGennaro's deli has to the Italian restaurant of the same name next door is proximity. The "deli" — if you're thinking tongue sandwiches, forget it — is run by a Swiss guy named Ulrich Koepf, who apparently got the idea somewhere that when Americans think "take out," they think "pumpkin seed crusted salmon with five spiced sweet potato mash and mango citrus sauce." Actually, Koepf has been around SoFla for quite a while running upscale restaurants like Bistro Mezzaluna and Café Picasso; now he's brought his culinary talents to bear on food made specifically to be carried home in a paper bag and reheated, so that you and your paramour can have a romantic, candlelit dinner à deux without the butter in your hair (unless you want to get up to that sort of thing deliberately). On a Friday night, for example, you can haul home lamb shank braised in Rioja sauce, the catch of the day, a whole rotisserie chicken "herbs de Provence," or a seafood bisque with chives; on Saturday an osso bucco; and the following Monday, chicken Scarpiello with an array of scrumptious side dishes. The place also sells the wine with which to pair these feasts, of course. Sure beats the hell out of chop suey.

Chima Steakhouse

Brazilian steakhouses have fantastic salad bars. Seriously. Between the hearts of palm, array of cheeses, and various salads, pretty much any vegetarian can walk away from a meal more than satisfied. But if those skewers of beef that keep passing by seem at all appealing, this is the place to order up some meat and go out with a bang. Leave the world of rabbit food behind. After the server carves off a slab of juicy top sirloin, you can dive into the pork ribs, followed by some lamb, chicken, and sausage. Go whole hog! While a rodizio in Brazil might lead you into totally uncharted territory — think grilled chicken hearts — this stateside feast will help you ease back into life as a carnivore.

Paula Palakawong and Ravin Nakjaroen have designed a brilliantly soothing space to showcase their menu of new Thai cuisine at the Four Rivers, one of the dreamiest rooms you'll ever set foot in. Forget an afternoon at the spa, a meal at the Four Rivers will do more to lower your heart rate and blood pressure and induce beta waves than a month of massages. Raised pools are a lucent canvas for floating candles and water plants; a wall of lotus flowers showcases each single stem in its own pristine, uplit vase; on another wall, Buddhist poetry worked in bas relief makes a kind of intuitive sense as design, even if the strange curling script is illegible. You sink into buttery leather on the banquettes, note the whorl of the wood grain in the polished tables and the solid geometric shapes of the tableware, and begin to appreciate detail again. A veil of darkness has been laid over everything, occasionally punctuated by shocks of luminosity, like a low-volume conversation between light and dark, presence and absence, here and there.

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