Jimmie's Chocolates

The Oompa-Loompas from Willy Wonka had the ideal job. They installed lickable wallpaper and tended to chocolate waterfalls, and occasionally acted as bouncers to pushy, whiny children. We'll never know if they also had a great dental plan. You've always thought that if you found a chocolate factory as decadent as Willy's, you would never leave. This might be how Jimmie's Chocolates has managed to stay in business since 1947. Loyal customers trust that all of their future fudge infatuations are made on location in Jimmie's Dania factory, with the historic shop tucked neatly behind it. That's where you'll find baker's shelves pleasantly packed with nugget, caramel, and marzipan. This edible fantasy world has managed to keep hold of its rustic roots while also expanding into the cute, quirky cafe in front and a second chocolate shop in Pompano Beach. Jimmie's stays competitive by combining its vintage flair with modern trends. At events like their chocolate and wine tasting parties, cocoa lovers from all generations come together to salivate. The Oompa life was a sham; why spend your days laboring in a chocolate factory when you can visit Jimmie's and nibble through its bounty? Now all they need is lickable wallpaper.

Uggg. 3:30 p.m. Spreadsheets. E-mails. Fading. Internet? YouTube. Dick-in-a-Box. Giggle. Boss! Minimize. Work. Clients. Sales. Drowsy. Coffeemaker? Tar. Soda machine? Coinless. Crinkled. Finicky. Kick? Sprain. Doh! Eureka! El Rincón! Cafesita? No. Con leche. Yes! Sugar! Milk! Espresso! Ambrosia! Warmth! Power! Ambition! Boss? Raise! Promotion? Assuredly! You? Wiser! El Rincón? Adulation!

Mother Earth Coffee and Gifts
Christina Mendenhall

What smells like patchouli, French roast, the last pages of novels, clove cigarettes, and vintage Parcheesi boards? Les Beans: a place haunted by the smartypants set, girls who love lattes, spiritual thrillseekers, and the interestingly gendered. Proprietor Patti Lucia, a former high-school teacher of the sort to inspire dangerous crushes, hopped off her motorcycle long enough last year to open Les Beans and she's already turned it into the palpitating heart of the neighborhood. Regulars return for the exceedingly comfortable couches and outdoor café tables, carefully sourced fair trade and organic coffees (Patti's wicked brew is turning Lake Worth into the city that never sleeps), and highly imaginative entertainment. Stop by Tuesday through Sunday for theatrical productions (like community performances of The Vagina Monologues), open mic nights MC'd by Miss Cleo, shtick and banjo music courtesy of Valerie Wisecracker, screenings of Howard Zinn documentaries, board game tournaments, art exhibits, and dance parties. Or just chill over a fierce game of Scrabble (and no, asshat, "zooted" is not a word).

IKEA Restaurant

You have officially entered the belly of the beast: IKEA. It's terrifying, overwhelming, and incredibly efficient all at once. To come out of this battle victorious, you've got to think ahead. Once you actually begin your quest through the serpentine footpath of housewares, there is no turning back; there are no shortcuts. By hour three, the hallucinations begin: you're being chased by colorful futons and unrealistically well-organized work stations. You begin buying everything you see, whether you need it or not. IKEA has beaten you again. But this can all be avoided with a little all-American know-how: Fatten yourself before you start shopping. At the IKEA restaurant you can slurp up a hearty serving of the most comforting food ever created — the Swedish meatball. For $4.99, you get 15 of the little dudes smothered in gravy and served with mashed potatoes and lingonberries. This provides the vital nutrients needed to enter this megastore with confidence and to exit with only the curtains and cheese grater that you were looking for. Food that helps you beat the IKEA system: What could be more comforting than that?

You long for a trip to the Bahamas, not just for the freely flowing rum drinks or the relaxed vibe, but for the attention paid to the preparation of conch fritters. Here on the mainland, folks don't take pride in conch. Most restaurants are content with dropping frozen, bulk-bought orbs in oil and calling it a day, and you wind up with glorified hushpuppies. But you can drive to Lake Worth and gather a bushel of fried that surpasses anything crafted in the Keys. The catch? You have to be an early bird to get the sea snail. Theresa Cooper blends her batter and sends it to the Lake Worth Greenmarket in her granddaughters' custody every Saturday between October and May. That's where, from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., you can get a paper boat loaded with the good stuff fried to order along with pumps of secret sauce (a sweet, tangy condiment mixture) for seven bucks. If you live farther south, you can catch a broader menu at the West Palm Beach Greenmarket (October through April) where Cooper and family, under the name of her catering company, Sisters in the Pot, Inc., whip up everything from conch omelets to shrimp fried rice and, of course, the famous fritters. Each crunchy, drippy bite will send you further from your daily grind until you've mentally transported yourself to the Bahamas. Now all you need is that cocktail.

Rosey Baby Crawfish & Cajun House

If you plan to take action on the advice given in any of these Best Of selections, let it be this: Run this instant to Rosey Baby Crawfish & Cajun House. Sit at one of the half-dozen bar tables. Order a bucket of crawfish boil; they come in one-, two-, and five-pound sizes. Which size you get will depend largely on how many friends you have with you and how much beer you're willing to drink. More beer? More crawfish. More crawfish? You get the point. What you'll get is the most authentic, ass-kickingly spicy boil of bugs this side of Baton Rouge. The Babe has hundreds of pounds of the little critters shipped from Louisiana weekly. Each day, the chefs fill a big ol' pot with corn, potatoes, and a bombardment of secret spices before tossing in the live crawfish to simmer slowly in their own sauce. By the time they hit your bucket, the craws are bright red and teaming with a rich, heady broth that bursts forth when you rip open their shells. The trick is to suck up that liquid before pinching the sweet, prawn-like meat from their tails. To some, this sounds like a lot of work for just a little meat, but at the Babe the process becomes rhythmic: Twist, suck, pinch, eat, swig, repeat. There's nothing like being two pounds into a fiver, sweating from the spice and slightly loopy. Ah, good times. But remember when we said run? Yeah, do that. Rosey Baby only does the mudbugs when they're in season, from December to early July.

They come in stacks, with each crepe separated by a sheet of cellophane. Take eight, ten, or a dozen home, pop them onto a griddle, and supply your own mixings. The Croissan'Time crepes have just a hint of that divine French pastry flavor, and they're light, tender, and unobtrusive, like a good piano player cradling a song. We like 'em with chocolate syrup. We like 'em with butter and maple syrup. We like 'em with fresh fruit and whipped cream. A dozen go for $12, or buy one for $1.20.

Christina Mendenhall

You know how those cravings go: Must. Have. Cafe con leche. And a Cuban sandwich. NOW. That's why the 24-hour window at Havana Restaurant has saved many lives, from the night crawlers leaving Clematis Street to the early-birds needing a pick-me-up on the way to work before dawn. We usually get our fix with a banana batido (yum!) and a beef empanada (double yum!), but those more sophisticated (or more Cuban) than we prefer to sit down in Havana's two-story restaurant — a family biz run by Cuban exile Roberto Reyes — for a full-on oxtail dinner or palomilla steak, followed by a dish of flan or tres leches, best washed down with a pitcher of homemade sangria.

Cafe Paraiso

You'd never know this small, red-and-white lunch counter facing Andrews Avenue was called Sury's unless you asked. The sign out front says only "Original Cuban Sandwich and Havana Lunch," and the back parking lot is mysteriously lined with colorful pop art. It's a strange joint, to be sure, but they do serve up one mean Cuban. Sury's takes its sandwich seriously, using thick pressed ham and big chunks of slow-roasted pork shoulder layered into a crusty Cuban roll with Swiss cheese, mustard, mayonnaise, and pickles. It's tossed onto a plancha to press until it's brown and firm, then served with a rustic salsa of tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños. Slathered with the salsa, the sandwich becomes blissful: The meaty pork, caramelized at the edges and moist with pork fat; the balanced kick of salty-sweet from the ham; the collective juices of meat, cheese, and salsa pooling in the bottom of your paper-lined basket, just begging to be sopped up. The only bummer? Sury's is open breakfast and lunch only (7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), so fans of the medianoche will have to come early.


"Life is uncertain. Order dessert first," goes the old saw. Restaurants are uncertain, too, so you'd best order your dessert from Canyon. Anything as delicious as Canyon's bread pudding, for instance, should be in a morality-free zone: It's OK to eat all of it. Without sharing. At some indecent hour. Thankfully the pudding is large and varied enough to constitute a well-balanced meal on its own. Served in a bowl the size of a kiddie pool, it cavorts up and down every tier of the food pyramid: dairy in the cream, protein in the eggs, bread in the bread, vegetable in the chocolate, fruit in the berries, and booze in the booze. Canyon chef Chris Wilber and his staff have been turning out happy variations on this bread pudding for years. Along with toasted pecan pie, homemade ice cream, and vanilla bean cheesecake, it's just one of the reasons customers sometimes wait an hour or two at Canyon for a table. Go after the rush is over, around 9:30 p.m., and you can get right to it.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of