Casa D'Angelo
Courtesy of Casa D'Angelo

The third date is the tiebreaker; if you flub this one, you're gonna find yourself back at the laptop flipping through JDate listings. The long-running and beloved Casa D'Angelo can help get you over the hump, if you'll pardon the pun — they've been cementing together fragile relationships with a mixture of ricotta cheese and marinara sauce for more than a decade now, and they know what they're doing. Casa D'Angelo's 40-plus-page wine list of regional Italian varietals will help you subtly showcase your sophistication (it's on their website, so you can prepare in advance); the breezy outdoor patio is quiet enough for intimate conversation; the courtly waiters, who serve with a friendly flourish, contribute to an atmosphere of relaxed luxury. And then there's the food: beautiful handmade pastas floating in rosy cream sauces; chops perfectly grilled and emanating the scent of rosemary; bronzino so fresh that it needs little beyond a sprinkling of capers and a bit of lemon reduction. Take a hint from that bronzino and don't overdo it — in love, as in cooking, a modest hand with the sauce lets your ingredients shine.

Best Restaurant When Someone Else Is Paying

Morimoto

Morimoto

The only bad news about Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's opening a sushi bar inside the beautiful Boca Raton Resort & Club is that you can't actually get in. Correction: You can get in, provided you are (A) a resort member, (B) a paying guest at the hotel, or (C) someone with wealthy and influential friends. Since options A and B are going to set you back a couple of Benjamins, your best bet is to latch onto the coattails of some philanthropic Boca bourgeois and weasel your sushi-craving, proletariat arse in. While there, why not let your friend pick up the tab too? The prices are as hefty as the entry fee, mostly because the fish at Morimoto's tiny bar is of a quality unparalleled in these parts, flown in multiple times a week from sources scattered across the globe. Uni from the California coast glistens with the life-giving power of the ocean; Japanese fish that rarely find their way to an American table like kinmedai and kohada are here en masse; ruby chunks of beautiful maguro tuna and melting cuts of marbled o-toro are cut from the prime stock of Boston and the Mediterranean. All of it is absurdly delicious and definitely worth every penny your wealthy benefactor is willing to throw at it.

If you're looking for the best place to take someone when you really need to get laid, there are plenty of bars by the beach with three-for-one drink specials. And if you're looking for dinner with an amazing view of the skyline or the water, this isn't your place either. What you get here is a sophisticated romance — a lover with a brain that matches the immaculate body. Yes, the service is impeccable, the ambiance open and light (there's often live jazz), and the drink menu exhaustingly complete. But all that is just foreplay before the sensuous, fulfilling act of mastication. Even the surliest dates will feel the love in the air when the food arrives. Pancetta-wrapped scallops, yellowtail snapper stuffed with jumbo lump crabmeat, a goat-cheese salad that will literally melt in your mouth, boneless marinated pork tenderloin roasted with pepper and onion, the best filet mignon you've ever had. You will not find a single unlovable dish on the menu. Really, if this doesn't do it for your date, break up.

UPDATE: This location is now closed.
The Salad Bowl

Remember the nerdy librarian lady in the old TV commercials for Cinnaburst gum? How she cowered in terror when she saw "flavor crystals" on a stick of gum? "There's... just... so... many of them!" She gasped, unable to handle even the idea of that kind of explosion of taste. That's how you'll feel when you open the menu at the Salad Bowl. It lists a whole panel of gourmet salads — and then another panel of "Salads & More Salads" — with a stunning 23 salads at last count. Options range from old standbys — Greek, cobb, caesar — to the sexy Roman beef salad featuring sliced marinated steak, orange slices, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, and walnuts. There's a classic niçoise with potatoes, green beans, and boiled eggs and a Hawaiian with moist breaded chicken, shredded carrots, cucumbers, grapes, and juicy pineapple chunks. The list of ingredients goes on and on: mozzarella balls, pesto sauce, pepperoncini, goat cheese, roasted pork, nacho chips. Whoever does the grocery shopping for this place, we salute you.

LaSpada's Original Hoagies

Throughout human history, countless innovations have changed the way we conduct our lives: Indoor plumbing. Sticky notes. MTV. But innovations in the realm of food, especially in something as common as sandwiches, are a rarer breed. This is why LaSpada's Original Hoagies, a Broward institution that has been flinging lunch meat since 1973, should be praised for a practice that has brought subology in South Florida to a whole new level: the Meat Blanket. Order a sub at LaSpada's and the hoagie wizards therein will first fill a chewy roll with a layer of sliced-fresh meat. Then, in go the toppings — lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and their own blend of marinated sweet peppers — in such generous quantity as to be spilling out all over the counter. The question then becomes, how does one eat this beastly sandwich, so overflowing with goodness, and not lose half of it to attrition? That's where LaSpada's brilliance comes in. Sandwich makers here top the sub with another layer of sliced meat and fold it into the sides of the hoagie roll, sealing in all that goodness. It's like they're lovingly tucking an adorable baby sub in for bed. Only then you get to eat the baby. Mmmm, meat blanket, baby. Now, that's true genius.

Café Seville
Chelsea Scholler

Now a quarter-century old, Café Seville is no stranger to our Best Of awards. Forgive what must feel like insistence, but you'd search in vain for another eatery that puts eels, rabbit, and merluza together on one menu. Seville's famous, five-foot-high specials board has achieved the status of local celebrity. And nobody offers those dishes in a warm little room with such gracious courtesy. All the while, a classical guitarist is playing. Seville combines the ease of a village café with an old-fashioned South Floridian hospitality, the kind of laid-back niceness that went extinct in Fort Lauderdale around 1980. It's not just a Spanish restaurant — don't let that list of charming regional wines confuse you. Seville opens its door every evening and embraces a neighborhood: People gather to measure their years in deepening relationships, in annual celebrations, and in speeches recited over raised glasses — passing down this favorite café from generation to generation like an heirloom jewel.

Chima Steakhouse

You know this is an indulgence of the most gluttonous sort. You know you shouldn't go often. But you're smart about it; you try to go with different people most of the time. You coyly suggest it on birthdays and anniversaries — yours and theirs. Just driving by, smelling the steaks, triggers some sort of primitive desire to chew meat. When you arrive, as you move through the open courtyard and elegant, South Beach-meets-Rio décor, your mouth actually salivates just a bit. You're seated and your waiter explains how it all works. It's time. You start with the phenomenal salad bar, with all kinds of gourmet fresh peppers, cheeses, soups, and veggies. Then comes the meat. Sirloin. Filet mignon. Lamb. Flank steak. Top sirloin. Baby top sirloin. Rib eye. Pork loin in Parmesan. Sausage. And it's all brought to you by delightful gauchos dressed in traditional Brazilian garb. You might debate for a moment with your fellow diners which cut of meat is the tastiest. Then you remember the best part: You don't have to choose.

Tacos Al Carbon

Not only does Tacos al Carbon serve authentic Mexican soul food good enough to grace the table of any proud abuelita; it's also open 24 hours a day, meaning that sweet release never has to wait. Tacos al Carbon spares no parts, crafting more than a dozen varieties of tacos out of succulent lengua (beef tongue), slow-stewed tripa (beef stomach), and deep-fried rounds of crunchy chicharrón (pork skin). Gringo-friendly varieties like grilled beef, chicken, and sausage don't disappoint either. Each taco comes lovingly graced with a mass of onions and cilantro, plus a filling of shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, and cotija cheese if you're so inclined. Stumbling drunks may want to steer clear of the blindingly hot orange salsa, lest their already-rumbling bellies take further abuse. For the rest of us though, it's pure bliss.

Sublime
Michele Sandberg

Start with the crispy cauliflower, which is flash-fried and covered in a sweet chili sauce so scrumptious that it will make you swear off sweet-and-sour chicken. Then order the sublime loaf, a mixture of lentils, brown rice, water chestnuts, and couscous that will convince you that all meatloaves ought to have "meat" in quotes. Hope your dining partner orders the enchiladas, a mixture of brown rice, black beans, faux cheddar, and shredded gardein (a surprisingly good fake meat product), all covered in a heavily spiced red sauce; it'll prove that Tex-Mex doesn't need to include Holsteins. Finish with the soy-based key lime cheesecake so perfectly tart and sweet that it just might make you vow to never eat any product that involves milking again. OK, maybe you'll forget all this and order a steak tomorrow. But Sublime — this paradise for vegetarians in a sea of meat eaters, this ideal of a restaurant that donates its profits to animal causes, this behemoth of eating with a conscience that seems plopped down from some other metropolis — will redefine your idea of vegan.

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Joshua++Prezant
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Somehow, the era of the $25 or $30 bottle of wine with dinner feels so distant, it might as well have been our Stone Age ancestors who were extracting corks from the Beaujolais with hand-carved flint tools. Restaurant wine has rocketed out of reach for regular people: Now we're guzzling a hurried glass at home before heading out. But that's never been the case at Hi-Life Café, a neighborhood favorite that takes its name seriously. Chef Carlos Fernandez (a Top Chef contender) and host/partner Chuck Smith have long known that food + wine = happiness. Thus, their breezy, California-centered list offers lots of bargains: pinot noirs from the Russian River Valley priced in the mid-30s, California merlots that start at $24, Australian shirazes at $32 and $34, a Spanish sauvignon blanc at $26, half bottles of yummies like Robert Sinskey pinot blanc and Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon, plus many more very drinkable grapes at friendly prices. The wines, naturally, pair perfectly with the down-home luxuries on Fernandez's all-American menu, from his chicken fried chicken and braised short ribs to roast duckling glistening under a blanket of merlot sauce.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of