You know a gelato restaurant knows its shit when Sylvester Stallone has gone through the drive-through. Sonny's Gelato Café in Boca Raton is within walking distance of Florida Atlantic University's main campus and apparently within driving distance for "Rocky" to feed his habit. The popular gelato café features more than 40 flavors on its menu. When asked to name the most popular one, staffers couldn't pick and instead spouted off flavors like banana, Nutella, and peanut butter. The family-run business also serves cakes imported straight from Italy, plus panini sandwiches and subs for those craving an actual lunch.
Downtown Delray Beach is probably about as close as one is going to get to a small-town feel around here. Atlantic Avenue is like an old-fashioned main street running through Mayberry or Smallville. Of course, you can also valet the beach. (This is still Palm Beach County, after all.) But just off the avenue, hidden behind a snooty art gallery, is a small, charming café — with just four tables inside and two outside — that serves up the fluffiest pancake-like dishes you've ever tasted. The savory crepes — like the Cousteau stuffed with smoked salmon, crème fraiche, and capers and topped with onions and a squeeze of lemon juice — are a satisfying and healthy-ish meal. The sweet crepes are just like the Nutella- and strawberry-smothered desserts you can buy from Parisian street vendors for a few euros. Round things out with a freshly made cappuccino and it's like a little slice of Gallic heaven right here in South Florida.
Wild boar cacciatorini with red onions and aged cheddar. Roasted eggplant with chilies, capers, and shallots. Local beet leaf with lemon and garlic. These aren't just pizzas, folks. They are visions both mad and beautiful, dreamed up by Dak Kerprich, chef/owner of Lantana's Pizzeria Oceano. Kerprich is an auteur when it comes to pie making. He makes his own mozzarella and crafts only as much dough as the restaurant will go through daily. He sources local and artisanal ingredients and highlights their origin on his daily-changing menu. And he's simply fanatical about pizza — some might say to a fault, since Pizzeria Oceano allows no takeout (it would ruin the pizza's texture) or substitutions (he's the chef, not you). But the proof is in the product: Kerprich's wood-fired crust is airy-light yet brusque as a thin cracker. His toppings are always in perfect proportion, and his sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Sure, the converted bungalow is tiny and frequently packed and is open only from 5 to 10 p.m. every day excluding Sunday (and even then, the kitchen often closes early). But these pizzas, concocted by one mad genius of a pie maker, are simply worth it.
The service-with-a-snarl shtick — a gimmick that peaked in the late '90s, when Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon — can wear thin in a hurry, particularly if the food doesn't counterbalance the server's indignation. The continuing success of this brusque downtown Hollywood mainstay is testament that it's got the pie to back up the 'tude. Forget about clean eating; things will get messy. Each slice is so epic that it spills onto a second plate and necessitates a fistful of paper napkins that you can only hope will make a dent in the wreckage of grease, cheese, and sauce flying around your person. Your best bet for a good experience: Speak clearly, carry cash, and don't wear white.
"How are the bagels made? Do you boil them? Huh?! DO YOU?!" South Florida locals are known to kvetch over their bagels. You see, the perfect bagel is boiled and then put in a rotating oven until it's a golden, toasty brown, and New York transplants are experts at detecting fakes. Bagel Boyz employees nod politely because yes, they've heard this question a million times. And yes, the answer always pleases the picky customers. The little family-owned business has exploded since the first store opened in Jupiter's Abacoa Plaza many years ago. The one store has since turned into a small chain with four order-at-the-counter-style restaurants that extend from Jupiter all the way down to West Palm Beach.
Before World of Beer opened in the Promenade at Coconut Creek last July, craft beer was still very much an alternative movement in South Florida, spoken of mostly by dyed-in-the-wool fans who were sick of the words Bud and Miller being uttered in the same context as beer. These days, another location has opened on Clematis Street, and your mom and dad probably go to World of Beer to get their weekly Belgian blond fix (and no, that's not a swinging reference). Truth is, the massive beer-emporium-cum-rock-bar has popularized craft beer in a way few could have imagined. At the heart of that is an ever-rotating selection of more than 500 beers that includes a sizable draft list of 40-plus brews from the likes of Dogfish Head, Rogue, and Cigar City. Almost every night of the week, the joint is ass-to-glass packed with newly minted beer fans. You can even get a World of Beer customer card that keeps track of all the nifty beers you've tried so far. Sample 50 unique brews and you get a black-on-yellow "WoB Culture" T-shirt — it looks cool at the bar and matches that Great Divide Oak Aged Yetti Imperial Stout you've been drinking. Yep, craft beer is good. And thanks to World of Beer, it's getting better and better in SoFla.
When was the last time you ate a taco that made you curse because it was so good? Try the spicy Korean pulled-pork concoction at Nacho Bizness, a mobile food truck generally located in Southwest Fort Lauderdale. Chilled cucumber, spicy sour cream, and sweet chili sauce atop a righteous helping of juicy, seasoned pork is everything a taco lover has always wanted without ever knowing it was possible. Asian fusion is far from passé when you fuse it inside a fresh corn tortilla. Don't bring anyone along who isn't prepared to hear you outwardly express how fucking amazing it is.
Ahi tuna may be the most overserved dish in South Florida. It's often dull, chilled, and decorated with sesame seeds but otherwise tasteless. These ahi tacos are the much-needed exception. Imagine that a spicy tuna roll died, went to heaven, and discovered its true destiny — inside a crunchy shell, with ponzu sauce, creamy avocado, cucumber, and rice. The combination of contrasting textures, spices, and sweetness is a victory for everyone involved. Nothing is too mushy, too fishy, or too chewy. One problem: This dish is an appetizer, so the portions are small. Order several, and inhale them shamelessly.
Nestled along the Intracoastal Waterway, Guanabanas will immediately make you feel like you're at an expensive tropical resort with its carved-wood tables and chairs, stone walkways, lush green palm trees, and polite staff. It may seem like a reflex to order a Corona and conch fritters given your surroundings, but after the first batch, it will be out of necessity. Just $8.95 gets you a handful of fritters that are perfectly fried on the outside and tender on the in, served with a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce and lemon slices. Once you bite into the crispy outer layer and taste the fresh conch on the inside, you'll be reluctant to share. Even non-seafood lovers have been known to get down on a batch of Guanabanas' conch fritters, and with good reason.