Bagel Boyz

"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.

World of Beer - Coconut Creek

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.

Nacho Bizness

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.

Nick & Johnnie's

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.

Guanabanas

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.

Relish

The only really difficult task is choosing. Will it be a black-bean burger, hearty and savory, with a hint of spice, perhaps some guacamole on top? Or maybe you prefer a wild mushroom patty — not a ground pile of mush but real mushrooms, packed together, topped with Brie or artichoke hearts. This place is ready to please anyone who doesn't want a slab of beef. There's a shrimp burger, another made of mahi-mahi, or lobster. Add to that more than 20 "relish" toppings, from asparagus fresco to scotch bonnet mango and blackberry compote. You can spend half an hour gazing at the menu, or you can order a milk shake and fries while you ponder. Either way, it's much better than another frozen Gardenburger.

Big Al's Steaks - Delray Beach

"Whiz?" the cashier asks, and it's a test to see if you've ever had a real Philly cheese steak, the kind from South Street, where the grease and exhaust fumes are plentiful and no one raises an eyebrow at cheese that comes in a can.

If you can't stomach the Cheez Whiz, it's fine; they have American and provolone. They also have doughy, soft, and slightly greasy rolls to cradle the fresh rib-eye steak, plus perfectly salted fries to satisfy your drunken cravings after the bars close. Top your steak with peppers and onions, and grab a table on the sidewalk. Inhaling this snack takes less than five minutes, long enough to remember that living in Florida isn't bad — so long as it occasionally tastes like Philly.

Bombay Cafe

Tucked into a random medical-office strip mall near the Florida Atlantic University campus, Bombay Cafe concocts its delectable creations without frills like tablecloths or even table service. Order at the counter, grab some plastic utensils, and wait for the best combination of spices you've tasted all year. The vegetarian curries are outstanding, especially the mattar paneer — curried peas and chunks of cheese. A perfect marriage of buttery-smooth tomato sauce and simmering masala spices — turmeric, ginger, garlic, chili powder — make it impossible to stop spooning this dish on your plate. The red lentil daal is equally impressive. Most entrées are cooked fresh to order — no congealed buffet food here. The food is fast, cheap, and unapologetically exotic. Tourists haven't discovered this place, and that's a good thing.

Shalama's Halal Roti Shop

On first glance, Shalama's Halal Roti Shop looks like the sort of dicey hole in the wall where you might find yourself at 2 a.m. after a night-long drinking binge. But look closer and you'll catch a glimpse of the kitchen located just behind the front counter. Inside, you'll see a handful of hard-working matriarchs doing the same sort of time-tested home cooking that goes on in households all across Trinidad and Tobago. Those ladies have all the techniques down: making dough by hand and cooking flatbreads to order; sweating down garlic, onions, and Scotch bonnet pepper in a giant wok; gently coaxing flavor out of fatty, marrow-filled bits of lamb and chicken, then rendering those slow-cooked ingredients into curries bursting with character. When it all comes together, the results are magical. There's the spicy-sweet interplay of stewed meat and curried squash. And the textural variation of soft filling and chewy flatbread wrapping it all together. It's perfect drunk food, no doubt, but that's largely because it's also perfect soul food. And that's something that makes sense no matter what country you call home.

Morton's, the Steakhouse

Filet mignon is a down pillow disguised as beef. It has many characteristics of the average down pillow. It's soft and cottony, sort of round, extremely comforting... and has all the flavor of a sack of feathers wrapped in cotton fabric and seasoned with years' worth of dandruff. But let's say when you separate the short loin from the tenderloin, you cut through the bone that lies between them instead of just removing the tenderloin. What you get is a filet mignon with a wraparound bone, which when cooked contributes loads of very un-filet mignon-like deep, meaty flavor while retaining all that down-pillowy tenderness. What you also get is a hard-to-find steak that at Morton's commands a whopping $52 price tag, enough to afford a whole closet full of real down pillows. But then you'd still have to spring for dinner.

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