Gran Forno Bakery
C. Stiles

A flagrant threat to the last of the remaining Atkins dieters, doughy clouds of bread beckon passersby from the window. It's nearly impossible not to peer inside and admire the bakers making breads fresh daily in their quiet determination. Neither the carb-conscious nor the flour fanatics can resist the blinding urge to devour treasures like oversized muffins, crusty rectangles of ciabatta, fennel-raisin focaccia, or hazelnut biscotti. As if the bakery weren't satisfying enough, a second location on the boulevard (a casual eatery, Gran Forno Pronto) opened recently to give special attention to the breads: panini, pizza, bruschetta, and pastries. Get to Gran Forno early to have full pick of the breadbasket. Do pay your parking meter — otherwise you might be fleeing into the street with flour-dusted fingers and lips.

Keese's Simply Delicious

Kesse's menu boasts a dish called "The Best Wrap" — your choice of protein with peppers, avocado, lettuce, fresh mozzarella, grilled tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, and onions. Sounds great, but the "best" is actually trumped by a menu option a few choices away, Steve's Wrap. We'll forgive the error, since Kesse's has several contenders for the title. Steve's Wrap is Mediterranean ecstasy with falafel, baba gannouj, tahini, eggplant and tomato salad, lettuce, tabbouleh, avocado, grilled bell pepper, and onion — components that combine to create the most flavorful mush you could ever eat, interrupted by small crunches from the falafel's crisp exterior and the stray veggies throughout. It's a welcome bear hug for your insides. And if that isn't enough, it comes with thick-cut seasoned fries that surpass all that you dreamed a fry could be — all for under ten bucks.

Manny's Cafe and Bakery

Considering South America's colonial history, it makes sense that colloidal kitchen-sink sandwiches have taken root in so many parts of the continent. Just consider the chivito (Uruguay), the lomito (Chile), or the butifarra (Peru): These towering monstrosities are larded with everything from filet mignon to avocado to sauerkraut, which sure seems like the ultimate middle-finger salute to those minimalist "bocadillos" the Spanish are so proud of. It's in that fine tradition of next-level cookery that the sandwiches at Manny's, an Argentine bakery in Coral Springs, are crafted. Each day, Manny's bakes crusty, delicate bread from scratch and piles it high with all manner of exceptionally prepared ingredients. Its butifarra would make any Peruvian less homesick, layering house-made country ham with pickled red onions, olives, and a tangy sauce. Equally satisfying is the chicharron, which packs nearly an entire pork shoulder's worth of juicy fried pork into a strata of roasted sweet potato, onion, and tangy mayo. But it doesn't stop there. Manny's does brusque baguettes stuffed with pan-fried steak Milanesa and lines soft rolls with layers upon layers of sheer cold cuts. It even makes some damned fine migas, Argentina's addictive answer to the tea sandwich. Factor in the decidedly populist prices and Manny's will have you pledging allegiance to the wonders of South American sandwich making.

Calypso Restaurant & Raw Bar
Candace West

Be prepared for a hearty embrace from the staff when you walk into crowded Calypso for a weekday power lunch. The warm service is guaranteed to shed any 9-to-5 woes; maybe you can't tell the boss to eff off, but you can take a 60-minute gustatory vacation. When you're not in the mood for jerk wings, curry, or seafood platters, the crusty blue-crab cake cutter will surely nourish your palate. The more-crab-than-cake is fried to a deep golden brown and packs a punch with island seasonings. Just a small amount of cracker binds the crab together, and although the homemade roasted pepper sauce is damned tasty, this sandwich doesn't need it — use it as dipping sauce for the crispy steak fries instead. If only it were prudent to sprawl a beach chair on the blue- and white-checkered floor, diners could park here all afternoon instead of returning to the office.

Tarks of Dania Beach
Photo courtesy of Tarks of Dania Beach.

Those in the know don't go to glorified wing houses for the best chicken wings in town. They go to a kitchen painted sea-foam green and sit (that is, if you can find a spot) or stand drumstick distance from fellow in-the-know diners. Tark's has been a Dania Beach institution for 45 years, so the folks there know chicken wings as well as their local seafood. Order the meaty drumettes "hot" and be prepared to discard your outer layer. Get 'em "terminator" and prepare to say hasta la vista to your shirt. But the best flavor, which meets all prerequisites for glorious deep-fried wings, is simply "garlic." Crispy, saucy, and flecked with minced clove, these hunky bundles are so juicy, they sweat. Best of all, ten wings come free with a purchased pitcher of beer on Wednesdays.

Midmornings at Giorgio's Bistro & Market in Hollywood attract anyone looking to relax. Sitting outside on the dock, diners sip on strong coffee while admiring the beautiful Intracoastal Waterway. They come early for freshly baked breads and pastries and likely return later for oven-baked pizzas, sandwiches, or pastas. But the pastry sure to keep them all coming back is the croissant — layers of rich, buttery dough formed to a mammoth crescent. The amber-brown top blisters with bubbles of air that burst with the lightest fleck of a finger. Even the birds at Giorgio's know good pastry — they patiently wait for fallen morsels along the wooden deck. Once you taste a breakfast croissant, you may try to find ways to sneak it into a meal later, maybe with a salad or substituting the baguette in the smoked salmon sandwich.

Betty's Soul Food
Candace West

Success in creating a delicious piece of fried chicken requires many trials and, often, age-old family recipes. And Mississippi-born Betty Taylor knows just how to master this culinary feat. At the mom-'n'-pop eatery with walls adorned with pictures of MLK and Obama, fans are grubbing on some of the country-style favorites like oxtail, chicken livers, and the delicious golden-fried chicken. Betty smothers the fowl in flour loaded with secret recipe seasonings before it crackles in the deep fryer. Once fried to perfection, a gustatory shield of crispy, savory skin gives way to meat so juicy, it appears to be crying. This is the kind of fried chicken that will have you crying too.

YOLO Restaurant and O Lounge

Sure, maybe it's a sign that food trends have gotten a little out of hand when we begin ordering $10 platters of potato chips at tres chic eateries. But you only live once after all, so who gives a flip if potato chips are considered cliché, fattening, or pedestrian? Sort of like transforming an uninspired bowl of ice cream to a champagne granita, YOLO's version of the homemade potato chip breathes new life into the fat kid's after-school snack. Each slice of crispy fried potato is topped with melted dollops of blue cheese. These tasty suckers are completed with a liberal daub of crisp salty bacon and flecks of rosemary and thyme. Our chubby inner child is squealing.

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There are so many factors that make this timeless diner along Dania Beach's antique row a worthy breakfast pit stop. For starters, the place has been baking its own breads, cakes, pastries, and pies since it opened in 1957. Slide into one of its age-worn booths and order breakfast (served any time of day) and the first thing that happens is the waitress will serve you a complimentary order of Grampa's famous fresh-baked danishes. She'll pour you a tall, hot cup of coffee and treat you as sweet as a slice of Grampa's cherry pie. The breakfasts too are a kind of no-fuss perfection: two eggs over easy, crisp bacon, crunchy toasted rye bread with plenty of sweet cream butter; fluffy blueberry pancakes bathed in syrup and butter; colossal omelets with all manner of meat, cheese, and veggies; eggs Benedict, homemade biscuits with sausage gravy, and some damned fine French toast. Did we mention Grampa's also has a bar? Two, in fact: One has wine and beer; the other is the sort of diner-style counter top you might share with a guy in a trucker hat who swears he's been eating here every day for 15 years. Man, you can almost taste the nostalgia. Now that's a breakfast.

St. Bart's Coffee Company

Why spend Saturday morning eating freezer-burned waffles in front of the telly when you could watch some hardbodies play volleyball while you stuff your face with banana French toast? St. Bart's Coffee Co., located in two great people-watching locations on Fort Lauderdale beach, offers a better way to start your day. If you're not a morning person, have no fear: A massive mug of the café's hazelnut cappuccino will have you up and at 'em in no time. The restaurant has a variety of menu items, from hangover-curing smoothies and egg croissants in the a.m. to fresh Greek salads and tasty prosciutto wraps in the afternoon. Whether you are recovering from a long night of partying or gearing up for a mind-clearing jog on the beach, St. Bart's has got you covered.

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