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The two sisters who run this homey little lunch spot think menus are boring, so they don't offer one. Instead, they write four or five choices on the "specials" board every day and trust that their customers are equally weary of the same old, same old. Falling into a rut is not an option, so diners are essentially forced to mix it up every day of the week. There's always a meatless option and sometimes even a vegan choice. Because nothing is deep-fried or made with highly processed crap, it doesn't sit in the gut waiting to derail an afternoon meeting. From a goat cheese and tomato tart to fennel pear soup or a tuna salad served with house-made crackers, the choices are varied, but the quality is always consistent.
Coffee snobs looking for an artsy hang and Intelligentsia-brand beans, this is your spot. This eclectic coffeehouse plays the perfect host for painting exhibits and photographer meetups, and it's great for just hanging out. It's also on top of the latest coffee trends. Special-order a siphon brew for a miniperformance that results in a beautifully mild cup of coffee. Go minimalist with a pour-over java. Or stick to a demi cup of espresso. Get a coffee education while you're here: The well-informed staffers will tell you how a French press affects flavor, why Ethiopia produces coveted beans, and how to sharpen your palate to detect notes of floral, caramel, or toast in your roast. Stay till dinnertime — baked goods and minibites will tide you over.
Hellooo? Anybody out there want to make a million dollars? Frustrated parents beg you, please open a restaurant that offers more for kids than the obligatory highchair. It would be slammed! Until then, there's 15th Street Fisheries, where diners are greeted by koi fish swimming in a pond at the entrance, and a koi food dispenser allows you to feed them. (Bring quarters.) Don't go upstairs (that's for fancy dinners) but rather downstairs to the Dockside Cafe. Once seated outside along the Intracoastal Waterway, crayons come in a cutesy tin bucket, and a kids' menu has the standards — hot dogs, chicken fingers — for $5 a pop. The best part: While waiting for your food, walk to the adjacent marina store, grab a pack of frozen bait shrimp ($3), and take them out on the docks to toss to the tarpon. (There's also a tarpon-feeding show between 5 and 6 p.m.) Your young'uns will never distinguish one Happy Meal from another, but they will grow up with cool memories of the times you went to "the fishie place." To make it even more special, arrive by water taxi.
This spot is located in Fort Lauderdale, but its heart is in N'Awlins. The guy next to you might be sucking crawfish meat from shells. Another might be singing along to a Rebirth Brass Band tune. Chances are, someone will offer you a hush puppy from his plate or at the very least invite you into his conversation. Be sure to return the favor by sharing your poor boys, gumbo, or boudin: The portions are so large, it's impossible to finish one on your own. Wrap up with a round of Abita brews.
If you thought you looked great before your date, wait till you get to Tapas 210 — you'll be a stunner, even before booze. Candlelight works magic like that, as does lush tropical greenery, which frames the entryways to the brick patio, a huge sheltered area that's home to a delightful breeze. A wine room serves as a cozy nook for couples or a group interested in overtaking a farmhouse table. As for the cuisine: Seafood is the star at this Spanish spot. Rosemary and thyme announce the arrival of a shellfish medley. Bocados of olives and jamón ibérico tempt as snacks. Artichokes and mushrooms in white wine make a favorite tapas dish, as does bone marrow with a beef cheek marmalade. More-ambitious diners might opt for paella or, better yet, wait for Friday supper. The special is roast pork: Served with white beans and garbanzos, it'll be among the most memorable pig roasts you've had.
Inside this slip of a restaurant, pompano fillet is dressed as simple as it gets in butter and white wine with a splash of citrus. Scallions, cubes of butternut, tomato, and almonds add acid, sweet, brightness, and crunch. No matter what the day's catch may be, rest assured each dish will end up this harmonious, since the seafood is doctored by a master. Tony Sindaco, former chef at Sunfish Grill, helms this 22-seat eatery, a former coffee shop. Chiclet tiles, Florida murals, minimalist seating, and an airy vibe make it a refreshing place to dine.
If you take apart one of the burgers from this Himmarshee hot spot and dissect it into its basic components, you'll figure out why Rok:Brgr deserves this award. Take the Las Olas burger, built with a ten-ounce American Wagyu beef patty, cave-aged Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, garlic aioli, and a brioche bun. Any one of those ingredients stands alone — you could put the cheese on a charcuterie plate; the aioli would make a fine dipping sauce for anything; and the beef patty, you could eat it with a knife and fork. But why would you? Put together, the ingredients form a burger that'll send juices rolling down your arm, friends to their cell phones to take photos, and you, back for another sooner than you intended.
During a recent visit to Canyon, someone at the table asked the server to name a few of his favorite dishes. "Oh, I like them all," he said. That's usually a server cop-out, a refusal to exclude a dish from the list. But at Canyon Southwestern Café, it's understandable. You can't go wrong with the red-chili-braised risotto, black Florida grouper, or ancho chili-rubbed pork. But sometimes you just want a steak. And you want it with more than just a steak-house sprig of parsley on the side. Here, the filet comes with a Zinfandel sauce, cilantro-mashed potatoes, caramelized zucchini, and a poblano pesto goat cheese — any of which could be the star dish of the meal. Well, no, the star is the steak, just lightly seasoned and charred. Tender, juicy, and... now that we're talking about it, the waiter ought to just recommend the filet.
This dish right here puts a line in the sand between the Café Martorano lovers and haters. It's $24. For that, you could buy two appetizers at most places. Or ten raw eggplants. But this dish also typifies what's special about Café Martorano: Its chefs put tremendous care into every single ingredient. Those slices of eggplant come crisp on the outside — difficult when you're essentially stacking them in a salad — and warm and soft in the center. The mozzarella is of the fresh-pulled variety, the greens are dressed in a fantastic vinaigrette, and the tomatoes are thick slices that seem right off a vine in Napoli. Like all the dishes here, it's served family style, put down in the middle of the table, sliced up by the waiter, and passed around. It will be, perhaps, the first time ever that your family fights over eggplant. Well worth that $24.