Famous Phil's Sub Shop

Not even a born-and-bred Philly-cheese-steak purist could deny the awesomeness that is Famous Phil's Steak Bomb. A mere $9.58 gets you a soft, 12-inch bun piled high with thin-sliced rib eye, provolone cheese, mushrooms, peppers, onion, and a ladleful of spaghetti sauce. Only two things result from taking on a sandwich of that magnitude: stomach-stretching fullness and a red-sauce-stained shirt. It's all worth it. Famous Phil's has been a Plantation institution for more than four decades. The standing-room-only shop has changed hands a few times since Kim Bartnick opened. Current owner Sheila DiPasquale, who worked at Phil's for 35 years before buying it in 2007, has kept everything inside the small, cash-only shop the same, including the menu, vendors, and Formica-heavy décor. If Sheila isn't the one making your sandwich, it's her daughter Ramonda Leonard or daughter-in-law Hope Matthieson.

Saigon City Vietnamese Restaurant

When pho is good, it's freaking amazing. Unfortunately, it's hard to come across one that's executed well: the majority being oversalted, one-dimensional broths, filled with the basic meats, noodles, and herbs. What the pho? Not the case at Saigon City. Situated in a Lauderdale Lakes shopping mall, in the Vietnamese area of 441 — yes, there is such a thing — this spot churns out piping-hot bowls of the most delectably rich pho you can find in South Florida. For less than 11 bucks a pop, it's a deal that is — pardon our pun — unphogettable.

This building has been a Texaco gas station, and more recently, the Poopie Doll Florist, but today, after renovations, owner Barry Hilton and his partner and executive chef, Roberto Sanchez, have transformed it into a rustic barbecue shack that serves the most authentic, wood-smoked barbecue around. According to Hilton, the secret to their success is in the smoker, the same one Sanchez used at a restaurant in Austin, Texas. It uses 100 percent wood logs to smoke the meat and absolutely no electricity or gasoline — something only a few restaurants in South Florida can lay claim to. Everyone's favorite: the beef brisket, which is given a secret spice rub and slow-smoked for 14 hours before it's fresh-sliced and served as a sandwich. "Here, we don't try to overload the meat with a lot of seasoning," Hilton says. "We let the wood and meat do its own thing."

Bay Bay's Chicken and Waffles
Nicole Danna

Since opening in mid-September, the 2,000-square-foot red stucco building a mile west of I-95 has garnered a unique and devoted crowd hankering for a taste of Bay Bay's signature dish: chicken and waffles. Sure, the waffles are good, but it's owner Israel Johnson's fried chicken that makes this dish a knockout. The family recipe includes a special blend of spices and breading; that poor chicken goes through an elaborate (and top-secret) 11-step process before being fried and plated for your enjoyment. Johnson produces the absolute most flavorful, crispy chick-chick around — so good, you won't even need the waffle and syrup.

Royal Treatz

To plan a proper bachelorette party, you need a stripper, party hats, and cupcakes that inform the bride-to-be that it's time to say farewell to all other penises. This Pembroke Pines shop doesn't specialize in penis cupcakes, but it does sell them special order. And the best part isn't even the silly private-part shapes but the actual cake. The people of Royal Treatz are cupcake geniuses. Their cakes are about a thousand times better than Magnolia's famous desserts. This is not an exaggeration. Even if you're staying home, it wouldn't hurt to order a dozen of these crotch-inspired treats and call it a satisfying night.

Mojo Donuts

It's summer in South Florida. Driving to work is like enduring an extended stay in a sweat lodge. And bright, 90-degree mornings, they suck the worst. Except for one very sweet exception. At 6 a.m., a scent beckons. The aroma is of fresh fried dough, warm sugar, and crispy bacon. The wise thing is to follow it to its destination: Mojo Donuts in Pembroke Pines. The little shop is filled with endless flavors, and not only the trendy maple bacon donuts types but tropical tastes like guava 'n' cheese, piña colada, and dulce de leche. For the traditionalist, there's Boston cream, red velvet, and apple fritters. And they're all absolutely, mind-numbingly delicious. The heat suddenly fades, and not just because of the A/C but because who the hell cares? This is what perfection tastes like! The "fancy" ones only $1.09, gourmet are $1.39, and the biggie is $1.75. Pair with a cup of coffee and eat until there's none left and the doors close. This is the best way to start the day.

First things first: Tacos are the working man's food. Unpretentious. That's exactly why they are best served on the side of a road, next to a dive bar, out of a truck. Cue Tropical Tacos. The truck is placed right smack dab on the seedy strip of road that makes State Road 84 the ideal environment for taco enjoyment. Just place your order at the window and take a seat at the communal table — you might make some new friends ranging from men in suits to migrant workers in coveralls. Just $2.25 gets you an al pastor taco — juicy pork marinated in chili, spices, and pineapple on a corn tortilla with onions and cilantro. The truck accepts only cash, but if you find yourself paperless, don't fret. The neighboring American legion has an ATM — and beer — on hand for your convenience.

Salt Life Food Shack

Fish tacos are best enjoyed in a beach shack. If, however, you find yourself stuck out west with no way to get to the beach, you do have an option. And a damned good one at that. Beachy décor, tropical drinks, a fish tank, and surfing videos aside, Salt Life Food Shack in Coral Springs knows a thing or two about the "Salt Life." The ocean-inspired restaurant takes recipes and dishes from coastal areas around the world and brings them to the western suburbs. So it comes as no surprise that the spot would have the best fish tacos in town: grilled fish on warm flour tortillas lightly topped with cabbage slaw, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, and a super-refreshing cilantro and lime cream sauce. Not a bad deal for $9.99.

Havana Hideout
Christina Mendenhall

When an establishment changes hands, small (and sometimes ridiculously large) tweaks can be expected. Your favorite appetizer is removed, replaced with something boring. That side sauce you loved so much is altered just enough to make you melancholy for a condiment. Even your go-to bartender is no longer there, the result of a staff makeover. But Shelly Jent and Ben Earhart were former employees so devoted to Havana Hideout that they bought it when founder Chrissy Benoit moved her focus to Little House last November. And it seems they've made only improvements. Today, the new system of daily prep work means almost everything on the menu is "now made fresh daily," which includes the guacamole. The guac also comes made-to-order using all farm-fresh local ingredients (with the exception of the Hass avocados). Light seasoning, tomato, onion, and cilantro make it flavorful without too much spice. The kicker? The black bean tortilla chips made by local Boynton Beach-based artisan tortilla maker WrapOlé.

Diner By-the-Sea

Congrats! You've just won the lottery. OK, it was the scratch-off, but hey! You're still ten bucks richer than when you started. Take that sawbuck over to Diner-by-the-Sea and get a good, hot meal. This teeny hole-in-the-wall is a time machine out of a Twilight Zone episode. Pop in one of the cheery yellow vinyl counter stools or cozy up in a booth and order lunch. The menu? Strictly out of Mel's Diner — tuna melts ($7.89), Reubens ($8.29), chili dogs ($4.99), or a quarter-pound burger with fries for $6.99. All made fresh by a real, live, short-order cook. Eavesdrop on a dozen conversations. Locals will bitch about taxes and the fish that got away as you bite into your tuna melt, savoring the crunch of the toast and the creaminess of the cheddar cheese, feeling like the winner you are.

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