Luckily, Delray's dining scene is expanding beyond the eastern downtown area. The year-old Apeiro Kitchen & Bar is one delicious example, located in the Delray Marketplace shopping plaza where Atlantic Avenue meets Lyons Road just west of Florida's Turnpike. Here, chef-owner David Blonsky has partnered with local restaurateur Burt Rapoport. Apeiro is a Mediterranean-style concept built on simple ingredients and clean flavor. Blonsky has assembled a rather large menu, featuring cheese platters, falafel served with pickled vegetables, and Moroccan-spiced lamb ribs. Stracchino, a young, creamy Italian cow's-milk cheese, is paired with a salty, thin-sliced prosciutto and a potent fig balsamic reduction; the bunuelo is a take on a Latin fritter, made with airy puffs of phyllo. Kebabs and sandwiches highlight house-roasted and shaved-to-order meats. And my God, the pastas — handmade orecchiette is a hearty dish, each tiny ear-shaped pasta tossed in an earthy saffron, fennel, and lemongrass cream sauce with cuts of spicy, house-made, lamb merguez sausage. "My goal with Apeiro is to open people's minds to a different style of cooking," says Blonsky. He is planning a Miami location next.

Readers' Choice: Avocado Grill

Coconuts
CandaceWest.com

The "best" restaurant doesn't have to be the one with the fanciest decor, the frou-frou-est ingredients, or the Frenchest chef. It's the one you're drawn to, over and over and over again. The one where you meet friends, where you take out-of-towners, where you feel the stress ooze out of your body the moment you slide into a booth. Whenever someone suggests, "Let's go to Coconuts," the sun magically shines a little brighter and you hold off on that snack you were about to bite into, knowing that something better — way better — awaits. The food is a mix of familiar comforts (a $13 coconut shrimp appetizer, $5 mac 'n' cheese, $27 strip steak) and little surprises (pigeon peas and rice, $3; bahn mi sandwiches on special). The waterfront setting is not at all pretentious, and the service, usually lovely. (Ask and servers will often provide food to toss to the little fish who swim up to the dock.) Fridays feel like a community gathering when paella is cooked outdoors, and on Monday and Tuesdays, wines from the well-curated list are half-off (though there is blueberry soda and blackberry mojitos, if you prefer). Best of all, you just can't beat the company motto: "Be nice."

Readers' Choice: Steak 954

Le Comptoir

We joke about the foreigners who roam Hollywood. We joke about their banana hammocks, their driving habits, their funny tan lines. Long overdue, though, is a huge dose of appreciation for what they bring: the lilting sound of foreign languages, the wonderful mannerisms that make great people-watching on the Broadwalk, and some damned good food. Le Comptoir is the cozy creation from chef-owner Céline Maury and her husband, Otis, both expats from Paris, who opened Le Comptoir in 2010. The restaurant's name translates roughly as "the bar," although the drink menu consists of just a few select wines and five domestic beers. The food menu is likewise concise: just four appetizers and seven entrées, but that's enough for the intimate space. Mussels — $16.50, offered in four styles: white wine, cream, curry, or Provençal — are the stars here, imported daily from Maine or Prince Edward Island, steamed to perfection, and dropped, in a two-pound pile, on your plate, with a side of homemade fries. Duck à l'orange and chicken cordon bleu are also on offer, but don't take the traditional dishes to mean that this is a stuffy French joint. Kids are welcomed with chicken nuggets and fish sticks, and the French Canadians who've discovered this place keep it warm with their laughter. (Have you heard the one about how many Americains it takes to screw in a light bulb? One to comment on how funny-looking the light bulbs are, two to sue the light-bulb maker, and five to convert the currency.) Wash down the ambience with a banana flambé or a crepe filled with Nutella or Céline's homemade jam. Merci beaucoup for this place.

Readers' Choice: The Tipsy Boar

Finding the latest foodie hole in the wall can be a point of pride; the more rustic the location, the more accomplished you feel for having found it. Fish Shack in Pompano Beach is well-hidden in a strip of shops just one block east of Federal Highway. The tiny spot is owned and operated by a local family that has been in the seafood business for more than 20 years. This 600-square-foot eatery seats no more than 30, and on a busy afternoon, patrons will cram in elbow to elbow. The drink menu is simple: only iced tea, lemonade, soda, house wines by the glass, Budweiser, and Bud Light. Walls are adorned with fishing net, buoys, and a giant marlin hung between a mahi and a mackerel. The menu will have you salivating: conch fritters and smoked fish dip, cracked conch, oysters, and middleneck clams on the half-shell. Larger plates include First Mate sandwiches that come on soft, oversized kaiser rolls. Choose from grouper and mahi, both of which can be ordered grilled, blackened, or with Cajun spice. The fish and chips entrée is the most popular dish here, but you may never go back after discovering the conch salad, hidden on the back of the menu alongside the caesar and garden salad selections: a large serving chock-full of bite-sized diced conch, pepper, and onion dressed in a sugar-sweetened lime bath that gives it an appealing zing.

Mai-Kai
CandaceWest.com

When you were a kid, you longed for adventure, novelty, and mango ice cream. Mai-Kai Restaurant serves all of that. Built in 1956 and now listed on the National Register of Historical Places, Mai-Kai is like visiting our very own Jungle Island without having to pay its exorbitant prices. This Polynesian restaurant prides itself on waterfalls and tiki sculptures that reflect regions of Polynesia. A kids' menu comes with a lei and a coloring book, most of the fruity drinks can be made virgin, and kids 12 and under even get to watch the twice-nightly dance and fire-spinning show for free.

Casa D'Angelo
Courtesy of Casa D'Angelo

This upscale Italian ristorante, with dual locations in Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton, has been described as "the closest to dining in Florence anyone will get in Florida." And with more than 30 pages of Italian and American wines, this Wine Spectator-award-winning restaurant is sure to get your lover's juices flowing. Although wine is the aphrodisiac, the food is just as seductive. Beautifully prepared dishes include bistecca alla fiorentina (oak-grilled, dry-aged New York strip steak marinated in olive oil, rosemary, and garlic with sweet Vidalia onions and wild mushrooms) and tuna carpaccio (with arugula, lemon, and olive oil). Chef-owner Angelo Elia offers an array of classy dishes, with courteous service offered in a dimly lit, white-tablecloth setting.

The Breakers Palm Beach
Courtesy of the Breakers Palm Beach

The Breakers is a legendary beachfront resort in Palm Beach. Also legendary is its Sunday brunch at the onsite restaurant the Circle — an opulent affair that's been wowing guests for a quarter of a century. The brunch is less of a meal than a glimpse into what was likely a Wednesday snack for, oh, say France's Sun King. There are mountains of stone crabs, a bounty of pastries still warm from the oven, and rows of carving stations with chefs serving turkey, lamb, and tender pink slices of beef. Salads, pâtés, waffles, omelets — they're all here. This brunch, though, offers refinement to go with your eggs Benedict. Look outward to see the gleaming ocean in all her splendor. Look up and admire the hand-painted ceilings. Listen to the heavenly tones of a harpist as you sip on your fourth mimosa. Of course, nirvana comes at a price: 100 bucks, to be exact. Luckily, the Breakers is special enough that when Mumsy and Pupsy come down for their visit, it's the perfect place to take them for a quintessential taste of elegance. They'll think you're thoughtful... when you're just being really, really clever.

Sure, there are a lot of restaurants that are dog-friendly. Sit on a terrace and your dog will get a pat on the head, a dish of water, maybe even a Milk Bone. But the Nauti Dawg Café is truly dog-obsessed. The restaurant, located at the Lighthouse Point Marina, goes above and beyond to treat Muffy and Chopper like the furry royalty they are. Dogs have their own menu filled with delights — much healthier than having you sneak people food to your pooch. Offerings are grilled without spices, cut into bite-sized pieces, and served tableside in a doggy bowl. Fido can choose four strips of bacon ($3), a six-ounce skirt steak ($6), a chicken breast ($7), or a hot dawg ($4). Take Binky out on the town for Monday's Yappy Hour, when all K9 entrées are half-priced all day. As you and Fido bond over burgers at the quaint waterfront café, know that the only drawback to interspecies dining is the fact that when the check comes, Rover always seems to have left his money in his other collar.

Sublime
Michele Sandberg

Finally, Subway and Burger King offer veggie burgers. But more encouraging is that Sublime exists — a place where you can have a three-course gourmet meal coupled with a cocktail that is entirely vegan. It serves lasagnas, mojitos, pizzas, and mac 'n' cheese all made of plant-based ingredients. The prices aren't cheap, with entrées ranging from $15 for the black bean burger to $21 for the mushroom ravioli, but the ambiance is great. Save room for dessert: No cocoa beans were harmed in the making of that chocolate nirvana cake.

Calypso Restaurant & Raw Bar
Candace West

If you pull up to Calypso Restaurant & Raw Bar on a Saturday evening, the parking lot will be empty. The lights will be off. And there will be no one waiting for a table. This is not a bad sign, however. The longtime Pompano Beach restaurant hasn't held weekend hours for close to a decade. After 25 years in business, the owners like it that way; the restaurant has garnered such a devout local following that it doesn't need to cash in on a weekend swell. Inside, everything just feels right, from the gaudily bright parrot curtains to the tiki-style thatching hanging over the bar and the nautical bric-a-brac that brands it an official Florida hole in the wall. The seafoodcentric menu hasn't changed much since opening day, featuring a list of starters like cutters (island-speak for sandwich), roti, and specials created by the founding Bahamian owners. The heart of the menu remains conch, which, for the past two decades, is delivered straight from local waters and prepared in the same laborious, time-consuming manner: a rhythmic pounding by large wooden mallets, rendering each pink tongue-like strip of conch meat into tender tidbits. You can order it frittered, fried, or cooked over an open flame, served with a lime wedge and a cup of drawn butter.

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