Coconuts
CandaceWest.com

When the weather is hot and you're craving seafood, Coconuts will provide. From coconut shrimp to lobster rolls to raw bar options, the bounty of the sea is on full display here—as are cabana-style frozen beverages with generous rum floaters. But there's one landlubber departure that should be noted here, and that's the wings. While the conch fritters or peel-and-eat shrimp might call to you, go with the jerk chicken wings. The island influence is in full effect, with allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers in the mix, as well as optional spices like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom. And since jerk is a dry rub, you won't find yourself dripping in sauce.

Sushi Song
Courtesy of Sushi Song

There's a saying that goes, "Nothing good happens after 2 a.m"—and no good dining, especially. Except at Sushi Song. Every night of the week, chefs are slicing up sushi to order. With locations in Deerfield Beach and downtown Fort Lauderdale, this establishment offers the feel of a big-city late-night scene. The atmosphere is dim and cozy with candles and brick walls. The sushi is fresh and creative, with options ranging from straightforward nigiri to over-the-top signature rolls such as the $15 Japan Red Hot (shrimp tempura, cucumber, and jalapeño topped with tuna, black tobiko, and house special sauce) and the A1A (Maine lobster, avocado, cilantro, and spicy mayo topped with seared wild salmon and special sauce). This place proves eating late at night doesn't have to mean you're stuck with Papa John's.

Readers' choice: Lester's Diner

Tropical Acres Steakhouse

Since 1949, this family-run establishment has been serving locals and tourists alike. Fire nearly destroyed it not once, but twice—first in 1964 and then again in 2011. Both times, it was rebuilt. Today, this institution stands as the "Oldest Steakhouse in Broward County," or so the Studiale family—fourth-generation owners—claims. Which is all well and good, but the food is what counts. This is a true steakhouse, with large, high quality, excellently prepared steaks streaming out of the bustling kitchen at surprisingly reasonable prices. Go for the brochette of filet mignon for $19.95, or share a New York Strip for two for $46.95 if you're looking to live the high life on a budget. Even the 25-ounce porterhouse won't break the bank at $33.95. For a dollar more, get the Maine lobster instead. While the prices are reasonable, they don't skimp on the service. The staff is professional, decked out in crisp white shirts and long black aprons. They will wheel carts tableside for your perusal. And as for dessert, go for the Key lime pie. You're eating in a Florida landmark, after all. Have some respect.

The Little Chalet
Courtesy of the Little Chalet

If you've ever driven down the rapidly developing stretch of Federal Highway that wends its way through downtown Boca Raton, the Little Chalet has surely caught your eye. It glows softly like, well, a little chalet that has been plucked off a Swiss mountaintop and plopped onto the corner of SE Fifth Street. This is no cheap date spot, but if you're looking to wine and dine your lover, this is the place to do it. Start your meal with the raclette, a traditional Swiss dish made by melting the side of a hard wheel of cheese and then scraping it off onto a plate of pickles, onions, and potatoes. Make sure you share it, though, because it's going to be a dairy-heavy evening. The Little Chalet's specialty is fondue. The fondue dishes run the gamut from appetizer shareables to entrees complete with filet mignon. There's even a prix fixe choice called the Fondue Experience that includes three courses—appetizer, entree, and dessert—for either two or four people. If that sounds like way too much cheese for you, no worries—non-fondue entrees are also available, including almond-crusted sea bass and slow braised short ribs. Consider going back to the fondue for dessert, though. Few things are more romantic than dipping various sweets into melted chocolate; that's Rom-Com 101.

Chicken wings, collard greens, crispy fried conch, and gooey mac 'n' cheese, all washed down with a cool, dewy glass of sweet tea. These are the foodstuffs of high-calorie dreams, best enjoyed around a table of laughing family and friends. Owned and operated by Tiffany Wynn, Food Heaven is just that: a small slice of culinary bliss tucked away in a North Lauderdale strip mall. Opened in April 2015, it aims to preserve recipes gathered over six generations and across three families with strong Southern roots. Staff serves up breakfast, lunch, and dinner for every appetite seven days a week, all from scratch. For lunch, try the fried and smothered pork chop ($5.99) with a side of conch balls (six for $5). At dinner, try the conch and shrimp ($18) or the 10-ounce lobster tail ($22), both served with rice and a choice of two sides, from candied yams to fried okra. People also rave over the shrimp and grits ($13, grilled or fried) and the homemade red velvet cake ($3) for dessert. For those times when you prefer your food to feel like a big, warm hug from grandma, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better spot.

You just spent the last half-hour eating some of the best barbecue in Texas. You knew you came to the right place as soon as you walked in. A familiar, dusky smell filled the air as beef cooked in the smoker. Country tunes played. Cowboy references hung on the walls, and the menu looked like it came right out of Cookie's chuck wagon. Homemade smoked brisket, shredded pulled pork, and rib racks all done the right way, just dry-rubbed and smoked. The barbecue sauce on the tables was for city slickers. There were some fancy fixin's, too. Texas brisket BBQ beans. Brisket truffle bacon mac 'n' cheese. Fried okra WITHOUT the dipping sauce, because dipping it just wouldn't be right. Even homemade rustic apple pie and homemade ice cream for dessert. But after a full plate and full belly, it's time to hit the dusty trails. As you step out into the sun and look around for your trusty steed, you realize you don't own a horse. You drove. And you're at Chef's Kitchen and Smokehouse in West Palm Beach, not Texas. But it sure felt that way for a spell.

Readers' choice: Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q

Just saying the word "ribs" makes our mouths water. Ribs are awesome; that's not up for debate. What is up for debate is which style is best, which sauce is tastiest, and which restaurant is doing it right. Mission BBQ in Davie is the answer to the last question. Whether you order St. Louis-style spare ribs or baby back ribs that fall off the bone (about $10 for five ribs), they'll be done to perfection. Meats marinated in their famous Memphis Belle sauce or their secret homemade sauce fill Mission BBQ with the smoky smell that wakes your tastebuds right up. Also: This place is big on honoring soldiers and first responders.

Red Cow
CandaceWest.com

Chef Freddie Lawton fries up some of the best chicken wings, legs, thighs, and breasts south of the Mason-Dixie line. To make his birds moist and tender, chef Steve Shockey starts them in a bath in seasoned buttermilk for up to 24 hours. From there, it's all about the breading— flour, eggs, more buttermilk, and cornstarch, with just a touch of sugar for an extra crackly crunch. Then, the one step no one thinks about—smoking. Lawton gives his meat an extra dose of flavor with a slow turn in the smoker before it's dunked in the fryer. The result is Southern-style heaven: lip-smacking, tender chicken meat encased in a thin shell of golden-friend skin. As if that weren't decadent enough, the dish ($15) is served with a thick slice of creamy-soft cornbread pie and a side of warm honey for dipping. Be thankful for the warm wet napkin at the end of your meal. You'll need it.

Readers' choice: Bay Bay's Chicken and Waffles

Sushi Rock Cafe
Photo by Kristin Bjornsen

South Floridians love consistency. Parking is consistently bad. The beach is consistently eroding. Sawgrass Mills will consistently make you question the merits of capitalism. And Sushi Rock Cafe is consistently the best place to tuck in and order roll after roll of the freshest fish in town. This spot on Las Olas Boulevard may be tiny, but the portions are huge. And all of the showcase rolls—just like the waiters' T-shirts and the LP-lined walls—are in keeping with the restaurant's rock 'n' roll theme. Might we suggest the Red Hot Chili Peppers roll ($15), spicy tuna, scallions, and jalapeños topped with, yes, more spicy tuna and drizzled with sriracha. Or the Big Bopper roll ($18)—packed with raw salmon, tuna, and yellowtail snapper—which takes a Steven Tyler-type mouth to eat in one bite. If you're hungry for dinner, the trick is to show up by 6 p.m. to avoid the inevitable wait. Because guess what? Everybody else is in on this secret already.

Readers' choice: Gaysha New World Sushi Bar

Floridians can weed out the seafood restaurant pretenders from the contenders very quickly. Submarine Crab is most definitely on the contenders side and is, at this moment, the Seafood Champion of the WORLD. (OK... for now, just South Florida—but soon, the world!) Submarine Crab's nautical theme and fish tanks are great for putting you in the mood to crack some crab legs or gnaw on some crawfish. Delicious steamed pots of seafood that combine crisp corn and meaty potatoes are the gold standard here, but different mix-and-match combos also provide a unique dining experience.

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