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.

50 Ocean

Fish tacos may be the "of-fish-ial" food of South Florida. Nearly every seafood restaurant prepares its own version of this handheld staple. Some are packed with tilapia or cod. Others grill up grouper or mahi mahi. A few even put shrimp on the barbie. But at 50 Ocean, you won't find fish tacos on the menu. At least, not during the week. And you can't order them with the usual whitefish. Or cole slaw. Or salsa. Instead, the fine dining establishment on the second floor of Boston's on the Beach hooks weekend brunch customers with a breakfast version featuring Florida's favorite crustacean—lobster. The Sunrise Lobster Tacos combine light and fluffy scrambled eggs with a crispy potato pancake, thick-cut bacon, avocado relish, and chili aioli. And, of course, butter-poached lobster claws all wrapped up in a toasted tortilla. It's a fresh and simple take that works great with the spicy Grey Goose bloody mary bar or a side of sweet and salty chocolate bacon. Great seafood with an ocean view? You won't find that on every menu.

BC Cafe
CandaceWest.com

Tacos are amazing—almost everyone can agree on that—but they can be boring and childish at the wrong place. Our parents fed us chicken or beef tacos our entire childhood. We had taco parties in college—still chicken or beef. We're full-blown adults now, adults that crave variety in our tacos. Thankfully, BC Tacos is driving around South Florida, reinvigorating adult taco eaters one customer at a time. The variety of the little shelled gifts that BC Taco is handing out of its food truck window on a daily basis is enough to make your head spin: shrimp, mahi mahi, pulled pork, fried avocado, steak, entire burger patties... Hell, they even have s'mores tacos. S'mores tacos!? What!?! BC Tacos fantastically uses social media to update customers on the location of the truck and even has a standalone store in Davie if you can't catch them on the run. BC Tacos made tacos in America great again!

Readers' choice: Palate Party

The Alchemist
Nicole Danna

Outside, two roasters spin continuously on a small table. Inside, coffee bubbles in clear decanters atop glowing red burners. Cold brew sits in flasks. A freezer in the middle of the floor is filled to the brim with coffee cubes. And coffee scientists behind the bar turn coffee beans into some of the best beverages in South Florida. This small cottage is packed every morning with people seeking Mason jars full of Alchemist's concoctions. While you can get the usual cappuccinos and lattes, the lab mixes up better creations. The iced coffee blends 24-hour cold brew, condensed milk, and brown sugar. Become "Bulletproof" with a mixture of coffee, coconut oil, and grass-fed ghee (a clarified butter used in traditional medicines). If you're hungry, grab a Slicer, an open-faced sandwich with a topping like Nutella or avocado. Then, grab a seat on the outdoor patio and enjoy.

Readers' choice: The Grind Coffee Project

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of