El Guanaco Taqueria y Antojitos
John Linn

Americans love their Mexican fare, but many are no longer satisfied with Americanized Tex-Mex, so the search is on for something better. How about a little Salvadoran flair? El Guanaco in Oakland Park offers just such a blending. On this meat-centric menu you'll find plenty of classic street tacos, but you'll also find papusas—thick corn tortillas handmade in the Salvadoran style. The toppings here are familiar to Mexican lovers, but with twists, like fried yucca, sweet corn, and Salvadoran sour cream. Go for the carnitas, made with juicy, succulent meat, slow cooked in its own fat before being grilled for a crispy finish. And don't leave without trying the housemade horchata.

Readers' choice: Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar

Chini's Burritos
John Linn

There are plenty of places serving burritos these days, from big chains to local Mexican restaurants with professionally trained chefs who use the word "authentic" a lot. But for most Americans, a burrito should be an indulgence—and it should be big. Try Chini's Burritos. This family-run spot serves monster-sized burritos to the hungry people of Coral Springs, and it does so without any pretensions of authenticity and, ironically, plenty of actual authenticity. You will most likely be greeted by Mama as you walk in. The menu is not vast, but it is simple and straightforward. We recommend you go for the wet burrito. It's all the belly bomb massive glory of the Chini's original, stuffed with your choice of a half pound of steak, shredded chicken, or ground beef and pinto beans, yellow rice, sour cream, and cheese—and then smothered in your choice of salsa. You will need napkins, many of them, and then a nap.

Readers' choice: Tacocraft Taqueria & Tequila Bar

Carlos & Pepe's

Avocado, that art from heaven,

Hallowed be thy paste.

Guacamole, yum!

I will have some.

But only at Carlos & Pepe's.

Give us a small ($7.75)—no, large ($10) instead —

and deliver it in a tortilla.

As we indulge those blessed enough to eat with us.

For thine is the freshest,

And the holiest

Guacamole.

Dig in.

The combination of crunchy romaine, tomatoes, and salty Kalamata olives, all bound together with the bite of a vinaigrette and the smoothness of feta cheese crumbles, just seems to go with our tropical surroundings. There are plenty of spots doing justice to such a salad, but Sazio in downtown Delray has got one up on them all with its Mediterranean salad. For a lot of spots, the often optional piece of chicken you can order to top almost any salad is pretty much an afterthought. Bland and tasteless, it flops on top of the otherwise coherent salad with no relevance other than providing protein. But at Sazio, the chicken is just as well-thought-out and expertly prepared as every other dish. On the Mediterranean salad, it's specifically served blackened so as not to get lost among the many other strong elements competing for your attention. And make no mistake—with or without the chicken, this salad is a meal. At the end you will be full and pleasantly overwhelmed by the zing of vinegar and peppers.

Somewhere along the way, some genius marketing person sold the idea that falafel is a health food. After all, it's ground-up chickpeas—no meat! Must be health food! If it is, then so are french fries because falafel is deep fried, my friends—or at least it should be. If you've been eating falafel that actually has been made over into health food, you've been horribly cheated. Like hush puppies, falafels should be rolled, then tossed into a deep vat of scalding hot oil. Far from light and airy, they should be dense with a crispy outer crunch giving way to a grainy (but not mushy) interior. They should also be wrapped in a not-whole-grain pita and smothered in tzatziki sauce, feta cheese, hummus, cucumbers, tomatoes, and tabouli. This is how you'll find it at Gyroville, a local chain with eight locations, including Fort Lauderdale. The way to go here is with the make-your-own-combo option so you can pick your protein—falafel, obviously—and then load it up with any toppings you want.

Dolce Salato Pizza & Gelato
CandaceWest.com

The most traveled air route in the world connects the Empire and Sunshine states. And every single New Yorker you meet will, at some point or another, lament the lack of "good pizza." It's enough to frustrate even the most easygoing native Floridian. This time, just nod and aim the car at Dolce Salato Pizza & Gelato in Wilton Manors. Respond with empathetic "hmms" and "I knows" as you park the car and hold the door open. See if the complainer notices the Italian accent of the kind gentleman taking his order. He will definitely notice the large, floppy slice of pie laid before him... and he will not be disappointed. Authentically Italian and in the proud tradition of New York-style pizzerias, Dolce Salato inspires you to go big with the Capricciosa, topped with ham, mushrooms, black olives, and artichoke hearts. Or go truly traditional and order La Margherita Classica. The most simple of pies, it's made with Ovoline mozzarella and housemade tomato sauce and sprinkled with fresh basil. And if your friend with the Brooklyn accent still has the nerve to defame our pies, shut him up with a cold gelato.

Readers' choice: Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

The origins of garlic rolls go way back to the Third Century when Macedonians would use flat loaves of bread as plates. After they sopped up whatever spices dripped onto a bread, they'd eat that, too. In America in the 1940s, Italian restaurants popped up all over, and the garlic roll has since been perfected at Sebastiano's. This Hollywood restaurant serves freshly baked rolls with oodles of olive oil and minced garlic complimentary before every meal. But be warned: They will destroy your appetite as you find yourself asking for your basket to be refilled again and again. Need more? Of course you do. Dine in or take out at a half-dozen for $2.50 or a dozen for $3.95.

Cha-Cha Japanese Cafe
Courtesy of Cha-Cha Japanese Cafe

You can buy cheap ones at Publix in Styrofoam cups, but higher-end traditional ramen noodles are gaining steam in South Florida. One of the pioneers in the area is Cha-Cha Japanese Café. Located in a strip mall along State Road 7 in Wellington, it's a no-frills, nothing-fancy, quaint café serving up Japanese comfort food. The menu offers 14 different styles of ramen, a Chinese-style wheat noodle in either a soy- or pork-based broth. The Tonkotsu Yasei is a treat, with sautéed vegetables and slices of tender roast pork. Or kick it up a notch with the Hot and Sour Ramen, a more noodle-heavy version of the popular Japanese soup. Soft Nabeyaki Udon is made with a thick wheat noodle plus chicken, shrimp, and vegetable tempura, as well as an egg, in a hot pot. You won't spend more than $15, but the place has gotten so popular it no longer offers takeout.

Huong's Bistro
Ryan Yousefi

There's a new bánh mì boss in town, and her name is Tiffany Huong. Huong opened up shop in Lauderdale Lakes late last year, and since her quaint Vietnamese cuisine to-go bistro got cooking, it's been a huge success. The star of the Huong's Bistro show is the bánh mì menu (choose from six varieties, ranging from $5 to $5.50). Nobody is slinging sandwiches the way they are here. Crusty-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside bread teams up with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and your choice of meats (anything from BBQ roast pork to an amazingly moist pork meatball) to put together a sandwich sent straight from heaven. Each bite gets better until the very last, which will make you sad. Unless... you order more than one! (That's a hint.) Many restaurants are attempting to pull off what Huong's Bistro is doing, but none comes close. This place is the undisputed bánh mì champion of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Pho Saigon Cuisine
John Linn

What makes a bowl of pho un-pho-gettable? The best bowls share a few simple characteristics: slippery, firm noodles; a steaming, fragrant, rich beef broth; sheets of finely sliced meat; and a mountain of add-it-yourself cilantro, mint, and bean sprouts served on the side, allowing you to customize each bowl. Over the past few years the soup has grown on South Florida, and today there are dozens of places you can find it. At Saigon Cuisine, nestled in the heart of the Crossroads Shopping Center in Margate, owner Young Le has been serving authentic bowls of pho for close to ten years. There are portion sizes ranging from a kid's cup size ($4.75) to an extra-large bowl ($10.25), and choices of brisket, flank, beef meatballs, tripe, tenderloin, grilled pork, chicken, or seafood to flavor it up. At each table sits a tray stacked with ceramic jars, each filled with chili oil, chili paste, and poison sauce for spiking the broth as you see fit. Executed perfectly, a steaming bowl of pho—a balance of clean flavors, aromatic herbs, crisp vegetables, hearty protein, and rich broth—can be near euphoric.

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