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.

Shooter's Waterfront
Courtesy of Shooter's Waterfront

Shooters was once known for its amazing waterfront location and its hot-body contests. Now it's known for its amazing waterfront location and its menu. And seriously, you could go to Shooters just for the desserts. Enjoy fantastical creations like the Key lime baked Alaska ($11), a way of dressing up a classic Floridian dish with a tuft of torched meringue, Key lime custard sitting in a creamy white puddle of coconut-scented daiquiri sauce. The restaurant sells at least 40 each night. A Caribbean-bread-pudding flan ($9) is no less stunning, marrying a Latin staple with American comfort fare. Neither too sweet nor too dry, the chocolate fudge cake is quite a spectacle, so large the restaurant considered calling it the Big-Ass Slice of Chocolate Cake ($10). All humility is gone once it arrives at the table with the restaurant's name scrawled in powdered chocolate on the plate. Ask to take it home and they'll devise a way to use several to-go containers to pack it up.

Ah, the most American, blue-collar breakfast: coffee and a doughnut. On any given morning, local shops that deal in both often have lines so long you'd swear they were giving their goods away. And they pretty much are. For $1.58 apiece, a good doughnut is worth every penny—especially when layered under a veil of decadent toppings or filled with creamy goodness. At the old-fashioned Dandee Donut Factory in Hollywood, owners Frank and Laura Pucine have been in the business for more than 20 years. Open at 5 a.m. daily, the Pucines' place offers 62 hand-cut, hand-dipped, and homestyle varieties, from jelly-filled and cake doughnuts to specialty yeast-raised selections. The most popular include the sour cream glazed cake, their signature honey-dipped plain glazed, and the longtime favorite—a coconut-crusted doughnut the size of a large bagel finished with a tuft of homemade dulce de leche, chocolate, or vanilla frosting. If you happen to get your hands on one later in the day, these babies are just as good for dessert.

Brgr Stop
CandaceWest.com

Almost everything on 1-year-old Brgr Stop's menu reads like a challenge straight out of Food Network's Man vs. Food. Forget healthy eating, special meal plans, and dietary restrictions; Brgr Stop goes straight in the opposite direction. Begin your meal with buckets of candied bacon, a tower of onion rings, or a signature burger loaded with macaroni and cheese or a pile of melted peanut butter. The most intimidating items on the menu are the shakes (each $6.95). The craft milkshakes are owner Michael Buchinski's signature creations — made with cereal-infused milk, a flavor that perfectly re-creates the milk left at the bottom of your morning breakfast bowl. Buchinski sells up to 300 of these a day. Other selections are brand-name inspired, incorporating punishingly sweet Fruity Pebbles, Cap'n Crunch, and Lucky Charms. New additions include a Rice Krispie Treat shake.

Asian Thai Grocery
Jess Swanson

This tiny shop, situated on a one-way street off Hallandale Beach Boulevard, is run by a sweet little dark-haired woman named Im Kupradit who sits at a desk in the front beside a large poster of the Thai solar calendar. In the afternoons, her 5-year-old son helps her stock shelves in his school uniform. The size of the shop might be limited, but its aisles are full. One aisle carries sauces and curries—anything from oyster sauce to sriracha and even preserved duck eggs. Another aisle is teetering with its spread of ramen, lai fun, and vermicelli noodles. They also import all kinds of South Pacific delicacies like shrimp-flavored chips, bamboo shoots, green tea desserts, and Pocky, a Japanese biscuit stick coated in chocolate. Im reports that customers travel from all over South Florida for specific ingredients from her shop. She welcomes everyone to call ahead to check if she has a particular item or to stop in on their own.

Celis Produce
Courtesy of Celis Produce

Owners Alex, Felipe, and Camilo Celis grew up right around the corner from the new store's Dixie Highway location in West Palm Beach. Their father, Elkin, owned Continental Market in the 1980s just two miles south. The brothers team up with local growers to sell organic fruits and vegetables as well as farm-fresh, never-refrigerated eggs. They pack the shelves with locally produced honey, spices, and raw goodies. Thirsty? You can buy beer and kombucha from local craft breweries, stock up on coffee from Subculture Roasters, or order something they whip up at the smoothie and juice bar, with drinks made entirely from products right off the store shelves. And if you can never seem to make it to the store, the store can come to you. Just go to Celis' website and sign up for produce delivered right to your doorstep.

Bedner's Downtown Market
Nicole Danna

The one drawback to shopping at Bedner's charming farm-side market in western Boynton was the fact that it was, well, in western Boynton. Which was fine for an occasional trip, something fun to do on a weekend, but since most people live east, it just wasn't reasonable for regular grocery shopping no matter how much you wanted to support local farmers with your organic cotton totes. Plus, think of the fossil fuels, you argued with yourself. That's why Bedner's put an equally charming red farmhouse smack in the middle of downtown Delray Beach's Pineapple Grove. It's all the things you loved about Bedner's, minus all the driving: fresh, locally grown produce, Florida-raised organic meats and eggs, a kick-ass wine selection, and craft beers. Just don't forget your organic cotton tote bags.

Nicoya Farm
Courtesy of Maria Gaitan

Now going into its second season, this single acre of well-tilled earth in the undeveloped suburbs of West Palm Beach is a labor of love, 100 percent organic and as concerned with social impact as the quality of its produce. Daniel Robleto, who runs the show, says he wants to "change the way people think about labor and food production." An example of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Nicoya's crops — including tomatoes, greens, root veggies, peppers, okra, carrots, and soon, bananas — are available on a weekly delivery basis to those who commit to a season-long subscription and will also be for sale at the Lake Worth Farmer's Market this fall. More adventurous (or cash-poor) folks can come on out to the plot and volunteer to swap labor for food.

Tiki-Ono
Nicole Danna

On the pier in Lake Worth, the pop-up tiki bar has set up shop at the entrance to Benny's on the Beach. Potent libations, mixed drinks, and rum flights—some served from fresh, shaved coconuts—are doled out by local bartenders Rob Husted and Josh Gates, who developed the concept. It's almost ludicrous no one thought to do it sooner. The bar operates out of a pop-up tent open Wednesday through Monday from noon to 7 p.m., weather permitting. No need to get fancy, either; beachgoers order in bathing suits from a chalkboard menu that presents a short list of rotating and signature tiki-style drinks. This includes the Lota Colada ($15), a basil-infused piña colada that uses real cream of coconut; and the Virgin Sacrifice, vodka mixed with strawberries, blood orange juice, and ginger beer with a fancy Bols Blue Foam topper. All you need is some sunblock—and maybe a designated driver.

Canyon

At Canyon, chef-owner Chris Wilber has been making his famous prickly pear margarita ($12) since long before it was fashionable to infuse cocktails with fresh fruit. It's been the bar's signature drink since the restaurant opened in 1994—a bright pink drink served on the rocks with a salt rim or up for a simple martini-style cocktail. It looks so simple, but it's actually a lot of work: Every few days the restaurant receives a wooden crate of ripe prickly pears. From there, Wilber slices and dices them into small-batch containers with the house Sauza Hornitos tequila, then lets it sit for several days—long enough for the cactus fruits to bleed purplish-pink juice and sweet, exotic flavor into the mix. From there, the bar staff mixes the fruit-infused tequila with a fresh-squeezed lemon-lime sour mix and just a touch of triple sec. On a busy weekend the bar will serve up to 200 glasses a night.

Readers' choice: Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar

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