Best of Broward / Palm Beach

South Florida's Best Specialty Food Stores

As part of the countdown to the Best Of Broward/Palm Beach 2012, coming in June, we've assembled a list of ten of the best specialty food markets in South Florida. These are the places to turn when Publix, Whole Foods Market, and even Fresh Market simply won't do. Did we miss your favorite source for rare, gourmet, and unusual culinary goods? Let us know in the comments.

1. Joseph's Classic Market

With its tidy floors, artfully arranged produce displays, and shelves

stocked with products lined perfectly shoulder to shoulder, this market --

part of a chain of three -- is as neat as can be. Stalk the aisles

and find potted herbs, tables of baked goods (babka, fruit breads,

cookies), a display case filled with row after row of cookies,

chocolate-covered strawberries, and cannoli, seafood, meats, and

packaged foods from Italy and beyond. Wander the perimeter and as you

pass the deli section; you might overhear a cook with a thick New York

accent chastising an underling for offering to microwave a customer's

sandwich: "You're gonna ruin the food I just made?" Don't be put off by

the outwardly Boca vibe -- the selection of prepared foods is worth

sidestepping any oncoming Jaguars in the parking lot.

2. Penn Dutch Food Center

Though the Hollywood locale is stocked with tons of goodies, try the larger Margate branch of this store, where you'll have more space to navigate the aisles and fill your cart with a mix of wines, cheeses, produce, and gourmet items. The meat and seafood sections are particular strong points for this market. The crowd -- which flocks for reasonable everyday prices and weekly specials -- means checkout can take a spell; arrive early in the morning or late in the day to avoid peak shopping hours.

3. Cheese Culture

Cheeseheads will salivate over the selection of artisan morsels from the U.S. and abroad. They've got varieties of blue, fresh, hard, semi-hard, soft-ripened, and washed rind, made from cow, sheep, and cheese milks. The charcuterie section caters to meaty needs with cured cuts, sausages, and pâté. Wash it down with a bottle of wine or craft beer from the well-curated selection at the back of the shop. If all of the choices seem overwhelming in any way, the staff will happily lead you through the cheesy journey or can simply whip up a tasty sandwich or salad for your lunch. Winetasting classes and other foodie gatherings are a frequent affair.

4. To the Moon Marketplace

Much more than a candy shop, this Wilton Manors institution stocks a strange and intriguing selection of gourmet and not-so-gourmet food items like salsas, sauces, and salty snacks. Dealing heavily in nostalgia, the store carries an exhaustive array of old-timey candies and hard-to-find sweet treats. Lots of collectibles and nonfood odds and ends round out the selection.

5. EVOO Market

As people start to appreciate olive oils in their own right and not just as a means to an end, there comes a need for places to source the growing evoo (extra-virgin olive oil, in Rachael Ray parlance) demand. This specialty shop carries a range of oils imported everywhere from Spain to Australia. Some of the oils are the pure stuff; others are infused with flavors like rosemary, habanero, and white truffles. Spices, fancy salts, and balsamic vinegars also line the shelves, plus olive-oil-based soaps, creams, and other bath products for the truly oil-obsessed.

6. Thousand Pound Egg

A fairly recent addition to the varied Victoria Park neighborhood, this independent store deals in a range of cookbooks to cater to your ultraspecific cravings as well as the ingredients you'll need to satisfy them. There's an emphasis on locally sourced products -- i.e., Florida honey -- but the store also carries rare and unusual products from around the globe. The foodie-run operation hosts culinarycentric events like tastings, author talks, and other gastronomic gatherings.

7. 4th Generation Organic Market & Café

A display of fresh produce takes up one corner of the store, and on the opposite side is a full-service deli counter with a selection of prepared and made-to-order items like raw and vegan dishes (tempeh chili, macadamia cheese, vegan lasagna). In addition to fresh foods, you can load up on bulk grains and health foodie essentials like chia seeds, wheat germ, and various oils and teas. Lots of gluten-free offerings. Meat eaters, don't worry about being judged: There are some meaty selections available.

8. Quoc Thach Deli & Grocery

This Asian market (at 1360 N. State Road 7, Margate) features a vast selection of packaged items from the familiar (dried noodles, etc.) to the less so (cans of grass jelly) plus lots of frozen goods. If fresh is your want, you can shop the selection of produce and fresh meat. After all of that browsing and label deciphering, refresh with an in-house boba (bubble) tea or smoothie.

9. Little India

Your options for a quality Indian dinner in South Florida are limited. Sure, there are great Indian restaurants, but they're few and far between. Stock up on Indian ingredients, and try your hand at making your own palek paneer, curries, and aloo matar. Here you can find the masala and chutneys you'll need to make it happen, plus the extras -- packaged snacks and fresh produce -- that help to create a memorable meal. This shop is neat, clean, and easy to find.

10. Russian & International Food Market

Eastern European and Russian goods line the shelves of this spacious market (at 8903 Glades Road, Boca Raton), which, not surprisingly, has a good selection of vodkas and wines. You'll find candies from around the world, baked goods (including poppy-seed Danish), pastries, pierogis, smoked fish, teas, and coffee. If you need something on the spot, order a sandwich made with fresh deli meat or a homemade soup.

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