To find Gran Forno, you could look for the storefront window that displays bakers at work, or you could simply close your eyes (mind your step) and follow your nose. The smell of bread, savory with rosemary, wafts to the street. On weekends Gran Forno is crowded and clubby. Regulars gather in tennis togs to consult maps for their upcoming trip to Tuscany while the owners chime in with advice. Not surprisingly the focaccia, pastries, and biscotti are all excellent, but the best thing about this authentic, family-owned bakery is the way it continually pulls off the unexpected. At Thanksgiving, for example, Gran Forno's beautiful pumpkin pies no doubt upstage many a turkey. And this being Florida, the bakery also makes a key lime tartlet that, while generous, might still be a tad too small (and too delicious) to share.
The takeout menu notes that Charlie's is located between Pizza Hut and McDonald's. The astute observer might also realize that the exterior of the joint looks like an extant fast-food restaurant. And the truly brilliant eye will notice that Charlie's is a self-service, cafeteria-style place, where you kind of point to what you want and everything is plated for you by the worker behind the counter. So what does all this mean? Only that Charlie's is fast, not that it's fast food. In fact it's slow food, if you consider that the Texas-style beef brisket and pulled pork loin have simmered for hours to get them to their juiciest and ripest. Or that the chicken and baby-back ribs have been basted repeatedly with a caramelized layer of Charlie's secret sauce. Add the homemade baked beans, pinto beans, and Spanish rice, and it's fairly obvious to even the most ignorant palate that good ol' Chuck knows how, better than anyone else, to do the Q.
Barbecue snobs have simple but stringent requirements. First of all the standard for judging is a good old-fashioned sandwich. The meat of choice is lean but succulent pork, preferably pulled or in chunks rather than sliced. And it goes without saying that it has to be smoked. Then there's the all-important sauce: tangy but not too tangy, with a hint of sweetness but not too sweet. Pile high on an ordinary bun. If the sandwich is good enough, the side dishes are irrelevant. Georgia Pig succeeds on all counts -- so well, in fact, that we tried the beef sandwich, too, just for the hell of it, and found it quite satisfactory. As a bonus, this long-lived joint on U.S. Highway 441 has its own distinct ambiance. Think '60s greasy spoon meets Deep South honky-tonk, complete with a garish collection of pigs -- on the walls, behind the counter, and on your plate.
Though this pub offers about 130 brands of brew from all over the world, the beer that earns Murray's the prize hails from the abbey of Koningshoeven and is called La Trappe -- because it is made by the abbey's silent Trappist monks. It's fermented in the bottle, a corked crock. We usually choose the "tripple," which signifies triple-fermentation and a hearty 10 percent alcohol. It comes with a hearty price, too: 12 bucks a crock. With a medium, flavorful body and a sweet citrusy aftertaste, the brew is worth every single penny. Hell, the bottle, which has a drawing of the abbey on it, is probably worth the price all by itself. If that's too much, or if you simply don't dig monk brew, another must-have in our book is Fiedler's Pils Im Stein. If you need a guide, call on the owners, father-and-son team Jeff and Jason Dimm, to give you a tour. They're true suds aficionados who love to share their extensive hops knowledge and don't mind giving you a sample or two. While you're sipping some of the finest concoctions ever crafted, the place offers good company, pool tables, and free darts to use on their boards. Now get thee to Murray's.

Half the fun of a bloody mary is where and when you drink it. That's because people almost always consume these spicy delicacies when they really shouldn't be drinking -- in the morning. And if you are going to drink in the morning, you might as well do it at a joint that opens at 7 a.m. That would be the Entrada. Take a seat at the horseshoe-shape bar and order your debauched self one of these beauties. They come with a dollop of horseradish, just the thing you need after a night of living large. Then go outside and dip your toes in the pool. You are sooo South Florida.
"Autenticamente Mexicano" reads the sign above this roadside eatery, a tiny little place surrounded by the Guatemalan and Mexican districts of central Palm Beach County. There's hardly a gringo in sight within. (They probably wouldn't know how to mix and match the pineapple, guava, and tamarind sodas with the rich selections from the cooks' steam table, anyway.) But even the monolingual really need to know only one word here: burrito. The fresh flour tortillas are unbeatable -- supple, delicate, faintly sweet -- folded around fillings of chicken or wonderful grilled steak topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a piquant and subtle salsa verde. The lunch special of one burrito, one taco, and rice and beans is a steal at $4.99; a cellophane four-pack of gum -- spearmint, peppermint, cinnamon, and tutti-frutti -- makes dessert for two bits.

OK, so tons of fresh tuna are going through restaurants in seafood-heavy South Florida, and some of the more expensive, elegant spots surely make it as well as it can be done. And some truly great caesar salads are being made out there as well. But both for nine bucks? Uh-uh. Try to get a big, fresh, medium-rare steak of tuna sitting atop a huge pile of fresh romaine lettuce, chopped bacon, and croutons at most places, and they'll charge you at least that and half again. And this is no kiddie salad -- it's a Jethro Bodine bowl. It filled us up, and we're among the manliest men you'll ever see in Broward County. We have big round bellies, hairy backs, thick and furry wrists, knuckles callused from dragging along the ground, and slabs of Angus-like beef stuck to our ribs (well, some of us do, anyway), and that salad beat the hunger out of us. If you feel like a beer and some first-rate seafood at a cut-rate price, go to Flanigan's. Yes, it is a chain and we rarely recommend cookie-cutter restaurants, but Flanigan's warrants an exception, at least the one in Deerfield Beach. (We can't honestly laud all 19 Flanigan's restaurants around South Florida, because we haven't eaten in all of them.) The place, which is located on A1A just a stone's throw from the beach, has an old seafarer's ambiance and great service from people who genuinely seem to like working there. We had two wonderful dinners, an order of conch fritters (also among the best we've ever had), and three or four drafts for about $25. And the tuna, nice and red in the center, virtually melted in our mouths. We're hooked.
Curry goat. Jerk pork. Brown stew chicken. The name Islands in the Pines suggests pan-Caribbean fare, but from the cocktail patties to the bammy to the escovitched kingfish, this unexpectedly wonderful joint speaks deliciously of just one island: Jamaica. Live music adds emphasis, as do brightly colored walls, friendly servers, and an ever-changing array of daily soups. (Watch for the pepper pot.) And while you may want to serve them the tropical punch rather than the rumrunner smoothies, note that pickneys (kids) are welcome here as well and that prices are so affordable you could feed, well, an entire island.
Is awarding a restaurant "best chain" a backhanded compliment? We doubt Buca di Beppo would think so. A cavernous Italian dinner house where portions are prodigious -- two-pound meatballs make this place a contender for the "Best Restaurant for Gluttons" category as well -- Buca di Beppo is one of the fastest-growing and most profitable chain restaurants in the nation, next to Cheesecake Factory. That's quite an accomplishment for an eatery whose name translates as Joe's Basement. The food here is way over the top: focaccia-style garlic bread, feet-long pizzas, and family-size platters of fried calamari or veal limone. The décor evinces even less restraint, with thousands upon thousands of photos and posters featuring Italian and Italian-American idols such as Sophia Loren and Joe DiMaggio. Try sitting in the Cardinal Room or at the Pope Table for a truly religious experience.
Correct bean-to-meat ratio? Check. Trace amounts of cayenne? Roger. Chunks of ground beef, not minuscule scraps? Oh yeah. Not too tomatoey? But of course. Le Tub is one of those last remaining bastions of true funkiness left in Broward and Palm Beach counties -- rough wood tables, checks and credit cards not accepted, no tap beer -- and the victuals are just as singularly entertaining as the bathroom fixtures used as seats and tables. The chunkified chili is what you're paying for, not the surrounding substrate. (The stuff comes in a Styrofoam container with a plastic spoon.) Order by the cup, bowl, or five-gallon pail and love every bite.

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