Falcon House
Candace West

When we discovered this place, our hearts beat faster than Charlie Sheen's during a sex-a-thon. Plenty of elbow room, enough barstools, and a lacquered bar? Throw in large plates of gourmet food and, sweet Jesus, we just had an aneurysm. The fuss is over the Falcon House "great plates": better-than-your-mom's mac-and-cheese, grilled rib-eye quesadillas, and hellfire spicy jerk chicken lollipops, for starters. The price helps: only $8.88 for each.

The Floridian

At first glance, the Floridian is an assault to the eyes, with its tacky '80s décor, shiny metal chairs, and clutter everywhere, particularly on the walls, where photos of celebrities and politicians paper every square inch. You're not here for the design, however. You're here for the fuel. Expect heaping servings of eggs and potatoes or other greasy-spoon standards like cheeseburgers and patty melts. They're perfect for soaking up chagrin over bad decisions from the night before. As your vodka haze dissipates and you regain your strength, you may muster the energy to put on your dark sunglasses and venture onto Las Olas Boulevard to face the day. Think twice before you leave, though — there are mimosas on deck 24/7. Perhaps you're ready for one now?

Tap 42

This beer mecca is a stunner. Reclaimed wood from Washington, Montana, New York, and Oregon textures the walls in a rhythm of varying widths and subtly different shades of brown. Douglas fir from Oregon outfits tables. Floors are lapped with concrete, while the bar base is made of steel. Rebar runs the length of the ceiling overhead. The only "art," if you'd call it such, is a drawing of a tree that explains each beer's origin as a lager or an ale, and a gas station sign from a West Texas artisan. Fifteen thousand pennies serve as a backsplash behind the row of taps, 42 in all.

Southport Raw Bar
Photo by Glenn Govot, courtesy of Southport Raw Bar & Restaurant

Hey, nice boat. Seriously. How many feet? It's a real beauty. Hey, if you're around one weekend, and want to hang out... we can go fishing or something. Then, when we're good and sunburned and haven't caught any fish, we can cruise on down toward the 17th Street Causeway and turn in toward Southport, a shining beacon at the end of the canal. The inside is fishy dive bar; the outside is more backyard picnic. The seafood options wash in on a tide of cold, cheap beer: raw or steamed clams, raw oysters (shucked to order), fried shrimp, conch fritters, a couple of chowders and soups. The fresh, simple, possibly alive options are better than more processed creations (don't bother with the stuffed clams). Over cracking cephalopods and fizzing beer, conversation and daydreaming are the dominant pursuits: The TVs are too small to bother with, so the real entertainment is right there in front of you. Us. Together. Just enjoying a day out on your boat.

Big Bear Brewing Co.
C. Stiles

A great brewpub doesn't force good beer to make up for mediocre food. Big Bear's huge menu goes beyond standard bar food, featuring fancy vittles like steak, seafood, volcano shrimp, and "Brie pillows." But the burgers remain a must-try; wash 'em down with an eight-beer sampler (eight types of beer are brewed in-house) for $8.50 and you're having a good night. The atmosphere has the dimly lit, cloth-napkin feel of a much more expensive restaurant with the din (and giant metal tanks) of a more rough-and-tumble brewery. Combine that with quick service and you've got a happy dinner experience.

Diner 24

This place looks and feels like the collision of a greasy spoon and a sports bar — napkins are replaced by a roll of brown paper towels on each table, the condiments are held in bent-up license plates, and the walls are covered in pictures of guys holding big fish. It's got burgers and milk shakes, but Diner 24's breakfast is the best in town if you've got ten bucks and an empty stomach. Its omelets are stuffed full of whatever you want, and it never skimps on the cheese. Sign yourself up for the home fries too — they come with onions and peppers mixed in. Combine that with a biscuit and jelly and you'll be all set. (Don't let the name fool you, though — it's open 24 hours on the weekend, but it closes at midnight during the week, so stumble over there before it's too late.)

Bravo Peruvian Cuisine
C. Stiles

Bravo offers a whole list of delicious entrées, but its sandwiches are edible miracles. The lomo saltado sandwich is easy on your wallet but fancy in your mouth, and the fish sandwich is so good you won't even mind that you don't like fish sandwiches. You can go there for a quick dinner, but it's perfect for lunch — just be prepared to be really full. It offers takeout, but you can sit down at a table without getting embarrassed about getting rocato sauce on your face — it's not a cloth-napkin joint, and nobody's ever been judged over an Inca cola.

Wing Loon

This little shack on Andrews Avenue is perfect if you want good food but are easily startled by the fast service at Burger King. The drive-through, at first glance, looks like a breakthrough in Asian food purveyance but in actuality must be an elaborate ploy by oil companies to whittle away at your gas tank. It's fine if you call ahead, but if you order from your car, be ready to wait. There seems to be only one frazzled young gentleman taking orders. There's a little dog running around in the kitchen, and the old battery holding down the takeout menus just fell over, so the guy is in no mood for your attempts to swap out the free egg roll for half an order of boneless ribs. Don't let the chaos deter you, though — Wing Loon stands alone atop the Oakland Park Chinese-food takeout game.

Betty's Soul Food
Candace West

You might have heard someone say they'd "never live west of 95." You might have heard Fort Lauderdale residents talk about the rough reputation of Sistrunk Boulevard. But in a region subtly divided by racial and socioeconomic boundaries, there's no better place to cut through the BS than Betty's: just west of 95, on Sistrunk Boulevard. The highway roars overhead, and commuter trains chug past the front door. But a procession of people from all over comes through the doors for the area's best fried chicken, slow-cooked wonders like oxtail or ribs, and macaroni and cheese that's richer than a Palm Beach heiress. This is Southern food, cooked in fat and nestled in styrofoam. The menu is fairly extensive — catfish, chicken gizzards — and Betty serves down-home breakfast items starting at 6 a.m. Start out with classics like the fried chicken and expand from there on subsequent visits. If unacquainted with Betty's, your dining companions may squeal and groan about how rich and sinful the food is. Pay them no mind, and enjoy your dinner.

After you've crossed the typical tourist destinations — beach, Everglades, and, heaven help you, Sawgrass Mills Mall — off the list, it's time to prove to your visitors that you are the kind of person who's privy to insider info. That's when you load 'em into the car, drive through a nondescript residential neighborhood, and stop in the marina parking lot reserved for Cap's customers. A short ferry ride across Lake Placid will deposit you at a set of historic buildings. Steer your party to the creaky-floored shack slightly to your left. Inside the storied walls, your guests will get a glimpse of a Florida that disappeared decades before terribly unsubtle developers like Donald Trump even set their eyes on this state.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

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