Jack's Bar-B-Que Smokehouse
Nothin' says lovin' like good barbecue. Heck, there's really no such thing as bad barbecue, only barbecue that isn't quite as good as other barbecue you've tried. Jack's, however, is damn good barbecue. A good smokehouse can be judged on the quality of its pulled meats, and Jack's has some excellent pulled beef. And then there are the high-caliber sides. Collard greens are not too sweet, cornbread is steaming hot, and mac-and-cheese comes with the little burnt bits of cheese that say it's homemade. Of course, sauce can make or break a barbecue pit, and Jack's sauce is just tangy enough, with each meal served with plenty of it. This is barbecue the way it's supposed to be.
Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q
Anthony Cave
Make no mistake, Tom Jenkins is the granddaddy of 'em all. A business that started as a traveling weekend barbecue, this 40-seatery doesn't pull any punches with its hickory-infused products; it just pulls pork... and chicken, spare ribs, baby-back ribs, baked beans, hush puppies, and the like. After eight years as top player, it's only natural that Tom Jenkins should spawn. In this case, the offspring is inspiration: the aforementioned Soul Food 2 Go in Hollywood and Jack's Bar-B-Q Smokehouse in Fort Lauderdale have both been opened by Tom Jenkins's barbecue alumni. Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.
Acapulco Lindo
How do you want it? A verde burrito stuffed with savory chunks of beef or chicken slathered in a tangy tomatillo salsa? A steak burrito with chopped onions and tomatoes that's topped with the house red sauce? Or the eponymous Acapulco Lindo burrito, bursting with either beef or chicken with mushrooms and covered in melted cheese as well as their "Nippy-Hot" sauce? Not a loser in the bunch, not one costs more than $7.95, and you won't find any better in a sit-down eatery north of Homestead.
If you can define a neighborhood restaurant simply by who in the neighborhood hangs out in it, then this place has hardly any competition: Practically everybody in Lighthouse Point visits here on a regular basis. Among the more consistent customers? Try the LP city commissioners, who often swing by for a drink or two after more official meetings. Then, of course, there's the something-for-everyone food angle: original Chicago hot dogs for the kiddies; wings, clams, mushrooms, and other fried goodies for the adolescents; lemon-ginger chicken salad for metabolically challenged parents; and of course a host of chuggable imported beers and sippable margaritas for those single-and-looking individuals who want to hang out on the patio until closing time -- which, incidentally, is refreshingly late for your average neighborhood joint.
Tusk Steakhouse
Yes, they prepare it tableside. Yes, they rub the garlic into the sides of the wooden bowl until it disappears, seasoning the wood. Yes, everyone who has tried it raves about it. And no, we are not staring at the door that leads to Pure Platinum in hopes of catching a glimpse of the naked chicks. Stop looking at us like that.
Michael's Kitchen
Chef-proprietor Michael Blum calls his market restaurant "The Cure for Boring Food." Perhaps an equivalent credo for the wine list would be "The Remedy for Over-Oaked Chardonnay." Blum has put together a reasonably priced group culled from small producers that runs the gamut from vin blanc to vin rouge. Given the extensive refrigeration at the back of this appealing place, you can count on a perfectly chilled bottle of Far Niente or Bonny Doone (for examples on both sides of the wallet). Keep an eye out for cult cabs and niche pinot noirs too: Michael's Kitchen has promise as Michael's Cellar as well.
Ah, the bloody Mary: the ultimate hair-of-the-dog drink. Crazy but true. Who would ever have guessed that a hangover would be so gently assuaged by a mix of vodka, tomato juice, Tabasco, salt, and pepper? And in another surprising twist of fate, Café Iguana at BeachPlace makes a great bloody Mary. Have them use Absolut Peppar if you want the real deal. With any luck, as you smack your lips over the spiciness of this thick, red cocktail, you'll forget about all those shots you downed the night before. Step across the street for a swim in the ocean. Your hangover cure is complete.
What sets this restaurant bar apart from every other watering hole in Fort Liquordale is its bartender, Steve, who can mix more than 35 kinds of margaritas. Even when he's not on duty, the place offers plenty of agave goodness: For $4 each weekday happy hour (4 to 7 p.m.), you can try any of the 47 brands of tequila Olé Olé offers, including the Beverly Hills-grade Herradura. For flavor, choose from strawberry, melon, peach, raspberry, mango, or guava. Steve, who works until midnight on most weekends, says the strangest margarita he's ever made was a Pineapple Mango Mist with a splash of guava. By the time we ordered that, we had trouble speaking. It's a good thing Steve happens to be fluent in sign language.
You might think that with a name like Swig, this place would be destined to win this particular award. And indeed, we do admire the countless martini combinations you can glean here, from sour apple to chocolate to classic cosmo. We also love the way the servers bring iced shakers to the table and pour the wonderful substances out into a chilled glass that beckons the diner's lips the way a baby does a kiss. But our real favorite isn't about vodka or gin; it's about shrimp. Specifically speaking, the shrimp martini, a few colossal specimens curled over the rim, just waiting to be dipped into the puddle of tangy key lime cocktail sauce. The only problem? This appetizer might tempt you into ordering a bloody Mary instead of a traditional gin-vermouth combo. But don't fret. At Swig Bartini, you can get anything -- even your check -- served in a martini glass.
The printed menu in this breakfast/lunch/early dinner eatery isn't much to marvel at: some grilled chicken and fish, a tuna-salad sandwich, a quiche du jour. But the old British-style décor, proper china, and candlelight practically scream "high tea." Fortunately, for countess wannabes, Talula complies with a reasonably priced midafternoon opportunity to pour out the Earl Grey, munch on cucumber or tomato sandwiches, and spread some clotted cream on scones. It may be a bit heavy for a Florida summer afternoon, but the air here is cool enough and the tea hot enough to remind us all of more temperate climes.

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