Bamboo Fire Cafe
Visit a typical Caribbean restaurant in South Florida and you'll find oceans of aluminum warming trays holding wrinkly jerk chicken and greasy curry. But not at Bamboo Fire, where every island specialty is made to order. Owners Beverly and Donald Jacobs bring a personal touch to Caribbean cookery, crafting home-cooked meals that speak to their passion for food. Within minutes of sitting down, you'll feel as though you're dining in the couple's home. You'll fork up cumin- and garlic-laced chickpeas from a tiny blue bowl as Jacobs regales you with stories of her homeland of Guyana. And you'll skewer curried meatballs on toothpicks as you cool off with bottles of frosty lager. The Jacobses make maximum use of local rarities like golden crab, turning the sweet shellfish into spicy curry. And then there are those plates made solely for the adventurous like local wild hog, which gets barbecued slow and low until the flesh is tender and succulent. After your meal, you can linger for bites of zingy rum cake and Blue Bell ice cream, or just sit and chat with Beverly and Donald as you slip quietly from this off-the-boulevard eatery into a homey restaurant in the islands.
101 Ocean
You're likely to see the same endearing grin across the face of Jared Kearney whether he's zipping down A1A on his scooter or flying through the often-packed 101 Ocean in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Kearney is a cool cat who's masterful at what he does. The New York transplant has been down here for nine or ten years (he can't really remember), has been waiting tables for more than a decade, and has been at 101 since it opened its doors in 2008. The experience shows. The orders are always on point, customers are never left waiting, and he creates an experience that is more "hang out" than theatrical.
Mona Lisa Coal Oven Pizza
Many a wiseguy has killed for a cannoli. And judging by the dozens of photos of axed mobsters that adorn Mona Lisa's red brick walls, here's where they come to collect. They utter their last words (likely "fuhgeddaboudit") as they eat dense pastry shells piped with cinnamon-enhanced ricotta. They make amends for their sins as their lips touch orange-scented sfogliatelle one final time. But one penultimate trip is not enough to savor all the selections, every last bit of them made in-house, including the tiramisu and rainbow-colored Napoleon cookies filled with fruity jam. The place has been around for more than 80 years, beginning as a humble bread shop in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. These days, the South Florida leg continues the family tradition of making pastries (and pizzas) to die for.
Michelle Bernstein's at the Omphoy
Slip up the steps to the third floor inside the dark and mysterious Omphoy Hotel and you'll find yourself at Michelle Bernstein's, the fourth restaurant from the eponymous star chef herself. The striking dining room full of backlighting and mirrors is like another dimension in which nothing else is visible but the meal you're about to eat. Start with a Bernstein classic like crispy sweetbreads — here, they're served with lemony gremolada like some bizarro version of fried chicken. Or try her foie gras, a playful take on German pancakes that pairs the melting delicacy with savory maple syrup and crisp apples. Bernstein places emphasis on all things local and sustainable too. From her rooftop garden, she culls produce such as arugula and fennel for a radiant spring salad. And from the waters of the nearby Atlantic — located just outside the restaurant's panoramic window — she plucks fresh snapper to encrust in salt and gently bake, letting those oceanic flavors shine. Although the menu changes daily, the quality never falters. You can feel Bernstein's touch in every dish, from slow-braised short ribs to jam-filled donuts. Even the service is genuinely caring and never feels performed. Yep, even though it's located in some brooding luxury resort in Palm Beach and not in Miami, MB's at the Omphoy is Bernstein from top to bottom.
Los Perros
You haven't seen a hot dog in all its heart-stopping glory until you've witnessed a super perro, the Colombian version of the universally popular street food that adopts an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink methodology. Piled with bacon, cheese, sour cream, "pink" sauce, puréed pineapple, and crushed potato chips, these messy franks should probably come with labels warning off small children, pregnant women, the immune deficient, and the elderly. For everybody else, they're massive fun. Clubby, Miami-based chain Los Perros makes a super perro that could hang on any Bogota street corner. It's so big and messy that it's worth every bit of the six bucks it costs. Show up late (Los Perros is open until 6 a.m. on weekends) and you can gobble your super perro and wash it down with a Postabon in the company of plenty of other revelers, each looking to quell the impending hangover with as much starch and fat as possible. You've all come to the right place.
The Office
Ian Witlen
We've poured on many superlatives already about the Office, so we may as well give it a nickname. How about "The Notorious P.I.G."? The newish gastropub in Delray Beach is like an ode to all things porky and excessive. From the confines of its Madison Avenue-inspired digs, the Office turns out so many dishes infused, whorled, and studded with bacon that it could have a whole page devoted to it on Thisiswhyyourefat.com. Bacon-imbued Brussels sprouts? Check. Maple-bacon donuts? Say no more. Yes, the Office seems designed to tickle your inner fat kid, be it through bacon or its fab $16 prime CEO burger with arugula and onion confit. The sweet bun itself is literally branded with the joint's logo — how crazy is that? Add a craft beer list that's like an aggregate of this year's best standout brews and a fun dining room that manages to put you right in the thick of the action and you've got a recipe for one indulgently fun restaurant.
Let's face it, street food isn't easy to find in South Florida. But that doesn't mean Swanky's, a barbecue cart that operates from West Palm Beach to Miami, wins just by default. Owners Steve Russo and Armand Ignelzi take ultimate care with their homespun 'cue, putting in as much attention to detail with their killer pulled pork as a tattoo artist does with his ink. The pair slow-cooks pork shoulder for 30 hours, combining a two-step process that sees the meat linger over smoldering wood before finishing in the oven to render down thoroughly. The result is as tender and smoky as a country crooner's heart. It's piled high on fresh Kaiser rolls and topped off with Swanky's peppery carrot, cabbage, and apple coleslaw, all crunchy and wet. And best of all, you can sauce it how you like: Swanky's makes four varieties, including a spicy tomato-base, sweet Southern mustard, and even creamy Alabama-style mayo. Finding the cart is easy too — just friend them on Facebook or Twitter (@swankysbbq) to find out where the good times will roll up to next.

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