Michelle Bernstein's at the Omphoy
She has long been Miami's gal, a sunny chef with a proclivity toward mixing Florida's tropical bounty with homey comfort food. But when this Jewish and Latin starlet made the trip up to Palm Beach last year to open her new restaurant at the Omphoy Hotel, she instantly became our lady as well. From early on, accolades have followed Bernstein wherever she went. In her early days at Azul, she earned Esquire's attention for Best New Restaurant in America. And in 2005, after opening her flagship restaurant Michy's, Gourmet named it among the top 50 places to dine in the country. But perhaps her biggest achievement came in 2008, when Bernstein's adherence to tradition and technique earned her the coveted James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef in the South. Her star has been rising higher ever since. At her 2-year-old Design District hot spot, Sra. Martinez, she somehow reinvigorated Spanish-style tapas right in front of everyone's eyes. And now at the Omphoy, she's taken local seafood and fresh produce and let them shine under a banner of simplicity. But what makes Michy truly special is the way she somehow manages to capture her own whimsical personality in each and every one of her restaurants. To taste her recipes is to dine right there alongside her.
Sushi Simon
Liz Dzuro
Check out most sushi bars these days and you'll find nothing but overfished tuna, color-enhanced salmon, and farm-raised tiger shrimp. But not at Sushi Simon, a Boynton Beach sushi joint that rises above the typical roll. The romantic eatery features a handwritten specials menu that changes every day with what's fresh. Just grab a lychee martini or an ice-cold Sapporo and then plunge right in. Try the local mutton snapper, a firm, white-fleshed fish that's hauled right off the docks nearby; the chefs here turn it into elaborate usuzukuri, paper-thin slices arranged to resemble some exotic flower. Then there's Boston fluke, which gets seared with a hand torch and slipped into a pond of citrusy ponzu. Everything is impeccably fresh, from prized cuts of fatty o-toro to wild-caught salmon the color of a Florida sunset. And the staff is warm, inviting, and, best of all, knowledgeable.
Bravo Peruvian Cuisine
C. Stiles
What makes a Peruvian sandwich at Bravo so great? It could be the chicharron: slow-roasted pork, sliced thick and served with caramelized sweet potato. Or the lomo saltado: marinated beef tenderloin, sautéed along with purple onion and grassy cilantro. Or just maybe it's the butifarra: airy-soft bread, slathered in rustic olive tapenade or rocoto pepper sauce and stacked with country-style ham like so many playing cards. No matter which sandwich you choose, this Wilton Manors eatery crafts its Peruvian-style sandwiches with fresh, made-to-order ingredients, all for a price that's as self-contained as these complete meals on a bun.
Tom Sawyer's Restaurant & Pastry Shop
Liz Dzuro
Want breakfast like Grandma used to make? Hit this popular Sunday brunch spot for some delicious, artery-clogging, syrup-soaked food served on plates, in skillets, or even in pots — all for about $9 or less. Tom Sawyer takes the ordinary breakfast ensembles and re-creates them, like the decadent croissant French toast. If you're up for consuming even more after breakfast, try the chocolate cigars, which look like giant rolls of happiness with chocolate wrapped inside a doughy pastry and covered in powdered sugar.
Spanky's Cheesesteak Factory
There's no way this is gonna end pretty, so let's just define our terms, bloody our lips, and get on with it: French fries are not supposed to be brown, bumpy things with intact skins. They are not supposed to be big. Those are steak fries. A French fry should be thin, almost noodly, and yellow. It should taste light, like air haunted by the ghosts of fat and salt. And if you're feeling playful, it should be topped with bright-orange cheese and hunks of bacon. That's how fries are done at Spanx. Every one of the things is golden, beautiful, and just a little shy of crunchy. Magnificent. We hear Spanx has good cheese steaks too.
Johnnie Brown's
Christina Mendenhall
Chicken wings are sort of like political candidates: What the people really want is choice! Good thing Johnnie Brown's in Delray Beach recognizes that. The bar-food haven rose from the ashes of Elwood's just this past December. Since then, it's picked up where the old joint left off, offering good tunes and stick-to-your-ribs eats to go with its wide selection of draft beer. The wings are crisp and well-fried and come in 12 varieties, ranging from mild to hot. For a slower ride, try coating them in garlicky Parmesan or Asian citrus. The more daring can up the ante with ancho-bourbon, Cajun dry rub, or the baddest of the bad, mango-habanero. Unlike the goopy, corn syrup-based sauces at chain wingeries, each of Johnnie Brown's concoctions taste freshly made and big on flavor. And you can even mix them, if you're so inclined. Now that's some real choice.
LOLA Restaurant and Ultra Lounge
This west Delray hot spot entertains throngs of hungry revelers with live music emanating from its bar-side dance floor on Friday nights a week. While the music — mostly contemporary R&B covers — is delivered expertly and with plenty of soul, it serves only as backdrop to the really entertaining part: people-watching. The plush, low-back seats by the bar are prime real estate for cozying up with small plates of wood-fired chicken wings, crisp-crusted pizzas, and light Mediterranean fare, watching the parade as it shuffles by. And what a parade it is: There are well-to-do socialites mingling with Bocahontases on the prowl, cougar hunters looking for a hookup, and captains of industry just surveying the field. Whether acting as voyeur or relishing in being an object of attention, the scene at LOLA is a crazy good time. Just bring your best pair of dancing shoes and some sunglasses to hide behind.
At's-A-Pizza
Pizza is one of dining's great pleasures. Unfortunately, its traditional form is built on a foundation of gluten as its crust. For those who can't eat wheat, At's-A-Pizza provides a tasty and remarkably chewy alternative built with a rice flour crust. For the same price as a gluten-based pie, the wheat-averse can enjoy a pizza crust that has ne'er a hint of the metallic flavor that plagues so many products for the celiac-afflicted. Be it delivery, takeout or eating in, there's no reason for gluten-intolerant folks to hold back from satisfying a normal, human craving for pizza.
Pho Saigon Cuisine
John Linn
No other Vietnamese joint around has mastered the art of banh mi like Saigon Cuisine. That's because, in its previous life, Saigon Cuisine was a humble deli, serving those Vietnamese-style submarine sandwiches by the rickshaw load. But even after upgrading to an expansive, modern dining room replete with a well-equipped stage, Saigon Cuisine still serves the finest banh mi around. Flaky and crisp baguettes are stuffed with carrot, daikon, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeños, and plenty of house-made Asian charcuterie, plus whatever combo of sambal and lemongrass-garlic sauces you deem necessary. In addition to the subs, the place whips out more than 150 authentic Viet dishes. There are shimmering bowls of pho, fragrant with ginger and anise, and bubbling, cauldron-sized hot pots that elicit oohs and aahs when served. Wash it all down with one of the fab smoothies made from soursop, papaya, mango, and more, each studded with chewy tapioca balls ripe for sucking through a fat straw. Yep, Saigon Cuisine lives up to its name and then some.
Tropics
Gustavo Rojas
There is no such thing as stability in the restaurant biz , especially among those restaurants unwilling to change with the times. That's a big part of what makes the three-decade run at Tropics so special. If they've updated their menu, décor, or clientele since the '70s, there's no sign of it. What may be Wilton Manors' eldest gay establishment soldiers on, filling nearly full houses' plates with relatively inexpensive and really excellent steaks, fine cuts of salmon, delicately seared burgers (available only at the bar — try with Gouda), and a classic preparation of osso buco. Tropics' waiters pride themselves on serving the cheapest, strongest drinks on Wilton Drive and on possessing maybe the most dedicated customer base in Broward County. They're probably right on both counts. Tropics brings in the same old queens, night after night, for years and years. They figure: Why go anywhere else?

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