Undergrounds Coffeehaus
It's not really underground, but this tiny storefront might as well be, it's so damned hard to find. But once you do, owner Aileen Liptak will offer you everything from an iced chocolate cheesecake espresso to Turkish coffee to her own "Aileen Special." The comfy Williamsburg living room has free wi-fi with a purchase, and you can nibble on tater tots, buy the art off the wall, or read from any of the vintage paperbacks Aileen stocks. Every Thursday around 7, it's Board Game Night (with tater tots!). The gals seem to go for Scrabble while the guys crack open Risk. So the place has everything — except a credit-card machine. Sorry, cash only.
Meditating peacefully aside from the bustle of other, more frantic Wilton Manors hot spots sits One Tea Lounge. The owners play into the shotgun warehouse shape of the space by soaking the walls in deep crimson hues and dripping luxuriously colored tapestries from the ceiling, in turn creating a tranquil area where minutes slip by unnoticed. The clean lines of shelving behind the counter hold an apothecary of teas, blossoms, and herbs — each of which can be prescribed for a particular ailment or mood. And the staff of One Tea is more than eager to talk you through the hundreds of possible steeping permutations to correctly address your specific criteria. Do you need a little lift? Or just need to refocus to your task at hand? Let the tea doctors brew you a blend of mate and lavender, plop down onto a squishy couch, and wait for your tray of tea and honey to be delivered. Are you battling a tummy ache? Try something gentle and soothing, like a coupling of lemongrass and ginger to counteract all that chaos. The truly amazing thing sippers take with them as they leave the lounge is the knowledge that One's staff cares enough about them to spend an exorbitant amount of time talking them through to a $3 cup of tea. Who knows? Maybe if you drink enough, you'll reach the same enlightened level of patience. Yeah, right. We've seen you on 95.
Teas, Etc. is a teahouse only in the purest sense of the term. Nobody is going to offer you watercress sammies and petits fours here. There will be no leisurely afternoons tte-à-tte over a pot of Earl Grey. What Teas, Etc. does is sell tea — lots and lots of tea, with the fanatical devotion to regional variation and the rarest finds you'd expect from a wine seller or a gourmet cheese shop. Owner Beth Johnston threw over a lucrative career in mental health a couple of years ago to pursue her tea passions with a wonderful single-mindedness. She scours Asia in search of organic pinhead gunpowder from China and Japanese gen mai cha mixed with puffed rice and popcorn. She has carried back Tung Ting from Taiwan (a sweet jade oolong) and pu'erh tuo-cha (a tiny compressed bird's nest that unravels in your tea glass and lowers your cholesterol while you drink it) along with hundreds of other varieties of white, herbal, black, and rooibos teas, as well as beautiful teapots, Chinese wedding baskets, and drinking accessories. The store on Dixie Highway keeps willfully odd hours: Your chances of catching somebody there are about 50/50, so call ahead before visiting. You can also peruse their website and call in your order for pickup. Teas run anywhere from $15 to $50 per eight ounces and come with exact brewing instructions for a perfect cuppa.
Remember, being broke means never having to go Dumpster diving.A La Turca: Ground lamb kibbe, $6Beefeater Steak House: Empanadas, $1.50 eachThe Boulevard: French fries with cheese and truffle oil, $6Chocolada: Piece of strawberry shortcake, $2.99Delicias Peruanas: Corvina ceviche, $11.50Dolce Vita Gelato: Small dulce de leche gelato, $3.95La Piazza Pasta Cafe: Margarita pizza, $9.95O'Hara's Swing Street Bistro: Crock of onion soup, $4.50Rainbo Cafe: Grilled triple-cheese sandwich, $4.50 Spice Resto-Lounge: Black beans, $3; yellow rice, $3Universe Cafe: Universe meatballs, $6.50
Pizza Mia
Despite changing hands a couple of times over two decades, Pizza Mia has been serving the same menu in its cramped, narrow space — essentially a walk-in closet lined with tables and bad murals of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Coliseum. Nothing except an extra-large pie will cost you much over $10, and whatever you fancy will be served with a fresh, salty tossed salad with green olives and a basket of puffy rolls floating in garlic butter. But get there at lunchtime or before 9 p.m. if you want to dine in and enjoy your lasagna the way God intended it to be eaten: at a little table draped with a red-and-white-checked oil cloth. At these prices, the tasty and generous baked dishes (all $6.88 at lunch, $12.88 at dinner) are one of the few bargains in a town that's rapidly pricing us out. That means the chicken or eggplant parm, ravioli, and ziti — with just the right balance of sour and spice in the tomato sauce and the right proportion of cheese to noodle — will fill you up and out and keep your piggy bank full too.
Vic & Angelo's Coal Oven
Technically, Vic and Angelo's, the new Italian "enoteca" (or wine bar) in Palm Beach Gardens, qualifies as expensive only if you make it so — and it's certainly worth making it so if you've got the dough. Daddy Warbucks begins his meal here with a salumi grande ($25). This rare treat is a generous board arrayed with paper-thin slices of imported, cured meats laced with fennel and Chianti, like DOP prosciutto di Parma, sopressata, coppa (a brazenly spiced pork shoulder), and finocchiona. Along with an order of equally impressive artisanal cheeses ($21 for five selections ranging from crumbly, piquant Parmigiano to creamy fontina Val d'Aosta), it makes an excellent antipasto. You'll want to follow that, perhaps, with a plate of homemade fusilloni ($18) tossed with chunks of white chicken breast, mixed sweet and hot peppers, grilled eggplant, and earthy San Marzano tomato sauce. In the interest of padding the bill, a medium-rare "barrel cut 1855" filet mignon ($29) draped in gorgonzola dolce makes a superb secondi piatti — although a dish of yellowtail snapper with lemon butter ($27) is as delicious and almost as pricey. A bottle of Super Tuscan is a super chaser to wash it all down. Life is good, eh? Then again, some of us will be content on a warm evening to sit at the outdoor bar over a Grand Street coal-oven-fired pizza ($17, meatballs, ricotta, mozzarella, and basil on a crust made with real New York City water) and a simple quartino of Valpolicella ($14). And then to play a game or two on the oversized patio chess board, for free.
Taqueria Doña Raquel
Foodie boards all over South Florida have been abuzz since Dona Raquel opened a couple of years ago in Pompano, then threw down a sister operation in Tamarac shortly thereafter. Arguably the most authentic and diverse Mexican street food around, the Pompano Dona Raquel offers a charming, homey space with warm tile and bright colors and an open kitchen where only a few broken words of English are spoken. So brush up on your menu Spanish, because the flavor of learning a language has never tasted quite so fine. Carnitas are melting braised pork tossed with cumin, cilantro, and onions, served with homemade tortillas. Cabeza are tender and fatty beef cheeks. Menudo is a beef tripe soup served only on Saturday and Sunday. Tamale mole is a fresh corn tamale with a spicy chocolate-based sauce. Agua fresca is a sweet drink made from ripe, pressed fruit. Queso blanco is homemade, buttery cheese scattered on top of tortillas or pressed inside sopes, which are extra-thick tortillas wrapped around shredded chicken, pork, or barbecued beef (sometimes deep-fried and called a gordita). The only other word you need to know, for now, is gracias, because they're open seven days.
Taqueria Elvira
Any Mexican will tell you that there's no such thing as a Best Mexican Restaurant. Ex-pats from south of the border know that you go to one taqueria for your tripe soup, another for your mole, a third for your chile rellenos, and a fourth for your tacos barbacoa — depending on who's in the kitchen. At Taqueria Elvira, hidden in a half-empty shopping plaza behind Congress Avenue, the Osorio family knows how to make an eminently respectable burrito ($8.99 for one filled with beef tongue and served with refried beans and yellow rice), an excellent huevos a la mexicana ($4.99 with rice, beans, and tortillas), and a fine, smoke-infused taco barbacoa ($1.75). But the thing that's going to knock you flat with admiration and change the way you think about lunch forever is the quesadilla ($1.99 each). Forget everything you think you know about quesadillas — those limp, tasteless rounds served as "small plates" at fern bars, filled with Monterey Jack and swimming in bottled tomato salsa. These are not those. The Elvira quesadilla is a pillowy, oily, handmade tortilla, maybe three-quarters of an inch thick, folded over and sealed around homemade queso fresco (or shredded chicken or picadillo), then topped with more shredded queso and lettuce and served with a fruity, fiery green salsa. The texture of the tortillas is spongy and melting, like the lightest pancake. The cheese inside is a cross between freshly churned butter and artisanal mozzarella, and its effect is to induce involuntary moans. This quesadilla is ideally matched with a bottle of Mexican Victoria beer — a pilsnery, darkish brew — or a glass of horchata, a milky rice water sweetened with vanilla and cinnamon.
Café Claude comes as a blessed relief: Both atmosphere and menu are stubbornly, willfully oblivious to trends — it's like meeting a lost tribe of French people who've been living undiscovered in Deerfield since the end of the Second World War. The décor hasn't changed a thread since Mary and Claude Pottier opened the place in 1989, and enough time has passed that the drop ceilings, weird carpet, and silk plants exert a wry charm. By the time the cheerful French servers (all of them well-preserved ladies of a certain age in cashmere sweaters, knee-length skirts, and sensible shoes) get through with you, you'll be thoroughly won over. Delights are many, in a very classic French bistro vein: homemade duck confit with du Puy lentils ($12.95), saumon mariné with caviar, asparagus tips, and dill sauce ($12.95), or even a simple green salad dressed in luscious, creamy tarragon dressing (gratis, with your entrée). Outstanding specials might include a creamy, melting yellowtail snapper poached in lobster sauce with sides of skinny green beans and pommes Duchesse; or a slow-cooked cassoulet of white beans that have absorbed all the wild, unfamiliar flavors of sausage, smoked pork rinds, lamb, and preserved duck — and you'll be taking at least half of it home ("Eeets even bettair tomorrow"). Entrées can get pricey (roasted rack of lamb with ratatouille is $31.50), but prix fixe and early-bird menus are good value. A dessert cart wheeled around at the end is irresistible — pear tart with almonds, raspberry tart with custard, chocolate torte, cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries — and a porcelain pitcher of sweet cream tipped over your plate as the grande finale.
Born a ramblin' man? If your footloose life leaves you occasionally dateless, you need to know how to fully appreciate a meal in your own company. And that goes for you single girls too who might occasionally want to partake of a solo supper without the condescension or the sneer on some waitron's mug that signifies "woman alone = crappy tip." Mosey your moss-free self over to this charming French bistro, perched seaside with one of the best ocean views in the south, a breezy patio strung with lights, a staff of waiters who couldn't be less obnoxious and an interesting list of French wines by the glass and half bottle. Owner Bruno Barnegaud and his American wife, Kathleen, have been serving lone Montreal businessmen plates of pâté de campagne and moules marinires since they took the place over from a friend five years ago (who'd named the place after his Maman). People-watching on this strip of sand is unsurpassed — the beautiful, the bad, and the ugly stroll hand in hand along the renovated three miles of Broadwalk to keep you amused while you dig into delicacies that combine the best of the Caribbean — the fresh fish, the curries — with classic Bordeaux dishes.

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