Papa's Raw Bar

Let New Orleans have its gumbo, Kansas City its barbecue, and Los Angeles and New York City their trend-setting concepts. Here in South Florida, we have our own invention: Floribbean, a fusion of island-inspired fare mixed with locally grown tropical fruits and fresh-caught fish. At Papa's Raw Bar in Lighthouse Point, it's what's on the clipboard menu. It was originally intended to be nothing more than a wine and raw bar, but Papa's — run by the same owners as longtime restaurant and fish market Seafood World next door — has transformed into a sort of seafood gastropub. Through nothing more than word of mouth, it has rapidly became a popular hangout for the Lighthouse locals who come for the fresh fish, craft beer, sushi, and creative small plates. But it's the "Most Interesting Tacos" that will catch your eye. Choose from the fresh catch of the day, shrimp, conch, or lobster, and get any of them blackened, grilled, or panko-crusted. What you decide determines the toppings, either a fresh pico de gallo or ripened peach salsa slathered over a bed of raw savoy cabbage and topped off with the chef's chipotle mayo. The fish tacos are the most interesting, of course — moist beer-battered slabs of white flesh tucked into corn tortillas delivered fresh from the Mexican market down the street.

Sukhothai
Tabatha Mudra

Although the name of the green papaya salad ($8.95) might conjure images of a sweet fruit salad, the southeastern Asian delicacy really has more in common with the coleslaw you might find at a good deli or the cabbage salad you might find at a Central American restaurant. Known as som tum in Thailand, the green papaya salad is made of julienned unripened papayas and carrots. At Sukhohai, it is stirred with lime juice, tomato, and ground peanuts. Always refreshing, it is generally spicy but can be made mild and can also, upon request, be prepared vegetarian, without the fish sauce the recipe traditionally calls for.

Buccan
Candace West

Chef-owner Clay Conley, who last year announced he'll be opening a new Italian restaurant in West Palm Beach, recently brought life to yet another lifelong dream, offering hand-crafted baguette sandwiches for a hungry lunch crowd. Dubbed simply the Sandwich Shop at Buccan, the small eatery has become a huge hit, with lines out the door and people ready to scarf down anything coming out of Conley's modest prep area. The 300-square-foot space is nothing more than a storage closet turned four-seat lunch counter in what was once a back room at Buccan, Conley's upscale-casual Palm Beach eatery. The chef goes from wrapping sandwiches by day to prepping for the night at Buccan, all in the span of a few steps. The process begins each night, when staff preps dough for the 130 or so baguettes for the next day's orders. These are baked fresh early each morning and are gone by late afternoon. Many of the ingredients for the menu's two dozen or so hot and cold sandwiches are sourced from Buccan and Conley's other restaurant, Imoto, and are prepared especially for the sandwich shop. For instance: a whole roasted turkey for the turkey club and a homemade pork pâté for the banh mi. Service starts at 11 a.m., and by 3 p.m., they close up shop. Of all the selections, the 48-hour sous-vide short rib ranks among the best, brushed with an apple-based glaze and topped with two-year-aged cheddar and a homemade horseradish sauce. The whole thing is pressed to a melty, hot mess and wrapped in white deli paper. To. Die. For.

Blue Willy's Barbecue
Sara Ventiera

When it comes to slowly smoked meats, few South Floridians know more than Will Banks, owner of Blue Willy's Barbecue in Pompano Beach. Banks learned to cook barbecue from his grandfather, who owned and operated a Texas barbecue shop that opened in the 1950s. At 15, Banks' family moved to New York, but he never stopped barbecuing — first in homemade pits, then a food truck, and now at a permanent restaurant where the scent of smoked meats hangs heavy in the air and leaves you with a delicious fragrance. Wooden picnic benches are set with rolls of paper towels and a trio of sauces. Here, Banks roasts, smokes, and cuts everything right before your eyes, from tender roast chicken to spare ribs and pulled pork and a juicy peppercorn-crusted brisket. The same cut of beef is used to make the best pastrami sandwich in Broward County, via a three-week brining and smoking process.

Readers' Choice: Tom Jenkins BBQ

HotDog-Opolis
Liz Dzuro

Here, you'll get more than a basic, boring wiener. A chalkboard on the wall advertises a dozen or so specialty dogs, everything from the Korean (with homemade kimchi, red onion, and Asian mustard) to the Reuben (with Swiss cheese, kraut, and Thousand Island dressing). Of course, you'll still be able to find all the regular hot-dog toppings like relish, ketchup, and good ol' yellow mustard. But it's the more adventurous options like char-grilled salami sandwiches, smokehouse beef brisket, and gourmet sausages that make this place truly original. Daily specials are always exciting, like the gyro — a lamb hot dog topped with tzatziki and feta cheese. There's even a well-stocked variety of specialty sausages, from duck and pheasant to wild boar, venison, elk, and buffalo — all for less than $6 each. For more familiar options, we still love the classic Chi-town dog, a Vienna footlong that's been dragged through the garden with a slathering of mustard, onion, emerald-green relish, dill pickle, tomato wedges, sport pepper, and a sprinkling of celery salt.

Readers' Choice: Hot Dog Heaven

M.E.A.T. Eatery & Tap Room in Boca Raton is all about doing everything in-house. As at its sister establishment in Islamorada, the restaurant staff smokes and grinds its own meats onsite, cuts and cures its own bacon, and offers house-made sausage and chorizo. Even the condiments — including a mango chipotle ketchup and caraway and beer mustard — are made fresh and from scratch. The menu is a carnivore's dream, offering everything from duck and pickled blueberry sausage to an eight-hour, house-smoked, pulled-pork sandwich. A crowd favorite is the Inside-Out Juicy Lucy Burger, a six-ounce pimento-cheese-and-bacon-stuffed Angus patty topped with cheese, lettuce, and tomato, but we always opt for the "Patti" sandwich, a five-ounce chorizo burger made fresh and ground in-house. It's a monster, topped with American cheese and a lime cilantro aioli. All it needs is a solid side act. We suggest pairing it with the bistro fries, here fried in duck fat for an extra level of flavor.

Readers' Choice: Bull Market

Tap 42

The veggie burger was once a sad food item. It was tossed onto the menu at every kind of restaurant from suburban chains to upscale steak houses to trendy gastropubs almost as an afterthought, a bare nod to the idea that some of these weirdo nonmeaters might come in and we gotta give 'em something. As food has become more introspective and the American public began to seek vittles beyond Sysco meals, the veggie burger evolved. Tap 42 does a particularly creative take: no fake meat or boring beans, the patty is basically a large falafel made from ground chickpeas and fried to crispy goodness. It is then topped with roasted red-pepper tzatziki (a yogurt-based condiment), lettuce, tomato, and onion. You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy a sandwich like that.

Times Square Pizza Parlor

Anyone who's been around a New Yorker for more than 30 seconds has heard it before: "The pizza here just isn't the same. It's all about the water! You just can't get good water down here!" We get it. Shut up. If we have to hear one more time about your precious slice of pizza, we're going to shove a slice of Times Square pizza down your throat. Because then, maybe then, you'll finally realize that you can — yes, you can — get great pizza in South Florida. For years, this little shop has been churning out pie after pie of delicious, New York-style pizza. And, you know what? It does it better than anywhere in Manhattan. Yeah, we said it.

Readers' Choice: Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

Sonny's Famous Steak Hogies
Gustavo Rojas

Sometimes, if you can't find it, you make it yourself. If you hail from Philadelphia, however, it's not pizza that warms the cockles of your heart; it's cheesesteaks. Sam "Sonny" Nigro was a baker back in Philly who made the move to South Florida more than 50 years ago and promptly opened Sonny's Famous Steak Hogies in Hollywood. Here you'll find a steak hogie (get the name right, people) in the proud tradition of Philly. The bread is handmade daily from scratch and baked fresh. They prepare their own sauces and slice the meat themselves — just like you remember.

Fran's Chicken Haven
Christina Mendenhall

A sign hangs on the wall at Fran's Chicken Haven in Boca Raton that pretty much says it all: "If the colonel had our recipe, he'd be a general." Why? This joint has been serving comfort food for close to five decades. Originally opened in 1964 by Fran and Joe Gerace, today the restaurant is owned and operated by Boca Raton native Chris Stuart, who remembers eating there as a child with his father, who at one time delivered the bread. Since he took over in 2013, Stuart has used the original Fran's fried-chicken recipe, a sugar-sweetened blend of spices that fries up to a perfect crisp. Some things, though, have changed: The menu once served nothing but fried chicken with a side of coleslaw or fries. Today, Stuart offers homemade sides like mashed potatoes and gravy or macaroni 'n' cheese. If you're extra hungry, go for the fried chicken and waffles, an oversized Belgian waffle served with a fried chicken thigh and leg and a choice of a regular, chocolate, or apple caramel waffle. For dessert, follow it up with a fried Oreo or Twinkie.

Readers' Choice: Bay Bay's Chicken and Waffles

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