Lake Worth Rum Shack
Liz Dzuro
French fries are like air: all around you and important as hell but never given a second thought. Most eateries just open the bag of freezer-burned potato lumps and dump them in the fryer. But not the Rum Shack. This indoor tiki bar (with a real thatched roof) offers big, wedge-cut fries available straight-up, beer-battered, or beer-battered and covered in a special secret gorgonzola cheese sauce and with a side of herb au jus for dipping. And at just $3.95, they're damned near a meal in themselves.
Sunfish Grill
For an abridged history of Tony and Erica Sindaco's culinary progress in Broward County, look to nearly a decade of New Times Bests-awarded Sunfish Grill. In the nine years since they opened, chef (Tony) and owner (Erica) have brought crab Charlotte, a jewel-toned tower of gastronomic power, to the collective consciousness of South Floridians, along with an appreciation for the way seafood becomes a transcendent experience in the right hands. But about 2003, after word got out about their braised littleneck clams, seared rare tuna over oxtail ragout, and grilled swordfish with mushroom reduction, to say nothing of their Symphony of Chocolate, our once-cozy, one-room Sunfish morphed into the sort of place where you had to scream your endearments while playing inadvertent footsie with strangers. That was the year we awarded Sunfish Best Restaurant Ready for an Expansion. Four long years later, we've been granted our fondest wish, as Sunfish has reopened in a spacious, grown-up couple of rooms without missing a beat or compromising a flavor.
Tom Jenkins' Bar-B-Q
Anthony Cave
As tasty as it is eccentric — Tom Jenkins' is right off Federal in a log-cabin-inspired building that began accepting credit cards only last year — this is a communal dining establishment. There are no reclusive tables for two here. Just long tables with benches, where blue-collar, white-collar, and no-collar types bump elbows as they munch on racks of secret-sauce-drenched spare ribs and coarsely chopped pork sandwiches. The desserts are just as sought-after: homemade sweet potato pie and a weekend-only treat of juicy, bubbling fruit cobbler. Started in a roadside stand by two frat brothers from Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Tom Jenkins' is now marketing two sauces (Original and Country Gold) in grocery stores.
Anita's Guacamole
You probably thought we'd pick one of those fancy Mexican restaurants with tableside guacamole engineers. Nope. Have you seen the price tag on that shiiiiiit? Like $10 plus tax plus tip for a bowl that's gone before the Sangria even arrives. For guac that's just as fresh and delicious, why not make for one of the South Florida green markets, where you can shop among crisp vegetables and pulchritudinous plants, then stumble on Anita's Guacamole, a small business based on an authentic Colombian recipe that's been passed down for four generations of Mauricio Mendez's family. Mendez, just 25 years old, has been running the business from North Miami for two years now, sending out worker friends to deliver his great-grandmother's mouthwatering guac to the masses. When we found this avocado dream at the Lake Worth green market (sadly, now closed for the summer), it was a young Colombian architecture student named Giovanni who delivered the goods. We watched the graceful mashing of his sinewy, twitching forearms and listened intently as the ingredients spilled softly off his supple lips — avocados, lime juice, onions, tomatoes, and secret herbs and spices. Let's just say the process was appealing. We were dying to hand over $6 for that eight-ounce container of guac that came with a bag of yellow corn chips. If only there were some price we could have paid to keep our beloved Giovanni in the country.
Tropical Cafe
Does a milkshake have to contain ice cream? Not always. Cuban batidos are beyond sweet (that's what you get from a country running on sugar cane) and invariably swing on a fulcrum of tropical fruit. At the Tropical Cafe, they serve tamarind, mamey, mango, papaya, cherimoya, guanabana (or sugar-apple) — all yummy and all slightly exotic. But the regular old native banana makes a thick, creamy milkshake that's addictive and sugar-rushy. And the banana batido allows you to order spicy dishes without fear, since it takes the edge off any taste-bud burn you may encounter. Grab a stool at this working-class lunch counter in Searstown and they'll make you a bad-ass batido in a blender, just the way mami would do it back home: ice-cold milk, sugar, fruit. Order two and they'll pour a pair of tall glasses, hand you a spoon and some straws, and leave you the ample icy remainder to finish up later. And believe us, you will.
Considering that the bulk of Florida's Cuban population resides in Dade County, sometimes it's a challenge to find mouth-watering Cuban food in Broward that's worthy of making us proud. And unfortunately, there tend to be more haunts that specialize in Cuban sandwiches without putting much flare into the other delicacies of the country as well. The folks at Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine, however, are good at preparing both — large, meat-filled Cuban sandwiches that live up to their name and oversized dishes of delectable entrées that are as enjoyable as they are filling. Their wide selection covers various regions of the island, and they've also got a generously priced lunch menu that goes from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., so take advantage. The filete de pollo is a must-try for chicken lovers and is best-served with lime, yellow rice, and saucy black beans. It's generally on the lunch menu as well and under $6. The ropa vieja (pulled beef) and filete de cherna (grouper fillet) are irresistible and come big enough that taking home leftovers is recommended. For fans of platanos, Las Vegas serves them as maduros or in tostones form, and both are a treat. If you've got room, try the café cubano with flan — your taste buds will love you for it.
Dairy Belle
It's not common to find stellar ice cream in places that specialize in gravy and cheese curd, but after spending a few minutes at Dairy Belle Ice Cream, you'll quickly realize there's nothing common about this establishment at all. Friendly owners Gilles and Ritane Grenier are famous for serving the dishes of their native Quebec, and most of the buzz revolves around their French fries smothered with white cheese curds, then topped with hot brown gravy. It's an immensely popular dish in Canada, and people drive for miles to get their hands on authentic Québecois cuisine. And while that's fine, it shouldn't overshadow the fact that Dairy Belle has the softest and most delectable ice cream in South Florida. It offers homemade caramel topping for its sundaes, and the topping is just sweet enough to whet the palette without being overwhelming. The milkshakes are good, and the serving size of the strawberry shortcake is more than enough for one person. The somewhat-oval French Canadian crowd that flocks to this place during season is cordial and great for people-watching while enjoying a banana split made with all fresh ingredients and served with a smile.
Sonny's Gelato Cafe
We'll be honest. We went for the gelato but stayed for the accordion player, and when that beautiful septuagenarian belted "That's Amore," we had to wipe a tear from the corner of our eye. On Wednesday nights at Sonny's Gelato Café in Boca Raton, you too can be serenaded while relaxing outdoors, the wind caressing your hair as you lick a nutella and banana gelato. The Italian family who runs it knows their stuff — they've got creamy, sweet cassata Siciliana, stracciatella, and zuppa Inglese gelato — and it's all made healthy, with skim milk and not much fat. The only problem with Sonny's is that it tends to run out of things, as retirement home aids often schlep their entire crew over for an afternoon treat. It's therefore beneficial to show up early and often. You can't miss the mango-colored building on Federal Highway, just north of 20th Street. We also recommend the appetizers, soups, salads, panini, and classic Italian hot subs, served daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Betty's Soul Food
Candace West
When it comes to Southern cooking, in certain neighborhoods, there are soul-food restaurants on almost every corner. With such an abundance, it's hard to come up with an appropriate barometer for quality, since most of the menus at these restaurants are identical. It sounds like fun research, but after awhile, all the collard greens start to taste the same, the candied yams have the same texture, and the joy of Southern cooking gets lost in mediocre food shacks. The one venue locally that set itself apart is Betty's Soul Food. It's got the best macaroni and cheese in town, bar none, and its short ribs of beef are good enough to make a customer want to jump up and slap his own mama. The stewed chicken over rice is as succulent a meal as one could ask for, and fish sandwiches are cheap and filling. Instead of fooling around with a bunch of dessert dishes, Betty's keeps it simple — bread pudding, cake, and sweet potato pie. That may seem like a small selection, but there's a lot of love poured into those desserts, and if you have to choose, go for the bread pudding. The staff there is friendly to newcomers but knows how to chide and joke with the regulars enough to create plenty of countertop camaraderie. Located in the historically black Sistrunk neighborhood for the past 30 years, Betty's is a staple that's worth visiting time and time again.
Richie's Gourmet Italian Ices
If you haven't visited the little ice hut on the southwest corner of Dixie and Commercial, you must be a moron. We are serious about this. How fucking stupid do you have to be to miss out on the birthday cake gelati — a combination of ice cream and yellow cake-flavored Italian ice, complete with multicolored sprinkles? Richie's has been around for 15 years, ever since owner Richie Childs came down from Philly, went to the beach, and desired a cool treat. He couldn't find one worth a damn, so he opened his own little hut, where you can find him selling ices, gelati, coffee, and snacks Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (and from 9 a.m. Saturday). On the seventh day, the God of Italian ices rests, and some kid mans the stand. But it doesn't really matter — the ices, which are made through a secret process with fruit juices, fruit extracts, sugar, and water, taste exactly the same. In case you are so stupid that you've never tasted a homemade vanilla chip ice or a cotton candy ice, keep your eyes peeled for the square, mint-green building with the apricot-orange canopy. Drive your idiot self around the oval and up to the drive-up window, apologize for taking so long, and go nuts.

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