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Joshua++Prezant
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Gay restaurants are a dime a dozen in South Florida, and most of them have a life expectancy measured in months. But for more than six years now, the Hi-Life has been an oasis of stability and consistency. Transplanted New Yorkers Chuck Smith and Carlos Fernandez started out with an atmosphere-drenched, one-room eatery that quickly gained a devoted following. Fernandez worked the kitchen (pretty much by himself), while Smith worked the dining room. That hasn't changed. It's not unusual to find Chef Carlos busing tables; Smith still plays the ever-gracious host, circulating to make sure everything runs smoothly. But the restaurant has more than doubled in size to include a second room with a well-stocked wine bar, and the staff of good-looking, highly competent men has likewise expanded. The menu, meanwhile, has been honed to near-perfection, a small but versatile lineup that includes such standouts as Belgian endive topped with blue cheese, chopped pecans, and tomatoes and drizzled with champagne vinaigrette; searing jalapeños stuffed with cheese and shrimp and wrapped in bacon; chicken and penne pasta mingled with olives, capers, red peppers, onions, and tomatoes and tinged with balsamic vinegar; and a pan-grilled slab of salmon atop sautéed spinach, finished with a light Dutch Dijon cream sauce. It's the kind of place where same-sex couples can relax and be discreetly affectionate but also the kind of place you'd feel perfectly comfortable taking Mom and Dad.

If, like Virgil, you "fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts," then Yissou is not the place for you. Every item here is practically a present, from the complimentary skordalia (garlic mashed potatoes) to the rice and ground meat gift-wrapped with grape leaves and beribboned with a froth of lemon sauce. But if, like Thucydides, you "are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in [y]our tastes and cultivate the mind without loss of manliness," then you will no doubt appreciate the hearty avgolemono soup, rich in egg-and-chicken protein. And if, like Sir Henry James Main, you agree that "except the blind forces of Nature, nothing moves in this world which is not Greek in its origin," then you will run to Yissou for the more organic dishes on its menu, including moussaka, pastitsio, and skewered swordfish -- because after all, you gotta love those Grecians.
Yes, it's a mad, mad, mad cow world. But don't let that stop you from digging into the juiciest burger you've had in years. The "inside-out" burger is a cheeseburger in reverse -- an assortment of cheeses melts inside the beef, then oozes out dramatically when you sink your teeth into it. Indeed we like this sandwich so much we respectfully suggest proprietor Paul Dias change the eatery's name. Gotrocks? Hardly. Gotcheese? Oh, yeah.
When you have a taste for some authentic Jamaican fare, do what the Jamaican locals do: Stop by Aunt I's for some tasty jerk chicken, ackee and codfish, or oxtail. Don't be put off by the location, in the middle of a nondescript strip mall; Aunt I's may not have the fanciest digs (maybe that's why it does a brisk takeout business), but it has dibs on down-home island cooking, served up in generous portions with a warm smile. And it's a safe bet Jamaican native Aunt I is busy in the kitchen preparing your food.

If you want the absolutely best quality margarita around, there are, admittedly, better places than Mexican Cantina. However, there is something to be said for quantity, and this home of the 46-ounce margarita has that in spades. One does not quite grasp what 46 ounces of margarita looks like until that massive glass is set in front of you. A goldfish could live happily -- very happily -- in this glass. And the Mexican Cantina's atmosphere only lends itself to imbibing heavily from the trough of José Cuervo. The whole place fairly reeks of a never-ending fiesta, from the live bands on Friday and Saturday nights to the considerable piñata collection hanging from the ceiling. Put down a couple of these $12 gargantuan potables and you'll be ready to dance to the band and maybe even take a few swipes at the décor.

Javier is behind the bar tonight, not that it would really have mattered. The stalwart drink slingers of California Café are all experts in the art of the martini. "On the rocks or straight up?" There's only one right answer to this question. Upon hearing "Straight up," he nods and flashes a smirk, suggesting that he would have scoffed at any other answer. Good answer. He then properly prepares the vodka -- ask secret agent 007 how this feat is accomplished -- and pours it into the glass. He adds the requested twist of lemon in the form of a slice of rind an inch long, cut to regulatory perfection. He wipes the rind once around the rim of the martini glass, then adds it to the drink. Finally he takes a small atomizer from a shelf near the cash register and adds a fine mist of vermouth -- one spritz only -- as the crowning touch. Javier sets the finished product down on a cocktail napkin and inquires, "Anything else?" How could there be? James Bond would weep.

You know meat loaf, right? It's greasy, dense as a brick, and forced upon you by your mother; the kind of meal that makes you want to cough, shovel everything into a napkin stashed in your lap, then head for the john. Well, when you travel to Jamaica, you can forget everything you know, or think you know, about meat loaf. In parts of the Irie Isle, it's closer to a loaf of fresh, steamy, scrumptious bread with ever-so-pleasantly spicy meat inside. And closer to home -- at the Jerk Machine in Fort Lauderdale, to be precise -- you can enjoy this flaky crust and moist filling for a mere $1.79. Though there are seven Jerk Machines in North Miami-Dade and Broward, the Fort Lauderdale store is the only one where you'll find this meat loaf. "We've been test-marketing it for the last month and a half," says manager Deanna Allen. "Sales have been really good." So next time you're in the market for something fresh, cheap, and better than a burger, stop loafing and sample what the Machine is cranking out.
Geronimo's Casual Gourmet Grill & Bar
You have to love it when a restaurant offers a special called the "10-Ounce Sauteed Lobster Tail with Fresh Muscles." We always told you those homonyms were tricky. Sea watt wee mien?

The gringo lingo of the appellation doesn't give much clue here that chef-owner David Peraza's fare is not just authentic Mexican, but haute as well. Yet one glance at the tongue-twisting menu, filled with items such as ixtapa poblano (guajillo peppers stuffed with blue crabmeat, green olives, and Chihuahua cheese) and xochimilco (an ancho chili-flavored crepe stuffed with cuitlacoche, or corn fungus, and serrano peppers), and you'll be convinced. A little cultural interference comes via American items such as chicken wings on the menu and a '70s disco pretending to be Studio 54 upstairs, but nothing short of an earthquake could interfere with the palate's pleasure here -- and that would only be if, thanks to the shaking, you accidentally bite your tongue.
Adam Fine's career began in his living room as a hobby. Then he got the idea that has propelled him to become a veritable pioneer in Broward County. The thought process worked kind of like this: South Florida is really hot. Hot climates tend to call for lighter beers, but a lot of people really love dark beers. So he came up with 11, a dark beer that is at the same time refreshing and not as heavy as, say, Guinness. He toiled over his home-brew lab, and when he came up with the right recipe, he took it to a microbrewery in Orlando and, lo and behold, he had himself a little business, which he calls Fresh Beer, Inc. Today, Fine markets four types of beer, which one can find at several bars in South Florida, the most centrally located being The Poor House in Fort Lauderdale. Swing by one night and raise your glasses to South Florida's number one braumeister.

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