Marumi Sushi
Chelsea Scholler

Marumi Sushi doesn't look like much from the outside — just your generic strip-mall eatery with a few Asian-looking frills. But the nondescript décor is no sign of mediocrity. Here, it's an indicator of a single-minded devotion to food. Owner/chefs Tetsu-San and Teru-San serve a nightly menu of Japanese (and some Korean) food unlike any in Broward County. At Marumi, the traditional — natto beans! — blends with the wildly inventive — sea urchin pasta! — and the incomparably fresh — whole fish, caught that morning, served four or five or six or seven ways. The service is friendly — if you go two Fridays in a row, the staff will likely remember your name and drink order on the second. They'll be happy to guide you through the five-page menu, editorializing freely on the merits of various exotica, and they're thrilled to help you decipher the huge specials board that gets plunked in front of every diner's table.

Blue Boar Tavern

A scrawled sign outside the Blue Boar advises that bare feet and tank tops are forbidden after 8 p.m. ("Dress Code Enforced 7 Days!"). But once you've got your sandals and T-shirt on, this high hog is serious about late-night hunger management. Blue Boar purveys homemade chicken noodle soup, beef quesadillas, char-grilled cheeseburgers, garbage fries, and a full lineup of classic greasy bar bites until 4:30 every morning. From all over the county, waitresses and line cooks point their sore feet and foul moods straight for the Boar; they keep showing up in shifts — midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. — to shoot pool and throw darts or fuss over the pinball machines, to slump at the bar and watch ancient Mike Tyson fights on the dozen TV screens — until brain, belly, and aching hooves have at last fully recovered. Even the bleariest dishwasher wouldn't call these onion rings or hot roast beef sandwiches gourmet fare, but in the deepest hours before dawn, there's a whole lot of comfort to be had from a gooey grilled cheese and a shot of Jack.

Morton's, the Steakhouse

Five dollars. When was the last time you saw that price on a menu for anything other than a Happy Meal? Just please, wash your face and put on a clean pair of trousers before you head over to Morton's bar for their "power hour" — we don't want them catching on that the hoi polloi is actually showing up to eat. Every plate on the bar menu is five bucks from 4:30 or 5 (depending on the location) to 6:30 p.m. and then again from 9 p.m. until Morton's locks up its gleaming mahogany doors for the night. The bargains are doozies: saucers piled with beef sliders glistening with juice, mini-steak sandwiches to dunk in pots of horseradish cream, warm crab dip with buttered rounds of toast, pan-fried crab cakes. They'll give you oysters for a buck each or giant prawns for $2.50. Drinks to wash down this movable feast are half price. And the weird thing is, the servers treat you like you're, you know, a real Morton's customer, with all the deference due to the fat cats who are paying six times as much to sit in the restaurant 20 feet away. Nothing warms the heart of a cheapskate like the idea that he may be getting away with something. You are.

Zona Fresca

Over the years, Zona Fresca has won a plethora of New Times Best Of awards, from Best Fish Sandwich (in that case, a fish taco) to Best Place to Eat Everyday. Yet, we've not once given it the Best Mexican Restaurant accolades it deserves. Seriously... for a quick-service joint where you eat off styrofoam plates with plastic utensils, Zona literally owns any local sitdown, goopy-bean-and-cheese-style Mex joint. Everything served is imminently fresh — including daily-made salsas, grilled chicken and steaks, and made-to-order humongous salads. The ingredients are all top-notch. The prices are ridiculously low as well, especially considering that the portions are big enough to make two meals out of almost any item, be it the infant-sized burritos or the sizable taco platters. And since Zona's second location in Plantation opened last year, your Baja-style Mex fix is never far away.

Tryst

Ben Franklin said: "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." If so, God's love foams eternal from the brimming imaginations of longtime South Florida restaurateurs Rodney Mayo and Scott Frielich. At their new Tryst, they've teamed up with next-door neighbors from 32 East and Delux to debut a beer-centric bistro, adding hops to their trademark hip. Brick walls, wide-plank wood floors, and a patio built around an ancient tree make a cozy backdrop for a gargantuan list of drafts and crafts from little American entrepreneurs and European breweries. Chef Butch Johnson posts chalkboard specials perfect for pairing with strange brews like Delirium Tremens or Hobgoblin: simple fresh fish dishes beautifully cooked, salt- and fat-laden morsels of deep-fried rock shrimp, refreshing fruit and vegetable slaws made of Asian pear or daikon radish and flecked with fresh cilantro, boards of cheese and charcuterie, and super-moist pork tenderloin. And you can put away your beer goggles: The notion of an upscale kegger has made a big splash with the college crowd. A convocation of cuties spills out the door on weekends.

Sage Bistro and Oyster Bar
Ian Witlen

Maybe it takes an old hand to spin something entirely new out of two thoroughly timeworn restaurant tropes: the raw bar and the French bistro. Chef Laurent Tasic, having perfected the bistro genre with his country-quaint Fort Lauderdale Sage Café, has set his Hollywood vessel afloat in a chic, ultramarine landscape, incorporating such varied terrain — a backlit bar, leaping flames from an open grill, a glacier-colored shellfish bar, transparent wine cellar, and a tentacular chandelier — that dining here feels a bit like drifting dreamily along a coral reef. Oysters and shellfish flown in daily from Canada, California, or the Chesapeake Bay are cool comfort, but the feeling of weightlessness, the effortless glide, wends its way even through Tasic's menu of updated crepes, steak frites, local snapper served with polenta, and cassoulets — dishes of great delicacy in spite of their deep sauces and caramelized hues. It's not until you emerge blinking and a little wobbly into the humid Hollywood air that you fully appreciate that Tasic has given you, along with his splendid coq au vin, a temporary reprieve from gravity.

Dolce De Palma

Even now that Dolce de Palma has been overrun by local hungries, anybody pulling up to this rubble-strewn parking lot behind railroad tracks in an old warehouse district is going to feel like he's making a personal discovery. Dolce has an intriguing out-of-the-way-ness and a young chef in Anthony DePalma who likes to keep stirring the broth. This little orange building, its open kitchen revealing dinged pots and antiquated cookware, retains its charm even after you've sashayed in, each time squiring a new set of Dolce virgins, week after week. DePalma changes his menu every night (he's open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday), rotating through community favorites and new experiments. So you might find yourself snacking on veal pot pie or grilled venison, smoked trout or mushroom tart, blacktip shark or a whole roasted suckling pig, duck breast with chestnuts and burnt orange sauce, or homemade pasta with veal sweetbread sausages, all made from ingredients sourced when possible from local farms and greenmarkets. Indulge these rare (and inexpensive) treats sitting outside on the makeshift patio; peruse the wine list, where no bottle ranges far above $45; revel in the smart service of Dolce's devoted staff: Here's a shabby-chic urban boîte with a fierce survival instinct.

You've exited the jailhouse, and with just a few steps in the throwaway sandals so kindly provided, you've crossed the street — into the Downtowner Saloon's lot. Because that insufferable block of cement has just vanished from view, dine outside and relish the backdrop of downtown's unadulterated skyline. This coveted seat is far removed from the cold metal seats of yesteryear. You might have spent yesterday peering through thin slit windows, but now you have the horizon to contemplate: boats cruising under two cotton-candy-pink bridges. Order a cocktail or glass of wine. Eat the blackened prime rib sandwich ($13.99) or French dip ($10.99) or eeny-meeny-miny-moe it and go for the fish and chips ($12.99) or the comforting spaghetti and giant meatball ($13.99). It's not your last meal; you can come back tomorrow. There's a special no matter which night of the week you get bailed out of jail. Aim for Saturday release, when the Bloody Mary bar stays open until 2:30 p.m.

Mauro's Pizza

The sign on the wall at Mauro's says, "NO KNIVES, NO FORKS, NO CUPS, NO ICE, NO CHEESE, NO PARMESAN, DON'T ASK," and it's translated into Spanish just so everyone gets the message. Other signs warn patrons "Prices are subject to change instantly" and "If you are rude, impatient, miserable, or annoying, there will be a $10 charge." Nothing like a little atmosphere. When you step into the long, narrow pizza parlor, all you'll see is scribbled-on dollar bills stuck to the wall with packing tape, an arsenal of pizza ovens, pizza boxes stacked to infinity, and a cooler full of domestic beer. Oh, you expected a menu? When you see the big-bellied pizza cooks in their white T-shirts and the tiny counter girls in tight jeans — all identifiable by matching scowls — you may opt to keep your mouth shut about that. Do ya think they offer broccoli rabe in this joint, Biff? When you get your piping-hot, giant slice — cheese goes for $2.50, and it's cash only — you will understand why this New York-style pizza, with its sheets of creamy mozzarella, its sweet but tangy sauce, its crust of perfection, has saved the lives of millions who roam from bar to bar on Hollywood Boulevard. Wash that thought down with a soda — sold only by the can. Now scram!

Testa's Palm Beach

Any restaurant worthy of your hangover must meet strict standards. (1) No dress code. A pair of jeans, landscaped with spilled beer and cigarette burn holes, will work just fine. Sunglasses are de rigueur. And obviously, you're not getting anywhere near a razor. (2) No crowds. Humans are exceptionally ugly, noisy, and smelly when you're nursing the brown bottle flu. (3) Immediate service. Your table is ready, and somebody's standing by with buckets of Coca-Cola. (4) Inexpensive. You blew your paycheck on lap dances last night, remember? (5) Full bar to allay the morning quivers. (6) Dark — or at least neutral — atmosphere. Sunshine and vodka do not mix on a Saturday morning. (7) Bacon. Only one place aces this test, and it's been acing it for nearly a century: Testa's in Palm Beach. They're open as early as you can drag your sorry carcass down there, serving liquor from 7 a.m. every single day to wash down your ham steak and eggs ($7.95), smoked salmon plate ($9.95), bowls of incredible, stomach-coating cream of crab soup spiked with sherry ($6.95), sirloin steak and eggs ($17.95), and plenty of bacon on the side ($2.95). Sit at the bar with your back to the room, nose buried in a complimentary newspaper, and you'll have the undivided attention of the bartenders. After decades of experience with punchy islanders, they perfectly understand both your inexplicable headache and the precise remedy to cure it.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of