If you think of the Mediterranean as a crossroads-type culinary region, then you'll have no problem assimilating this joint. Headed by owners and chefs whose heritages include French, Belgian, and Israeli, Finjan takes all those influences and swirls them into an intriguing compendium. In other words it's the perfect place for a little salade Niçoise with your falafel and a touch of apple strudel with your baklava. Add the upscale décor and a comprehensive, world-ranging wine list, and you've got yourself an eatery that brings the Mediterranean lifestyle to funky West Palm Beach -- and, we hope, keeps it there permanently.
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.
To take a look into this Israeli deli, you'd never know it's "new." The place is always so full of loyal customers it might as well be called Old Tel-Aviv. The eatery's signs and menus are written in both Hebrew and English, and the place is Glatt kosher. That means you won't find any dairy on the premises, but you'll hardly miss the milk when you taste creamy tahini that substitutes beautifully for dairy-based toppings. With the lamb shishlic, beef kebab, and chicken schnitzel sandwiches, you'll find plenty of protein to fill your belly. Salads -- hummus, baba ghannouj, Israeli, and Turkish -- are tangy and flavorful. And those are just for starters. Tel-Aviv also carves up a mean pastrami on a kaiser and offers fresh whole fish. If you stop by on a Tuesday, you can even score some couscous. Just don't expect to get brunch Saturday mornings.

Best Natural Food/Vegetarian Restaurant

Sara's

When you go veggie, must you accept that the days of ordering a McDonald's Supreme Bacon Quadruple Chili Cheeseburger are over? Hell, no! Check out Sara's, a kosher restaurant that boasts a thick menu of vegan and vegetarian food. This location and its sister eatery in Miami serve ersatz-carnivore fare such as no-chicken quesadillas, sandwiches bulging with faux corned beef, and country-fried fake steak. Though the food is good, you could always pop a Boca Burger in the microwave at home for a similar culinary experience. No, the thrill comes from sitting on a McDonald's-style bench and ordering something sloppy. It feels so wrong -- in a good way.
If a neighborhood restaurant is all things to all people, then Gusto's is the epitome of a "won't-you-be-my-neighbor" eatery. For the "just folks," it's club sandwiches, chicken quesadillas, and calzones. For the kids, it's chicken tenders, crayons, a place mat that doubles as a coloring book, and a soda with a lid and a straw. For the late sleepers, it's Saturday and Sunday brunch from 11:30 a.m. till 3 p.m., with the added attraction of $2 bloody marys. Executives can have their salmon BLTs and blackened chicken penne catered or, if both money and time are short, have the menu faxed to the office and preorder for a quick, on-premises lunch. And ladies drink and play pool for free every Thursday night, while the hard drinkers indulge in two-for-one happy hours daily. What could be friendlier than that?
There once was a chef named Roy

Whose Hawaiianish fare was pure joy.

He opened some places

We're stuffing our faces

And now he's a happy boy.

This being South Florida and all, the competition for this category is fierce. Particularly this year, given that the exceptionally dry weather has pushed almost all of us diners firmly out-of-doors. Aficionados of the alfresco thing make much ado of water views, sea breezes, and lots of shade. Tails complies with all those qualifications, going a few steps further with a pool, a deck, a dock, and an outdoor bar. The venue is ideal for outdoor sipping and supping unless, of course, the sky is spitting rain. We should be so lucky.
It's rare enough when a new restaurant opens in Palm Beach that has all the elements for success: a stellar management team, plenty of money behind it, and a topnotch bill of fare. But it's even more unusual for one critic after another to crack that oyster and find a perfect pearl every time. That's the reception Echo has received, and it's worth repeating: This pan-Asian jewel, according to the experts among us, is flawless. Dishes hail from the four corners of the Far East and range from Thai shrimp soup to tempura pork tenderloin to Peking duck, carved tableside. What they all have in common is simple: purposefulness of preparation. The purpose? Culinary greatness. The result? Ditto. Or should we say "Echo"?

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