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"?
Girls, girls, girls: You've got a good thing going here. You set up shop with absolutely no real pizza experience and manage, in only 18 months or so, to convert everyone in the area to a PG junkie. Your competitors say it's sabotage. They say making a "lasagna" pizza is sacrilegious. They can't quite figure out what you do to make your New York-style pizza so crisp and traditional yet innovative at the same time. To tell the truth, we can't either. But we know we gotta have it. So don't, under any circumstances, blow this gig. And yes, girls, that's an order.
The ferryboat to Cap's Place is interesting (think of a refurbished, polished, and well-covered African Queen), and it's free. It's not a long ride, just a nice jaunt across the Intracoastal, but once you get there, you're going back a long way. Meyer Lansky and other gangsters still haunt the place. In the bar you can almost still smell the unfiltered cigarette smoke and hear the dames giggling over their martinis. Cap's Place is all about South Florida history, full of rum, illicit gambling, hoodlums, and good times. Eugene Theodore "Cap" Knight, an unabashed bootlegger, opened the place in 1928. The restaurant is actually made from an old barge. Back then, it was called Club Unique, and you could visit for a fish dinner, a stiff (and illegal) drink, and a game of blackjack, roulette, or craps. But Cap had class -- drawing statesmen as easily as crooks. The list of famous patrons is too long to recount, though the fact that FDR and Winston Churchill dined together here should give you an idea. But that's enough of this story. Go out there, have a highball, and soak up some more tales. They're hanging on every wall, carved into every post, soaked into every floorboard.

At stake in the ultimate gamble, as any bungee jumper can tell you, is your life. But these days you don't have to jump off a bridge with a harness around your waist to cop that thrill. You can simply eat the wrong meat. In the current climate that means brain food -- quite literally. Mad cow disease, or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is a prion (microscopic protein particle) disease found in an animal's nervous system. Humans can acquire a form of BSE, called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), by ingesting infected brains, spinal cords, retinas, or even internal organs, which are often found in ground beef and beef byproducts. And while, unlike Europe, the United States hasn't discovered any BSE-infected cattle or reported a single case of vCJD, there's always a first time. So nix on those sweetbreads and mystery-meat sausages -- unless, of course, you don't mind a gamble.
If you've been to France, you know that the French are seriously into food. And if you've been to Croissan'Time, the French bakery, delicatessen, and fine-food emporium, you know that Bernard Casse has taken his homeland's culinary obsession to delectable extremes since 1986. From the southwest of France, Casse trained as a pastry chef and has worked many a professional kitchen. He's obsessed with natural ingredients, the "quality of the basics," particularly as they relate to bread. And well he should be, since Croissan'Time on average turns out 2000 loaves of different types of bread daily, including some 500 baguettes. Once you've purchased that long loaf, head to the charcuterie-épicerie wing for imported cheeses, pâtés, or meats such as mergez, andouillete, boudin, or confit. And don't forget the bottle of wine for your tailgate picnic or the sweets: filled croissants, cakes, tarts, candies, or chocolates (the last of which are not candy to the French, they're part of the five basic food groups). The food is delicious and luscious to look at, the one-stop shopping suits the American mentality, and if you didn't hear the swish of traffic on Federal Highway, you'd swear you were in a Paris café listening to the strains of Jacques Brel.

Just as our definition of family has changed over the years, so have our requirements for a family restaurant. Now, a single mother with twins doesn't demand just a kid's menu and a pair of highchairs, she wants the motorcycles and cars into which the young'uns can climb and pretend to drive. The divorced dad with a teenage son needs, along with a hamburger, the virtual golf game in order to pass on the most important lesson of life -- how to swing a club. The couple with a newly adopted daughter from Russia or Asia desires, even above the quintessential American dishes such as chicken fingers and grilled steaks, the pinball machines that don't require linguistic communication. And the grandparents who are baby-sitting their kid's kids require all manner of sweets to bribe the brats, along with a good old-fashioned game of Skee-Ball that can bridge any generation gap. D&B supplies all that with its extensive menu and Million-Dollar Midway, plus a bunch of TVs showing every sporting event imaginable and a good supply of alcohol at the bars for the times when all else fails. What else could any modern dysfunctional family want?
Yeah, something deep -- Dadaism, the nihilistic art movement that gave rise to surrealism -- inspired Dada, an artsy Delray Beach coffeehouse/restaurant. But if you're a washed-up ex-hippie who chose protesting the Vietnam War over art history class, Dada represents a generation's journey from dropping acid to buying stock. With bulbous ants painted on the walls, crisp velvet lamp shades, and framed Dalíesque paintings, the place looks as if its owner had a few acid trips and then got rich enough to infuse the décor with sophistication. Going to Dada is worth the trip just to explore the clever intricacies of tasteful funk. However, the food is also quite good -- especially the fondue, which makes these really killer trails...

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