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.

Echo
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"?
Pizza Girls
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.
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.

Dave & Buster's
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?
Dada
Candace West
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...
Ahh, the good life in Weston: Sitting at a plastic table on the Sporting Brews veranda and looking over a retention pond for a new development in a swamp. Other bonuses include a nice view of a wonderfully sterile, isolated Adelphia office building, the flowing traffic of I-75, and three guys sitting nearby puffing on fat cigars and chatting about the stock market. Does it get any better than this? OK, maybe it does. We have to admit we picked Sporting Brews in large part because it is, by our count, the only nonchain-restaurant brewery now open in Broward County. But the honor isn't all by default -- the place has some fine food and several solid brews, all of which have a homemade bite that the stuff in the stores lacks. Sporting Brews is definitely worth a visit, and keep in mind that enough of their serviceable oatmeal stout eventually makes that view from the veranda altogether tolerable, if not quite pleasing.
If the definition of power is embedded in politics, look no further than Brasserie Las Olas. Located just across the bridge from the Broward County courthouse, the something-for-everyone restaurant caters to the ever-hungry -- and those are just the lawyers. Judges and perps alike share a taste for proprietor Mark Soyka's well-known brand of casual dining, ranging from burgers to pizzas to items such as pan-seared mahi-mahi or crabcakes with rémoulade. Fortunately the Brasserie appeals to a bunch of other types as well, from businessfolk planning takeover strategies over plates of meat loaf to soccer moms discussing carpool arrangements while sipping cappuccino.

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