This spot is located in Fort Lauderdale, but its heart is in N'Awlins. The guy next to you might be sucking crawfish meat from shells. Another might be singing along to a Rebirth Brass Band tune. Chances are, someone will offer you a hush puppy from his plate or at the very least invite you into his conversation. Be sure to return the favor by sharing your poor boys, gumbo, or boudin: The portions are so large, it's impossible to finish one on your own. Wrap up with a round of Abita brews.

Tapas Lantana

If you thought you looked great before your date, wait till you get to Tapas 210 — you'll be a stunner, even before booze. Candlelight works magic like that, as does lush tropical greenery, which frames the entryways to the brick patio, a huge sheltered area that's home to a delightful breeze. A wine room serves as a cozy nook for couples or a group interested in overtaking a farmhouse table. As for the cuisine: Seafood is the star at this Spanish spot. Rosemary and thyme announce the arrival of a shellfish medley. Bocados of olives and jamón ibérico tempt as snacks. Artichokes and mushrooms in white wine make a favorite tapas dish, as does bone marrow with a beef cheek marmalade. More-ambitious diners might opt for paella or, better yet, wait for Friday supper. The special is roast pork: Served with white beans and garbanzos, it'll be among the most memorable pig roasts you've had.

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Inside this slip of a restaurant, pompano fillet is dressed as simple as it gets in butter and white wine with a splash of citrus. Scallions, cubes of butternut, tomato, and almonds add acid, sweet, brightness, and crunch. No matter what the day's catch may be, rest assured each dish will end up this harmonious, since the seafood is doctored by a master. Tony Sindaco, former chef at Sunfish Grill, helms this 22-seat eatery, a former coffee shop. Chiclet tiles, Florida murals, minimalist seating, and an airy vibe make it a refreshing place to dine.

ROK:BRGR Burger Bar and Gastropub
Candace West

If you take apart one of the burgers from this Himmarshee hot spot and dissect it into its basic components, you'll figure out why Rok:Brgr deserves this award. Take the Las Olas burger, built with a ten-ounce American Wagyu beef patty, cave-aged Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, garlic aioli, and a brioche bun. Any one of those ingredients stands alone — you could put the cheese on a charcuterie plate; the aioli would make a fine dipping sauce for anything; and the beef patty, you could eat it with a knife and fork. But why would you? Put together, the ingredients form a burger that'll send juices rolling down your arm, friends to their cell phones to take photos, and you, back for another sooner than you intended.

Canyon

During a recent visit to Canyon, someone at the table asked the server to name a few of his favorite dishes. "Oh, I like them all," he said. That's usually a server cop-out, a refusal to exclude a dish from the list. But at Canyon Southwestern Café, it's understandable. You can't go wrong with the red-chili-braised risotto, black Florida grouper, or ancho chili-rubbed pork. But sometimes you just want a steak. And you want it with more than just a steak-house sprig of parsley on the side. Here, the filet comes with a Zinfandel sauce, cilantro-mashed potatoes, caramelized zucchini, and a poblano pesto goat cheese — any of which could be the star dish of the meal. Well, no, the star is the steak, just lightly seasoned and charred. Tender, juicy, and... now that we're talking about it, the waiter ought to just recommend the filet.

Cafe Martorano
Cafe Martorano

This dish right here puts a line in the sand between the Café Martorano lovers and haters. It's $24. For that, you could buy two appetizers at most places. Or ten raw eggplants. But this dish also typifies what's special about Café Martorano: Its chefs put tremendous care into every single ingredient. Those slices of eggplant come crisp on the outside — difficult when you're essentially stacking them in a salad — and warm and soft in the center. The mozzarella is of the fresh-pulled variety, the greens are dressed in a fantastic vinaigrette, and the tomatoes are thick slices that seem right off a vine in Napoli. Like all the dishes here, it's served family style, put down in the middle of the table, sliced up by the waiter, and passed around. It will be, perhaps, the first time ever that your family fights over eggplant. Well worth that $24.

Rock 'N' Roll Ribs

When pondering what makes a good rack of ribs, two things naturally come to mind — heavy metal and Coral Springs. Rock N Roll Ribs is run by Nicko McBrain, drummer for legendary band Iron Maiden. Though the interior of the restaurant looks more like an Iron Maiden shrine in a teenaged boy's bedroom than a rib joint, this place knows barbecue. The coma-inducing combination of crispy charred pork slathered in the restaurant's sticky, sweet, and tangy barbecue sauce is a recipe for one totally bitchin' rack. Sauce junkies looking for a fix can load up on three additional barbecue sauces — mustard, hot, and tangy. These smoky, fork-tender baby back ribs present diners with the enjoyable challenge of eating the meat before it slides off the bone. A full rack of baby back ribs, two sides, and a thick-cut slice of garlic toast will run you $18.95, but the Iron Maiden videos on a loop are free.

The Whale's Rib

The tourist's dream of fresh fish at a beachside pub is often a fantasy in South Florida. Too many restaurants offer the same dry, tasteless grouper between slabs of boring bread. Not here. The Whale's Rib is the neighborhood dive where Hillsboro cops grab takeout while a constant horde of shorts-and-sandals customers queues up for a seat. Inside, the wood-paneled walls are decorated with license plates and the mounted jawbones of a 305-pound bull shark. Kids slurp Coke out of small pitchers. From the kitchen in the center of the dining room, someone shouts, "Dolphin sandwich." That's why many people are here — the fresh dolphin Key West sandwich. The spice of the blackened fish pairs perfectly with creamy Thousand Island dressing, topped with crunchy red cabbage and melted Swiss cheese, all on a hearty, toasted bun. Eat this with a bowl of thin-sliced potato "whale fries" and you'll never need a Big Mac again.

Charm City Burgers Company

Charm City Burger Co. took home the top award at this year's Riverwalk Trust Burger Battle, its beloved burgers holding sway in a heated battleground for beefy supremacy. But the restaurant deserves another honor, for its creamy milk-shake concoction: the Binge. A genius and outrageously addictive blend of caramel and sea salt, the Binge is made with Blue Bell ice cream, and the quality shows. This is one of the most indulgent sweet treats in all the land (and it's enough to make a vegetarian venture into Charm City's meat-perfumed air on a semiregular basis).

Ristorante Sapori

The idea is that we should name a specific dish at Ristorante Sapori, an item for readers to hone in on with laser-precision focus. But that would be something of a disservice both to the reader and to chef/owner Marco Pindo. Pindo — like anyone for whom a passion for good food and cooking runs deep — uses instinct and experience to dictate "what's good tonight" instead of being a slave to the menu. His Thursday-night pasta sessions bring the craft of pasta-making out of the kitchen and into the dining room, where guests can watch the meals come to life. On these nights, Pindo will create a few specials that put the freshly rolled and cut pasta center stage. The carbs are dressed with light sauces or olive oil, topped with fresh vegetables, and perfumed with herbs plucked from the restaurant's patio garden. Choose whatever sounds good out of the two or three dishes being offered, or ask Pindo for his recommendation. Just be flexible and trust that what you get will be simple, clean, and prepared with considerable skill.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

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