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.
Restaurant breweries are about as hard to find in South Florida as wool sweaters. The dearth of handcrafted brews here isn't really that surprising, as subtropical climes tend to foster a thirst for icy, fruity drinks like rumrunners and margaritas. But we like beer, dammit, and that's where Brewzzi's comes in. Granted it doesn't have much competition (it's the only independent restaurant brewery in Palm Beach County), but it's still first-rate. Because the joint is located in western Boca Raton, you might assume it's a vile place -- snobs drinking snobby beers. You'd be wrong. The six microbrews, for one thing, are affordable, at less than $4 a glass. They are also award-winning and downright delicious, from the stout to the American pale ale to the brown to the blonde (though we aren't really partial to light microbrews). The service there is darn good, the food simple (lots of great pizzas and open-faced sandwiches) and tasty. By the time we pulled ourselves away, we'd had enough of their beer to make us a little wewzzi. Our date was so hammered, she started acting like a flewzzi. So, thanks to Brewzzi's, our night was a dewzzi.

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.

Best Restaurant for an Intimate Conversation

Cafe Paprika's

Since the whole point of having an intimate conversation is that you want no one else to overhear it, you need to find a place that has some kind of cover -- live music, a good crowd, and sound-absorbing acoustics. Paprika's fits the hush-hush bill with Magyar tunes, a regular group of diners who chat but don't scream, and market shelves stocked with so many imported Hungarian goods that sound doesn't go past the sausages. Proprietor Zoltan Debreczeni may not have envisioned his cozy little spot, decorated like a Hungarian house, to be the appropriate place for whispered words of endearment, sotto voce discussions about body parts, or plans for an assignation or two. But given the white linen tablecloths, the oil paintings on the walls, and the Bull's Blood vino on the wine list, he's certainly set the scene for fine dining, if not intimacy of the romantic sort.

No matter what your religion, you can't help but get an ungodly kick out of Annie's. This Caribbean-Southern joint practices what it preaches with food that feeds fried kingfish, steamed red snapper, and curry goat to the body along with a dose of Scripture, delivered via the menu, for the soul. Not particularly observant? Don't worry -- even agnostics and atheists are welcome to enjoy the oxtail and cornpone. Just make sure that, if you go on a weekend, you wear your Sunday best so the after-church crowd doesn't feel that you're taking Annie's -- or the Lord's -- name in vain.

With more than 200 items, including stone crabs, snow crabs, and mussels on the half shell, this buffet restaurant is an obvious choice for little piggies. Help yourself to the Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and American fare time and again -- the cafeteria-style eatery is all-you-can-shove-in-your-face. Even vegetarians and Atkins dieters can get into the action, as an extensive salad bar features a variety of fresh choices and a carving station presents an array of sliced meats. Best of all, the prices -- weekday lunch for $6.39 and dinner for $8.99 -- stand in stark contrast to the serious amount of food, which makes this place the best not only for gluttons but for misers as well.
Fort Lauderdale's Mezzanotte, one of four South Florida locations in a chain owned by Tom Billante, has been serving fine Italian dishes on the New River for a little more than two years. It ain't cheap, but it's pretty. From the 30 outdoor tables, you can soak in the live tunes, gawk at tourists, and watch yachts ply the urban waterway. And the food is as good as the view. The veal and pasta are solid offerings, but we recommend going all the way: Lobster Fradiabolo includes a one-and-a-quarter-pound Maine lobster over linguine with mussels, clams, and shrimp in a spicy marinara sauce for $25.95. While you're at it, try a bottle of Opus One for $220 or some Cristal Champagne, which goes for $293. If you're paying these prices, you've probably pulled your yacht into one of the nearby boat slips for your meal.
Clematis Street is still out there trying, but it has nothing on Atlantic Avenue. This once-struggling thoroughfare virtually teems with eateries of every type, from haute Mexican to modern American to classic oyster bar. Interested in Italian? You got it. Crave a coffeehouse? That too. Perhaps even more significant are the extensions of the restaurant row. Now that it's practically filled up, side streets and off-the-beaten-track neighborhoods are benefiting from the spillover, and Japanese, Thai, and Middle-Eastern places are popping up all over. Note to Clematis: What is the holdup? You have the example, now follow it!
You could say it was a victim of greed. One of the most popular fine-dining restaurants on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard and the eatery credited with revitalizing the area, East City Grill got unceremoniously kicked out of its space this past year. The landlord decided to sell the lot to a condominium builder. Goodbye pan-Asian/fusion fare, hello prefab apartments. No matter in the end, though. Proprietors Oliver Saucy and Darrel Broek will soon assuage our grief by rebuilding the Grill -- or opening something similar -- in Weston. Go west, young(ish) men!
Here's what unlimited wealth can get you: A powder blue Rolls-Royce à la the dude formerly known as Puff Daddy, Gucci accessories, and the right to rule CityPlace via a table at Mark's. Feeling more like a poor relation than a privileged Palm Beacher? Never fear. Chef-proprietor Mark Militello doesn't care who takes care of the check as long as it gets paid. So wait till your more-established folks come to town or save up for a special occasion. Then you won't cringe quite as much when you discover on the daily-changing menu that a caesar salad with calamari might run you $11 or a Gorgonzola-stuffed burger could cost $12 -- and that's for lunch. Dinner price tags can peak at $16 for starters like the sea scallops with Jamaican-spiced oxtail, $23 for risotto with black trumpet mushrooms from Oregon, or $32 for the oak-grilled New York strip with white-truffle "Mac and Cheese." No matter what, a meal here is gonna cost -- if not you, then somebody else. The upside is that you're almost guaranteed a James Beard- worthy experience.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of