East City Grill
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!
Betty's Soul Food
Candace West
Few places offer a taste of black Southern cuisine as complete and inexpensive as this place tucked between Sistrunk Boulevard and 22nd Road. Lunchtime brings local businesspeople together while Matlock reruns mime on two muted televisions and gospel classics rotate on the jukebox. The dining area is kept cool, and regardless of where you sit, you can't miss a big illuminated sign announcing Betty's as an NAACP sign-up spot. Menus aren't reliable as far as specials go, so ask your server what the chef has going. The menu boasts pig tails, catfish, fried chicken, and of course chitterlings. Try the oxtail with collard greens, pillow-soft cornbread, and candied yams (the last of which should be offered as a dessert), all for $7.99. Betty's also caters any size gathering and will customize the order according to your specifications.

Totoritas Restaurant
Gustavo Rojas
You can't miss the place: An oversize red-and-white Peruvian flag, nearly always stretched taut in the breezes that whip across the North Perry Airport, perches atop the smallish storefront eatery, serving as a beacon for all lovers of the Andean nation's sophisticated cuisine. Inside the tiny, wood-paneled dining room, which is lined with medieval-style paintings of saints, this third outpost of the Las Totoritas chain (the other two are located in Miami-Dade County) serves up a dizzying variety of Peruvian specialties. The embossed-leather menus boast such stick-to-your-ribs fare as lomo saltado (sautéed beef with onions and tomatoes) and chicharrón de pollo (deep-fried yet delicately flavored chicken chunks), as well as numerous soups and appetizers. But of course any Peruvian restaurant is only as good as its seafood; by that measure Las Totoritas is fantastic. The jalea is a mouthwatering mound of gently fried squid, octopus, shrimp, and corvina (sea bass) tossed with red onions, tomatoes, and a handful of fresh cilantro. The same fruits of the sea show up in the cebiche mixto but are instead marinated in lemon juice for at least a day, giving them a tart tenderness perfectly complemented by the brightness of the onions and cilantro that accompany this dish, truly a (South) American beauty.

Granted, the name of the venue is a little confusing. Formerly one of two West Broward places known as Parrilla's Latin Grill, the restaurant's neon sign still reads Parrilla's. But the billboard advertising the eatery now calls it Rumba's, since the Parrilla's partners split, each keeping one restaurant. And you might be a touch baffled by the menu, which lists a zillion dishes with a dozen different Latin-American influences ranging from Mexican to Argentine to Cuban. But you won't be a bit bewildered when the fare is served: Beef is the name of the game here, and the quality of the meat is uniformly excellent. Skirt steaks are marinated and grilled to juicy perfection, while vaca frita is shredded and pan-fried, then tarted up with a bit of lime and dressed with white onions. Looking for a little gringo action? Check out the ropa vieja potato skins followed by an inches-thick sirloin. Unlike most steak houses, Rumba's does not offer side dishes à la carte, which means that every enormous serving of meat is accompanied by red or black beans, a scoop of buttered white rice, and sweet, caramelized plantains. In the end there's really no question of befuddlement at all: Walk into Rumba's -- or Parrilla's, whatever you want to call it -- and you'll roll out in a carnivorous daze.
Monster Subs
Chris Bellus
Subs, hoagies, grinders -- call them what you will, the essence remains meat, cheese, veggies, and bread, over and over again, no matter where you go or whom you patronize. How then does one differentiate the good from the bad? It's the little things, really: the crisp sweet peppers and nutty provolone playing tag on your tongue, the lettuce shredded instead of chopped, the turkey breast sliced thick enough to be tasty but thin enough to provide that quintessential sub "mouth feel." By these measures Monster Subs are the best around. Hey, it says so right on the door, and who are we to argue? The stores may be Spartan, but subs have never been about fine dining. Monster sweats the details to bring you sandwiches that stand out from the rest of the submarine fleet.
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Cookie-cutter sushi bars abound in South Florida. But if you took a picture of Kyoto's product -- some of the freshest fish around -- and compared it to the outputs of three other random sushi bars, you'd quickly notice that one of these things is not like the others. The reason is simple: Chef Lee, proprietor and master sushi chef extraordinaire, keeps his fish and shellfish iced down and refrigerated at all times. So even items on display at the bar itself are a comfortable number of degrees away from spoiling. Then, too, there's Chef Lee's fascination with eel. He offers more than ten rolls made with the slippery sea dweller, of which the roasted-almond-studded Nuts About Eel roll is particularly delicious. Kyoto also displays some more-innovative concepts when it comes to cooked fare, providing diners with items like the bonzai chicken, which is a rolled-up, deep-fried chicken breast oozing spinach and Gruyère cheese. And lest we forget the "sake" part of the name here, allow us to recommend that you imbibe as greedily as you eat. It's the Kyoto way.

Siam Cuisine
As new property owners and the city continue to spruce up Wilton Drive, this little free-standing gem remains a delicious constant, its neon sign beckoning locals to partake of its peerless Southeast Asian fare. For two decades the brother-sister team of Sam and Patty Suwanpiboon has warmed the hearts and burned the tongues of Thai-food lovers with such fine starters as nam sod (ground chicken in lime juice with peanuts) and kai tom kha (chicken-and-coconut milk soup with straw mushrooms); a searing selection of curries (regular and panang); and a pad Thai that harmoniously blends noodles, ground pork, and shrimp. When you tell them you like it hot, they take your word for it -- so choose your words carefully. The four-star level of spiciness is about as much as any mortal can bear.

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