The name of the restaurant is misleading, as this surely isn't a joint but a handsomely designed room with cherry-wood floors, warm mahogany highlights, and two separate rooms for parties and corporate events -- exactly the sort of environment that hobos have, throughout their colorful history, tended to avoid. It is, however, a joint venture that was started a decade ago by husband/executive chef Steven LaBiner and wife/general manager/sommelier Janet Ribera-LaBiner. Hobo's has expanded over the years, but the emphasis on ultrafresh and delectable seafood remains the same. A wide range of fish and shellfish is on hand, each customized according to patrons' desires regarding cooking method and sauce. Whether it be grilled mahi-mahi with lemon butter or pan-seared grouper with sizzling Thai sauce, the flavors of the fish come through vibrantly. Dinners are as generous as they are delicious, accompanied by artesan breads, sprightly salad, and a smart array of flawlessly cooked starches and vegetables. Consistently great seafood, professional service, comfortable family ambiance, moderate prices, and a wine list bestowed with Wine Spectator magazine's Award of Excellence make Hobo's one very classy joint.
Looking for a ten-hour votive candle? A tortilla maker? You could go to Sedano's in Hollywood, as so many of the ordinary do, but why, when a visit to this muy amable grocery in the middle of Fort Lauderdale's version of Little Havana proves you're the cultural adventurer you think you are? Owned by the Linares family for seven years and patronized by people who know from marinating sauces and chorizos, Santa Barbara Grocery packs more variety of selections in its few hundred square feet than most larger "power" markets do in 10,000; it also boasts a neighboring bakery with superb café cubano and a nearby "Latin Sounds" CD store that blasts the latest salsa from an outdoor sound system worthy of Juan Peron. On the Santa Barbara grocery counters, you'll find choices of dried beans and rice, enough types of spices for an Indian wedding feast, and hundreds of Food World mysteries. The meat selection may cause most gringos to pull out their dictionaries, and some basic Spanish won't hurt you when approaching the friendly staff. But how hard is it to say "¿Que es?" when you're holding a package of what looks like corn husks? Go ahead. Ask. They really are corn husks.

It's about time we found a place where both you and the kids can let down what's left of your hair. This low-profile Lauderdale landmark tucked along the downtown stretch of the New River is just the place. Here, by the dockside restaurant (a more formal dining area is upstairs), the kids can cannonball into the decent-sized pool and eat $3.25 hamburgers -- or chicken fingers for the same price if you're watching their waistlines -- and you can clock back at the bar, watch the boats idle by, and pretend you're young again. On Sundays, there's live music, and the performer is happy to let the whippersnappers get up and karaoke to their fave tunes (beware the American Idol wannabes). Meanwhile, you can explore the bounties of the well-stocked bar, banter with the lively and capable wait staff, delve into the sandwiches-salads-and-baskets menu with its reasonable prices and play-it-safe choices, and generally put your feet up and your mind at rest. Caution, however: One of you adults will have to lifeguard at the pool. But there's always a price, isn't there?

The etymology of romaine is about what you'd expect, given that it sounds like a Frenchman's lip-squishing pronunciation of Roman. The stuff dates back, you know. Likewise, romaine tastes about as you'd expect it to, given that it's lettuce. As lettuce, if it's to taste like more than the popped polysaccharides of a plant cell wall, you've got to pour on the dressing. The Deli Den does that fine and then goes Caesar one better by adding splinters of grated parmesan, dense croutons, and mandarin-orange sections like plump wads of knuckle skin. Slap some chicken ($8.95) or salmon ($9.95) on that baby and heap it all in a bowl like an upturned umbrella and you're ready to top off the gratis pickles, slaw, and soup (try the matzo ball) that arrive just after the ice water.
Horizon Diner II
This place wins for personality and service hands down; it's an added bonus that the food is tasty. And the Horizon's got history too. This location opened a year and a half ago after its namesake on Davie Boulevard burned to the ground on Christmas Day. Owned by middle-aged Greek couple Spiro Passakos and his wife, Thecla (known to the regulars as "the Boss"), and staffed fully by members of the family, you'll think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Housed in a nondescript little space on one of the less attractive stretches of U.S. 441, the joint is set up in classic diner fashion: booths along the windows and stools at the counter, and prices are good too. Typical diner fare with an emphasis on Greek cuisine: moussaka (think eggplant parm with way less sauce, $5.95), spanakopita (spinach pie, $3.75), gyros (for the last time, it's pronounced "yee-ros," $5.95), and souvlaki (pork or chicken chunks on a stick, $6.25). Of course, if you want a club sandwich, burger, or BLT, they got those too.

Poppies Restaurant & Delicatessen
Liz Dzuro
You are not a number; you are a human being. Now try telling that to the hostess at one of the big chain delicatessens that are to Palm Beach County what automobile factories once were to Detroit. It's true that the assembly-line pastrami sandwiches at these places are usually flawless, but you can get the same perfect specimen at Poppie's without having to wait for the three-digit number on your little white ticket to be called. During season, there are lines to get into Poppie's too, but once seated, you'll be treated in the most civilized fashion: a basket of bread and a bowl of pickles at dinner and a seasoned waitress asking, "What can I get you, bubbaleh?" Well, lessee, try some chicken soup, a knish, a side of creamed herring -- or gefilte fish? A corned beef platter with creamy potato salad -- maybe a side of chopped liver instead of the herring? A Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray, one of those shiny black & whites from the pastry department, halvah, cup of coffee with no cream or sugar (you have to watch your weight), and a loaf of Poppie's delicious seeded rye to go. Save the smoked fish and bagels for another day.
Back when you were small, when you and your fellow neighborhood rugrats gallivanted carelessly through the streets attacking one another with palm fronds, you'd occasionally receive an invitation for dinner at Vince's house. You never turned it down. That's because the food at Vince's, made with spice-filled sauces so tasty and meaty that you could eat them separately, was cooked with the love only a devoted Italian madre can provide. Those were the days. But they ain't over. Reno's Pizzeria on Hollywood Boulevard specializes in making authentic Italian-style feasts to go at rock-bottom prices (expect to be stuffed for less than $10 per person). Whether it's a Blockbuster night or a romantic dinner for two in the backyard, you can always swing by Reno's and pick up an appetizer of fried calamari and two tasty Stromboli specials. And don't forget the cheesecake, capretto. It's just like the way Vince's mama made it.

Timpano Italian Chophouse
Tie pins, French cuffs, the finest wools, complexions aglow from heavy gym-time and stock options -- all are as prevalent as Britney before a CD release at this 4-year-old bastion of the New Lauderdale, which packs a Wayne (Huizenga)-meets-Terry (Stiles) degree of clout rarely seen locally outside the Tower Club. Modeled after the old chophouses of New York City and Chicago and offering mezza-Italia presentations of pastas ($10 to $11), panninis ($9 to $13), and seafood ($13 to $15) among the veal and chops, this spacious set of dark-wooded dining rooms-plus-bar leaves fuss at the front door. It provides a staff so accommodating that only their ages make you doubt they might be ex-Up with People singers. Better yet, one need not give the chauffeur the day off to afford lunch (unless you're going for a dinner-sized portion of a chop, which can run you up to $29).

Dragon Gate Chinese Restaurant
So your sizzling Latin mate is in the mood for a spicy dinner, the couple on the couch across from you are vegetarians, and your visiting sister and brother-in-law won't try anything they haven't eaten a thousand times before. Give Dragon Gate a call and order piquant beef in garlic sauce and Szechuan soft-shell crabs for your better half, vegetable egg foo young and fried tofu with red pepper sauce for the noncarnivores, subgum chicken chop suey for the in-laws. Add some hot-and-sour soup, the meatiest of barbecue pork ribs, and moo shoo pork for yourself. The bill will be outrageously affordable, the food fresh and delectable, the guests occupying your living room sated so that hopefully they will merely thank you profusely and leave you alone with your grateful mate. Just pray they don't return an hour later for more.

Toa Toa Chinese Restaurant
It's a good thing when you go out for authentic ethnic food and the restaurant is packed with families of that ethnicity who are laughing and eating happily together. This is what you should expect when you arrive at Toa Toa, home to a genuine Hong Kong-style dim sum since 1989. Translated as "to touch your heart," dim sum is the Chinese equivalent to 'round-the-clock brunch, just without the mimosas. Toa Toa has a full menu complete with pictures to guide the novice. There is a variety of small plates of appetizers including sticky shrimp dumplings, fried scallop cutlets, a number of different rice pastes, and even marinated chicken feet -- scrawny, bent-pipe-cleaner-shaped things covered with red gelatinous goop. Brave virgins should just close their eyes and point their fingers at the menu, a good way to ensure variety. Top off whatever you land on with a baked custard bun and a pot or two of tea. Toa Toa is inexpensive (from $2.85 for a small dim sum to $6.95 for silver noodles) and tasty too, a bona fide culinary field trip. Even better, you can get dim sum there all day every day but Wednesday.

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