Daril and Denizio Corti's 12-year-old Brazilian restaurant isn't big on being big. There is no ostentatious décor, no room-length salad bar, no rodizio wherein men carve large pieces of meat at your table. Panorama concentrates instead on cooking up genuine Brazilian specialties that you just can't find elsewhere, all flavorfully prepared and simply presented at an affordable price. Try a picaha skewer of juicy red hunks of beef or salt cod simmered with potatoes, onions, and pepper or shrimp stuffed with yucca or mugueca, which is fresh fish poached in coconut milk. With its authentic cuisine, live Brazilian music Thursday through Sunday, and satellite feeds of Brazilian soccer games and soap operas, you're bound to be a bit disappointed when you leave Panorama and realize that the beach in front of you is Pompano, not Ipanema.

Jack's Old Fashion Hamburger House
Chelsea Scholler
This place, Jughead's idea of heaven, is so good that you'll overlook the missing "ed" after "fashion" in its name. The atmosphere is starker than Ellsworth Kelly's tomb. Sink your teeth into a half pound's worth of ground-fresh-daily-from-whole-briskets-of-USDA-inspected-beef burgers. Why not? They're individually pattied on the premises, grilled to order, and traditionally seasoned. Then they're stuck between buns large enough to soak up some of the drippings but small enough that you don't feel like you've put your mouth around Hawaii. Jack's offers no nostalgia besides what you'll find in the get-real menu, which is happily bereft of fad-burgers and silly dressings. This place offers homemade relishes and keeps the prices regular ($3 to $4 for burgers) and stays focused on the beef (though a few sandwiches and hot dogs are offered). Cute capper: You can get a Cherry Coke here. Now, what about a Green River?
Runyon's Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Runyon's Restaurant.
With its high ceilings, graceful archways, large wooden tables, upholstered chairs, and rustic fireplace, Coral Springs' landmark Runyon's Restaurant looks more like a country inn than your typical steak house. It is only when you dig into giant, succulent meat like the famous prime rib with puffy popover of Yorkshire pudding or Texas-cut rib eye that you can be certain you are indeed in an honest-to-goodness, all-American house of prime meat -- and a dandy one at that. Other steak-house favorites are also on hand, like hefty beefsteak tomato salads and oversized Idaho potatoes, but, in another note of distinction, side dishes are included with the meal. Which isn't to say Runyon's is a bargain. In true steak-house fashion, prices here are as big as the outlandishly rewarding cuisine.
Yes, there's a lot of local competition in this category -- from specialty spots to chains that play with your memories of ballpark dogs of yore. But forget those ghosts of ballpark 'furters past -- and the circle-of-hell crowds in the parking lot. Right here, right now, you can have it all -- if all means a mouthful of a quarter-pound, plump, steaming beef-a-plenty kosher dog that is juicier than the young Sophia Loren in a peasant blouse. And -- natch -- it's cheaper than the competition: $1.59 for a dog, a 20-ounce drink, and your choice of trimmings, including mustard, deli mustard, onions, sauerkraut, and ketchup. You don't even need to be a Costco member to sit down at one of the tables and chow down. Sound implausible? Believe Millie Goldstein of Davie, who sat next to us on our last visit. Says Millie: "Dad was from Coney Island. He knew from hot dogs and said these were the best." Go know.

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Oh sure, the Knife has a salad bar, vegetables, pasta, and the like. They got pork too, along with chicken, if you're in a fowl mood. But this place is all about the beef. We're talking brisket, roast beef, flank steaks, T-bones, ribs... all things bovine. The place has got dead cow aplenty. Hell, you can feel Clara Peller's ghost hanging in the room. And best of all, it's all you can eat. That's right. For dinner, plunk down $20.85 (Monday through Thursday -- weekends, two dollars more) and eat meat until your arteries crystallize, your heart palpitates, and your digestive system grinds to an oh-so-satisfying halt. Mainline the grease, if you like, though the place is BYOIV. Our only regret is we don't have four stomachs like our big, dumb, delicious friends. We cavemen; watch us eat.

Java Boys Coffee House
Chris Bellus
Hiyeee! And, like, so totally welcome to the 8-month-old baby bean, Java Boys in Wilton Manors. Oh my God, like, what should you get? The regular coffee ($1.50 to $1.90) is supposed to be pretty killer -- not like that corporate diarrhea, eww -- but bore your taste buds to death! Come on, so at least get a frothy latte ($2.50 to $3) or one of their iced lattes and mochas ($2.75 to $3.25). Seriously, speak truth: Do you feel the munch? Break that starvation diet for, like, ten seconds and take a bite of this carrot cake ($3.95). Fine, go get your own crème brulée cheesecake ($4.25). You know you're just going up there to flirt with (owners) Ly and Steve. OK, OK, just kidding. But tell them about your pink faux fur handcuffs, 'cause precoffee-shop leisure life, they were both law enforcement studs. Such a major turn-on. Faux fur, tell them. Dare you. OK, meet you on the plush couches, where we can watch videos of Kylie Minogue sunbathing and Madonna and Britney almost making out until superlate (midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturdays) when they throw us out with their big, muscular arms.
The red-winged blackbird inhabits marshes and is known for its complex vocalizations. The orchard oriole can be found in the mesquite shrubs of Arizona and is characterized by modulated song. The early bird congregates in South Florida strip malls from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.; its distinctive cries of joy can be heard for miles around: "Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!" This bird is a savvy menu-peruser with a hearty appetite and a sharp eye for picking the most susceptible restaurant owners as prey. A creature of habit, the early bird can be espied each evening at one of its favorite new nesting places: The Broadway Deli. This cordial deli/restaurant offers a full dinner of consistently well-prepared food, starting with a complimentary bowl of chopped salad and basket of home-baked breads to peck at. Most diners choose to begin their meals with bowls of perfectly light matzo balls in rich, noodle-laden chicken broth, followed by main courses like roast chicken, sweet-and-sour stuffed cabbage, or brisket of beef. Each entrée is accompanied by choice of two sides (make one of them kasha varnishkas), soft drink, and dessert -- all for the chirpy price of $7.95 to $9.95. Many other species of diners flock here for breakfast, lunch, and post-early-bird dinner too.
Sublime
Michele Sandberg
Mad cow hasn't changed anything -- many restaurateurs still consider vegetarians the al Qaeda of American diners. Sublime offers a much-needed refuge of respect to these oft-abused eaters and does so in more convincing fashion than anyplace else in the region. The 150-seat room is Zen-like serene and tastefully enhanced with skylights, potted plants, and waterfall windows. The food products have been harvested via sustainable or certified organic practices, and the wines come from chemically unadulterated crops. Even the olives and vodka in the house martini are organic. More significantly, the delectable cuisine ranges from wholesome nutty grain bread paired with hummus that jump-starts the meal, to appetizers like fire-roasted artichoke or wood-oven pizza, to main courses like polenta short stack with tomatoes and arugula and stuffed cabbage swelled with brown rice, diced fruits, and nuts. Sublime keeps prices low, with most entrees between $12 and $14, and 100 percent of the modest profits are donated to promoting animal welfare and the vegan lifestyle. Which means that when you eat at Sublime, you will not only partake of the finest vegetarian fare around but you'll also perform something of a philanthropic act.

The menu is chock-full of wondrous Persian cuisine -- which is a politically innocuous way of saying Iranian food. All this may seem quite exotic, but many of the offerings here are surprisingly familiar, like hummus, stuffed grape leaves, and kebabs of chicken, salmon, tenderloin, and lamb -- all tasty renditions but nothing to declare a fatwah over. It's the other items listed that catapult Caspian past the ubiquitous, formula-driven pita emporiums. Absolutely distinctive (and delectable) dishes include khoresht stews of beef, chicken, or lamb; fragrant ashe reshteh, soup plumped with kidney beans, garbanzos, lentils, and noodles and greened with spinach, chives, cilantro, parsley, and mint; and khoresht e' fesenjoon, chicken with an audacious pomegranate/walnut sauce -- jars of which are available for sale next door at Caspian's grocery, Nu Taste. The menu states that "nearly three thousand years of history, tradition, and love have gone into the meals you are about to enjoy," and yet prices are no higher than that of other Middle Eastern establishments that have only 2,000 years behind them. You can't beat that for a bargain.
Johnny V Restaurant
Michele Sandberg
Name: Johnny V (Johnny Vinczencz)

Age: 43

Hometown: St. Louis

Claim to Fame: One of South Florida's most sought-after and most restless chefs

What he's done for us lately: He kicked off the year by opening Johnny V Restaurant/Lounge on Las Olas Boulevard. This after hopping around South Beach and Delray Beach for a decade or so, experimenting with Caribbean and Southwest cuisines, making his name among comfort-food-loving diners. The new place is getting raves. There's something familiar but subtly different about dishes like sage-scented Florida dolphin (with rock shrimp-flecked plantain stuffing) or the lobster shepherd's pie. This is American home cooking with attitude.

What it takes: "At certain levels, either you have it or you don't. You can learn your cooking skills. But the creative end? That's a gift."

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