Clean Plate Charlie is pitting our eight best dining areas against one another in a March Madness-style bracket. Later this month, we'll crown a winner -- an undisputed champion city that can boast to have the best food scene in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Below, read up on number-one-seeded Delray Beach versus number-eight Pompano Beach/Deerfield Beach and then vote below on which city should go on to our semifinal round.
Deerfield and Pompano Dish Up Great Tacos, Excellent Pizza, and Perhaps an Upset
In a strip mall in Deerfield, El Jefe Luchador blares ZZ Top, beckoning customers inside with a scene as animated as a Mexican street fest. Tables and chairs wear primary colors like a box of fat crayons. Against one wall, flamboyant masks stare from empty eyes: a reference to its "chief fighter" name. The barbacoa taco boasts braised beef brisket that packs heat with guajillo chilis. A ripe tomato and onion medley lends sweet and sharp crunch. Tart lime, a handful of cilantro, and a liberal sprinkle of queso blanco round it out. White-corn tortillas trekked in every day gives these tacos cred.
It's not just the delicious and cheap eats at El Jefe Luchador that make Deerfield and
Pompano a solid choice for most food-focused region in our market. It's
the creative and quirky joints for locals that inspire fierce loyalty. Calypso
comes to mind; the island-inspired mainstay serving superfresh,
Caribbean fish dishes has been a go-to in the area since 1990.
Sicilian Oven is another ringer -- a delicious pizza place that our readers voted best pizza in 2011. Cafe La Buca
might pull your appetite elsewhere; the modest, seasonal Italian
restaurant from Marco Spina and his family is so packed that it's near
impossible to get a reservation.
Closer to the beach, there's the beer mecca known as Brother Tuckers,
the Belgian-inspired name for a restaurant that's decidedly not
Belgian. This homey hole in the wall is staffed with the most
knowledgeable beer nerds in the area. Farther up the road is the Dandee Donut Factory, with its absurd-yet-delicious cherry crunch doughnuts and a respectable cup of coffee.
Still need convincing? Try some of the area's best burgers at Charm City Burgers, where fresh-ground sirloin patties cost $5. How about German brews for breakfast with a side of wurst at the German-owned Cypress Nook?
as you are for good eats" characterizes these Deerfield and Pompano
stops, for delicious food and a depth of drink offerings without the
touristas that clog other regions of our market. It's an area for locals
in the know. - Melissa McCart
Delray Beach: A Small Town's Downtown, With a Big City's Worth of Dining
The stretch of Delray's Atlantic Avenue that runs from I-95 to the ocean feels like nothing less than a quaint main street running through the heart of a small town... but with all the entertainment credentials of a big city. The crowd is a perpetual mix of locals, snowbirds, and tourists. It could be the weekend green markets that draw them. Maybe it's the seemingly nonstop winter street festivals. Or perhaps it has something to do with the abundance of convenient free public parking.
But the most likely reason is that you can satisfy almost any food craving without getting back in your car -- from the finest sushi and Asian fusion at the ultramodern Buddha Sky Bar to the best cheese steaks you'll find outside of Philly at Big Al's. Enjoy a pint in an actual 19th-century British pub brought over from England, the Blue Anchor Pub, then stroll down to Linda Bean's for a "perfect Maine lobster roll."
Delray Beach is a mecca for local chefs and foodies. Dada, just off one end of downtown in a 1920s house, has long been a bastion of good food and homey atmosphere. Dada periodically reinvents its menu with creations like melt-in-your-mouth, sweet-glazed porkbelly. The Office is a slick, ultramodern bar, smack in the middle of all the action and serving posh cocktails and lettuce wraps filled with seared, miso-glazed black cod.
If you'd prefer to avoid the busy downtown, Sushi Masa on Linton Boulevard and Federal Highway makes the ultimate comfort food, panang curry -- creamy coconut milk, crushed cashews, and swirling red flecks of spicy goodness glazed over bamboo shoots and jasmine rice. Or there's beachfront dining including the newly remodeled upstairs of Boston's on the Beach. Get fried clams or steamed lobster, and they have a menu just for dogs.
Finally, if you're a hungry Delray resident who just cannot be bothered to go out, the Delray Delivery Dudes will bring you any dish from almost any restaurant you want. It's enough to make you want to move there. - Rebecca Dittmar
Click here for a full list of cities in our Food Town Throwdown.