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-three-seeded West Palm Beach/Lake Worth and number-six Wilton Manors and then vote below on which city should go on to our semifinal round.
West Palm Beach and Lake Worth: The Tattooed, the Trendy, and Hidden Haunts
If the South Florida dining scene were actually a family reunion, West Palm Beach would be your approachable-yet-cool young aunt. The one with the owl tattoo on her shoulder and a collection of sake bottles she's picked up from around the world -- a hint of edge but generally someone who gets along with most everyone around the table. Lake Worth, meanwhile, is that offbeat uncle who used to work a 9-to-5 in the big city before moving to an artist's colony, where he learned how to make his own beer out of cornhusks. Both are fun people to hang out with and certainly a welcome break from that uptight rich cousin with his overpriced
haircut or your flashy brother who can't stop looking at his smartphone
long enough to interact with the rest of the fam' (you can decide for
yourself what/where these familial archetypes represent).
gander first at the West Palm Beach branch of this family tree, let us
consider the range it affords. On the one hand, you have the reliable
and crowd-pleasing CityPlace,
anchored with megapopular chains and a smattering of more interesting
and independent guys. Looking at the big picture and venturing outside
of those bounds -- and Lord knows you should; there is more to this city
than the sanitized shopping 'plex -- you'll find snapshots of a scene
that has much more to offer: tattooed waitresses serving craft beers and
next at Lake Worth, you find a rarity in a landscape primarily dominated
by strip malls and big boxes -- an actual, walkable downtown that seems
as if it grew organically and with character. Best of all, there are
places you'll want to visit: Sink your teeth into tender house-made
ravioli at Rustico Italiano Restaurant, throw back a drink with the crowd at the Cottage, or tear into a soft pretzel and Sauerbraten with elbows propped up on the heavy wooden tables of Little Munich. Off the beaten path, you'll find treasures like Sheila's Famous BBQ and Tacos Al Carbon, proof that if you dig through the family album long enough, you're bound to strike some version of gold. - Tricia Woolfenden
Wilton Manors: The Drive's Flash and Fashion, and a Few Unpretentious Foodie Finds
Wilton Manors food scene, like the gay community that sustains it, is
flashy and vacuous at first glance but filled with quiet smarts, charm,
and beauty that reveal themselves only upon investigation. The flash is
which are successful due less to any mixological prowess than to the
fact that people like to go to places people like to go to, and restaurants
where food is strictly beside the point. The aforementioned Georgie's
sells sandwiches and salads mostly because people need something to
blunt the impact of the bar's huge, deadly, and deadly cheap Long Island
iced teas. The lovely Thai-sushi joint Galanga remains this city-on-an-island's hottest place to wear trendy clothes, and next door, Rosie's serves burgers that never seem to lose their popularity on a packed lanai.
For a really good burger, head up the street to Tropics.
It's not so busy, and it serves the kind of fussy, not-quite-fine-dining
that your grandparents might have had in mind when they hit the town in
the '60s. It's excellent for all that, and if it's not fashionable,
it's consistent. The same regulars have been going for 30 years or more,
digging the congenial company and the bartenders' generous shots. And
if lasagna or beef bourguignon won't satisfy, it's a short northerly walk
to Acapulco Lindo,
a dimly lit, unpretentious Tex-Mex joint with famously fine soup. And
beyond that, on a side street, is the pearl of Wilton Manors dining --
tiny Le Patio, where you can enjoy South Florida's best French peasant food prepped and served by two lovely European lesbians.
Manors is a walking city, and if you explore beyond the tasteful glitz
of the Drive, there's nothing finer than leaving your car in one of the
hood's (rare) parking lots and venturing aimlessly through the scattered
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the vast nightclub/bar/restaurant/bakery where the management has
somehow made room for fashion and flavor beneath a single roof. - Brandon K. Thorp
Click here for a full list of cities in our Food Town Throwdown.