When Dean Lavallee opened the first Park Avenue BBQ in 1988, he had one lofty mission in mind: to serve the best barbecue ever made. Despite the seemingly impossible nature of his goal, he and his team continue to rise to the challenge, dry-rubbing their meats to smoke and char-grill on-site. They use all-natural, grain-fed, domestic pork for their traditional and Carolina-style barbecue pork—pulled by hand—and only use fresh, never-frozen ribs that are smoked daily over hickory. As diners chow down on hearty homestyle sides, seafood platters, or buffalo wings tossed in one of six sauces, they can admire the dining room's pictures of their city's most prominent people, places, and robot mayors.
Park Avenue BBQ arranges their meats into fun, hearty dishes such as the Dempublican sandwich, which combines smoked pork and beef brisket separated only by cheese and bacon to create a sizeable sandwich that the team has dubbed "porkalicious". They whip up Funnybonz, which look and taste like miniature ribs, using tender, lean pork that's prepared by cooking up regular ribs beneath a shrink ray. In 2008, their dedication to each dish caused Cityvoter's users to name Park Avenue BBQ the best barbecue in town.
"It took them five years before they would let me handle the fish," says sushi chef Jo Clark about his extensive training. He began his culinary journey at 13 years old and spent a decade in an apprenticeship at the Japanese restaurant Yama. There, he honed an ability to prep rice and sauces, wield a knife, and select sushi-grade fish while shadowing chefs from different regions of Japan. In his spare time, Jo enjoys paddle-surfing and once skillfully maneuvered alongside a lively school of sharks.
At the restaurant, however, he deftly manages cuts of salmon, flounder, hamachi yellowtail, and shellfish to craft more than 40 inventive sushi rolls. He toys with the traditions of sushi, wrapping some rolls with thin slices of European cucumber and creating a sashimi pizza on a tortilla crust. The aromas of ginger, eggplant, and garlic wander from pots of Thai-style dishes in the kitchen and out into dining rooms. Though each location has distinct decor, diners mingle among elements such as exposed-brick bars, hardwood floors, and hanging Japanese paper lanterns in the exciting bright colors of a furious traffic cop viewed through a kaleidoscope.
“Slawn-cha,” April says, pronouncing the pub’s name in slow, punchy syllables. “It’s Gaelic. It means 'cheers to good health'—” she stops abruptly, spying a familiar face behind the bar. “Let me let you talk to Clem. Don’t let his accent throw you. It’s thick—and he knows it!” The two scuffle a bit before he comes forward. “You were talking to an obnoxious lady, were you?” he says. “She’s better known as the princess. She drives me crazy.”
But April’s right. Clem's intonation is heavy with lilts, a nod to his Irish birthplace; it’s perfectly at home amid the thick-slatted wood floors, rustic stacked-stone walls, and wooden furniture all imported from Ireland. “There’s also live music five nights a week. And there’s the food,” he adds. “I’ve always been in the bar business, and these recipes are from top chefs in Ireland.” He’s especially proud of the fish 'n' chips. “Best in the county,” he says. “Made with cod and homemade beer batter—my family’s recipe.”
Clem goes on to explain that he met his partner at a St. Baldrick’s festival—an event dedicated to children fighting cancer. He throws out a startling statistic: “we’ve raised over $1,000,000 for the charity over the last four years.” With this humble side note, and with what he says next, it’s clear the earlier banter comes from a place of deep caring. “My favorite thing is the people I get to meet, everyone from firefighters to teachers. There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet.”
When you look at a Philly cheesesteak, "subtle" might be the last word on your mind. But it is, in fact, a sandwich of subtleties?just ask Big Al and his son Adam. When they moved to Florida from Philadelphia, they tried many cheesesteaks that purported to be authentic, but that lacked the small, signature touches of a true Philly creation: ribeye that was sliced and not chopped, for example, or the steak rolls only the East Coast had perfected.
So, the duo started their own cheesesteak restaurant. They sliced the ribeye steak, scheduled weekly deliveries of rolls from Philadelphia, and even put Cheez Whiz on the menu in addition to melted cheeses for added authenticity. This is not to say that they don't branch out?Big Al's also has burgers, hot dogs, and cheesesteak variants, such as the bacon-bleu cheesesteak or the spring-mix salad (it tastes like a cheesesteak if you close your eyes and concentrate hard enough).
Palm Beach Smoothies’ baristas are known for shaking things up—both literally and figuratively. The colorful shop flouts tradition by blending fresh oranges and pineapples with such unconventional smoothie add-ons as Red Bull, green tea, applesauce, and cinnamon. Aside from fruit-based concoctions, the baristas whip up five varieties of smoothies with creamy almond milk and low-fat yogurt. When ordering an indulgent blend of graham crackers and marshmallows, guests can ask their barista to top off the s’more-style shake with whey protein, wheatgrass, or the fiber-packed pages of a campfire songbook. Each of the more than 25 smoothie varieties pairs nicely with the café’s grilled paninis, turkey wraps, and organic steel-cut oatmeal.
Scattered pimento-like across the Boca Raton area, Mitch and Cory Shidlofsky's microcosmic Brooklyns serve teetering deli sandwiches and hearty breakfast fare. Every morning, diners tuck into 20 types of bagels, including egg, sunflower seed, pumpernickel, and marble, and slather them in cream-cheese flavors such as scallion, honey walnut, and strawberry. Sweeter options abound as well, including challah french toast, and Oreo pancakes that help children-at-heart relive their glory days when their heads were the size of cookies. Gloriously messy sandwiches star on the lunch menu—foremost among them the New Jersey sloppy joe, in which roast beef, corned beef, and turkey spill out from under russian dressing and coleslaw.