Back in 1945, Coopertown Airboat Tours was founded on frog legs. When John Cooper would take his airboat out frogging in the Everglades, observers often asked for rides in the unique machine. The demand became so great that he built a passenger airboat?and today, the company has a fleet of seven. Coopertown itself has a population of only eight, and is a largely wild slice of land on the edge of the Everglades, making the popular airboat tours a main source of traffic.
The airboats that depart from Coopertown head deep into the wetlands, where sawgrass covers the water and gators are plentiful. Guides point out a wide variety of wildlife, ranging from herons and turtles to endangered species such as the snail kite. For a more intimate encounter with nature, they also run private tours, voyaging into areas that are only accessible by smaller airboats. Tours typically culminate by the Coopertown restaurant and gift shop. There, guests can snack on the frog legs that started it all, or sample other swampland delights including gator-tail nuggets and catfish.
Donut Gallery started with a handshake. That handshake was the one in 1971 that sealed Benjamin and Acela Zambrano's purchase of a Miami-area restaurant and inspired them to transplant their entire family from New York?where Benjamin had been working in the hospitality industry since emigrating from Cuba in the 1960s?and carve out their own slice of the American Dream.
To this day, locals and visitors alike flock to Donut Gallery, which no longer serves donuts, for its throwback diner vibe. A long counter and a completely open kitchen lets diners watch and even chat with the cooks as they flip and chop. Anything on the menu is available at any time the restaurant is open. In the mornings, the cooks pile up pancakes, squeeze fresh orange juice, and top open-faced English muffins with bacon, ham, and cheese. But their work doesn't end with the morning rush; they continue filling empty bellies into the late afternoon with an extensive lunch menu of burgers, sandwiches, and milkshakes.
By day, Diner By-The-Sea is just that?a classic American spot for good grub, where visitors will often find the owner, Billy, manning the grill or refilling coffees. In the morning, the cooks turn out piles of crispy, browned home fries next to eggs benedict draped with creamy hollandaise, and midday, they match soups and sandwiches with sides of slaw or salad.
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.
When he was a kid, Dave Harmon would watch his mom make dinner. Little Dave was so attentive, and so interested in the way she sliced, diced, and sautéed, that he swiftly developed culinary skills of his own. In fact, he was helping out in the kitchen before he even turned 5, the age when most spatula hands start growing in. Dave grew up to be a professional chef, and after working in other people's restaurants for more than 10 years, he finally opened his own: Super Dave's Diner. The eatery is a community-oriented space, and its menu reflects geographic pride in the form of signature Southern favorites: hickory-smoked ribs, cracked conch, and Louisiana-style fried catfish join the likes of George collard greens and from-scratch mac and cheese.