By Hilda Mitrani

South Florida has an abundant collection of ethnic restaurants. While it's not easy for me to select just five, here are the ones that I often return to because they offer scrumptious food (and have a mild effect on my wallet!)

The Painted Pickle in Wilton Manors - The owners of this charming spot consider their restaurant a "del-istro" - part deli and part bistro. The tuna salad here has my favorite ingredient - capers! - but consider taking half your over-stuffed deli sandwich home. Why? You simply must try the pastries and guava cheesecake. They're yummmy!
     2163 Wilton Drive
     Ft. Lauderdale
The Greek Place in Surfside - Mezes, a plate of mixed appetizers, is a highlight at this family-owned Greek restaurant. Their lamb is tender and tasty, and the restaurant has outdoor seating. You'll love the elegantly casual, white napkin atmosphere, too.
      9489 Harding Avenue
      Surfside, FL  33154
Paquito's in North Miami Beach - Dining at this colorful restaurant is all about freshly prepared meals and family recipes. On the weekends, mariachis walk around entertaining guests and taking requests. While it's often filled with families, I often see romantic couples of all ages, too.
    16265 Biscayne Blvd.
    North Miami Beach
Levy's Kosher of Hollywood - Falafel, shawarma or marinated chicken kebobs are accompanied by spicy Middle Eastern salads, humus and babaganoush. This restaurant is often filled with friendly chatter, often in English, Spanish, Hebrew, and other languages too.
      3357 Sheridan Street
Padrino's Cuban Restaurant - My favorite Cuban restaurant outside of Miami also offers mouth-watering food in Orlando, Plantation and Boca Raton. Try the delicious marinated chicken filet and fried "tostones" plantains. And leave room for flan!
      2500 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.
Traveling through a universe of culinary treats is easy in Florida. In a couple of weeks, I'll do a round-up of St. Augustine cuisine. Stay tuned!