Fish Shack is a locals' type of place. The sort of place that — if you don't know the area well, or have smartphone GPS to guide you — would be really hard to find.
You probably have GPS. And I have a longtime Pompano Beach native to tell me about one of his favorite hole in the wall seafood joints. This 600-square-foot eatery seats no more than 30. On a busy afternoon, patrons cram in elbow to elbow, seated at one of several tables or the 10-seat bar that serves nothing but iced tea, lemonade, soda, a few house wines by the glass, Budweiser, and Bud Light.
These days, adventurous eaters in search of good food are coming to appreciate dining spots with less curb appeal. Finding the latest foodie hole-in-the-wall can even be a point of pride; the more rustic the location, the more accomplished you feel for having found it. And the cooler you feel once you share it with your friends.
That's sort of how you feel once you arrive at the Fish Shack in Pompano Beach, located in a hidden strip of shops just off Federal Highway — one that also houses a coin laundromat and small grocer, both of which serve the residents located in a neighborhood just a few feet away. The tiny spot is owned and operated by a local family that has been in the seafood business for over 20 years
Outside, a few plastic chairs are there for patrons waiting for a seat. Inside, the restaurant is done up in typical South Florida style: walls adorned with fishing net, buoys, and a giant marlin hung between a mahi and mackerel. The waitstaff is dressed in black t-shirts (sold for $20 apiece) adorned with the restaurant's name, and on a random Thursday afternoon are bustling between tables and take-out orders like it's Saturday night.
Open for lunch and dinner, the menu begins with seafood starters and a raw bar, everything from conch fritters and smoked fish dip, to crack conch, oysters, and middle neck clams on the half-shell. The shrimp and scallop fritters are a good choice, arriving hot and crispy on the outside, but tender and gooey at the center — thanks to plenty of diced scallop, not too much batter.
Larger plates include First Mate sandwiches that come on soft, oversized kaiser rolls with lettuce and tomato. Choose from grouper and mahi, both of which can be ordered grilled, blackened, or with Cajun spice. The fish sandwich is the way to go, however, beer-battered cod encased in a light, crispy shell that doesn't overpower the delicate white flesh. Each are served with a choice of fries or cole slaw.
The fish and chips entree from the Fishermans' Platters is the most popular dish here, but you can also choose from plates of garlic butter shrimp, fried oysters, fried clam strips, scallops, or cracked conch in heaping servings with a choice of two sides.
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Land lubbers, fear not: you can also find fish-free fare like burgers, a chicken sandwich, salads, hand-battered chicken wings, and a few wraps. It's a shame the conch salad is hidden on the back of the menu alongside the Caesar and Garden salad selections. It's a large serving chock full of bite-sized diced conch, pepper, and onion dressed in a sugar-sweetend lime bath that gives it an appealing — if a tad less citrusy — zing.
And don't forget to leave a breadcrumb trail on your way out. This is one spot you'll be visiting again soon.
The Fish Shack is located at 2862 NE 17th Ave., Pompano Beach. Call 954-586-4105. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.