But there are other reasons to visit this city just north of Fort Lauderdale. Much has changed in Pompano Beach's landscape in the past few years thanks to the invigoration of its economy and public spaces. New developments, such as the Pompano Beach Fishing Village, bolster the entertainment options, and the city's dining scene has also changed for the better.
Like other South Florida destinations, Pompano Beach's greatest asset is its diversity. Its food scene bursts with multicultural talent at long-running mainstays such as Cafe Maxx, with its unique fusion of global fare, and newcomers such as Le Vie Lebanese, where guests feel like they're breaking bread in the Arabian desert.
The following eight standouts represent the best dining experiences in Pompano Beach.
Beach House Pompano270 N. Pompano Beach Blvd., Pompano Beach
Beach House Pompano is kind of restaurant you should go to with family and friends, order as many dishes from the menu as you can, try various creative cocktails, and stay longer than you’d planned, enjoying its live music and rooftop seating with panoramic oceanfront views. Located at the Pompano Beach Fishing Pier, this new eatery boasts decor inspired by surf culture around the world: a mix of Polynesian paddles and teak tables, chairs, and barstools, around which guests congregate to enjoy South Florida's bounty. The kitchen dishes out a daily selection of burgers, such as the vegetarian OhMyGoodness, with mushrooms, red pepper jalapeño jam, and arugula ($20); tacos such as a Costa Rican shrimp variety topped with slaw and fresh grilled mango ($15); and a list of sandwiches that includes the crispy fresh catch, sold at market price. An assortment of beach bites includes short-rib sliders with brisket and ground chuck ($15), smoked trout dip ($14), and barbecue wings ($12). Or opt for a main course of shrimp 'n' grits with ham, corn mayo, and asparagus in light Creole sauce ($27), or lobster and shrimp pappardelle pasta ($34).
Cafe Maxx2601 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach
Nineteen eighty-four is the year Oliver Saucy and partner Darrel Broek came together to helm this fine-dining destination on Atlantic Boulevard, which has been going strong since the beginning. What elevates Cafe Maxx to another level is its chef's background. Saucy spent his childhood in Germany before moving to New York, and he’s taken influences of his time training there, combined them with elements of South Florida gastronomy, and added his own heritage to it. His freedom to do whatever he wants under an "inventive American concept" results in a unique fusion of global cuisines, served as elegant dishes such as caviar pie ($11) and banana-lime grilled shrimp with sweet mash, tropical fruit salsa, and plantains ($20). His talent also shines in main courses of sun-dried-tomato-and-basil brown butter poured over duck and smoked mozzarella ravioli ($26), Brie-encrusted petite filet mignon served with spaghetti squash ($51), and crusted lamb chops spiked with candied pumpkin seeds and goat cheese ($60). The more than 300 wines, as well as signature desserts, are also part of what keeps South Floridians coming back. The chocolate Oreo pretzel bar with dulce de leche ($10) and pumpkin cheesecake ($10) are must-tries. The restaurant also offers Sunday brunch, winetastings, and a roster of cooking classes in addition to dinner service.
Calypso Restaurant & Raw Bar460 S. Cypress Rd., Pompano Beach
Calypso's bar and tables begin filling when the doors open at 11 a.m., and the restaurant's daily specials of fresh offerings are listed on a chalkboard. Squid steak, sheepshead, hogfish, and other fresh-catch specials are erased as they sell out. But locals who've been coming here for more than two decades know Calypso's entire pan-Caribbean menu is worth the visit. Run by couple Chuck and Lora Ternosky, this strip-mall spot is open only on weekdays, when the fresh catch is abundant and paired with island spices and music to create a vibrant Caribbean vibe. You'll want to linger over orders of Jamaican jerk, habanero, or basil-mustard chicken wings ($9.95 for ten) or one of the West Indies-style curry dishes with lamb, dolphin, or vegetables (starting at $16.95). Sandwiches ("cutters") are served on fresh-baked bread stacked with grilled conch, lobster tails, shrimp, and dolphin ($9.95), and signature entrées include smoked pork butt with jerk or barbecue sauce ($16.95) and braised lamb shank simmered in tomato sofrito ($19.95). Save room for dessert, because you'll want to try Lora's homemade blueberry mango cheesecake or key lime pie.
Checkers Old Munchen2209 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach
Traditional Bavarian fare found its place at Checkers Old Munchen, where hearty portions of the rich cuisine are complemented by an Oktoberfest vibe of seemingly endless beer toasts. You can't go wrong with crowd-pleasers like potato pancakes with applesauce and sour cream ($8.99), onion and apple soup topped with provolone cheese ($5.99), or one of the seven schnitzel variations of lightly breaded cutlets of veal, chicken, or pork sautéed in lemon butter and draped in brown gravy ($16.99 to $20.99). The list of rustic dishes also includes goulash — a satisfying beef stew with paprika and onions ($14.99) — and rich pork stroganoff with mushrooms in a white wine and sour cream sauce, served with green beans and spaetzle — the beloved German mac 'n' cheese ($17.99). For dessert, order the opulent Black Forest cake or the classic apple strudel ($8 each) while you get another stamp on your beer tour passport. After tasting 30 varieties of brew, you're awarded with your own name plaque on one of the walls.
The Foundry2781 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach
The Foundry offers a raw bar and flame-cooked delectables in a space that is not only handsome but also historical. If there’s one restaurant in Florida that will help you understand America as it was a century ago, before the Industrial Revolution, as well as what it is today, this is it. Enter the dining room to find a ceiling made of wood from a Kentucky tobacco barn dating to 1902, a metal sliding door from Philadelphia circa 1880, and the iconic photo of New York City ironworkers, Lunch Atop a Skyscraper, taken more than 80 years ago. Under old-fashioned shag lamps giving off an orange glow, enjoy items such as a sushi stack of tuna, salmon, and avocado ($16); flatbread options with lobster ($10) or short rib ($12); Mexican street corn pizza ($15); and meatballs served with polenta ($12). Other standouts are bacon-wrapped veal meatloaf; beef with exotic mushroom ragu, black truffle, and mac 'n' cheese ($27); and a Bourbon barbecue burger stacked with Vermont cheddar, bacon, and crisp fried onions ($16). The Foundry offers a bottomless brunch Saturday and Sunday.
Gianni's1601 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach
Since 1989, Gianni's has been paying homage to its owners' Italian roots through the traditional bounty of the boot-shaped nation. The Gentile family is at the heart of this operation, and it's likely one of its members will guide you through a menu of generous portions of Italian mainstays. Homemade soups such as pasta fagioli and minestrone ($7.95) remain Gianni's standouts, along with spaghetti and meatballs, homemade lasagna, and linguine with clam sauce ($20.95 each); signature chicken parmigiana ($26.95); eggplant rollatini ($26.95); and veal francese ($29.95). Gianni's special chicken — wrapped around a ball of spinach, garlic, cheese, mushrooms, and zucchini and topped with marsala sauce ($29.95) — is also not to be missed. There's no better way to finish your meal here than with a dessert of signature tiramisu or ricotta cheesecake. The restaurant recently acquired a liquor license, and its wooden bar now serves everything from bourbon to champagne and an extensive selection of Italian wines.
Le Vie Lebanese281 S. Pompano Pkwy., Pompano Beach
Dining at this destination restaurant is like taking part in a vibrant family meal: There's good food, drinks, and music in a buoyant atmosphere. Located in a strip mall on South Pompano Parkway, the family-owned La Vie Lebanese uses the gastronomic legacies of Lebanon and Morocco as inspiration for its menu and ethos. The space was built to resemble a lavish oasis — decorated with colorful lights, drapes, water fountains, and rich furnishings — and the design allows the South Florida breeze in through its open sides, creating the dining room’s exuberant mood. Visit Friday or Saturday, when the restaurant hosts a belly-dancing show during dinner service. Start your meal with La Vie salad, made with mixed greens, apples, red onions, arugula, grapes, walnuts, dried figs, and crumbled blue cheese ($14). Follow it with Moroccan-style seafood pie with vermicelli and mushrooms ($12). Or share an order of mezza royale ($30) — a generous platter of hummus, baba ghanouj, tabbouleh, and fattoush whipped up fresh daily and served with supple pita bread, along with hot portions falafel, fried kibbeh, cheese burak, spinach pies, and mini sfiha pies you can cover with a blanket of the house-made labneh. Then turn to the selection of kebabs and specialty dishes such as lamb tagine ($25) and Mediterranean snapper fillet with baked lemon potatoes ($27). Wash it all down with the thirst-quenching and bright mango juice ($6) or pomegranate lemonade ($7).
The Rusty Hook Tavern125 N. Riverside Dr., Pompano Beach
Ned Jaouhar and Kareem Lakchira, formerly of Gordon Ramsay's restaurant Cielo, lead this upscale-casual concept off the Intracoastal Waterway. The Rusty Hook Tavern adds a touch of the eclectic to Pompano Beach via a menu that fuses the duo's African culinary roots with myriad global influences. Jaouhar revitalizes the food of that continent through modern yet thoughtful dishes. Whether you're seated indoors or while imbibing craft cocktails on the deck that overlooks the quiet Intracoastal, begin your journey with crispy Brussels sprouts with bacon, balsamic vinegar, cashew-tahini crema, and raisins ($9) or pork belly accented with peanuts, spiced lentils, kimchee, and apple bacon chutney ($13). For main courses, try the signature lobster mac 'n' cheese with shrimp ($34), the crab-crusted baked mahi-mahi with coconut ginger broth ($32), or a scrumptious Moroccan half chicken with preserved lemons, artichokes, and olive tapenade ($24).