If you're headed to the 29th-Annual Pompano Beach Seafood Festival on the beach near the Pompano Pier today, here is a quick guide to what you can expect.
At the beginning is Papa Hughie's Seafood World, a staple at the festival for 28 of the festivals 29 years and at the very end is Walker's Seafood. These two vendors topped my list as offering the best food at the festival. Now there is a lot of stuff in between but you can't go wrong with local restaurant Seafood World offering a raw bar and Walker's Seafood, a small caterer, and the only food vendor making cooked food to order.
What used to be a plethora of local restaurants showing off their favorite dishes has changed. Just like the small mom and pop stores have moved over for large chains like Target and Wal-Mart, the Seafood Festival was lined with commercial caterers much like you would see at the South Florida Fair. Now don't get us wrong, these businesses might be better able to cook for large crowds, but we still miss seeing more of the local fare.
One of the few local restaurants at the festival is Seafood World.
"This year we are trying something different. This is our first year having a raw bar," says Seafood World manager, Cassie Ganter. Gone is the blackened snapper and coconut shrimp and instead there are oysters on the half shell, stone crab claws, and conch fritters.
Seafood World is also offering a new twist on the typical raw bar fare. For $5 you get a raw oyster in a cup marinated with a shot of vodka, horseradish, cocktail sauce, lemon juice and tabasco sauce. You drink it all at once, roll it around your mouth and swallow. It's actually the cheapest alcoholic drink at the festival at $5, since all beer and hard liquor is $6.
Most of the food is from commercial caterers offering the usual fare of crab cakes, blackened salmon, Jambalaya, gator, conch balls, paella and of course the best two sides ever: fried sweet potatoes and fried green beans.
There are still a few small caterers where you'll find authentic paella made by chefs from Spain, or jerk chicken with a conch salad that was 'flying out the window'. But if you want your food cooked to order, Walker's on the north end fries up conch balls with a secret family sauce recipe, garlic fried crab, and lobster tails hot off the grill.
Prices range from $12 to $15 dollars for most of the meals and to top it off there is plenty of drinks, sunshine, and live music.
The 29th-Annual Pompano Seafood Festival continues today at on the beach just one block north of Atlantic Boulevard, at the Pompano Beach Pier, 222 N. Pompano Beach Blvd. from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults; kids under 12 get in free. Call 954-570-7785, or visit pompanobeachseafoodfestival.com. By Veda Jo Jenkins