In the past year, Pompano Beach has become a place of interest in South Florida. Some say it could even become one of the area's next seaside vacation destinations thanks to Pompano Beach Fishing Village, which will include two new custom-built oceanfront restaurants — the Pompano Beach House and Oceanic Dining — set to open next year.
Since 2009, more than $10 million has been invested to revitalize and modernize Pompano Beach Boulevard between Atlantic Boulevard and NE Fifth Street, with projects such as replacing and widening sidewalks, adding new pedestrian light fixtures, adding on-street parking spaces, upgrading an existing playground and installing exercise equipment, and creating inviting gathering areas for private and public events.
With the opening of eateries such as the Rusty Hook Tavern — as well as two new breweries, 26 Degree Brewing and Bangin' Banjo — lots of change is already underway, much of it thanks to initiatives from the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to bring new businesses to the easternmost stretch of Atlantic Boulevard.
Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't some really amazing restaurants to check out right now in Pompano Beach. The city's charming neighborhood districts have been home to a number of hidden-gem-type establishments, many of them old mainstays that have been around for more than two decades, a testament to Pompano's close-knit community.
Here they are — the best restaurants (old and new) in Pompano Beach:
8. Cafe Maxx
2601 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach. Call 954-782-0606, or visit cafemaxx.com.
Chef Oliver Saucy and partner Darrel Broek are the men behind this award-winning New World restaurant in Pompano Beach, open since 1984. It may be an old establishment, but that doesn't mean the dining scene is as well. The menu changes nightly, showcasing dishes that can cover everything from jerk-spiced sea scallops and Szechuan barbecued tuna with lobster and peanut fritters to a balsamic vinegar-mustard-glazed veal chop with goat cheese-chive mashed potatoes, herb-crusted chicken breast with mushroom and pea risotto, or caviar pie and crispy sweetbreads. Desserts such as banana spring rolls and the vanilla bean crème brûlée are equally alluring. Thirsty? You can pick from as many as 300 wines by the bottle and many more by the glass, making this white-tablecloth establishment serving inventive American fare one of our favorite picks for a romantic evening out.
7. Burgers & Suds
360 SE 15th St., Pompano Beach. Call 954-772-8007.
This is the neighborhood burger joint we all wish we had in our own neighborhood. As the name states, the menu is the perfect marriage of inventive burgers and craft beer. The owner covers it all, with pub-style fare taking a slight gourmet twist, with massive New England-style lobster rolls stuffed with jumbo hunks of meat slathered in a creamy, herb-specked dressing to plump, juicy burgers slapped between grilled Krispy Kreme
6. Cypress Nook
201 E. McNab Road, Pompano Beach. Call 954-781-3464.
If you like German food and bier, one of the best places in South Florida to find both just so happens to be in Pompano Beach. The place is called Cypress Nook Bavaria Haus Restaurant, a charming little German-American place located off a neighborhood side street. The menu offers all the usual German dishes, made from scratch by a German family. You'll be surprised to find curry listed under entrées, and often as a special. It could throw you off-guard if you aren't familiar with Germany's traditional plebeian dish of sliced pork sausage drenched in a curry-spiced tomato sauce. Wiener schnitzel — breaded and fried cutlets of chicken, pork, or veal — are prepared three ways here. Jager is the most popular, meat paired with a mushroom, shallot, bacon, and onion-infused gravy. Zigeuner style is lighter, a Spaten beer-based gravy with red and green peppers. The Holstein is the heartiest of all, a choice of anchovy- or caper-spiked gravy served over cutlets topped with a sunny-side-up fried egg. It's excellent here, especially with a side of giant potato pancakes, each a starchy mass of fried potatoes, flour, and
5. J. Mark's Restaurant
1007 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-782-7000, or visit jmarksrestaurant.com.
In 2007, this classic neighborhood American tavern opened its first location in Pompano Beach, and thanks to much success, a Fort Lauderdale location followed later that summer. People just love it, crowds loud and boisterous swarming for entrée-sized salad, bowls of pasta, massive steaks, or a modern seafood dish. The best part about this place is that there's always something for everyone. The menu will look most familiar to the Houston's crowd, replete with ribs and rib eyes, crispy walnut shrimp and chicken tenders, hickory burgers and sliders. It's all fairly affordable too, even with a menu that boasts steaks aged for 28 days and cut daily by an in-house butcher.
4. Fish Shack
2862 NE 17th Ave., Pompano Beach. Call 954-586-4105.
Fish Shack is definitely a locals' type of place. It's also the type of place where, if you don't know the area well or have smartphone GPS to guide you, can be extremely hard to find. Once you do, however, this 600-square-foot eatery will become one of your favorites. The place seats no more than 30, on a busy afternoon patrons crammed elbow to elbow for a taste of Floribbean-style fare at its best. The bar serves nothing but wine, lemonade, ice tea, soda, Budweiser, and Bud Light. Walls are done up in proper South Florida style: adorned with fishing net, buoys, and a giant marlin hung between a mahi and mackerel. 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. 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-and-chips entrée from the Fishermans' Platters is the most popular dish, 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. 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. The conch salad is our pick, a large serving chock-full of bite-sized diced conch, pepper, and onion dressed in a sugar-sweetened lime bath that gives it an appealing — if a tad less citrusy — zing.
3. Cafe La Buca
451 S. Cypress Road, Pompano Beach. Call 954-786-0778.
To many Americans, Italian food is boring. Period. But that whole mantra changes the moment you step into Cafe La Buca. The Spina family — including Giorgio, Marco, Maria, and Simona — have been mesmerizing diners with creative, vibrant fare and old-world hospitality direct from Naples. The only bad thing is that there isn't more room — it's a tiny space with just a few tables. And it's certainly not the most alluring place. But what it doesn't have in looks it makes up for in the kitchen. The menu serves classic Neapolitan cuisine with dishes that change almost daily and range from wood-fired pizzas and homemade pasta to fresh seafood, grilled steak, risottos, and lamb. If you're looking for homemade Italian fare in a friendly, relaxed environment, this is your new favorite place.
2. Calypso Restaurant & Raw Bar
460 S. Cypress Road, Pompano Beach. Call 954-942-1633, or visit calypsorestaurant.com.
Got a hankering for some marinated, pounded, and "scorched" conch? A craving for chicken curry stuffed in roti? Feeling in the mood for mahi, fried up fresh and squirted with lime? If so, head straight to Calypso. Casual and ultraclean, the pub serves Caribbean fare to those who have had it with local dives. Just watch what time you go: If you pull up to Calypso Restaurant & Raw Bar on a Saturday evening, the parking lot will be empty. The lights will be off. And there will be no one waiting for a table. This is not a bad sign, however. The longtime Pompano Beach restaurant hasn't held weekend hours for close to a decade. It doesn't matter if it's in or out of season. Calypso is open Monday through Friday only. Owners Chuck and Lora Ternosky like it that way. After 25 years in business, the restaurant has garnered such a devout local following that it doesn't need to cash in on a weekend swell. And judging by the five-star ratings on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google, and Urban Spoon, patrons like it that way too.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. The Rusty Hook Tavern
125 N. Riverside Drive, Pompano Beach. Call 954-941-2499, or visit TheRustyHookTavern.com.
Rusty Hook Tavern is only a year old, but that doesn't mean it doesn't fit right in with some of the older classics. The upscale-casual waterfront concept is delivered by a trio of industry veterans — Ned Jaouhar, Kareem Lakchira, and Andy Patton — who met in 2007 with the opening of the Boca Raton Resort's Cielo, an Italian-focused spot under the aegis of celebrity restaurateur Gordon Ramsay and helmed by Angela Hartnett, his Michelin-starred protégé. As a result, everything here is quite inventive, a menu made for sharing and indulging alike, paired with a short list of cocktails and craft brews that rotates frequently. A sort of small-plates prophet, Jaouhar splits the menu into four sections, starting with "nibbles and bites" — sharing plates for the tapas-inclined. Tidbits get you started for a reasonable price and currently include graham-cracker-encrusted calamari, lobster-stuffed oysters, and the daily ceviche. It continues with "farm to table" selections and "house specialties," both of which feature a lot of fresh fish. Think pomegranate-glazed mahi or lobster tagliatelle. The location isn't bad either, right off the Intracoastal Waterway and just a block or two from the beach. On a balmy winter evening, the patio deck is packed and offers uninterrupted views of the water, as does the interior dining area, where you'll find a cooler, slightly less raucous reprieve.
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.