Written by Beach Vacation Rentals’ past guests Julie and Val Vikmanis
The following is a set of reviews of some of the restaurants we’ve eaten in during our time since first renting from Elaine way back in 2000. Our “Best Bets”—sure winners, some within walking distance of Elaine’s properties, are restaurants that her guests consistently tell her they enjoyed very much.
Some of you may well be satisfied to just take their word for it, and schedule your meals at these sure pleasers. For others who want to know as much as possible about what’s around and make your own choices, the Complete List of more than 75 places will be coming soon. It is divided roughly by restaurant type, e.g. Seafood, Italian, Pizza, etc., and within these restaurant types the places are arranged by distance from Elaine’s properties, closest first and generally showing places north of Atlantic Blvd and then south.
The following restaurants are ones that Elaine’s guests consistently tell her they’ve really enjoyed. They are all fairly close to her rental properties and we think you’ll like them too.
The Rusty Hook Tavern
Fish, Seafood and Steak
On water, very casual, in and out-door dining
125 N. Riverside Drive , Pompano Beach
And we start right off with a place I have yet to try—but Elaine tells me it’s swell and it’s right across the Intracoastal from Pompano Yacht and Beach Club. I intend to go asap. Here’s what I understand about the place: They have live music sometimes, their food is very good, the atmosphere can’t be beat, and no one will even look crosswise at you for wearing jeans with holes in them. You get the picture. Fun, fun, fun.
Italian Seafood and chops
Waterview, Classy dining in or out on the Intracoastal Waterway
101 N. Riverside Drive, just East across the Atlantic bridge from Houston’s and south of Rusty Hook.
Perhaps because of its name, I think of this as a seafood place—and it is, but it’s also an Italian place. In fact, it bills itself as Italian seafood and chops. The chops are pretty much of an afterthought though since they only list 3 items under the chops portion of their menu and one of them is chicken. So this is really an Italian seafood restaurant since most of their pasta dishes are pasta with seafood, etc, etc. Whatever, the place is really good. The atmosphere is very nice especially if you take a table on their outside deck and watch the big boats come and go when the bridge periodically goes up to let them through. They also have live music. Just check their website or give them a call to find out when. So make a reservation for one of those nights and enjoy everything the place has to offer—good food, good views, good music.
American standards on waterfront, casual, solidly good, mid-range
2821 E. Atlantic Blvd, Pompano Beach
I wanted to hate this place–it’s just way too successful, always crowded–but I just can’t. I’ll admit to being something of a food snob. So any place that’s part of a chain and forever packing in hordes of people just seems like it couldn’t possibly do really good food. But Houston’s does. There’s nothing unique here but everything that is here is really done well. If you order tuna rare, it’s rare. The Caesar salad has an initially disconcerting sweet taste, but by the second or third bite you’re very happy with it too. If they are featuring their artichokes with dipping sauce, for sure you have to order them. Best artichokes I’ve ever tasted. In fact, all their sides are wonderful—like their red cabbage with goat cheese. Mmmm good. We’ve never taken anyone here who hasn’t liked it. One friend who’s particularly alert to any “fishiness” that might spell less than fresh seafood or fish, pronounced the grouper the freshest, tastiest she’s ever eaten. My brother-in-law, if given his druthers, would never eat anywhere else while he’s here.
A word of warning! They don’t take reservations, and arrivals after 7pm can be a two-hour wait at the bar. The trick is getting an outdoor table without promising your firstborn. One way to beat the almost insurmountable odds is to line up for lunch at 11:25 a.m. to be admitted when they open at 11:30. (If you wait until 11:45 during peak season the outdoor tables will have long since been filled.) Or go late on a weeknight—after 9 is probably good, especially if the weather is ok but not great. Their menu is the same for brunch, lunch or dinner (with a few announced specials) and the servers are so efficient but so friendly you won’t even know that you’ve been served your meal, had dessert, and even lingered a bit and all in an hour or less. The formula works and the place is a well-oiled gastronomic machine.
Phil’s Heavenly Pizza
Pizza, Wings, Burgers
2647 E. Atlantic Blvd, Pompano Beach
You just HAVE to go to this place. It’s part of the local “color” and has been here for decades. The name Phil’s “HEAVENLY” pizza is more than a hint. Whether you are religious or not, it’s a must see. Besides having the best pizza in the city, it actually has a CHAPEL inside of the pizzeria. Inside, you won’t see the working chapel unless you go down the hallway, but you will see bible quotes posted in with the fun and fresh decor. Your pizza box will definitely have “Praise the Lord” printed along the edge of the box. Outside, they created a beautiful “Garden of Eden” where you can sit and eat among beautiful potted flowers and tropical plants. Take it any way you want, but its a fun place to see and enjoy, and a unique part of the local “flavor.”
Golf Course sports bar/restaurant, American standards, casual, inexpensive
1103 N. Federal Hwy, Pompano Beach
On Pompano’s Greg Norman-designed Public Golf Course, Galuppi’s is a real gem. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and they have a lovely outdoor dining area as well as indoor digs where you can watch your favorite teams at the sports bar. The menu is extensive and very reasonable. Even the dinner menu only has two mains (steaks) that exceed $20. Also a large kid’s menu for $5 for those under 10 and a special lunch menu for $5.99 with entrée, salad and side. You can’t beat that. Sunday brunch is plentiful, attractive and the best brunch buy in town.
Sports bar and restaurant, kid-friendly, burgers
2510 E. Atlantic Blvd, Pompano Beach
Part of a large local chain, Flanigan’s is another of those all-around good places—good food, good fun, good sports on TV, good for kids, good prices. Huge menu, large portions, all good. They even have an aquarium to entertain antsy children.
Friendly, always packed, good value if you order from the menu
1601 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach
This place does a fabulous business so be sure to reserve ahead if you don’t want a wait. It’s on the north side of Atlantic going toward Hwy 95. Beware the addictive garlic rolls drenched in butter. More than once we’ve eaten so many before even starting our meal that we could barely make a dent in our equally wonderful dinners. The place is pleasant and warm without being kitschy and the staff know what they are doing. All the Italian classics are here and they have terrific meatballs. Some of the nightly specials can be pricy, much pricier than the standard menu, so ask about cost before blithely ordering or you could be in for a surprise—undoubtedly worth the higher price, but best to know in advance. Best also to be hungry when going to lunch or dinner here. Portions are large and food is hearty. Save room for it before you’ve filled up on their terrific garlic rolls.
Peking Duck House
Reasonable, very casual eat in, order online, delivery
1200 E. Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach
This place is a ways down Atlantic toward Hwy 95 and is probably the best Chinese restaurant in the immediate area. Ambiance is a bit drab and darkish but the food is good. Elaine is especially fond of the Shrimp in lobster sauce and the Moo Shu pork.
If you are a real Chinese food fan, as Val is, and don’t mind driving about 10 miles or so we also suggest a couple of places on State Rd 7 just north and south of Commercial–Hong Kong City Barbeque and Silver Pond respectively. Hong Kong City (Val’s favorite among all the restaurants listed in this guide) has great dim sum with an enormous, highly varied menu. Check out the pork riblets and their chicken feet. We find these places exceptional and worth the drive. Here are their websites: http://www.hkcitybbq.com/ https://www.yelp.com/biz/silver-pond-lauderdale-lakes
Japanese Buffet with sushi, very reasonably priced
1157 S. Federal Hwy, Pompano Beach
Décor at this mammoth buffet in the same shopping area as Stein Mart and Walmart is quite a few notches above the typical buffet and so is the enormous selection of sushi and other delights. There is a large selection of cold seafood, including lobster on some occasions and hibachi grill with steak, shrimp, noodles, etc. The only complaints seem to be wait times in peak season and peak dining hours, and concomitant slow service. The price is definitely right ($30 for two buffets and two Japanese beers) and everyone should be able to find something they will enjoy. Generally regarded by Elaine’s guests as one of the best, upscale buffets they’ve ever been to.
Aruba Beach Café
Quintessential beachside dining, very casual, moderate
1 Commercial Blvd, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Think Florida sunshine. Think Ft. Lauderdale. Think “Where the Boys Are” Think margaritas. Think MaiTais. Think Daiquiris. Think burgers and fries. Think girls in bikinis and sarongs. Think guys with rippling muscles. Think sand, beach, sun. That’s Aruba beach, probably what about ninety percent of the tourists in town came for and what half of the residents stayed for. Big ocean views, large restaurant with live music many nights, eat indoor/outdoor, three bars throughout, very eclectic, casual beach crowd from families with small children to bikers to businessmen and boaters. It’s all here. Elaine’s guests consistently rate this as among their all-time favorite places in the area. The menu is extensive and the food is good with large portions. You can go for a walk on the beach or fishing pier after you have your meal, or explore the rest of the fun Lauderdale-by-the-Sea community it anchors. Note: If you want all of this, or most of it, but with a bit more panache, keep on going up the road to the places right on Ocean Blvd on the Ft. Lauderdale Beach strip beginning with S3
Cavernous bar and restaurant with big time happy hour crowds, raw bar
2781 E. Atlantic Blvd, Pompano Beach
Outdoor seating here is at a premium especially during happy hour. The large bar fills up to overflowing as well. Dining tables and booths are, however, nicely spaced out and the raw bar is convivial and inviting. Décor is interesting with two large murals on the walls and an industrial feel, classier than that sounds. Elaine and I stopped for Happy Hour one day to discuss adding this guide to her Beach Vacation Rentals website. We had lovely oysters for a mere $8 a half dozen, a great price for oysters that usually command prices of $3 per shell in most places. Wine was $5 for a glass that usually goes for 8. And the 12” pizza was similarly marked down from standard menu prices. It proved a tasty, interesting treat with pork belly chunks seasoned with ginger, a kind of Asian pizza. The regular menu is divided into raw bar, pizza, wood-fire grill (from burger to filet), small plates, salads, only 4 entrees 2 of which are pastas, and a nice selection of sides. Though Happy Hour is only 4-6 M-F, it appears that the place has an emphasis on convivial gatherings for groups that like a wide range of choices and opportunity to share. Warning: All this conviviality can reach deafening decibels when the place is packed during the happy hour crush and the high ceilings echo the crowd noise.
2772 E. Atlantic Blvd, Pompano Beach
Largest breakfast menu and most popular breakfast place with Elaine’s guests.