Opened in 1995, Pompano Joe's Seafood House quickly became a favorite eatery among locals and tourists alike. Approaching its 18th year, the colorful Destin icon has been recognized as one of the world's best beach restaurants by one of cable's top networks.
For days before, the restaurant’s Facebook page was hyping a visit from the Travel Channel.
Known for its combination of food, fun and flair, Pompano Joe’s was featured as one of the best beach restaurant's in the world, according to the production crew, which also made stops at the Donut Hole in Destin and the Flora-Bama Lounge on the state line.
The camera crew's first stop at Pompano Joe’s was the bar for one of their signature island drinks.
Veteran bartender Harley Van Hyning has been shaking up tasty libations for nine years at the colorful beachside watering hole, and he's more than happy to mix up a fresh strawberry daiquiri for the thirsty camera crew.
The next stop for the crew, which could not say they were from the Travel Channel as they were third party contractors, was the kitchen.
Armed with his whisk and spatula, Roberto Hernandez, has been delighting Pompano Joe's crowds for 15 years as executive chef. Pompano Joe's combines Caribbean-inspired fare and traditional seafood dishes, creating a unique culinary experience that keeps regular customers returning and allows for a revolving-door of new customers as well.
Hernandez puts on a cooking show of sorts — demonstrating how to make his gumbo for the group of onlookers, adding the shrimp, peppers and spices at just the right time.
"This is the first time I've had anyone film my recipes," said Hernandez.
The always-humble chef said he wasn't nervous, but he and his kitchen staff were "excited" to play host to the cameras.
Finishing the kitchen scene, general manager Roy Moore led the cameras downstairs to the outside bar area where picnic tables are set up overlooking the beach.
Before lunch was served, the crew got shots of people playing volleyball, laying out and just enjoying the beautiful Destin afternoon.
The overall theme of the day was a fun, party kind of vibe, as expressed by guests like Patrick Ratford.
"I had only vacationed here … moving here kind of started out as a joke," said Ratford, who moved here seven months ago from Ohio. He was among the crowd of about two dozen on hand for a quasi-taste test.
The hungry guests gathered at the tables and were treated to some of Pompano Joe's most mouth-watering dishes including the gumbo that Chef Hernandez just cooked up in the kitchen and tuna dip.
“It’s literally the ultimate beach shack. We could not have not come here,” said a member of the production crew, who was familiar with the Emerald Coast.