PORT NECHES — Work on The Pompano continues as parts of the once vibrant club come to fruition.
The banquet hall, which seats 300 people, operates and takes reservations for large events like banquets and wedding receptions, co-owner Lance Bradley said.
The banquet portion of the property, located at 330 Twin City Highway in Port Neches, is located at the rear of the building, while the restaurant is at the front of the venue.
The restaurant part is not open yet.
“We’re about to start renovating the entire front end of the building,” Bradley said. “We hope it will open by the first of June. We’re going to do a pretty big remodel and we’re excited about the idea and the concept.
Details of what customers can expect to see in the restaurant are unavailable, but Bradley said it will have a more modern look.
Food-wise, Chef Chuck Harris is hard at work.
A graduate of Nederland High School, Harris has worked with Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Post Oak Grill and Beaumont Country Club. He worked as Executive Chef at L’Auberge Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles at Jack Daniels Bar and Grill, then became Executive Banquet Chef, also winning several awards there.
He also worked in catering at the Elegantè Hotel and in 2008 he helped open the Spindletop Steakhouse in Beaumont. In 2009, he was selected to represent the State of Texas in the Great American Seafood Cook Off which aired on Food Network and placed in the top five.
Harris has been in the restaurant business for a few years and was a private chef at the Marsh Club, an upscale private hunting club in Louisiana.
“I fed some of the wealthiest in the state of Louisiana,” Harris said.
The chef is also a culinary arts teacher at Nederland High School. When he hired, he had six to seven students. The program now has over 60 students.
Last year he had two students who made it to the national level in competition and in the coming weeks there will be three who made it to the state level in competition.
Harris will continue to work as an instructor with the NHS and as a chef at the Pompano.
“The goal is to be the absolute first restaurant in the Golden Triangle, to put it on the map,” he said.
He is passionate about sustainability and getting local produce. He wants customers to know “this honey is from here”, “this olive oil is from Texas” or “the catfish is American”.
Another aspect of the Pompano is the swimming pool.
Bradley said the pool has been redone and will open in May. You can book your pool pass before March 31 and save 10%. For pricing and more information on pool passes, call 409-727-3111.
There is still some landscaping to complete and the snack area will remain the same this summer with upgrade plans down the road. Long-range plans involve adding a palapa.
Bradley said he’s only heard positive feedback about The Pompano’s return.
The owners of The Pompano are Lance Bradley, Bert Lamson, Jon Carona, Robby Muse and Jill Pierce, who also own Neches River Wheelhouse.
Bradley has a long interest in The Pompano and has already spoken to Ed Hughes (former owner) about acquiring the property, but the timing was not right for either party.
When the business closed, the group inquired about buying it.
The Pompano had been around for decades, hosting banquets, dinners, club meetings, special occasions and more, while outside was the pool with the iconic bridge above.
But with 2017 came Hurricane Harvey and devastating floods. The owners at the time decided to make some changes, opened it up to the public, tweaked the recipes slightly, and changed the name to Benton’s, an old family name.
But last year was difficult and finally the COVID-19 pandemic factored in the closure after 45 years in May 2020.
When the new owners purchased the business, they also acquired all rights to the name and all proceeds, Bradley said.
The Pompano is open to the public except for the pool, which requires pool passes.