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Upscale Bonita Springs / Marco Island?

I'm organizing an event and am looking at Bonita Springs and Marco Island as potential locations. Would like to be someplace where people are able to break off on their own for dinners, and most will probably be looking for something more upscale.

Are there places which will fit the bill in either Bonita Springs or Marco Island? Are Naples or Fort Myers within reasonable driving range for a dinner, and if so, suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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  1. I don't recall anything I would call upscale in Bonita Springs.
    The crab shack on Bonita Beach Blvd. has great garlic crabs.
    We also went to a little beach front dive called Doc's. OK wings and a pretty good pizza. Great view.
    For upscale think Marco.

    1 Reply
    1. re: keysrat

      What about Buffalo Chips on Old 41? It calls itself "an upscale dive!" Great chow!

    2. There are several good places in the Bonita area. I would suggest Chops, Bonefish, Blu Water and I think a Ruth Chris is now open at Coconut Point. The Naples area has many fine restaurants that would satisfy upscale dining. Naples is within 15*20 minutes of Bonita or just have event in Naples !!!

      1. I ate at a place called Chops when I was in Naples last year. Upscale fish, steaks, some sushi. It was fantastic. There is also a Chops in Bonita Springs.

        1 Reply
        1. re: larfied

          I'll second (or third) Chops in Bonita Springs. Upscale, but not stuffy.

        2. Yeah, yeah, Chops, Pazzo, Yabba, Blue Water Bistro are all owned by the same corporation, Culinary Concepts. Whatever they do, they do well, but it all feels so ... scripted. Here's a truly unique idea for your event: a private cooking class and chef's dinner at the Robb and Stucky KitchenAid Culinary Center in Bonita Springs. The furniture retailer entered into a joint venture with the appliance company. Executive chef, Martin Murphy, conducts top-notch cooking classes and serves his creations for dinner. These dinners have good wines paired with them also. Go to www.robbstucky.com and click on Culinary Center for more information.

          I've attended some events there. The food was delicious. The interaction with the chef was priceless for an amateur cook like me. The experience was memorable. I can't wait to go back. Oh, and i didn't buy a thing!

          If you really want upscale, I can easily recommend Roy's in Bonita Springs (better than Naples) and Ruth's Chris. Other excellent choices are Escargot 41 in Naples, the best French food in all SW Florida, and The Tropical Reef in Naples, an intimate seafood restaurant featuring fresh local ingredients in classically innovative preparations.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Alto2

            "Yeah, yeah, Chops, Pazzo, Yabba, Blue Water Bistro are all owned by the same corporation, Culinary Concepts."

            While technically true, this is a bit misleading. The ownership of all these restaurants is local and each is unique (other than the two Chops in Bonita Springs and Naples).

            Your comment that the experience seems scripted might be true, but I don't find it detrimental -- no restaurant can serve quality food and provide good service day-after-day and not follow a "script." As I heard on chef state (and I paraphrase) "Creating a meal is an art, duplicating it over and over is a science."

            That being said, I would say the same goes for Roy's and Ruth Chris', at least as much.

            1. re: Alto2

              As a longtime winter resident of Bonita Springs (almost 18 winters!) my wife and I are longtime fans of Culinary Concepts especially Chops and Pazzo. We were delighted when they opened Chops in Bonita a few years back just a couple miles from our home. But alas there are problems there as well. We dined there last Sat. night (11/17/07) and left disappointed. I had the small filet and it was a horrible piece of meat - tough, trimed poorly and overdone - and at $26.50 with no side. My starter was the seared chilled tuna with wasabi & ginger. It arrived luke warm and was full of tough areas. My wife had the pot stickers which were bland and soggy. Worst of all, our entres arrived right after our appetizers did which is something that should never happen where the bill always tops $100 for two not counting drinks.

              Just a few days before that we dined at their new place, Blue Water at Coconut Point. The seared tuna appetizer was perfect but the accompanying sauces were bland. My wife had the 3 Crab California roll which was basically sushi. Not much taste and the sauces were tasteless. She also had the BLT salad which was pretty good but on a scale of ten about a six compared to the may "wedge" salads around. In prior trips we tried the BBQ basted bacon wrapped scallops(this dish does not work - too many things going on), Sugar Shack Shrimp(a copy of the excellent Bonefish Bang Bang Shrimp without any flavor), etc., etc. Sad to say the Blue Water Bistro is the worst restaurant in their little chain. A real disappointment.

              Culinary Concepts had the whole deal working a few years ago but the wheels have fallen off. As a true chowhound, it pains me to report that the most consistently good large restaurants in the area are all owned by Outback.

              Flemings is far superior to Chops (it was the other way around a few years ago). Roy's (the Bonita one) is by far the best high end chain rest. in the area with consistently great food. Carrabas Italian Grill is terrific and cheap. Bonefish is always the best high end fish in the area. And all these restaurants are within a five mile stretch of Hwy. 41 where I live.

              The best bet for a decent dining experience is with the many small chef owned restaurants in the area. I will post some suggestions soon.

            2. Pinchers Crab Shack is great for seafood but not what I would call upscale or is Doc's Beach house located on Bonita Beach. Definately agree with all the rest of the posters on Chops City Grill in Bonita. They have the best aged steaks anywhere. Its costly but very good & their seafood is good as well. They are located just off US 41 & Coconut Road in a shopping center & you can see it from the road.

              Roy's of Bonita Springs located in The Promenade is good as well as is Ruth's Chris. Know the Chef at Big Hickory Seafood & Marina on Hickory Blvd. heading towards Ft. Myers. Its very good & expensive but its not upscale. Its another great place for seafood & is located right on the bay. Bella Vita has excellent Italian, make sure you bring your credit card for this place, located at 24940 S. Tamiami Trail.

              1. Marco Island has a few upscale places such as Verdes (italian) and then a few in hotels along the beach.

                There's a place in the Marriott with fine dining and in the Hilton as well.

                1. Thanks for all the suggestions. I'm planning an event which will bring in ~150 professionals + family over a weekend. There's one free night during which folks like to have nice places to venture out for dinner on their own.

                  We were in Bonita Springs this weekend doing reconnaissance and tried Chops and Roy's. I fully understand what one poster refers to as the "scripted" feel to Chops. There is something very "corporate" about it. Nonetheless, the food was pretty good (my bone-in ribeye was great; wife's roast pork was unfortunately overcooked and dry; my heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad had good flavor but some firm, underripe tomatoes and similarly firm,grocery-store quality mozzarella; tuna tartare was good fish but somewhat overwhelmed by sweetness of the sauce; liked their wine list which had some nice selections and was pretty reasonably priced). One thing that was disappointing, in comparing it to sister restaurant Blue Water Bistro, is that the menus are awfully similar - other than being slightly more tilted toward seafood, Blue Water seemed to have much the same dishes as Chops.

                  Roy's the following night was not bad, but something of a disappointment. We started with a canoe appetizer for 2, sampling coconut shrimp, char siu chicken spring rolls, sichuan spare ribs, and beef & blue cheese ravioli. The shrimp coating completely hid the shrimp flavor (and also hid the tails); spring rolls were soggy instead of crispy; spare ribs were lacking in flavor; and the ravioli didn't seem to fit. My shumote (a type of pacific swordfish, lighter and less steak-y) with a bacon vinaigrette was good. A Maui salad was OK. Kids liked their stuff from the kids menu (a grilled salmon and the old standby, pasta w/ butter and parmesan). A starter plate w/ a mini quesadilla, and slices of apple, carrot and celery was much appreciated by them (and us) as well as edamame for the table (instead of bread). Talk about corporate or scripted, though - this place really feels like it's all by the numbers. I felt like I was at Disney World with the hard-cover laminated menus that looked like kids' school books.

                  Certainly looks like there's enough good eats to keep folks happy, even if it is a little formulaic. Any more recommended non-chain places for an upscale meal along this coast?

                  1. I forgot to mention Blu Fusion off of Collier in Marco Island and the Marco Polo Restaurant.

                    And I misspelled Verdi's.

                    1. The Ruth's Chris in Estero is beyond a shadow of a doubt the worst Ruth's Chris that I've ever eaten in, and I've dined in a bunch of them. Roy's is good, and the Chops menu can be rewarding if you stick to the beef and semi-Japanese fare. I would strongly recommend Andre's for steak and Truluck's for seafood in Naples proper, and when it comes to SW Florida French cuisine, Escargot 41 in Naples has no peer, even if it does sit almost next to a K-Mart! If you are going to decide on a place for a gathering, make sure to see what the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort (not the one on the beach, but the one @ Tiburon Country Club) has to offer, they may be a tad higher in price than some places, but their overall quality is superlative. Further, at their Lemonia restautrant, they have perhaps the best Sunday Brunch I've ever had, including lobster, sushi, any egg configuration known to man as well as fresh pasta, maybe thirty cheeses to taste and a live pianist, check out their website, it's just that good.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Lee34102

                        Thanks. Recently attended another much smaller event at the R/C Golf Resort. They seem not terribly interested in a big group and other resorts have been much more accomodating. Naples restaurant suggestions sound good. Naples - Bonita Springs is no more than about a 30 minute drive, no?

                        1. re: Frodnesor

                          Maybe even a little bit less, and it's an easy drive.

                          1. re: Frodnesor

                            They border each other so while it's not that hard, depending on traffic and where you're going, it could take as little as a few minutes or as long as an hour. Getting to downtown Naples from Bonita would take a lot longer than getting to a place in North Naples. Traffic during the height of the tourist season (starts earlier every year, but the thick of it is the holidays through Easter), is going to be much worse than traffic in July.

                        2. I love Blu Provence in Naples. One of the best French restaurants (outside of france) that i've been to. Their food/wine list is truly exceptional and the staff is great.

                          1. Also, for hotels have you looked into the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point? its actually a beautiful hotel and they have tons of large corporate events there. It's pretty centrally located as well (practically right across the street from Chops in Bonita, as well as coconut point shopping center!)

                            1 Reply
                            1. The Marriott on Marco Island (on the beach) does a real good job with business events. There is a shopping center across the street that has a good German/Austrian restaurant (Konrads), a real good Italian restaurant (Da Vinci's), and just across the way is Sasso's, which has a varied menu. These aren't over the top upscale, but nice places with good food.
                              Probably the most upscale place on the island is Sale Y Pepe's, in the Ocean Resort. Right on the beach with a very upscale environment. You could walk to from the Marriott if you wanted to. Great wine list too
                              I'd favor Marco over the Bonita Springs area if I were you. It's more manageable if people want to get out and about. And Naples is only 20 minutes away if you felt you needed to get there.
                              Plus Marco's beach is far superior to any others in the area.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: BCjr

                                Thanks - we were already planning to check out the Marco Island Marriott next.

                              2. If you happen to end up in Ft. Myers, which has the much larger area airport (RSW), there are several options in the Bell Towers shopping complex, which is a direct shot a couple of miles down Daniels Parkway. The big deal new restaurant there is Cru, very wine-oriented. Another more established place is Bistro 41, which has its detractors and is said to have gone thru ups and downs but I've always eaten well there. Not far away at 41 is a Bonefish Grill, owned by the same group as Roy's with really good food at moderate prices. My new favorite restaurant in Ft. Myers is Sasse's, with delicious Italian food utilizing a woodburning oven with ultrafriendly service and huge portions -- maybe the best eggplant parm I've ever had, among a night (and next day) of really tasty dishes.

                                Nearer Bonita, I've always had good experiences at Roy's. Their "butterfish" is the standout of their menu, but their 3-course special menu is a good value (is it now up to $33) and includes the option of the molten chocolate cake they do especially well. Chops is good, but stick to the steaks and chops -- we got talked into a whole catfish special once which disappointed.

                                There are a number of good, somewhat staid options in Naples, many already mentioned. Truluck's has a location that feels like an elegant hotel restaurant on or just off Fifth. The Tommy Bahamas has both indoor and outdoor seating and served me a superior pork chop, though there were service issues. One of my favorite places is the off-the-beaten-track Carribean-themed The Real Macaw, which serves upscale, really good, sometimes spicy dishes and starts you with some fantastic small baked cornbread madeleines/rolls (I can't think of the right name). Unique, and be aware, cash only. For a gulf specialty lunch or snack, be sure not to miss Grouper and Chips for just that.

                                Two longtime Naples/Ft. Myers posters are Revrend Andy and Val -- search for their postings the last couple of years for good advice in the area.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: nosh

                                  A very good culinary experience that Alto2 mentioned on Chowhound above is at Robb & Stucky Culinary Center -26501 S. Tamiami Trail Bonita Springs, Fl. 239-390-2222
                                  . It's not a restaurant with a fixed menu, rather it's intermittently open, more for rental for corporate functions of 20-300 people, and several days a week it's open for the public for excellent varied dinners with wines.

                                  Other unique gems are Naples Bha Bha-Persian food-get the mango shrimp appetizer, Escargot 41 for French, Preston's for Steaks, and in Estero, Blue Water Bistro for fish, and Ristorante Farfalla's for great Italian.

                                  Harolds in downtown Fort Myers is great.

                                  Marco has been getting mixed reviews on it's better dining.

                                  I love Blue Heron Inn on Isle of Capri-it's romantic, small pricey and make reservations.

                                  1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                                    Having now visited both I thought that Bonita Springs area had more, better choices than Marco. The upscale places recommended to us in Marco were all very old-school continental, and also very expensive (one place's entrees were all over $50). We ended up eating at Kurrents in the Marriott Marco Island where we were staying. It was decent but not a place I'd ever write home about. (Indeed I forgot to even update this thread with a report).

                                2. Wow! Most of my choices have already been mentioned here but I'll throw my 2 cents in.
                                  I believe Bonita Springs is the better location with more good choices available. Marco Island is more isolated and getting over the bridge in season can be murder.

                                  I'm sorry you didn't have a good experience at Roy's. However, they are a seafood restaurant and I usually shy away from their meat. I've generally found them to be quite consistent. However, they are a chain and I would recommend local restaurants not found elsewhere.

                                  My favorite restaurant in the whole Naples-Bonita-Ft. Myers area would be Cru, about 20 minutes north of Bonita Springs. It's got a hip atmosphere, excellent wine list, and cutting edge food.
                                  I also love Chops. In spite of the name, they have some excellent seafood, including a black grouper dish to die for. This is after all, the grouper coast. Lemonia, in the Ritz/Tiburon has excellent food. They may not want to host your event but I would certainly recommend it for a nice upscale dining experience. For French, I like Escargot 41 but closer to Bonita is Cote D'Azur, which is excellent. It's contemporary, not with a menu full of cream sauces. Another option not mentioned here is Evoo Bistro, attached to the Evoo Market. It's good contemporary cuisine with a nice atmosphere.
                                  Downtown Naples is about 20-30 minutes away. If people want to drive I would recommend Campiello as my first choice. I also like Cafe Lurcat, Bleu Provence, Bamboo Cafe, and USS Nemo.

                                  If you are here in season, I strongly urge reservations before everyone arrives.

                                  1. The food at Wyld's Cafe on Bonita Beach Rd is really good and somewhat upscale...more so than others on that road. Also, I'm sorry about your Roy's experience as it's usually good, but we only order the fish. There is an Italian restaurant in the Promenade possibly called Molina's, but not sure...I've heard good things about it. Just the other day someone was commenting on the restaurant at the Hyatt. There is also a Flemings Steak House on US41, I think near Vanderbilt Beach Road, but it's a chain owned by the same company as Roy's.
                                    Vincenzo's on Bonita Beach Rd. is Italian, attracts the older crowd, always packed, not great, but not bad either. The best part is it sits on the bay and you watch fish jumping constantly. They also have an outdoor screened patio.

                                    1. I neglected to mention Wyld's, which I like alot. They have a great calamari appetizer and Kurobuta pork chop entree. They often don't charge corkage if you bring your own wine. Vincenzo's may have a nice setting on the water but the menu is loaded with cream sauces. I prefer more contemporary Italian with a lighter touch. I've been to Molino's in the Promenade and wasn't impressed. I'd stick to Lemonia or Campiello for Italian.
                                      Tarpon Bay in the Hyatt Coconut Point is pretty good. Order the Asian style whole sea bass.
                                      I haven't been to Nektar in a couple years but it was excellent modern American cooking. Very expensive, in downtown Naples.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: RevrendAndy

                                        At this point we've decided on Bonita Springs - but I still may need to do a few reconnaisance missions! Really appreciate all the suggestions.

                                        Wyld's looks good.
                                        We stayed at the Hyatt Coconut Point and Tarpon Bay looked decent but we didn't eat there.
                                        Someone earlier mentioned Bleu Provence in Naples - can anyone else comment? Looks absolutely charming from the website.

                                        1. re: Frodnesor

                                          We just stayed the weekend (pleasure, not business) at Hyatt Coconut Point. Very nice accomodations, service and people. The four of us thought that the breakfasts in the hotel were excellent. I'm not even a breakfast guy, but they were great.

                                          If you truly want a great dining experience, check out the Naples Tomato on 41 and Bonita Beach Rd. Excellent wine list and phenomonal food. The lasagna is tremendous. You will not be disappointed.

                                          1. re: Frodnesor

                                            I'm glad someone finally mentioned Wild's Cafe - in all the years of vacationing in Bonita Beach and Naples area - Wilds is my favorite - fantastic, creative dishes, phenominal service, nice ambiance. We dine out a lot when we are down there, exploring new places, etc. - this one really stands out and is consistently excellent.

                                            1. re: Frodnesor

                                              Bleu Provence is the best in the area. CallJaques in advance and explain to him your special night. He'll take great care of you.

                                          2. Wow. Very interesting question ... and one that I wish I would have asked prior to visiting.
                                            That being said, and not being a "real" foodie, just someone who really likes good food, I'll tell you this:
                                            Went to a corporate event at the Marriott on Marco Island. I thought they did a fantastic job from the logistics side of catering. On the food end, I figured I could have gotten as good in many locations for breakfast, lunch or dinner...though the event I was there for had some fantastic speakers for each meal of the day throughout....
                                            Anyhoo.... we rented a three bedroom house with pool/jac for the first week, spent an evening "spying" at our resort...then went to the Mariott. We were referred from the Marriott (who had shabby food in their "normal" restuarants to their "best" Italian restaurant on the island. Marc, marco, anoton...seriously sorry that i can not remember the name of it. It was less than 2 miles from the resort. Either way, this was seven or eight months ago and I remember saying to my husband: this is the worst ghocchi I've ever had. He had soft-shell crab, at the beginning of the season, and they were quite good. As a matter of fact, that prompted me to order them at several restaurants in my hometown: Room 21 (good), Cuatro (awesome/excellent/great), the Ritz (as lunch, yach). But other than that, service, entree, selection, seasonal, etc was quite blah.
                                            We did a booze cruise out of Naples -- we decided to extend our stay -- and the food was awful but the experience was great. We felt like the illigetimate grandchildren of the rest of the patrons of the cruise. Good Fun!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: frankiewickerpark

                                              Da Vincis in Marco walk is amazing..the wood brick oven pizzas and the pastas are amazing...very authentic and reasonable prices...very nice....and Captin Bryans in MARCO walk is also amazingggg....the fish sandwhiches and outside seating in the beautiful plaza greattt combo..that Marco Walk looks amazing these days..really beautiful..also who doesnt love Marco Movies where u can order dinner and sit and watch a movie at the same time...very rare these days but very much enjoyed