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Eating in Naples, Florida

Hi there,

Taking my wife to Naples for our 5 year anniversary next month. We are big foodies and could use some guidance as to lunches/dinners. Staying at La Playa Resort.
It doesn't have to be over the top pricey, but has to be great food. Here are some places I have been reading about:
Chop's City Grill
BHA BHA Persian Bistro
IM Tapas

thank you in advance!
PS - it can be pricey...

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  1. Hello! Trulucks is outstanding and I think you both will really enjoy it. You might consider Tropical Reef (closer to the hotel) The Turtle Club (on the same street as the hotel and beachside) Flemings (also a fabulous choice) and Bayside is an excellent place for lunch. Hope that helps and if you want any more advice about Naples, you're welcome to contact me direct! http://www.ShannonLefevre.com

    1. You have some time, so I'd search out the recommendations of two of the local 'hound contributors, Revrend Andy and Val. And besides the local newspapers, I was just turned onto a local blog on blogspot called "AnInsatiableAppetite."

      I visit Ft. Myers every season, and if you are up in that area my favorite place is Sasse's, a family-run place with a woodburning oven and great food. Last season, our favorite high-end meal at a very reasonable price was at Wyld's Cafe, which is just north of Naples on Bonita Springs. They also have a much more casual sister restaurant called Crust.

      Chops is good and has a lively bar scene. If you don't have a Roy's where you are from, we always seem to get to the one in an upscale shopping complex in Bonita and I'm always impressed with both the food and service. For a chain, I've also really enjoyed my meals at Bonefish Grill. Truluck's seemed to me to be almost like eating in an elegant formal hotel restaurant, but the food was good. I still remember an excellent thick grilled pork chop I had at Tommy Bahama's a couple of years back. A bit off the beaten track and hard to find the first time is a fun Carribean-themed restaurant, complete with large birds, called The Real Macaw. For lunch, be sure to get to Grouper & Chips early in your stay -- you'll probably go back.

      1. I've heard really great things about the restaurant right there in La Playa, called Balleen, I think that's it. I believe it offers overlooks the Gulf, too. You might consider checking that out...have not dined there but a co-worker and her husband won a weekend getaway there and she could not stop talking about it. You've received some other great recs here also.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Val

          Baleen has the best tropical ambiance of any restaurant in the SW Florida area. I have had lunch and dinner there many times. The food can be spectacular and then the next time quite unmemorable. The uneveness of the food and service has always been a problem for this Baleen (there is another in Miami).

          If nothing else, do drinks there and dine somewhere else.

          Truluck's is an awesome restaurant. I would only go there if you will do seafood as that is their specialty and they do it spectacularly. The service is impeccable. They are a small chain, not some industrial chain like Darden or Outback. I'd recommend the Brazilian Pacu Fish Ribs for something different. My last time I had the Jalapeno salmon which is one of the best entree's I've ever eaten, anywhere. (and I've been to per se, french laundry, la grenouille, etc etc) The salmon has blue crab stuffing, is wood grilled and has a jalapeno bearnaise sauce. My husband loved the scallops. Trulucks operates is own fishing fleet south of Naples so the local fish is perfect.

          I love Cafe Lurcat as well. The upstairs dining room is warm and lovely with murals in the style of Chagall. Stunning. Great side dishes. Roasted cauliflower is wonderful. Excellent wines. Donuts for dessert. Bar downstairs is lots of fun.

          I've grown weary of Campiello. I feel they are coasting right now and in need of a transfusion. A fun evening after dinner can be to bar or champagne hop from Campiello to Handsome Harry's to Tommy Bahama, which will almost feel like slumming after the above places, but is fun and a favorite of mine.

          Sasse's has pretty good food, I ate there a few weeks ago but it is still hampered by a hideous location and indifferent interior and grotesque portions. It has a following in Fort Myers, which desperately needs some better restaurants at this time.

          Mangia Bene LilMsFoodie

          1. re: LilMsFoodie

            I'm a big fan of Sasse's and thus not a completely objective judge, but I think they've gone a long way to make their portions more manageable. Yes, the salads are still huge -- when we ordered the Ceasar (at about $12) it came with about four slices of garlic toast in lieu of the usual small croutons and fed four adults and two kids as a starter. But the entrees have been downscaled -- the pork tenderloin special was only about a half dozen slices from the small round, and my veal marsala was about four pounded scallopini instead of six the year before. The wonderful eggplant parm, some of the best I've ever had, filled a dinner plate rather than the former serving platter. Still generous and a good value, but no longer the laughably huge impossible portions they used to serve, which probably helps explain why they abandoned their $6 split charge. Service is still incredibly friendly and personal, from the owner and wife to the young-looking culinary graduate chef to the servers, and while the location is in a plain-looking strip mall in between a couple of large hospitals it has the advantage of easy free parking and widely spaced tables. Looking forward to going there when I visit Ft. Myers in January.

            1. re: nosh

              Hey Nosh, there is no way it would be worth a drive of over 45 miles to go to your restaurant, Sasse's. They are about to lose most of their clientele, I believe, when the one hospital moves south to its new location. In my experience there, over 10 years or more, Sasse's main draw was the docs and outpatients and visitors at SW Florida Regional hospital. With the crime rate escalating in the city of Fort Myers, this is a place to avoid. They need to move.

              1. re: LilMsFoodie

                Look, when I first mentioned Sasse's I started with "if you are in Ft. Myers" -- I did not recommend a 45-minute drive during rush hour. For a fine dinner near Naples that is not overpriced nor part of a chain, my top recommendation is Wyld's, which lexpatti agrees with. Finally, while Sasse's is located between two major hospital complexes, they only started opening for lunch last season -- up until then it was dinner only. They do not rely on the hospitals for most of their clientele (though medical practices do occupy their attached conference room for dinner-meetings frequently) and the area is nowhere near the highest crime areas closer to downtown. Finally, it is not "my" restaurant, I'm just a fan and loyal patron. Why the vitriol? You remarked initially that they serve pretty good food. Did you have an unfortunate experience near there??

                1. re: nosh

                  No vitriol. The thread header asks for Naples. You just keep recommending Sasse's each time the SW Florida area comes up. I don't blame you, Fort Myers is pretty sparse for non-chain restaurants. The food is ok but not anything to get all crazy for, at least in my opinion. No poor experience, just nothing special. Doctors eat dinner too, especially if they have to do rounds or get off surgery and each time I've been there I've seen them in their scrubs. This is my home and that area is quite dangerous, 1/2 block either side of Evans.
                  I also happen to prefer a place with ambiance. Different strokes. Won't comment to you again on it.

                  On another note: Wyld's has been closed for the summer and will open soon. Had dinner at their sister restaurant last Saturday and it was totally dead. Maybe 4 tables during the 1 1/2 hrs we were there. Food was ok, server was competent but it didn't go the distance to make it worth driving 1/2 hr to get there. Dinner for two with wine was around $120 plus tip so it was not terribly expensive. My husband had the pork osso bucco and it was very tender so yours might have been a mistake, or we were just lucky. LMF

                  1. re: LilMsFoodie

                    Bite does some dishes well. It's less expensive than Wyld's and not a restaurant I would recommend as a dining experience for a visitor to Naples. I do believe that Wylds is worth the drive, but only to someone with more than a few days in Naples as there are other options that are closer.

        2. When visiting Naples each year, my absolute fav is Wylds Cafe in Bonita Springs. The food is outstanding/creative (I'm always disappointed that I can only order so much), service is phenominal, and ambiance is very nice.

          1. We have just returned from week in Naples and ate lunch and dinner out every night. During all that time, we only found one restaurant we'd go back to on our next trip and that was USS Nemo. Interesting room with lots more energy than we saw in most Naples places. Food is seafood with an Asian bent and was excellent. For lunch, I had Tuna Tataki and Shrimp Tempura Bento the first time and Salmon Sashimi and Grouper Tempura when we went back. Husband had Grouper that was so good, he had it twice. Some nice people at the next table recommended Trulucks but we never got there and it's on my list for next time. I.M Tapas was recommended on Chowhound and was a good choice for us. We thought the pork skewer dish was the best of all we had, the calimari was least interesting. All in all, we had 6 or 7 tapas and a very good time. We had $25 gift certificate from restaurant.com so we just kept ordering. I loved the risotto and salad at Brio in Waterside Center. Husband was not as impressed with what he ordered.

            We were underwhelmed by Capiellos which was not as special as it was pricey. Naples Tomato had great lasagna but nothing else was very good. Go figure. We walked into and out of Grouper & Chips because it just seemed too greasy. Went to St. George and the Dragon instead and got seafood there. Breading on oysters was too thick but it was fine on grouper. Tried Watermark Grille one night when it was raining too hard to continue on Tamiani Trail. Lobster and Orange Roughy were ok.
            We had lunch first day at Crust Bistro and it was just ok, too. It's owned by same chef as Wylds Bistro and as a result, I couldn't sell husband on Wylds even though it was highly recommended. Maybe next time.

            All in all, we didn't think Naples was much of a food town; you have to work hard to find someplace wonderful. But it was a great trip.

            1 Reply
            1. re: yahooer

              Agree with lexpatti about the excellent Wyld's Cafe -- great service, really tasty food, good value. Topnotch. Luckily, we went there before trying the sister restaurant, the more casual Crust. Some items were very good -- the flatbread pizza with Italian meats, the mushroom dressing that came alongside the less than tender but huge pork shank -- while others were quite unimpressive.

            2. Campiello's has been my favorite Naples restaurant for years. My last meal was in April and I found it as good as ever. Hopefully, quality isn't falling off. I would still give it a go. Trulucks, Lurcat, and Chops are also good choices. USS Nemo has excellent fusion seafood. If you have to have steak I recommend the Strip House. I've eaten at Baleen once, last spring, and had a terrific meal. It's a beautiful setting serving terrific seafood, but if they are inconsistent, as reported by LilMsFoodie, you should be wary. The Bay House also has a beautiful setting on the Cocohatchee River, with good seafood. Wyld's is a little further north in Bonita Springs but has a very good chef. Check my previous posts for any recommended dishes.

              Tommy Bahamas is a fun spot for lunch with good food and a nice outdoor cafe. Yahooer dissed Grouper & Chips because it seemed greasy. They made a major mistake as they serve the best fried, non-greasy grouper you will ever have. I recommend it for lunch as much as any other place in Naples.

              4 Replies
              1. re: RevrendAndy

                There is no better place in Naples than Campiello's. The pastas and meats are incredible and I would say it's definitely a must-do.

                Another incredible place is Cote D'Azur (sp?) which is right by the water. It's a French-style restaurant with some of the best food I've had in the area.

                Stay away from Chops. I have been there many times and it's great for drinks and apps but the main courses have fallen off. It used to be fantastic, but the food has gotten worse over time and now it tastes like a generic chain. Truluck's is a great choice, especially if you love Stone Crabs. The months ending in R are the best time, so enjoy!!!!

                1. re: stephaniec25

                  Cote D'azur is in a strip mall on U.S. 41 North....when you say "right by the water" it's not overlooking any water.. I'm just gently making this point so that folks don't think it's got a view or anything. Have heard very good things about it, though!

                  1. re: Val

                    My bad!! Thinking of the wrong restauant.
                    I love Cote D'Azur but I would recommend Bleu Provance over that which is right by the water. Sorry about the mix up!!!

                    1. re: stephaniec25

                      Bleu Provence is wonderful. I love all the small vineyard Champagnes they serve and it has a perfect south of France ambiance. LMF

              2. For excellent casual seafood, Randy's Fish Market & Restaurant in Naples is a must too. Great prices, casual, very very fresh seafood.

                10 Replies
                1. re: lexpatti

                  Ate at the Strip House the other night. Four other tables were filled with people we know as we're all at a Bridge Tournament. We ALL agreed not to return. All the steaks were cooked just a tad too much and the food was underwhelming. We tried it this year against the wishes of my DH who didn't like it last year. Ugh! Went to Truluck's last night and it was an excellent meal. Lobster, shrimp, crab legs, steak - all were excellent.

                  1. re: Linda VH

                    I'm surprised at your experience at Strip House. I've been there a few times and steaks have always been cooked perfectly. They do one of the better versions of caesar salad and their goose fat potatoes are to die for. My last visit was 6 months ago.

                    1. re: RevrendAndy

                      For Naples, some favorites are, in no particular order: IM Tapas-Spanish in little bistro, Capital Grille, or Flemings-Steaks and Seafood, (Rev, try Capital's truffled fries and au gratin potatoes), Preston's-Steaks, Escargot 41-Classic French, Bha Bha's-Persian, Bonefish Grill-Seafood (great price for great food and on the water), Truluck's-Seafood, USS Nemo-Seafood, Handsome Harry's, Bay House, Eurasia-Italian and Vietnamese-East Trail. Instead of Campiello's, I'd try Ristorant Gaja, just past Blu Sushi.

                      For fun lunch atmosphere, try Tommy Bahama's, Randy's Fishmarket, or Cafe Normandie-French.

                      I and friends have had good highs and sadly lows simultaneously fairly recently at Baleen, Absinthe, Wyld's, Real Macaw, and Strip House. Hope you have better luck if you choose one of these. Please give me consistency-be it uniformly high or low, just don't mix it!

                      Bonita-Angelina's is the best there-serves upscale Italian.

                      If you do happen to go to Fort Myers, Try Bacchus, Cru, and for tapas, music and dancing-enjoy H2's. Yabo's has good Italian food and live music-lie a Soho coffehouse.

                      I live full time in Naples, and have watched the quality overall improve each year. I write for fun, eat at some of these places several times a year. I have more in depth writing and photos on some, at my personal food blog:


                      1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                        I enjoy your blog and would be very interested to hear of the highs and lows of your experiences, particularly at Wyld's and Real Macaw. I'd love to email you independently of Chowhound, but even your profile on your blog doesn't include any "contact me" access. My biggest suggestion to make your blog more user-friendly is to have some list of restaurants you have reviewed -- clicking on an area merely lets a reader navigate up and down all of the entries in chronological order.

                        1. re: nosh


                          Thank you for the foodback!

                          I'm going to do formal reviews of some of the hi/lo places over the next few months. They interest me the most, in a sense for their potential at achieving better consistency. Change happens, hopefully for the best, for all of them. On the top left of my blog is "Articles" where I categorized them by type and location-I'm not too swift with typing or computers. I put up a contact email on my profile at bottom of "Will blog for food". diningscene at live.com I may go a week or two before checking email.

                          I'd like to get a 4-top of chowhounds together and try some spots. Especially in Fort Myers, and in "ethnic" spots. Lilmsfoodie, Rev, lexpatti, etc Let's go! . Discussion is fun, esp. when there's disagreement!

                          1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                            In my annual visits, I've found a lot of good and fun eating from Ft. Myers down to Naples. Other than LeBoeuf in the newspaper, which doesn't make his past reviews easily accessible, your blog is a unique addition to the restaurant discussion. I noticed that your most recent review is of the new Bonefish Grill -- when I tried the one on 41 in Ft. Myers a couple of seasons back, I was very impressed. I had a very good piece of salmon, grilled perfectly to order with a char on the outside and still medium-rare in the middle, not easy to pull off. And the potato gratin, the bang-bang shrimp starter we shared, the service -- it was really a nice job. I can understand why there are long waits. Beat the pants off of the popular but more expensive Prawnbroker...not even close.

                            If you don't want to blog or post about your goods and bads with Wyld's and Real Macaw, I'm very interested -- punch up my moniker and email me. If you are ever in the Bell Towers and don't want something as elegant and expensive as Cru, let me know how you think Bistro 41 is doing these days -- I'm a sucker for their meatloaf with mashed potatoes and intensely delicious rich gravy -- yum! I did see the list of places with the number of entries in parentheses on the left side of your blog -- what would be more helpful is a list of individual restaurants reviewed with links, perhaps in alphabetical order, so it could be quickly seen and linked. Good luck, good weather, and low golf scores!

                            1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                              I think it is most difficult to make judgements about restaurants here in SW Florida in the late summer months, especially this year with our economy at its lowest point in 15 years. Kitchens are cutting back on ingredients in order to keep pricing somewhat stable, help is hard to keep in the independents, and traffic is so sparse, it makes sense to close for a month or two like Wyld's did.

                              Competing with the most competent of the industrial food chains like Outback (which owns Bonefish Grill) and Darden, which owns the highly regarded Seasons 52, is difficult. As Nosh points out above, Bonefish Grill is hard to beat for simply prepared fish at a decent price. Their buying power trumps the little guys. They have much better wine than The Prawnbroker, which I avoid as I am not yet 80 years old.

                              1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                                That would be wonderful to hook up with ch's for a dinner out - unfortunately I'm in New England and have been coming to Naples each winter for a week or two for the past 20 years. this might be my first year hitting up another area of Florida. If we end up in Naples, I'd love to hook up.

                                1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                                  MsRev and I would love to have a chowdown or 2 or 3 this season. I'm in Florida part time and return the end of October. We will be open for any and everything. Ethnic is perfect for chowdowns, unfortunately Southwest Florida isn't exactly a hotbed of ethnic culture and demographics, other than Mexican. Whether we find a gem of a restaurant or not, it would be fun to meet the other posters and lurkers on the board.

                                  1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                                    if you go up to fort myers, go a little further into north fort myers to ristorante fabio on hancock bridge parkway, just west of orange grove blvd. nice, fresh italian. go for the specials board! i highly recommend. cash only.

                                    plus, i like la casita near summerlin in south fort myers, near the old beach "cut-off" -- get the pitcher of dos equis amber with the carnitas!

                                    and if you are up for a road trip, there are some nice places right next together there in punta gorda. you'd be surprised by the quality and ambience, i suspect! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/4084...

                        2. We visit Naples several times a year and there are a few stops that are always on the list! First, Cafe Lurcat is superb. Sit upstairs on the balcony and save room for the to die for doughnuts for dessert. Service has always been impeccable. We also love Tommy Bahamas for lunch. Great food and atmosphere is fun. We like Campiellos but I agree it has plateaued recently. We tried the Turtle Club tonight for the first time and the view was great. Food above average and wine list okay. Sounds crazy but we also always take a day trip over to the Keys. Lunch at Lazy Days is a beach side treat!