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Sep 16, 2008 04:00 PM

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!

    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 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.