Marco Island, FL - Christmas
Our family of four with two teenagers will be renting a beachfront condo on Marco Island, FL, during Christmas week. I need some suggestions on restaurants. We're big fans of fresh local seafood. I have done some preliminary research and have found some menus include conch prepared in various ways (fritters, salad, chowder, etc.) - we love conch as well as many of the coastal FL seafood, i.e., grouper, snapper, etc. We've travelled many places in FL (Panhandle, Anna Maria Is., Sarasota, Bradenton, St. Augustine, etc.) and this is our first to Marco Island. We plan to day trip to Naples & do Everglades Nat'l Park - any suggestions for restaurants would be appreciated for those areas. Does anyone have any recommendations for a restaurant for a nice Christmas or Christmas Eve dinner? If most restaurants are closed Christmas Day/Christmas Eve, I suppose I can get food ahead of time from a local grocery store & cook Christmas dinner myself. Any ideas/suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I found a great little seafood market on the north end of the island that made a fish en papiotte that was spectacular. We took it back to our gulf front condo and had a spectacular bottle of wine and watched the sunset. Better than anything we could have had on the island.
We had hog fish (a keys type of snapper) that was cooked on a bed of baby spinach and cannellini beans with herbs and a good greek feta) It was all wrapped to order in the parchment and we cooked it for about 17 minutes. No mess, delicious, and you can have excellent wines instead of ultra expensive nothing wine that most of the places here offer.
Fortunately, you have lots of time for research. On the other hand, the RSW area from Ft. Myers down through Naples is a prime Christmas destination, though a lot of the snowbirds don't come down until the first of the year for by-the-month rentals. I have absolutely no idea who might be open for actual Christmas or Christmas Eve meals -- you'll have to call the specific restaurants that might interest you.
If you do a simple search on this Florida board, or scroll down over the months, you will find some discussions of places in Ft. Myers or Fort Myers, Naples, Bonita Springs (which is in between) and even Marco, Captiva or Sanibel. A couple of active posters whose opinions I've grown to respect are Revrend Andy and Val -- please excuse me if I am leaving people out -- and I'll add Lil Ms. Foodie. The Ft. Myers newspaper has a restaurant reviewer, LeBoeuf or something like that, but their archive doesn't go back very far and just how independent he is can be suspect. The best blog I've found reviewing restaurants in the area is: http://aninsatiableappetite.blogspot.....
In Ft. Myers, the big deal best restaurant according to many reviews is Cru, in the Bell Towers shopping complex. I also have a longstanding infatuation with the meatloaf at Bistro 41 in the same center, though opinions on it go up and down. My favorite restaurant in the past couple of years is a family-run Italian place with a woodburning oven, Sasse's.
In Bonita Springs, we had an excellent dinner last season at Wyld's Cafe, on Bonita Springs between Interstate 75 and Highway 41. They also have a more casual sister restaurant nearby, Crust. There is a very good Roy's in a swanky upscale shopping complex, and also a Chops.
There are abundant choices in Naples, but you need to be aware of the price points if that is of any concern. Some places, especially in the seaside hotel resorts and some of the ones on Fifth, can be surprisingly pricey. There is also a Roy's and a Chops in Naples, as well as a Tommy Bahamas. Some really like Trulucks. We've had a lot of fun at a Caribbean place way off the beaten track called the Real Macaw, but it can be hard to find the first time and opinions are mixed. A lot of people give props to Bleu Provence for French, some like Cote d'Azur while others think it is way overpriced, and some swear by Campiello for Italian while others say it is tired. Grouper and Chips is a lunchtime casual favorite.
Oh, one more: While you may scoff at a chain, I really think they do a great job at Bonefish Grill, and the crowds bear me out. Very good fish, properly prepared to order, at very reasonable prices (midteens for generous entrees with sides), good service -- gosh, I wish we had them where I live. Run by the same corporation that does Roy's, Outback, and a couple of others, but I've been very impressed. Several locations in the area.
Good luck, have a great trip, and when you whittle your choices down please post and ask for specific recommendations.
Wow, thanks Nosh, that was a great post with lots of helpful information. I'm just at the beginning of my searches for restaurants in the Marco Island area and you've given me just the right hints & pointed me in the right direction. Might I add that we (our family of 4 with two teenagers) will be DRIVING from the Cleveland, Ohio, area to Marco Island (...I planned this trip to avoid being home & being a chauffeur & centering my life around the kids social lives during Christmas break...) Anyways, after the long drive from Cleveland, I'm not so sure how far away we want to drive for restaurants during the week we are in Marco Island but if the food is worth it, we might splurge & go the extra mile. I know we do want to do a day trip to Naples (which your post with restaurant recommendations will come in handy) and a trip to the Everglades - anybody have any ideas for restaurants not too far off the beaten path in Everglades area??? Not sure if we want to go as far as Ft. Myers/Sanibel but we just might - depends on the weather.
We spent this past spring break (late March) on Anna Maria Island (actually we rented a beachfront condo on the border of Bradenton Beach & Holmes Beach.) We had the best seafood ever in the local restaurants. Didn't mind driving as far as St. Armand's Circle, Longboat Key, Sarasota, etc., for dinner. I didn't post any questions in advance of the trip and the chowhound posts alone gave me more than enough information to make decisions on where to eat. I'm just at the beginning of my searches & can't seem to find enough closer to Marco Island.
How about stone crab claws? I know they'll be in season - any place special for that???
I hope more chowhounders post their opinions, although yours is on the top of my list,
other inputs would be helpful to not only me but others, too.
Thanks again, Nosh.