THE EATBEAT: Dining in Florida can be hit or miss this time of yearDining out seems to be the No. 1 activity for visitors in Florida this time of year. The restaurants are busy. . . . Reservations are hard to come by.
By: Marilyn Hagerty, Grand Forks Herald
Dining out seems to be the No. 1 activity for visitors in Florida this time of year. The restaurants are busy. They know they have to make hay while the sun shines because there will be months ahead when the eating-out business will almost come to a standstill.
Reservations are hard to come by in March. My Florida host called the Bay House restaurant a couple of days in advance and was unable to get booked before 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night.
Not wanting to eat that late, we opted for a reservation at Naples Tomato. This is a unique, upscale restaurant where you can buy your wine by the ounce. The restaurant describes its casual American approach to food and lifestyle as Vine Dining.
Our group of four ordered pasta and fish. The meals were pleasing. The service was friendly. Grouper, one of the most popular fish on Florida menus, was found to be especially good.
“They eat a lot of grouper around here,” Florida Friend (FF) said.
We puzzled over the name Tomato for a restaurant. We came to the conclusion it is a name you remember.
Naples Tomato, 14700 Tamiami Trail, Naples, Fla. 34110; (239) 598-9800.
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If you can’t get into the Bay House on a weeknight, try and try again. That was our philosophy when we decided to go there for Sunday brunch.
This was a mountaintop experience. The Bay House is a large and gracious place overlooking a bend in the Cocohatchee River. There is a feeling of elegance in the dining area with its chandeliers and mahogany woodwork. Mimosas were being served at several of the tables.
We ordered seared salmon salad and lump crab Benedict. Both were excellent fare. And we finished off our brunch sharing an unforgettable chocolate mousse cake.
The Bay House Restaurant, 799 Walkerbilt Road, Naples, Fla. 34110; (239) 591-3837.
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While the Bay House is top of the line for decor and fine dining, the British Open Pub in nearby Bonita Springs is a more casual and more middle-of-the-road for price. Without a reservation, we waited nearly 25 minutes to be seated.
We were given a golf ball with No. 16 written in red on it. We sat outside on a beautiful evening with dozens of other would-be diners. We waited. And we waited.
Finally, we were chosen. However, we were seated adjacent to the kitchen door. We had the rattling of plates and the traffic of all the waiters right next to us. We didn’t mind.
The British Pub is a happy place where you get a full meal. FF ordered a Cornish pastie with ground beef, peas, carrots, onion and diced potato in a flaky pastry. It’s served with mashed potatoes and gravy. And you don’t get hungry again for a long time.
For some reason, I decided to go with a salad. And it was not a good choice. The salad was enormous but not too inviting with large pieces of limp lettuce and the usual array of onion, tomato and cold-pressed ham and chicken. I took half of the salad with me and discarded it about two days later.
British Open Pub, 24630 Tamiami Trail, old U.S. Highway 41, Bonita Springs, Fla. 34134; (239) 949-0302.
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The Boathouse in Naples offers casual waterfront dining. And we went there as a group of six during a day’s outing on the boat of Paul and Renae Lester, who divide their time between Grand Forks and Florida.
With the boat tied up outside, we were seated near a window. This is a place for seafood such as shrimp stuffed with crab. And the prices are moderate.
To me, one of the best features of the midday meal was the fresh rolls served with butter before our food arrived. The menu is diverse, and our group ordered a variety of fish and shrimp from the menu.
This is definitely a place where you skip the beef dishes. You order Florida stone crab claw between October and May. It seemed Paul Lester made the best choice — a crab sandwich. The prices are moderate with a $113.60 lunch tab for six .
The Boat House, 990 Broad Ave. S., Naples, Fla. 34102; (239) 643-2235.
Reach Hagerty at email@example.com or call (701) 772-1055.