Hot Dish: April 30, 2008
By Ivan Seligman
Inside the Gulfshore’s Dining Scene
Restaurants take housing-market hit
Construction crews and real estate agents aren’t the only ones hurting from the housing market bust. This winter was a less-than-profitable season for restaurateurs, as well.
But while those in construction-related fields are leaving the area in search of healthier economies, restaurants are less portable. Following the recent closure of Macaroni Grill in Naples, Duval Street Seafood Company in Bonita Springs and Mel’s Diner in San Carlos Park, more restaurants are expected to close than to open over the summer as a result of the shrinking customer base.
Shopping meccas become dining destinations
A trend is emerging. People are dining out less often, and when they do dine out at a favorite place, they tend to choose less expensive salads, pastas or chicken dishes instead of pricier main courses of fish or steak. They also may choose less expensive places to eat out, hence the growing crowds at mall chain restaurants such as Islamorada Fish Co., Miller’s Ale House and PF Chang’s at Gulf Coast Town Center in south Fort Myers and Ted’s Montana Grill and Blue Water Bistro at Coconut Point in Estero.
Price is not the only mall draw. Visiting a mall yields a one-stop evening with shopping, an inexpensive dinner and a movie—and the car stays put during the multi-hour event. I predict more “Mom and Pop” places will get squeezed between rising costs and competition from lower-priced, mall-based chains that will steal independent restaurants’ regular customers.
Chef in need
The successful Chef John’s Classic Cuisine on Naples’ East Trail recently closed after nearly two years due to chef and owner John Farmosa’s sudden and severe illness from advanced liver cancer. Farmosa has no insurance, and Lisa Boet’s group of local restaurateurs, Naples Originals, is looking for a way to help out John and his teenage son. It really is a caring small town, after all. Farmosa’s other restaurant on the East Trail, Mr. Mom’s, remains open.
Lunch is the new dinner
Savvy retirees’ big meal out is now becoming lunch instead of a pricier supper. Some places, such as Ted’s Montana Grill in Estero, take call-ahead seating for lunch during the busier season. A few places, such as Brew Babies in Cape Coral, are even continuing that service into the summer.
Drum roll, please…
Have you figured out the answer to last week’s quiz? The answer: The Southwest Florida restaurant that has been continuously operating for 34 years is...The Blue Heron Restaurant, 387 Capri Blvd, Isle of Capri, Naples. It is a favorite for birthdays and anniversaries because of its romantic waterfront view, homey feeling and great continental cuisine.
Still inquisitive? E-mail me your hints and experiences to firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s broaden our choices of great Southwest Florida restaurants together.