Hot Dish

Hot Dish: May 14, 2008

BY May 14, 2008

Inside the Gulfshore’s Dining Scene.

Summer on the Gulfshore

My favorite season has begun: Off-season! Imagine, going into nearly any restaurant before 6:30 p.m., and no wait? YES! Find parking spaces closer than downtown Immokalee? Enjoy some dinner specials? Yes, it’s that season now. Visit some dining favorites this week; try a new restaurant as well. This is THE critical time for restaurant survival, and your support keeps chefs’ and servers’ families afloat during the summer.

Fort Myers
Loses Two High-Class Restaurants

Speaking of survival, after seven years of, hands-down, some of the tastiest and most creative cuisine in Florida, Chef/Owner Harold Balink’s Harold’s on Bay will be closing its downtown Fort Myers location at the end of May. Harold will continue to offer some of his signature dishes at H2 tapas and wine bar next door, at 2214 Bay Street.

Harold says: “I love this restaurant and all the people that have touched me and my family through it. I am forever grateful and in your debt. There are many factors into our closing, none of which is worth talking about to lay blame. Let’s just say I did my best, and leave it at that. The good news is we still have a thriving H2 concept right next door that we will continue to tweak and grow with. So come on down and have a glass of wine and a little cheese with me, and we’ll toast goodbye to the old and celebrate the new!”

Dwyer’s, formerly a popular Fort Myers pub, kicked things up a few notches with the addition of Executive Chef Bill Wavrin to become a center for higher-end dining. It is now closed, with no plans posted for reopening. Chef Wavrin brought aspects of his internationally admired healthy spa cuisine and beautiful presentations, created an area for cooking lessons, and in a few months, turned Dwyer’s into a Florida leader in fine dining. The adage “If you build it, they will come” generally holds true. However, too few diners came to Dwyer’s this past season to break even. Similar problems face other fine dining spots such as Cru, as patrons flock to such destinations as Gulf Coast Town Center and Coconut Point mall.   


Dinner and a Cruise


Bamboo Café and the Sweet Liberty catamaran pair a relaxing two-hour sunset Gulf sailing cruise with a lovely two-course dinner—before or after the cruise—at Naples’ inviting Bamboo Café. The restaurant offers French classics, North African tagines (meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce) and Mediterranean fare. Imagine enjoying a glass of chardonnay followed by jumping dolphins or the green flash—and having the photos to prove it! The Sweet Liberty is large and very stable. I’ve been there and enjoyed it. Gather some friends and enjoy the gentle cruise and dinner for $56. Call (239) 595-7002, or (239) 793-3525 for reservations. Bonus: Enjoy Bamboo Café’s weekend live guitar and piano music.

Happy Anniversary to Roy’s
Cheers to longevity! Chef Roy Yamaguchi will personally host “Taste of Twenty Years Dinner” at Roy’s in Naples on Friday, May 23 with winemaker Gary Branham from Branham Estate Wines. Yamaguchi is celebrating 20 years since he founded the first Roy’s in Honalulu. The four-course Hawaiian Fusion dinner will include Kona crab cake, seared Hawaiian Opakapaka (pink snapper) and teppanyaki-seared Hudson Valley duck breast from his 1988 menu, along with 2008’s Big Island goat cheese, Baby Mache, Frisée and arugula salad, and a dessert trio. Dinner starts at 5:30 p.m.; $85 per person. Roy’s, 475 Bayfront Place. Call for reservations. (239) 261-1416.

Pan-Asian Cuisine Comes to Naples

Harvest Moon Modern Chinese just opened in the Tamiami Square Plaza, just north of newcomer Sideline Joe’s and Naples Tomato on U.S. 41 in Naples. The taste is fresh, sassy and savory. In no time, they have developed a following! Their “modern” touch brings a bright, tasty Pan-Asian twist to several of the classic dishes. There’s upscale casual décor, very good prices, happy hour and a 20-seat, open-air bar. I fell in love with the Emerald PEI curry mussels! Is it smart to open 1.5 miles north of Charlie Chiang’s and PF Chang’s? Yes, there’s enough of a tasty difference for all three to thrive. Harvest Moon,14700 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, (239) 566-9456.
Bagel Bagel Café offers more than its namesake to Fort Myers
It’s refreshing to welcome Bagel Bagel Café, which opens today (May 14) at 13391 McGregor Blvd., in Fort Myers. The restaurant, offering breakfast and lunch seven days a week, will have much more than just bagels. The café has hot and cold sandwiches served on baguettes, the convenience of online ordering, WIFI access and catering. Welcome!
E-mail me your hints and experiences to and let’s broaden our choices of great Southwest Florida restaurants together.

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