Ahead of the Curve: Getting the Inside Track

From snagging the best table at a restaurant to landing the best seats at a show, here’s how to score the best deals in town.

BY May 26, 2015


Let’s just get one thing clear: Southwest Florida is the best. That’s why we’re all here. But that doesn’t mean everything is perfect all the time—this is Florida, not utopia.

One of the drawbacks to living in paradise is that you have to share it with others. Which means to get the good stuff—primo dinner reservations, parking spots and the like—you have to have a little insider info. Here’s how to get that inside track.


Snag a Table with a View (and the Best Dishes, Too)

Newsflash: Everyone wants the best table in the house. So if you really want it, you’re going to have to set yourself apart somehow. Sure, you can do it with a well-placed $20, but John Everding, the managing partner of Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar, says being a beloved regular is actually a better way to go. To earn your status, Everding recommends tipping well and, more importantly, “being nice. Any bright, smiling face that shows understanding is memorable,” he says.

Also, learn the number of the table you want and ask for it when you make your reservation. That’s what most Truluck’s regulars do, says Rick Rinella, the restaurant’s managing partner. “We have customers that have standing reservations—where they sit at the same table every Friday night. I love that; I love accommodating people—I love making people happy.” 

To make sure you’re getting the very best food, keep what the restaurant is known for in mind. Getting the Thai curry at an upscale Italian bistro is a no-go. “Seafood is in our name. We get 60 pounds of fresh seafood delivered every morning; we’re known for our seafood,” Everding says. With all that in mind, you should probably order the seafood. He also recommends you ask your server what’s fresh, what his or her favorites are, and what is a top-seller.


Hit the Links (Exactly When You Want)

The days of calling local golf pros and schmoozing them into good tee times are mostly gone. Instead, most clubs do bookings online. “The best way to get a good tee time is to go to a club’s website,” says Gary Kraft, the director of the Quail Village Golf Club. But know this: There’s a certain time each week when a golf club posts its tee times for the following week. Call the club and find out when the new reservations are released, then set your alarm. And if you’re trying to book last-minute, check sites like for open tee times.


Park Wherever You Want

We’re not going to name names (Mercato), but there are some places in Southwest Florida where parking feels like a full-contact sport. Several phone apps have been developed to help citizens of major metros find street and parking lot spots. Naples hasn’t yet jumped on the app-parking bandwagon yet, but Fort Myers’ River District has. Download the Passport Parking app and you can find spots and pay using your phone.

Of course, utilizing the valet is one way to make sure you always get in and out quickly. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to drive an exotic car to get parked closest to the entrance. “I’ll park a Pinto there,” says Nick Radick who has managed Naples Valet for six years. “It all comes down to the tip,” he says. For best results, tip when you drop off your car. And (this may sound familiar): “Be nice. You’re going to get a lot farther if you’re nice to us.”

As for that pesky Mercato—it turns out the secret to getting a space is simple: “Go directly to the fourth floor of the garage,” says Valerie Cope, director of marketing for the shopping center. “Ninety nine percent of the time there are spots there when everything else is full, and there’s an elevator that takes you directly down to the center of everything.” If that fails, she says to use the valet. Eight businesses at Mercato will comp your valet fee if you frequent them—for a full list, check out Mercato’s website. 


See the Show (First)

Besides ponying up for a box at Artis—Naples, the best way to make sure you get good seats for sold-out shows is to subscribe to a series of performances. Subscribers save more than 30 percent off the individual ticket prices, and they get to pick their seats first. You’re also bumped up the list for upgrades. As for what the best seats are, well, that depends on the show. “For piano concertos, patrons prefer orchestra-left seating to see the keyboard,” says Elise Guarino, patron services director. She continues: “For headliners such as Hall and Oates or Jerry Seinfeld, many love the intimacy that the Gold Circle right at the front of the stage offers. If you want to feel like you are at a private concert, our box seating offers spectacular views and food service that you can order in advance from our catering team.”

At the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, box office manager Chris Fennell says joining the President’s Club (a $500 purchase) is your ticket to getting the best seats. “Anything show-related you can call me for concierge ticketing,” he says. Concierge ticketing services can include getting bumped up to best-available seats or scoring extra last-minute tickets. 


Call Dibs on Your Dream House

Websites like Trulia and Zillow have become popular over the past few years, but Naples real estate agent Melanie Bocock says those sites tend to be updated only once a month. With the market as hot as it is, a property could be listed and sold before it even shows up on a consumer website. Bocock, who works for the Garlock Group, instead recommends checking out, which pulls its listings directly from the MLS database. And, of course, she recommends talking to an agent—even if you’re a long way out from buying. “We welcome that, actually. We can set an automatic alert that will email them when something matching what they want hits the market. Inventory is so low right now that it’s a really good way to go.” 


93: The millions of pounds of seafood Florida fisherman harvest annually, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture


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