Food + Dining Main

First Taste of MidTown Kitchen + Bar from Mike Hernandez

The longtime Southwest Florida restaurateur’s latest spot is now open. He dishes on its art, wine on tap and awesome American food.

BY June 6, 2016













We all watched as the T.G.I. Fridays in its prime perch on 41 and Golden Gate was ripped out till a mere shell was left—and then let out a walloping cheer when Mike Hernandez announced he was transforming the sizeable space into another of his bastions of modern American cuisine (he has been the force behind a string of classics from Bistro 821 to HobNob). We caught up with him on what’s bound to be his latest hit—and keep in mind there’s more to come. Public House, his project in the works at Creekside Corners on Immokalee Road, is expected to open this fall.



“I hate to use some of these terms, but we wanted a modern industrial kind of look. Lisa [Hernandez, his wife and business partner] was the one who had the most design influence on this. We always like to do something that isn't here but that isn't outlandish. It needs to be creative, but comfortable. We did the exposed ducting, a gray-black palette and little shots of color, like red bar stools. The tile at the entrance and on the bar is an Italian tile we found. It just worked.”



“The five-panel piece behind the hostess stand is by Bryan Relyea, the artist who did the mural at HobNob. It’s metal. We wanted to incorporate Florida and downtown Naples—Saint George and the Dragon, Naples Pier, HobNob, Gulfshore Boulevard and the U.S. 41 sign. Our thing with art is we want it to be fun and whimsical. Our kids are in it. So is Jungle Larry.

The newsprint collage when you walk in, the idea for that started when we were on a trip to San Diego. We liked an artist whose work we saw, and she said that she had a sister in Naples who was an artist, too! Her name is Joy Price, and she used old newspaper clippings. She also stuck in her family—there are a few articles on them.”



“Tony [Biagetti, of HobNob] is the executive chef; Brian Grimm is the chef de cuisine—he had been at Chops. We do creative American. That's what we always have done as far as the food goes. It always is evolving. This is going to be more casual and also more health-conscious, like a whole section of the menu on grains and greens. I think that's where food is going. It's not a fad. It's where people are going.

We’ve talked about a social aspect to it. I didn't want to go completely tapas because I think it's too big of a venue for that, but there are small plates and flatbreads mixed with traditional dining. We’re also doing grass-fed burgers. We buy a lot of product from Oakes Farms. We’re trying to use organic and buy local as much as we can.”

For a taste of the menu, click through our gallery of photos by Zoe Hernandez below. 



Mike Hernandez

“We want it to be a neighborhood place. There is not a lot here in midtown. There aren’t a lot of places like this between downtown and Mercato. We've always tried to do really good food in a more casual environment. This is more casual than HobNob. I personally like places that have a buzz to them socially. That's how we like to eat. We want to appeal to people who travel a lot and are on top of trends. We try to keep a little ahead of the game and not go completely off the rails.”



“Right now we’re open from 3:30 p.m. to at least 11 p.m., seven nights a week. Happy hour and dinner right now, and we’re going to go for a music license. We’ve got 12 beers on tap and eight keg wines—they’re upscale wines on draft using a preservation system to cut down on waste.” [Editor’s note: One of Dave Matthews’s sustainable Dreaming Tree reds is among them, as is an Alexander Valley Cabernet and a Malbec from Argentina’s Mendoza region.]


To plan a visit:

MidTown Kitchen + Bar

2110 Ninth St. N., Naples

(239) 908-6558


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