The Eternal Allure of Club Dining

Armed with strong budgets and a discerning clientele, private communities claim some of the best restaurants in town.

Once you pass the guard gate to Hideaway Beach Community and continue snaking through the streets in this northwestern corner of Marco Island, you pull into the porte-cochère of the members-only club on the water. There, you’ll be surrounded by people—often friends and neighbors  you have known for years—but also by top-notch food that could go toe-to-toe with any of the elite restaurants in town. Two of the Hideaway’s three distinct dining spaces are new, and the product of a nine-month, multimillion-dollar renovation.

“It’s almost like the unknown competition,” says Eamon Murphy, the general manager and COO, who is implementing its transformation. “Think of all the restaurants that compete against each other in
Southwest Florida. They’ll look at their own and other restaurants’ net worth—but they always forget about the private clubs.” In Naples, he points to Grey Oaks as an example. “They have three restaurants across two clubs. Pelican Bay has three, as well. And they’re all really good.”

With the financial backing of sometimes insane buy-ins to the tune of a Porsche 911 Turbo, not to mention often needing to own property on-site and annual dues in the five figures, clubs have been undergoing a renaissance of late. The organizations are putting a premium on expanding their culinary offerings, adding more outdoor dining spaces and angling to poach decorated chefs.

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