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Dining Review: 7th Avenue Social

Shrimp ’n’ grits and uno mas empanada? Yes, 7th Avenue Social offers a mix of Southern and Latin dishes—along with a cozy, friendly vibe.



Photography by Vanessa Rogers

 

When Colin and Kitsi Estrem named their new restaurant, they got it right with “7th Avenue Social.” “The Social,” as it’s already been affectionately tagged in town, perfectly describes the spacious yet cozy locale across from Naples’ City Hall. The Estrems themselves, longtime proprietors of Avenue Wine Café on Fifth, are warm, gregarious and eager to welcome guests to their latest endeavor.

With a unique blend of Florida-Southern hospitality and cuisine, The Social offers live music, late-night food service and a whiskey-spiked cocktail list as just the start of what draws you into one of the turquoise settees and artfully mismatched chairs in the dining room.

The menu is diverse and appealing, a marriage of down-home cooking and Latin flair, just like the Sunshine State that inspired it. Appetites fully whetted, my friend and I held nothing back. Spanning more than two hours, we sampled six savory dishes and one dessert, prompting our server, Lisa, to comment, “I like the way you guys eat!”

My companion went immediately for the Boursin-baked oysters ($4.50 each), pronouncing them “a cheesy, bacon-y, jalapeño-y success.” I was equally smitten with the Tostados de Pescados ($11.50), a mound of shrimp, scallop and crab ceviche perched on a cushion of guacamole over a fried tortilla. The freshly prepared seafood shone through, and it was complemented well by the creaminess of the guac and crunchiness of the tortilla. 

Migrating toward larger plates, a second round of appetizers produced a Smokin’ Fish Hash ($12.50) and the Uno Mas Empanada ($7.50), the latter presumably named because you’re guaranteed to crave a second. The hash could have been heavier on the fish end of the fish-to-potato ratio, but it was divinely smoky and flavorful all the same. A poached egg atop and a spicy tartar hollandaise combined to make an indulgent sauce. And, well, “uno mas” empanada, indeed—I was sold on the beautifully seasoned barbacoa beef pillowed inside a delightfully crunchy crust, with a bright note of sweetness and acidity from a mango salsa.

Our entrées were all about Southern comfort. I ordered the Shrimp ’n’ Grits ($15.50), which was billed as a “small eat” on the menu but, for me, was plenty substantial. The grits offered a creamy, mild counterpoint to the shrimp’s more assertive bourbon glaze and accompanying chili-pepper jam that carried some considerable heat.

My companion’s barbecue ribs ($26.50) were faultlessly tender, fall-off-the-bone deliciousness alongside yucca and chow-chow. While we were somewhat unfamiliar with the two pairings, the yucca delivered much more interesting flavor and texture than I might have guessed based on its bland appearance. The chow-chow, a pickled vegetable relish historically popular in the South, resembled a mustardy coleslaw. Credit goes to the kitchen because both balanced the richness of the pork. More clean plates at the end of round three.

Lisa kindly let us sit for a bit before forging ahead with a shared banana-bread pudding. Bread pudding is one of those things that, while conceptually straightforward, can be so good or so not. But our luck continued—lusciously textured, dripping with caramel sauce and presenting a nice warm-cold contrast with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it was scrumptious.

We also sampled from the wine list (a Frenzy sauvignon blanc from New Zealand at $7.50 per glass), the beer list (a bottled Brooklyn Lager at $6.50) and the cocktail list (the tasty Bourbon Smash at $12). Fans of Avenue Wine Café’s thoughtful beer and wine curations certainly won’t be disappointed here, and we suspect they’ll appreciate how the kitchen stays open nightly until 1 a.m.

There’s much to like about this new spot. The food is inventive and downright tasty. The atmosphere is fun, casual and welcoming. Live acts play inside starting at 9 p.m. Thursday to Sunday. Come early, come late, stay for a while. The Estrems and their cohorts will be happy to have you regardless. And you’ll be glad you joined them.

7th Avenue Social

849 Seventh Ave. S., Naples, 231-4553, 7thavenuesocial.com. Open Monday through Saturday 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Wheelchair accessible. No reservations.

 

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