Season Preview 2018: Dining & Drinking
Feast upon these newest openings and changes.
Open for Business (all area codes 239)
The Claw Bar (231-3912, theclawbar.com): You could call it The Bay House Part Deux or The Bay House South, as the menu here is strikingly similar to (and the vibe is just as fun as) that of its older sister.
Dorona (529-2819, doronanaples.com): The Aielli family behind Sea Salt and Barbatella has struck again, this time in the middle of Naples with a wide selection of steaks and meat, pastas, unique salads and seafood in spades.
Fuse BBQ (455-4585, fuseglobalcuisine/fusebbq): Some say it’s the area’s best barbecue; it’s not surprising, given chef Greg Scarlatos puts the same zeal from his neighboring fine-dining flagship into the smoked meats and sides.
Kareem’s Lebanese Kitchen (315-4167, kareemskitchen.com): Ambience, top-quality ingredients and traditional Middle Eastern recipes elevated with a creative, contemporary flourish are the calling cards here.
LowBrow Pizza & Beer (529-6919, lowbrowpizzaandbeer.com): Two chefs with quite the pedigree are putting an irreverent touch on two focal points: gourmet pies and craft beer.
The Magayon Restaurant (529-6733, themagayon.com): Technically it opened in the final weeks of 2017, but Naples’ first organic Filipino restaurant (nearly all the food, from spring rolls to deep-fried pork belly, is non-GMO) didn’t catch on until well into 2018.
Namba Ramen & Sushi (592-4992, nambanaples.com): This cutting-edge Japanese eatery in a North Naples strip mall could pass muster with big-city competitors.
The Pearl (591-5939, thepearlnaples.com): After Irma destroyed their cult-classic Oyster House in Everglades City, they waded into North Naples with seafood basics done right—plus zesty gator bites and Key lime doughnuts.
Phoenician (431-7928, phoenicianbistro.com): A Lebanese bistro on Immokalee Road, it has springy falafel, plenty of vegetarian options (starting with rich, smoky baba ghanoush) and other staples.
Sails Restaurant (360-2000, sailsrestaurants.com): A total catch, it’s impossibly elegant with the finest European service, and the fish is flown in fresh every day from around the globe.
Yana Eats (yanaeats.com): Part meal-delivery and take-out service, part teensy-tiny walk-in café, it features from-scratch cooking and baking each day and online ordering.
Zaza Kitchen (970-5205, eatatzaza.com): Marco Island raised a margarita to this taqueria that keeps pace with the country’s evolving taco tastes.
Big Changes, Same Places
RENOVATION: Pazzo! Cucina Italiana (434-8494, pazzoitaliancafe.com), one of Fifth Avenue South’s original heavy hitters, should reopen in time for season.
MOVE: The Pewter Mug (596-6844, pewtermugnaples.com) left its tavern (cheers to 50 good years!) for the larger, former Fish Crazy space in a North Naples strip mall.
EXPANSION: Fit & Fuel Café (514-3333, fitnfuelcafe.com) knocked down a wall to cycle in the next era: It is double the size, with a legit bar, craft drafts and a bigger menu.
Related: The Expanded Bone Hook Brewpub
Celebration Park: A covered pavilion will anchor permanent parking for eight food trucks on Bayshore Drive.
The Hampton Social: There’s a good chance this Chicago hit with an upscale coastal air (the Windy City environs have four) may already be open in Mercato.
Kitchen: Shuttered just a few months after opening in the old Mangrove spot on Fifth Avenue South, it should be reopening soon with a new concept and possibly a different name.
Mister 01 Pizza: Stuffed star-pointed crusts have made it a standout in Miami; now, it’s coming to the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt in 2019.
K-Rico Mexican Grill: Kevin Stoneburner is now a major player on the restaurant scene with five projects in Bayfront either open or in development—this one will go into the old Roy’s space and have a large bar, too. Also in the works is a Mediterranean tapas restaurant to open this year and an expansion of Shane’s Cabana Bar in May 2019.
Rocco’s Tacos: Another Mercato launch that has received major buzz, this tequila heaven got its start on the East Coast of Florida.
Seed to Table: The build-out continues for the highly anticipated Food & Thought II and an artisanal grocery store like none other, with an opening estimated for winter/spring 2019.
TooJay’s (toojays.com): Mercato will see the return of a classic delicatessen, with reubens, matzo ball soup and pickles to spare.
Some pretty high-profile closures rocked the Naples dining scene this year: We bid farewell to Café and Bar Lurcat, Café Luna (though its owners are hoping to reopen in a different location), Charlie Chiang’s, I.M. Tapas, Preston’s Steakhouse and Public House.
Related: What We're Drinking
Open for Business
Cannoli Italian Market & Bakery (800-3938, facebook.com/cannolifl): Go here for chocolate cannolis, plain cannolis, cannolis with chips, and every other Nonna-approved sweet you could possibly want.
Deep Lagoon Seafood and Oyster House (689-5474, deeplagoon.com): It’s views galore at this marina-front restaurant and bar that also has a fish market.
Friddu Gourmet Pops and Bubble Tea (669-6291): These artisanal popsicles and icy drinks are must-tries when in Matlacha.
Fusion 212 (317-2174, fusion212.com): This hole-in-the-wall at Miromar Outlets offers a taste of Venezuelan cuisine.
Ginger Bistro (gingerbistrousa.com): The popular dim sum spot in Fort Myers is expanding into Cape Coral.
Hole in 1 Bagels & Deli (facebook.com/hole-in-1-bagels): It’s another mom-and-pop bagel shop that hit Bonita Springs this year.
The Jac (472-1771, thejacsanibel.com): Fresh and flavorful dishes have brought a 21st century stamp to the reimagining of a Sanibel institution.
Smokin’ R’s BBQ (348-9555, smokinrs.com): A former renowned food truck has found a permanent home.
Straight from New York Bagels (405-8186, straightfromny.com): A sister locale to a Naples original, it carries the equally head-spinning array of house-baked goods, including cookies and pastries.
T2 (558-8919, t2traders.com): OK, OK, it opened in December 2017, but most mainlanders didn’t catch wind until 2018 of the updated cocktails and contemporary small plates under Sanibel’s Traders umbrella. (The tuna poke bowl pictured above.)
Viet Village (208-8368, facebook.com/vietvillage18): After years of running what had been among the Twin Cities’ 50 best restaurants, a Vietnamese chef and her daughter relocated to Fort Myers to open this chic eatery serving authentic Southeast Asian delicacies.
Big Changes, Same Places
MOVE: Sunshine Seafood Café & Wine Bar (472-6200, sunshineseafoodcafe.com) is bigger, more elegant, yet still beachy after Hurricane Irma forced owner Sandy Stilwell Youngquist’s hand to relocate down the street in Captiva.
EXPANSION: Café YOU (600-0966, cafeyou.com) doubled its size by knocking down walls and adding an open kitchen as well as more bakery items.
EXPANSION: Downtown House of Pizza (337-3467, downtownhouseofpizza.com) is a haven for partiers looking for a drippy, cheesy nightcap. This project will yield more outdoor seats and craft beers, plus up the indoor capacity two-fold.
Related: Two Breakout Breakfast Spots
Danger, Danger: People have been waiting forever for this tiny joint to come to fruition on Cape Coral Parkway. It’s getting closer and will be a fast-casual collaboration between two Cape Coral foodie bastions, Nevermind and Nice Guys.
Ember Steakhouse: Korean barbecue may be a thing by now in Fort Myers with this restaurant offering tabletop grilling, among other specialties.
KC American Bistro: Critically praised regional American cuisine is the hallmark of this fine dining Naples restaurant; a second location is going into Estero’s University Village Shops (which already got outposts of Tacos & Tequila Cantina and Thai Udon Café).