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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Happy Hour at Brio Tuscan Grille

The Bravo/Brio Group are a group of restaurants in 31 U.S. states (Bravo/Brio Locations). In Naples, FL Brio Tuscan Grille is located in Waterside Shops, as is Nordstrom Cafe Bistro, which was reviewed in an earlier post.

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The bar area is open air, and a nice place to spend time with friends.

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Although it looks fairly tranquil now late on a Wednesday afternoon in May, good luck getting seating in the winter months. I have waited close to an hour for a table. It gets that crowded!

Their happy hour runs from 3-630 PM Monday-Friday, and 9PM-close Monday-Thursday. They have a number of small plates for 3.99 that are for the most part a good value. Drink specials are also offered (Brio Happy Hour).

I went there with an old coworker (OC). OC ordered the tomato and mozzarella capri. This was a small salad of greens, basil, tomatoes, balsamic dressing on the side and fresh mozzarella, which made the salad.

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OC also ordered the garlic, spinach and artichoke dip with cheese. This was served with Parmesan flat bread as the vehicle for the dip.

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Heavy duty! I have been off cheese since I gave up my mid western citizenship years ago. OC liked it being a fairly recent Chicago transplant.

I ordered the shrimptini. This is a presentation in a martini glass of greens, which I guessed were dressed with a Caesar dressing, shrimp, cocktail sauce (Cocktail Sauce) and a bit of flax seed flat bread.

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Not bad, my favorite of the afternoon.

I also ordered the ravioli caprese, never having had this before. I was not into this as the romano breading on the pasta was just too much. The tomato basil sauce it was served with was pretty tasty though.

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I should have know better as I am not really into breaded, fried food.

Finally I wanted to try the Brio Burger. Topped with provolone cheese, served with kettle chips and cut into quarters.

Although not much of a hamburger person, this was practically a meal in itself. The patty must have been a third of a pound. After all that I ordered, all I could eat was a quarter of this.

One thing I did notice was that once the food was served, a few flies ended up buzzing around the table. This is not unexpected for outdoor dining. Our server brought over a small plate that had Tabasco (Tabasco Sauce) sauce poured into it, and placed it on the table near the food. A neat trick. Although it did not get rid of them it sure kept them at bay.

That's my take on "Brio". All around a pleasant place to have a bite and a beverage. A good part of the happy hour scene in Naples, FL.

Brio Tuscan Grille
Waterside Shops
5505 Tamiami Trail N.
Naples, FL 34108

Brio Tuscan Grille on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Hour at Truluck's

Truluck's is a small chain of restaurants primarily in Texas and Florida (Truluck's). They are known for their seafood.
After a recently rekindled friendship with an old friend (OF) and her mother (MO), I was invited to happy hour with them and jumped at the chance.

If you approach from Fifth Avenue S., you venture down a narrow walkway

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to the entrance.

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During the winter months I have seen a line of 20 people deep waiting to get in here for happy hour which runs from 4:30-7:00. I think that's a good sign.

The bar area, where happy hour happens, is nice, but can get crowded.

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There are also a number of tables and "high tops" should you choose not to sit at the bar.

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The happy hour menu is quite extensive, and leans more towards a selection of martini's and cocktails.

There are about 5 wines on happy hour, and around 7 appetizers. As far as the latter menu items go, you are in, for the most part, really good food at a great price for this area of town.

OF had been craving their crab cakes and rightfully so. I usually will not order these out as typically, they are short in the crab and long in the cake. These are anything but that, and are some of the best in town.

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 It's a nice presentation with greens and a mild Tartare  (Sauces of the Mayonnaise Family) sauce.

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I chose the ceviche (Ceviche). Not bad, covered with a dollop of avacado and served with fresh chips.

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I was disappointed with the mussel offering. They were pretty flavorless. So much so that the broth they were cooked in needed much more chutzpah (Chutzpah) to pull if off.

 MO ordered a shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were quite large, about 12-16/lb. I would guess.

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When they bring this to you, there is dry ice in the bottom of the bowl and they pour some water into it. I think everyone knows what that does.

It gets you into the spirit of the shrimp! Although we didn't try them, the mini bacon cheeseburgers to the right in this picture looked pretty good.

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On the way out I passed by the entrance to the dining room. It looks quite pleasant and fodder for a future post.

There you are. For no other reason, if you like crab cakes, have them here. I think you will be pleased.

698 Fourth Avenue S.
Naples, FL 34102

Truluck's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rodes Restaurant and Fish Market

Rodes Restaurant and Fish Market has become an institution in Bonita Springs, FL. I think the staff told me the restaurant has been around for 25 years. It's not uncommon for the waitstaff to have been there over 10 years or so. They REALLY know the menus well.

As you approach the restaurant you notice that they are a seafood market and bonded fruit shipper. I suppose the latter service promotes a spirit of reliable shipping (Bonded Goods).

Nonetheless, both of these services become apparent when you go into the market area of the building.

They have a wide variety of sauces, jellies, local breads, canned goods, wines and some fresh fruit and vegetables.

They are also very generous with sampling and usually have fun things to graze on as you're wandering around the market.

Their smoked fish dip is one of the best in the area. Today they were also sampling some citrus, taffy, pretzels and cheese with crackers. Not bad!

The fish market also has some very nice looking seafood in it's fish cases.

Now onto lunch, dining companion's (DC) and my main purpose for visiting that day.

Besides the standard lunch menu (sorry for the quality of the photo)

they also have a lunch special menu which changes the first of every month.

As you can see it's a fantastic value.

DC ordered the oyster sliders.

Seasoned fries, homemade potato salad and oysters on a bun topped with coleslaw, heaven.

I ordered the Rodes fish bites. Small bits of mahi-mahi, snapper or grouper served with cole slaw (very good) and seasoned steamed veggies.

For dessert our server recommended a piece of their key lime pie.

It was excellent. I can see why other restaurants (e.g.- Captain Kirk's Stone Crabs) serve Rodes key lime tarts. A must after a meal here.

Finally at the bar they have happy hour from 3-6.

From 4-6 they have food specials at the bar. Monday is $2 shrimp cocktails, Wednesday is $1 taco nite and Friday night is free pizza night (off season). Cheers!

There it is. Should you decide to go...

Rodes Restaurant and Fish Market
3756 Bonita Beach Rd.
Bonita Springs, FL 34134

Monday, May 20, 2013

Nordstrom Cafe Bistro

Nordstrom is retailer that has over 200 stores in the U.S. (Nordstrom). They opened a location in Naples, FL in the fall of 2008 at Waterside shops. It's a smaller venue, about 1/2 the size of a typical Nordstrom store.

If you've ever been to the Nordstrom in Union Square in San Francisco it's very cool. Mostly so because of it's iconic walkway.


They have a restaurant on the second floor of the store. If you go there, go up to the 3rd level of the parking garage at Waterside. You can then access the second floor of the store by directly walking across the sky way. You will also have covered parking should you take this route.

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As you enter the store, the restaurant is on the East side of the building, and is called Cafe Bistro. 
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They have a very nice dining space.

and dining area

and a very interesting menu (Cafe Bistro). I would not have dined here if I realized it was part of a chain of potentially over 200 restaurants as I am not really into chains. However Dining Companion (DC) recommended it. I was not disappointed but read on.

When you order, you order from the greeter in the front of the restaurant and prepay, which is different from most restaurants.

DC got a glass of Acrobat pino gris from Oregon (Acrobat).

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I opted this day for a glass of Naples tap.

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What is interesting about this glass of water is the diameter of the straws they give you. I think it's about a 7 gauge (Needle Gauge Chart) if you really like to slurp your water.

They have a very nice menu here (Bistro Cafe Naples).

DC opted for the Nicoise salad with salmon.

I ordered the steak and arugula salad. Not bad. Arugula, steak (of course), roasted zucchini and tomatoes, and a Dijon balsamic vinaigrette.


The presentations of the salads were excellent. DC thought the Nicoise salad was great, even better than Baleen (vide infra).

My meal was o.k. and would give it a 7/10. Not great but good. There are many other things on the menu to try, perhaps better than my order.

There you have it. Perhaps worth another look.

Nordstrom Cafe Bistro
5489 Tamiami Trail N.
Naples, FL 34108
Nordstrom Cafe Bistro on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 17, 2013

Captain Kirk's Stone Crabs (Closed)

Captain Kirk's Stone Crabs is an unassuming establishment just down the street from City Hall and across the street from Cambier Park on 8th Street S. in Naples, FL. Unassuming stops right when you go through the front door. If you're into seafood, you're in for a real treat.

You can eat outside. If you prefer shade come before "high noon" as the seating faces west.

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 You can also dine inside, or get your food to go

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and dine across the street in Cambier Park, which is very pleasant.

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The first day I went there, I was accompanied by dining companion (DC). Here's what was offered that day.

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DC opted for the grilled halibut (Halibut) Caesar salad.

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I ordered the blackened grouper (Grouper) on a "Kaiser" (Kaiser roll) roll.

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It was served with lettuce, very good local tomatoes, house made mustard sauce and coleslaw. The coleslaw had no mayonnaise and was prepared with a vinegar-based dressing. Very nice.

The second time I dined there I went solo. Here was the menu.

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That day, they were serving fish tacos. These fish tacos are, hands down, the best in Collier County.

Depending on what's available on "fish taco day" they can rotate between mahi-mahi (Mahi-Mahi), snapper (Snapper) or grouper. Lucky me, it was grouper the day I ate there. The tacos have a generous portion of fish, and are mixed with tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cilantro and a bit of cheese. Chips, lime, black beans with rice and hot sauce accompany your tacos. The hot sauce was good and I suspect homemade. What made it so good was that it was just heat and had no vinegar note which I feel can distract from the main course.

I mention "fish taco day" as it changes depending on time of year.

If you like, order some ice tea with your meal. Very good.

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Besides lunch, which is served from 11-3, they also have fresh fish and shellfish, some of the best around. One of the owners family has been fishing the local waters for over 55 years. What they have here is as fresh as fresh can be.

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Besides the freshness of the seafood, what is great about this place is the local seafood that they sell. You cannot find this type of thing at corporate markets. Depending on the time of year they may have local yellow tail snapper, triple tail, pompano, mullet and scamp grouper. If you have never had scamp grouper please do. It's the "king" of grouper (Scamp Grouper). I am almost certain you cannot find this in a grocery store. 

Kirk's also has excellent local stone crab claws during season which runs from October 15-May 15. I would guess that's why they picked the name of their business.

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They also sell their wares at the Third Street S. farmer's market (vide supra) on Saturday mornings should you be down that way.

They have a number of interesting things on their walls. One of the most interesting to me was a copy of the Collier County phone directory from 1946.

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I count less than 150 people in this directory. Amazing!

There you have it. If you really like seafood go here. They will not disappoint.

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Captain Kirk's Stone Crabs
629 8th Street S.
Naples, FL 34102