In-the-know local foodies know that Mereday is largely responsible for Naples' growing fame as a top U.S. city for foodies. Mereday’s Brasserie is the chef’s third restaurant to open since he debuted his inimitable style of gourmet cuisine at Mereday’s Fine Dining at Naples Bay Resort in July 2013.
In March 2014, he debuted Alto – Live Jazz Kitchen in Naples’ Bayfront Place. This summer he began airing weekly Back of the House television segments, where he visits the local restaurant scene.
And now there's Mereday’s Brasserie, which opened its doors in September at the Coconut Point shopping and entertainment district in Estero. It inhabits the former Grill Room’s digs of wood paneling and cozy, curved banquettes.
Mereday's Brasserie, conviviality with a French accent — Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton
True to its name – brasserie means “brewery” in French – the indoor-outdoor bar serves a number of craft beers on tap and by the bottle. True to its French allegiance, its wine list offers a carefully curated selection of French vintages.
Chef Joe Pittman, a long-time Mereday protégé and self-proclaimed “craft beer nerd,” heads the kitchen at the Brasserie, as he did previously at Mereday’s Fine Dining. He and Mereday designed a menu that's easily adaptable to seasonal ingredients while also blending classic French technique with tropical whims.
Take, for example, the spicy smoked duck wings, already a favorite among regular patrons. The tender wing drums get a spicy sweet accent from a habanero-fired sauce. Sweet corn puree and fire-roasted red peppers accompany fat-seared sea scallops as an appetizer.
Other global influences sneak in, too. The braised lamb shank is prepared Moroccan style, with a dry rub and minted couscous. Mussels languish in a coconut green curry sauce.
Still other dishes on the succinct menu stay on the traditional side of the French culinary fence. Try the charcuterie platter with friends at the bar’s communal tables. It changes according to the availability of European-style cured meats and relishes such as olives, caper berries and cornichons.
The crispy frog legs – fat, juicy and lightly battered – come with a lemon garlic aioli sauce. Roasted veal marrow bones and frisee salad with bacon lardons and a soft-boiled egg demonstrate the chef's agility in dish design.
With only 10 entrees, the menu nonetheless provides diversity, and will change on a regular basis, to keep “everyone on their toes and creativity at the forefront,” says Pittman.
Snapper en pappiote is a specialty. A seven-ounce filet mignon headlines the steak frites with peppercorn sauce. Other classics include bouillabaisse, duck breast a l’orange, lobster thermidor stuffed into a crab and coq au vin.
Those who think that all crème brulee is equal must try the vanilla bean crème brulee for dessert, at the same time rustic and refined.