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Best Restaurant for Celebrating Spring Alfresco in the Naples Area



In the Naples area, spring works the opposite of other parts of the country. Rather than sparking an end to cabin fever and dreary landscape views, it signals the peak of the dine-outdoors season, before the intense heat and humidity of summer drive diners, at least the resident variety of diners, indoors to cool down. A large percentage of regional restaurants offer a patio or beach-side dining year-round, but spring is the time to take full advantage of the weather and flowering season. 

This best-of list takes you to where the al fresco dining is most scenic - such as gulf-front BALEEN and The Turtle Club at Vanderbilt Beach - or tops for people watching, including Sails Restaurant on Fifth Avenue South and Campiello on Third Street South. Many of them design their menus around what is seasonal, so you can taste the utter freshness of all that spring inspires. 


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10
East Naples
Three60 Market
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


On the water and occupying a cheerfully painted old Florida-style house, this place could not be more inviting. Showcases and tables hold sandwiches, soups, salads, pasta, bakery goods and hot dishes made from scratch fresh daily for take-out or eat-in. The goodness starts at breakfast with a selection of egg dishes, oatmeal, pastries and an unusual breakfast salad with hard boiled eggs, spinach and veggies. At lunch, diners browse the different stations for freshly made pasta such as wild boar or broccoli rabe and sausage ravioli, grilled vegetable panini with fresh mozzarella, tomato pie, blueberry and goat cheese pie and limoncello mascarpone cake. It offers a remarkable wine list along with beers and coffee drinks. For dinner, order off the Dilly's Seafood Shack menu of just-off-the-boat culinary gold.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Patio tables overlook Haldeman Creek, where round bar-shaped Cruisin Tiki boats launch for after-meal entertainment.

Chelle's expert tip: Tomato pie fans: Three60's is the best in Naples - maybe in the South (but don't tell Charleston that). Insanely creamy and cheesy, it uses the tastiest thick tomato slices imaginable.

Read more about Three60 Market →


Little Bar
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


You could sum up the fishing town of Goodland in one word: idiosyncratic. Likewise, the Little Bar, one of three watering hole restaurants that tourists love as much as the (idiosyncratic) locals. Because besides the usual frog legs and seafood Everglades fare, its dry-erase board menu lists some Old World folk foods such as liver and onions, kielbasa and kraut and marinated herring. There's yet another dimension to its menu - finer fare such as crab cakes with lobster cream sauce and blackened shrimp. The setting is every bit as quirky. Outside, the view is bay waters, fishing docks and crab traps. The interior is cobbled together with salvaged wood from a historic boat, pieces of a pipe organ, stained glass and various other components with a past.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Springtime in Goodland brings an onslaught of salty scents and characters to watch from Little Bar's waterside back porch.

Chelle's expert tip: For a true taste of Little Bar, come in summer for Spammy Jammy. Think people in pajamas competing with Spam culinary and architectural creations.

Read more about Little Bar →


The Turtle Club at Vanderbilt Beach
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Cleverly disguised as a casual beach club at a small resort, the Turtle Club exceeds all expectations to dwell in that vaunted culinary territory known as a local secret. To start with, there's the location, which deserves to be described in triplicate: location, location, location. Not because it's all about the location, but because there are gorgeous gulf views from every table of the small, intimate dining room; and the sunny patio is right on the beach. You won't feel deprived ordering one of the entree salads such as honey and almond roasted salmon. Go tropical with coconut-fried shrimp or continental with grilled beef tenderloin on brioche with boursin. The key lime chiffon pie lightens up a Florida tradition.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Dig your toes in the sand at this gulf-front delight.

Chelle's expert tip: The "famous oysters 'Turtlefeller'" truly are locally famous and delicious with the addition of apple-smoked bacon.

Read more about The Turtle Club at Vanderbilt Beach →


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CJ's on the Bay
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


If you are thinking this - with its casual bar vibe and sweeping water views - is just another pretty face, think again. Or just go ahead and taste anything on the menu. It's not fine dining, but the menu satisfies a lot of different appetites and the kitchen is dependably consistent. Start with the "lobster fries" - flash fried Maine lobster fingers - or, for something lighter, the ahi tuna poke. It treats its seafood to creative ways, such as the rum butter Mahi and grilled salmon with mandarin salsa. Chicken pot pie and red-eye pork chop offer comfort, while salmon Florentine turnover and a PLT with portobello mushroom demonstrate a departure from same-old.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Overlooking the bay with al fresco seating, CJ's takes full advantage of spring sea breezes and views of bobbing yachts in the harbor.

Chelle's expert tip: Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m., live music happens outside on the waterfront.

Read more about CJ's on the Bay →


6
The Continental
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


The Continental is what foodies term a "meatery," a step above standard steakhouses. Its niche is two-fold: name-ranch steaks and craft cocktails. But yet it is multi-faceted, offering also such original concepts as it's daily changing fresh fish and dessert pie menus. The steak takes center stage, however. It occupies one page of the dinner food menu, divided among the restaurant's four beef providers. Each touts its own connoisseur-level characteristics. Yet The Continental is clearly no ordinary steakhouse. Owners break the mold with their menus, but also with the restaurant's design. The dining room, which shows the telltale opulence of a typical steakhouse, opens onto the courtyard, where a convivial bar, bougainvillea-framed setting, cabanas and live dinner entertainment make this something wholly other.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Live music fills the outdoor bar and seating area. Watch for new seasonal craft cocktails and desserts.

Chelle's expert tip: If key lime blackberry pie is on the day's pie menu, don't pass it up.

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Sails Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


"Excellence" describes the new Sails Restaurant from start to finish. From start: Owners meticulously sourced decor items such as a Greek marble bar in the shape of a sail, dishware, and the finest seafood and steaks to create a modern European coastal setting and cuisine. Guests select their own fresh seafood, its poundage and its preparation: wood grilled, salt baked or seared a la plancha. Artistically presented seafood towers, crudos and tartares launch a memorable experience. Courses of seafood salads, house-made pasta, fine steaks and global entrees ensue. Try the Peppered Tuna Rossini with seared foie gras, black truffle and charcoal-roasted onions; or prime tomahawk rib steak with garlic confit. An exacting wine list and decadent, modern dessert menu are the final excellence icing on this lovely cake.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Outdoor seating and fresh seafood from around the globe make this an ideal place to celebrate spring.

Chelle's expert tip: Order a seafood tower for two to share for starters and the deadly sinful chocolate Grand Marnier to finish.

Read more about Sails Restaurant →


BALEEN
Photo courtesy of LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort Naples


BALEEN gives a global twist to its breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. The setting couldn't scream Southwest Florida more succinctly with its Gulf of Mexico and white sand views. You can even dine with your toes planted in the sand should you desire. At breakfast, eggs with crispy tomato rice and crab Oscar benedict show off. Sunday brunch brings a three-course menu of creative seasonal dishes. The lobster Cobb salad dazzles on the lunch menu. For dinner, start with the beef carpaccio "ravioli," then the truffled lobster risotto or blackened grouper. Whatever you do, leave room for the key lime pie, it's buttery and delicious and in a class all its own.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Views of the gulf and beach conspire with warm sea breezes to fan springtime amour.

Chelle's expert tip: Call in advance for porch and beach seating.

Read more about BALEEN →


3
Old Naples
Campiello
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


This class-act Third Street South restaurant occupies the historic Naples Mercantile Building and a pleasant Rome-reminiscent courtyard to its west. Inside, you will find an inviting dining area, spacious bar area and large, open kitchen complete with a traditional wood-burning oven. Some of the pasta, such as the pappardelle with braised veal, is made in house. Many of the ingredients - capicola for one of the wood-fired pizza, cheeses and sausage - get shipped from Italy. There are short ribs with smoked tomatoes or pan-roasted black grouper for dinner, chicken and caramelized pear salad for lunch and warm citrus cake with strawberry prosecco jam and fior di latte for dessert.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Its spacious courtyard and post-Easter menus, such as the popular Sunday date night menu, take advantage of spring weather and relief from winter crowds.

Chelle's expert tip: Each month Campiello's showcases the cuisine of a different region in Italy on a special Regional Menu.

Read more about Campiello →


2
Old Naples
Ocean Prime
Photo courtesy of Ocean Prime


Opened December 2016 at Inn on Fifth, it oozes sophistication and personality. The staff goes beyond the extra mile to make your lunch, brunch or dinner experience. They have solid help from the kitchen, which produces the signature prime steak and creative seafood dishes. Starters such as the tuna tartare with avocado and crispy wonton shreds and six types of sushi including the signature tempura shrimp and beef carpaccio roll are perfect for sharing. Order a craft cocktail from the sexy bar while you are at it. Walls of wine bottles or walls of glass looking out onto a courtyard: your choice. Top entree picks include filet mignon with Maytag blue cheese crust and pudding-like sea bass with glazed carrots and mashed potatoes.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: In spring, the restaurant has all of its windows open for al fresco dining with a view of Fifth Avenue South.

Chelle's expert tip: The ten-layer carrot cake is an architectural and gastronomic wonder easily shared by two.

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Celebration Park Naples
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Opened in December 2018, the brainstorm of the owner of Three60 Market across the creek, Celebration Park celebrates the food truck boom that has been sounding across the nation these past few years. About 10 food trucks and stands park permanently (or at least seasonally) leading up to a stationary covered bar at Celebration. Some tables, high-tops, bar stools, and high chairs at a bar overlooking the creek providing seating. Choose from curry, barbecue, seafood, Greek dishes, gourmet burgers, hot dogs and mini-beignets at the different trucks. Smith Organics is the highest end with a kimchi burger, orange-cauliflower bowl and Korean Beef Tacos, along with Dilly's Seafood, whose spiny lobster roll is probably the most expensive thing you will find at $19.

Recommended for Best Restaurants for Spring because: Open-air and waterside, this new Naples dining scene was made for a springtime lunch or dinner.

Chelle's expert tip: Plan on an early lunch if you want to grab a table; they're in short supply.

Read more about Celebration Park Naples →


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Meet Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton – the Local Expert for Naples, Florida and the Caribbean – has been covering the destination for 30 years. Her top-selling Sarasota, Sanibel Island, and...  More About Chelle

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