As its name suggests, this is an old-school kind of place that still does a soup and salad bar and throws back to the classic comedy series "Spanky and Our Gang." It has been a Naples fixture since the '80s. Happily, the prices are a bit of a throwback as well, thanks to its location well east of downtown and the beach. Serving all-American specialties, Spanky's offers an extensive menu of burgers, cold sandwiches, wings and a nice selection of salads at lunch. Dinner adds steaks, ribs, seafood, pasta and chicken to the menu. There are a few tables on the back porch overlooking a canal, but most take to the cool dining room decorated with memorabilia.
Recommended for Best Value because: Its location away from downtown, plus its uncomplicated menu translate into value pricing.
Chelle's expert tip: Meat-lovers come for Spanky's juicy prime rib in sizes from 12 to 16 ounces.
Rodes began as a rickety roadside stand and has grown into a fish, produce and gourmet market and restaurant complex known as Rodes Fresh & Fancy, now in business for nearly 30 years. Purists go for the steamed clams and shrimp, mussels, stone crab and other raw bar items. And they know full well to leave room for the key lime pie. If you're more interested in the "fancy" part of the equation, order swordfish piccata or seafood stew. The "fresh" part weighs heavier on the menu, which specializes in Old Florida style fried seafood and fresh fish with your choice of preparation.
Recommended for Best Value because: It serves some of the most affordable and freshest seafood in the area.
Chelle's expert tip: Start your meal with something from the raw bar and end with some of the best key lime pie around.
The original of now three storefronts, it's not just all about tacos. But Tacos & Tequila Cantina's menu does list nearly 30 different flavors from traditional carnita to Buffalo, po' boy shrimp and veg out tacos. Sauces and ingredients all taste fresh in this indoor-outdoor garage chic setting that looks as though it could do some partying. Other traditional and inventive food offerings include grilled corn on the cob with ancho chilies and Cotija cheese, huevos rancheros and Mexican burger. It's not all about tequila, either, although the drink menu lists 30-something different kinds of Blanco, Reposado and Anejo tequilas. Choose also from 20 flavors of margaritas and other fruit drinks.
Recommended for Best Value because: Away from downtown's pricey restaurants, this one serves great Tex-Mex at reasonable prices.
Chelle's expert tip: For a proper sample of T&T, slap down $30 for the Trio Bandito -three tacos and three shots of tequila.
Open for breakfast and lunch only (until 3 p.m.), it tastes like eating at home - especially if you are from Philly. Then you will likely order the Philly Breakfast with Taylor pork roll or scrapple or the Philly cheese steak served on genuine, Philly-imported Amoroso rolls. Even non-Philly guests will love Old 41's made-from-scratch offerings: fresh-ground Colombian coffee, corned beef hash homemade from Boar's Head meat, an incredible Texas French toast with homemade caramel and pecans, Carbon's malted Belgian waffles, Boar's Head hoagies, hot roasted turkey or beef sandwiches and homemade rice pudding. The setting is a simple strip mall storefront - bright, clean and friendly.
Recommended for Best Value because: You can get your fill of hearty, home-cooked food for very little cash.
Chelle's expert tip: For breakfast, the Texas French toast is the bomb. The cheesesteak sandwich? The best around!
Now, this is what a beach restaurant should look, feel like and charge like. You will find a number of resort restaurants that overlook the beach, but to get the real thing, travel north to Bonita Beach where you can walk right off the beach and into this beer-and-burger joint for a break from the sun. Sit out back, right on the beach, if you can't bring yourself to drag your toes out of the sand. Or sit inside, where there's shade. If you're looking for air-conditioning on a hot summer day, head upstairs to order your breakfast, lunch or dinner and watch the game. The kitchen is famous for its Chicago-style pizzas, served after 4 p.m. Day-long there's seafood, burgers and key lime pie.
Recommended for Best Value because: For dining with a view of the gulf, you can't beat the prices.
Chelle's expert tip: Sit outside and order a bucket of beer with lunch. Or come for dinner to watch the sunset.
A dozen or so picnic tables on the dock outside the fresh seafood market afford guests the best catches and views. Some of the tables at deck's edge have seating only on one side for the optimal overlook of the river and its working waterfront. There's also upstairs air-conditioned seating (no handicap access) with table service for breakfast. In season (November through mid-May), it's open for dinner, too. The rest of the year the restaurant and cafe close at 6 p.m. For other meals, you must place your order in the fish market. Order up generous servings of soft-shelled crab, cracked conch sandwich, soft shell crab sandwich, oyster po' boy, pulled pork sandwich (for landlubbers) or baskets of cracked conch, clam strips, frog legs or fried 'gator.
Recommended for Best Value because: It sits right on the commercial docks, meaning its seafood travels the shortest distance and is as inexpensive as it is fresh.
Chelle's expert tip: Stone crab comes directly from fishermen's traps to City Seafood Oct. 15 through May 15.
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 mahi-mahi. 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 pipe organ, stained glass and various other components with a past.
Recommended for Best Value because: It is one of the most affordable options for waterfront dining on the Marco Island menu, and the food is the best in Goodland.
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.
It's thoughtful that a restaurant would strive to serve the best possible food for our good health. But it's even better that Food & Thought's dishes reflect the kind of creative thinking that raises them above typical health food juice-bar fare. Like most of its kind, Food & Thought's service is order-at-the-counter. It serves all the typical veggie juices, including wheatgrass, and fruit smoothies, plus your standard hummus wrap and tabouli salad. It breaks the mold, however, with its daily hot entrees, soup and side dish menu. These are served cafeteria-style, but somehow manage to taste made-to-order. On the regular menu, you will find breakfast items such as quiche and sprouted pancakes, plus chickpea salad and chicken salad wrap or sandwich. Everything is certified organic and homemade, and the indoor-outdoor setting is as fresh as the food.
Recommended for Best Value because: Not only is the prepared food healthy, but it's also affordable.
Chelle's expert tip: Come for lunch and buy your ingredients for a healthy dinner in Food & Thought's marketplace.
And the award for the best new "greet-and-eat" breadbasket alternative: Inca's Kitchen's fried corn with a trio of dipping sauces. This Peruvian favorite starts off diners with this fun taster of yellow pepper sauce, red pepper sauce and another remoulade-like native sauce. Corn is a rivet (stronger than a staple) in Peruvian cuisine, and this starter is an original and flavorful way to launch diners down the path to authentic dining. Next in line, if you're determined to try favorite Peruvian specialties: ceviche, which originated in Peru. Inca's sells various versions of the raw fish dish dressed with citrus. You will also find seafood in other dishes such as the traditional tacu tacu - beans and rice - and parihuela - Peruvian bouillabaisse. There are also tapas, chicken and meat dishes, vegetarian options and wonderful desserts.
Recommended for Best Value because: It serves hearty, home-cooked Peruvian cuisine without the sticker shock at the new trendy versions.
Chelle's expert tip: The wahoo ceviche is divine, accompanied by a shot glass of its own tiger milk.
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 Value because: Its Bayshore neighborhood keeps prices low and the food truck cuisine is a delicious bargain.
Chelle's expert tip: Plan on an early lunch if you want to grab a table; they're in short supply.