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Head to North Naples for a More Affordable and Youthful Dining Landscape



North Naples has become the new downtown when it comes to food, nightlife and the town’s young professional crowd. When the Mercato shopping and entertainment center opened on Tamiami Trail and Vanderbilt Beach Road a few years back, the tide turned. It led a movement toward good eats and youthful energy.

The North Naples area, for the purpose of this list, starts in the north at the Collier and Lee counties line and extends south to Pine Ridge Road.

Other culinary gems inhabit North Naples’ upscale resorts, such as BALEEN at LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort and The Grill at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples.

The 10 best restaurants included on this list cover a wide range of price points, settings and style of cuisine. Sample everything from hearty home-cooked fare and fish market seafood to Peruvian, healthy and Southwestern cuisine.

Perhaps the best part of venturing to North Naples for breakfast, lunch or dinner is you are likely to find more affordable meals than when dining in the downtown Old Naples district. 


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Joe's Diner
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Eat at Joe's! the sign outside commands, predictably. The popular North Naples diner is cliche in many ways - from its counter seating to its comfort food. Checkered tablecloths under glass top the usually packed tables. Photos of Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and retro baseball players hang on the walls along with a flat-screen TV. The extensive breakfast menu is available until close. In addition to traditional breakfast dishes such as pancakes, chipped beef on toast, sausage gravy and biscuits, and eggs benedict, Joe's Diner goes off the diner grid with sweet or savory crepes, a killer pot roast benedict, blintzes and healthy concoctions such as the Tahitian parfait, granola wheat germ pancakes and egg white or eggbeaters options. Breakfast stars here, but you can also order specialty burgers, grilled sandwiches, salads and platters of meatloaf, honey fried chicken and open-faced roast beef.


True Food Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


As fresh as its pea-green banquettes, True Food Kitchen opened in March 2017 fueled by the expertise and name-recognition of Dr. Andrew Weil, whose anti-inflammatory diet has made him a respected author. The spacious, open dining room presents a seamless experience of watching chefs and juice bartenders work magic with the freshest, healthiest ingredients possible. With nearly 20 restaurants nationwide, True Food's menu localizes somewhat to its venue. Every location's menu indicates vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan selections, plus organic wines and fresh-made cocktails. Don't-miss items: Medicine Man iced tea with blueberry, pomegranate and sea buckthorn; Charred Cauliflower with harissa tahini and dates; Inside Out Quinoa burger with hummus and tzatziki; poke bowl, and coconut and chia pudding. Even the lasagna- made with gluten-free noodles, house-made chicken sausage and lemon ricotta- tastes healthy.


Sunburst Café
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Tucked into a shopping plaza at the corner of Pine Ridge Road and Airport Pulling Road, this small cafe overflows into sidewalk tables with fans of its fresh and flavorful coffee, bakery goods, breakfast omelets, sandwiches, and crepes. Specialties include the Costa Rican - a breakfast plate of eggs, black beans and brown rice with a side of salsa - pancakes such as banana pecan and the veggie wrap with tzatziki sauce or hummus. Servers wear T-shirts expressing "Friends Don't Let Friends Go to Starbucks." You order at the counter here, then take a table in the cheery dining room or outside. Everything is homemade, including a beguiling case of muffins and pastries.


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The Local
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Whether you choose deeply comforting food or a low-calorie or vegan dish, The Local promises the freshest, most local, homemade products available. So it's not only healthy for diners, but for Mother Earth as well. Owner-chef Jeff Mitchell trained at the Culinary Institute of America and works with local farmers to serve organic produce, artisanal cheeses, grass-fed beef and other good-for-you ingredients. At lunch, hearty salads star along with flatbreads and sandwiches. For dinner, open-faced house-made pastrami with pickled relish showcases the chef's mastery of charcuterie. Try the pork ragu with house-made potato gnocchi, Florida gulf shrimp atop capellini, pot roast, free-range, oven roasted chicken breast or pink shrimp scampi pizza. Choose from breakfast tacos and sandwiches and "Farmer Dishes" at brunch. The difference is in the attention to detail: house-cured olives, house-pickled vegetables, house-made mozzarella and charcuterie.


Bay House Restaurant
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


Overlooking serene Cocohatchee Bay, the Bay House is regarded as one of the city's most spectacular seafood restaurants. This charming eatery serves fresh, Southern-inspired and bistro-style seafood dishes, as well as steak and chicken options - all prepared with fresh and usually local ingredients. Most tables in the main dining room - decorated coastally with wooden boats hanging from the ceiling - and patio offer views of the surrounding waterway, ensuring patrons a scenic setting on top of a sensational meal. Tierney's Bar offers an alternative cozy setting of fireplace and dark wood. Live entertainment plays in the bar most evenings, and private banquet rooms are available.


The Grill
Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Naples


Nothing beats a dinner out at the Ritz, where service, setting and culinary excellence combine to foment an experience that transcends mere eating by miles. The Grill excels in fine steaks but also knows its way around seafood. Dry-aged cuts include New York strip, ribeye and Delmonico, plus filet mignon, veal chop and Colorado rack of lamb. Why not splurge further and add a side of foie gras or half a lobster tail? Signature entrees run the gamut from red snapper with white bean ragout to duck with sweet potato and sauerkraut. Despite its formality, the atmosphere feels relaxed. Live music, usually light piano, frequently entertains.


Inca's Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


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 a 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 dishes in other dishes such as the traditional tacu tacu - beans and rice - and parihuela - Peruvian bouillabaisse. There's also tapas, chicken and meat dishes, vegetarians options and wonderful desserts.


Agave Bar & Grill
Photo courtesy of Chelle Koster Walton


This handsomely decorated dining room definitely dwells at the high end of Naples' range of Mexican restaurants with fare that embraces fresh Southwestern American cuisine. It's signature guacamole bar custom blends your avocado dip to your liking and degree of burn. That, along with the amazingly seasoned chicken tortilla soup, with half an avocado fanned into the bowl, could make a lunch. Even the complimentary chips and salsa have their own special addictive flair. Dinner specials include grilled Chilean salmon and pork Osso Bucco. The bar features a wide range of tequilas and margaritas plus live music most nights of the week.


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.


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. For lunch, 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 cosmopolitan with hot pastrami on a pretzel roll. The Sea Harvest and low-country shrimp and grits star on the dinner menu.


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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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