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 are one-sided at deck's edge 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 basket of cracked conch, clam strips, frog legs or fried 'gator.
Now this is what a beach restaurant should look like, 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 take a table 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.
Chickee bars are a signature form of the Naples area party scene, and at Snook Inn the open-air thatched roof structure also draws a lunch crowd looking for eye candy with their meal. The chickee at Snook Inn overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway and hosts live island music daily. You can also dine indoors- a popular summer option - with a view of local boat traffic on the Marco River. That's where the restaurant's salad bar resides - a throwback to old-school lunching with a huge pickle barrel at one end. Sandwiches and seafood entrees dominate the menu. Specialty items include grouper sandwich, baked stuffed shrimp and blackened mahi-mahi.
Overlooking the marina along the Esplanade shopping and entertainment center complex on Marco Island, Mango's provides a pleasant al fresco and indoor venue for breakfast, lunch, cocktails and dinner. Cheerful and oh so islandy, its menus give everyone something that pleases, from a nicely creative breakfast menu (try the Cobb benedict) to fresh sushi, soups from scratch, burgers and fresh Florida catches of the day. It touts its "Marco's Best Salads" selections - a salad bar or selections such as king crab and avocado salad. Live musicians entertain throughout the week, and happy hour runs from 3 to 7 p.m. every day.
The Dock at Crayton Cove has been around since the mid-70s - a slump of a seafood shack marina-side cooled by sea breezes. It is the epitome of Old Naples pre-gentrification. Not much has changed through the decades. There's still fried seafood specials, raw oysters and a lively bar scene. The menu has progressed through the years to inject exotic Caribbean flavor into the menu. Think conch fritters, coconut shrimp, blackened grouper on Cuban bread, banana macadamia nut snapper, key lime grouper with key lime butter sauce, baby back ribs with guava BBQ sauce and paella.
A leisurely al fresco meal beneath an authentic Seminole-weaved vaulted chickee roof at a place named Coconut Jack's: Does it get any more Florida than that? In fact it does, with fruity drinks, servers' shirts that scream "tropical" and a menu devoted to seafood - from "Old Florida" style baskets to some ambitious creativity. For starters, try the crab cakes with mango buerre blanc, BBQ pork nachos or a salad. The tequila oysters Rockefeller twists a classic with jalapeno melted into Asiago cheese and a splash of tequila. Shrimp, scallops, fish and clam strips get the flash-fry treatment for the baskets. Good entree picks: mahi tacos, pulled pork sandwich, baby back ribs, honey lime glazed salmon, stuffed grouper and filet mignon.
Naples' newest waterfront restaurant in the town's newest hotel at the Hyatt House downtown, it toes the line between casual and classy. Inside, its vaulted ceiling gives it a sense of grandeur as sculptures depict fish and suggest waves. Its generous bar, where craft cocktails happen, has a window onto its extension poolside and riverside patio. Outdoors, beneath paddle fans, a handful of tables have the best river views. The lunch and dinner menus don't try to overachieve, but offer well-executed favorites such as lobster quesadilla, crab burger, IPA-braised short ribs, and orange and ginger glazed salmon.
Located at downtown Naples' funky "Tin City" shopping center, Riverwalk gives diners a casual waterfront dining experience along the Gordon River. The restaurant sits atop a dock on the water, designed with a nautical theme in mind. Guests can sit on the open air porch or, when weather dictates, inside. The varied menu is all Florida with a touch of New Orleans for good measure. Sample traditional fish house fare such as fried oysters or grouper and chips; or be a little more daring with Riverwalk Jambalaya, seafood baked in parchment or Caribbean inspired Down Island BBQ Shrimp.
One of Naples' classiest waterfront restaurants, M Waterfront is part of the Village on Venetian Bah complex on Naples Bay. Simply, yet elegantly, decorated, it emphasizes the picturesque views in lieu of obtrusive interior furnishings. Staggered floor levels give every guest an eyeful of water and passing boats, whether they sit al fresco, in the main dining room or around the congenial bar. Brunch, lunch and dinner menus feature organic produce, artisan pastas, local and imported seafood and the finest of meats. For the best of surf and turf, order the sautéed veal and shrimp with herbed marsala wine sauce and spinach and mascarpone risotto.
Overlooking serene Cocohatchee Bay, the Bay House - as it is most commonly known - 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. Most tables in the main dining room - decorated coastily 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 Wednesday through Saturday evenings seasonally, and private banquet rooms are available.