Dining Outside the Home: Bonita Beach Balloon Bar & Grill in Bonita Springs, Florida! On your way back from the beach when you’re feeling as hungry as a shark and parched beyond feeling, make a stop at a friendly bar where open-air dining makes a spirit soar like a hot air balloon, no pun intended. The pub-style grub offers a delicious variety of flavors. It’s family-friendly and sits on the palm-lined main drag on Bonita Beach Road. It’s fairly new, since Covid anyway, but casual enough to feel like a neighborhood hangout. Get the taste of homemade with a southwest Florida twist. Take it from me, the grilled Shrimp Po’ Boy with a tangy Remoulade Sauce, toasted sub roll, fresh lettuce, and salty tomatoes did not disappoint. It’s Shrimpolicious.
Dining Outside the Home: Vergina Restaurant in Naples, Florida! Italians are known for their food culture as well as their leisurely meals. Located on 5th Avenue, a few steps away from the Sugden Civic Theater, is a great place for meeting people. It’s known as Vergina’s. The neo-classic architecture provides lovely patio dining as well as intimate gatherings inside along the u-shaped bar or at tables located throughout. Vergina’s crafted martinis by personable bartenders, an euphoric wine list, memorable cocktails, and leisurely Italian courses are reasons enough to stop by for social interaction or that weekly “date night”. Unwind where the music is lively, without drowning out personal conversations, and the appetite is fully sated.
Dining Outside the Home: Coconut Jack’s Waterfront Grille in Bonita Springs, Florida! Have you ever eaten in a tiki hut along the waterfront? The open air seating is a sought-after request for a stunning tropical view. It feels like being on a river in the tropics the way the trees embrace the shoreline like an island oasis. There’s no doubt atmosphere affects our perception of being carefree and downright sexy. At Coconut Jack’s the local seafood is fresh, the cocktails are thirst-quenching, and the experience is memorable. Oftentimes, the chef features a daily special that will leave you smiling all the way home. If seafood is your go-to choice, there’s plenty to choose from and more to look forward to on a return trip back.
Dining Outside the Home: Rusty’s Raw Bar & Grill in Estero, Florida! Just because a restaurant tells you they offer raw seafood doesn’t necessarily mean you have to order it. They do offer American fare that satisfies the burger-and-fries crowd. This cozy sports bar hangout seems to attract the “regulars” for their favorite brew as well as social connections for casual encounters. Face it, people enjoy small talk while viewing a game. It’s relaxing and comfortable. It’s actually fun to watch the bartender create drinks or talk about her current sunburn or newest tattoo. Alcohol can be a perk, and the comfort food is a bonus. Plus, a pause in the day has advantages. Attitude adjustments come free. If you drive by a place and see a row of cars and trucks in the parking lot, odds are it’s probably a pretty decent place and worth checking out. I did.
Dining Outside the Home: Island Gypsy Cafe & Marina Bar in Naples, Florida! Take a side turn off the main drag and you’ll find yourself on a winding road to the magical Isles of Capri, a charming waterfront community as sought after as a coveted treasure map. The Island Gypsy Cafe is recognizable by its weathered bar, salvaged from the stern of an original sea vessel destroyed by a hurricane years ago. Once upon a time the Island Gypsy was a 65-foot fishing boat. Absorb the history of yesteryear among the ambiance of present day. The outdoor Café serves a delightful array of fresh seafood, including coconut shrimp, citrus crusted tuna sashimi, and macadamia nut mahi-mahi. Anyone who has a taste for onion rings will want to add a basket of hand cut batter-fried onion rings to share. The cocktails are as tropical as the desserts are famous. Find your path for hidden riches. And don’t forget to pack your appetite.
Dining Outside the Home: The Dock at Crayton Cove in Naples, Florida! Open waterfront dining has been drawing people like a moth to flame since 1976. Could it be the tropical paradise setting? Or the splash of a wave against the floating dock stretching out into Naples Bay? What about the low hum of the motor on a distant yacht? It’s not hard to imagine when you are seated at the open-air restaurant sipping on a refreshing cocktail basking in the afternoon breeze. Order a Crayton Cove Cobb Salad. Enjoy it as served or add lump lobster meat for a taste extravaganza. Afterwards take a nice long walk around this “Back Bay” area. It’s seeped in history for the early pioneers as well as the fishing community.
Dining Outside the Home: Bistro 821 in Naples, Florida! Located in the heart of historic Olde Naples along Fifth Avenue, not far from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, Bistro 821 awaits you. Whether you choose a charming indoor table for two or alfresco dining along the thoroughfare, excitement grows among the pulse of activity. Look around; notice the ambiance of European architecture. Peruse the world-class menu as you sip on a crafted cocktail of choice. There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the mood, quality, and atmosphere. These are the times we remember as special. Small plates make great beginnings for a taste of seafood. Graze through a salad as the conversation flows before deciding on a main course entree. Experienced servers are happy to answer any questions you may have. Before the evening comes to a close, save room for dessert, a specialty coffee, or the perfect nightcap.
Dining Outside the Home: Pier 22 in Bradenton, Florida! Perched on the edge of the Manatee River since the 1920’s, with a panoramic view of the marina and beyond, Pier 22 is a road trip destination to Historic Bradenton that culminates in a fabulous meal on the riverside deck. From casual occasions on the patio to formal celebrations in the ballroom, time spent here becomes a memorable experience. The building itself resembles a charming Mediterranean villa with bobbing bateaux against the distant skyline. Meals are made from scratch, creating art-on-a-plate presentation worthy of the crown. Take your time by enjoying the seafood bounty, the gussied up entrées, the summery cocktails, and the fabulous desserts. No matter the hour or weather, Pier 22 transforms the entire scene into one of life’s perfect moments.
Dining Outside the Home: Off the Rock Tavern in Naples, Florida! The cozy laid back atmosphere of this place makes people feel relaxed, whether outdoors at shaded tables or indoors to watch the games. It’s the classic setting for your favorite alcoholic beverage, a place to engage in conversation, binge on bar bites, and linger over dinner. Guilt-free menu options encourage healthy choices with fresh ingredients. Don’t be shy; try something new. The day of this snapshot, a table was set…front and center…marked by American flags and personalized place cards. Its purpose was to honor the US military killed in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan. Thirteen bottles of beer sat ghostly untouched as a tribute for the lives of those brave Americans. When a restaurant community of servers come together like this for our military, is it any wonder people gravitate here?