NI’s 2017 Dining Awards: The Experience
Best Special-Occasion Dining: Bleu Provence
It feels beyond a pampered treat to experience the charming setting of wicker, blue-washed walls, and sidewalk seating along with the French flair, elegant wines, meticulous service, and masterful dishes at inimitable Bleu Provence. Start with English pea gazpacho and baked goat cheese crotin salad. Keep the splurge going with burgundy escargots and boneless wagyu short ribs. And the pièce de résistance: chocolate profiteroles stuffed with vanilla ice cream.
Honorable mention: The Continental
Live music and courtyard seating add to the sheer culinary grandeur of The Continental experience. It has steak, seafood, and craft cocktails down to an art form.
Best for Romance: Bleu Provence
You feel as though you have snuck off to a special corner of the Mediterranean as soon as you step in the door. Meticulously crafted dishes sustain the illusion with selections such as blackened organic salmon with mascarpone tzatziki and duck leg confit with blood orange sauce. The three-chocolate ganache with hazelnut crust fans the flames of passion with a touch of decadence.
Honorable mention: The Continental
Dinner, dancing, and the romance of a lush outdoor setting make The Continental the ideal match when you are trying to make an impression or celebrate love eternal.
Best Happy Hour: Bar Tulia
From 4 to 6 p.m. daily, guests enjoy special pricing on all draft beers, happy hour wines, and the punch du jour. Happy Hour-goers young and old crowd in to order snacks such as fried Wisconsin cheese curds, deviled eggs, and hummus with vegetable crudités. The intimate space gets charged with chatter and bustling social frivolity that spills out onto the sidewalk.
Honorable mention: Café & Bar Lurcat
In a setting of casual elegance that laces Old World with nouveau, “5 on 5th Avenue” runs daily 4 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close in the lounge. Select wines, beers, and small plates, such as a sea bass fish and chips, burger and fries, fried calamari, and warm cinnamon sugar doughnuts are all $5 each.
Best Late-Night Dining: Bar Tulia
Pegged as an Italian gastropub, Bar Tulia boasts the lively bar atmosphere and gourmet small-plates menu that fills the bill. It stays open until midnight and beyond every night except Sunday, serving fried-oyster sliders, charred octopus, deviled eggs, grilled fennel sausage, pizza, pasta, and even full entrées into the final hours.
Honorable mention: Café & Bar Lurcat
Bar Lurcat makes its late-night menu available until 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on weekends. Small plates and nibbles include an artisan cheese plate, smoked brisket tacos, and fish and chips.
Best Live Music: The Continental
In season, two different bands interchange six nights a week to keep patrons on their toes on the courtyard dance floor. The tunes run the gamut from classic rock and pop to jazz and blues. The outdoor bar specializes in classic and house-invented craft cocktails, while the kitchen makes late-nighters happy with an after-hours menu.
Honorable mention: 7th Avenue Social
Live bands play indoors nightly Thursday through Sunday year-round at this hopping night spot. Music ranges from blues to rock, cover bands to pianists.
Best Breakfast: Jane’s Garden Café
Ensconced in a blossomy courtyard setting with a warm homemade muffin and hot coffee is the ultimate way to wake up in downtown Naples. Jane’s kitchen uses organic products where possible, serving all-day breakfast with a Euro twist. Healthy breakfasters go for yogurt parfait or Painters Fruit Palette. For hearty appetites, there’s lobster benny or Nutella crepes.
Honorable mention: Cove Inn Coffee Shoppe
Fans of old-school breakfast slung by sassy servers head to the Cove Inn for enormous pancakes that hang over the edge of the plate and such throwbacks as S.O.S. and corned beef hash.
Best Brunch: The Bay House
With Bloody Marys and mimosas by the pitcher and a view of the Cocahatchee River, the Bay House knows how to start a Sunday. A la carte brunch items lean toward seafood, such as Alaskan king crab, shrimp and grits, and fried oysters, but there’s also pulled pork and chorizo chilaquiles or eggs with praline bacon.
Honorable mention: Jane’s Garden Café
With its all-day breakfast menu, Jane’s is a go-to for brunch any day of the week. It also offers all-day salads and sandwiches for anti-breakfast types.
Best Sunset View: The Turtle Club
Rarely do you find such elegance on the beach in Florida. The Turtle Club not only feeds your soul with a front-row sunset each night—from inside the windowed dining room or planted right in the sand—but it also feeds your appetite for such fine fare as baked oysters “Turtlefeller,” lowcountry shrimp and sausage, and Australian rack of lamb.
Honorable mention: Baleen
Feast on artfully crafted land and sea stunners with an unobstructed view of the sun’s curtain call from the glassed dining room, patio, or surfside.
Best Place to See and Be Seen: Campiello Ristorante & Bar
Front and center along happening Third Street South, the courtyard at Campiello affords some of the best people-watching opportunities. When you dine there, whether for lunch or dinner, you are among the town’s social cognoscenti. So linger long and enjoy the company.
Honorable mention: Bar Tulia
People of all ages and walks of life mingle in Bar Tulia’s intimate, vivacious space and along its Fifth Avenue South sidewalk. Join the party or sit back and watch.
Best Power Lunch: Campiello Ristorante & Bar
If you must work during lunch, why not plan it in an alfresco setting with fine regional Italian cuisine that will fuel your confab to the end? The lunch menu has plenty of choices for everyone at the table, and will certainly give you all something to talk about. Go light with shrimp and citrus salad or marinated grilled vegetables. Or power through the spit-roasted beef panini.
Honorable mention: Osteria Tulia
Take your business to Osteria Tulia’s intimate dining space to maximize your lunch hour power. Go Mad Men style with a wood-grilled hangar steak and craft cocktail.
Best Dog-Friendly Dining: 7th Avenue Social
The welcoming, ample patio at 7th Avenue Social means patrons with pets enjoy a pleasant alfresco experience. Staff will bring out a bowl of water for your dog to slurp while you are sipping something icy and refreshing from the bar’s trove of craft beers and cocktails.
Honorable mention: Campiello Ristorante & Bar
Big supporters of the Humane Society Naples, Campiello’s owners make furry guests feel extra welcomed in the courtyard with bowls of water and tasty treats.
Best Sports Bar: Tavern on the Bay
For die-hard sports lovers, Tavern on the Bay believes it has the area’s biggest high-definition projection TV at 155 inches, one of 15 sets in-house. It also has a high-scoring menu to pair perfectly with the game: nachos, wings, fish tacos, sliders, burgers, ribs, and pizza.
Honorable mention: Bokamper’s Sports Bar & Grill
It’s got game. It’s got beer (16 on draft plus bottled Florida crafts and imports). It’s got food for every appetite. Touchdown!