When Jacquie and Curt Koon crested over the Judge S.S. Jolly Bridge on Sept. 22, 2007, they cruised through the classic Marco Island entrance, but on that first day of autumn, and on the first day of a new lifestyle, they could never guess as to the excitement of what would happen exactly one year later.
Jacquie was born in Iowa, Curt in Michigan, and the couple met and fell in love in Boston. Both were from small towns in the Midwest. After finding Collier Boulevard and ultimately The Esplanade, they walked down the promenade, past the splashing fountains, and knew they had found home when they sat at The Bar and looked out over Smokehouse Bay.
“When you sit at The Bar,” Jacquie recalled with a smile. “And when you look out over Smokehouse Bay ... you just have to say, ‘Wow!’”
Months earlier, Jacquie and Curt were living in New Jersey and had reached a decision. The southern states certainly had an appeal, and after deciding that a new restaurant in a new southern locale was the right recipe for success, they began doing their homework.
“We looked at over 60 restaurants in several southern states,” Jacquie explained. “We actually went to every location to check it out, but in the end, there were only a few real contenders. There were two in South Carolina, two in Georgia, and three in Florida that really had potential.”
“Amelia Island was a good first runner-up, but after the view on Smokehouse Bay and the small town atmosphere with the great tropical resort appeal, we really felt at home — especially with Boston contingent and all the Marco Island Midwesterners.”
“We loved the Bayview instantly,” Jacquie recalled, “Chef Laura immensely, and all our new family of employees, but we felt we needed a new identity — a new identity for a new restaurant!
“Over the months we worked on new menu items, and new ideas to enhance our atmosphere, and always on the back burner ... we carefully considered a new restaurant name.”
“At the beginning of August, we had narrowed 530 new names down to a final 10. The last 10 were all good but we felt we needed input from our customers and from our family of employees. For the top final 10 we took votes and the votes came in from everywhere — nightly customers, emails, folks from out-of-town, employees — and there were over 200!”
We are very proud to announce our new name for the restaurant is CJ’s on the Bay! We really want the new CJ’s to feel like your home away from home and we want CJ’s to be the place where islanders bring their out-of-town guests. We also want the identity of CJ’s to be something for everyone and a waterside restaurant and bar that we can be very proud of.”
“After all,” Jacquie smiled, “We are using our initials as the name, and when your name is on something you really take pride and ownership in what you produce.”
CJ’s on the Bay now has a new “Delightful Bites and Spectacular Sites” menu and features a completely new recipe for delighting customers. There are now 19 entirely new menu items and 10, CJ’s specialty items featuring Chef Laura Owen at her best.
With everything from Asian-style tuna tartar to slow roasted queens cut prime rib, the new CJ’s menu really has a great appeal.
The CJ’s “Mainland Entrées” include a pork Porterhouse chop marinated in Montreal seasoning and topped with fontina cheese and a slowly braised lamb shank accompanied by root vegetables is a new savory experience.
Any of the CJ’s “Mainland Entrées” can be made even more appealing with the addition of a half lobster tail.
The sandwich board section features a freshly ground turkey burger blended with house spices and topped with CJ’s blend of feta cheese, cilantro, lime, and jalapeno on a whole wheat bun. This tempting healthy choice is in good company alongside a grilled chicken breast sandwich dressed with avocado, apple-wood smoked bacon and pepper-jack cheese. A turkey panini is thinly sliced oven-roasted turkey breast, fresh apple, brie, and apple-wood smoked bacon with a walnut and golden raisin pesto.
Summer fresh salads can be made into an entrée by adding an ahi tuna steak, a grilled chicken breast, grilled shrimp, or braised beef tips. Pizza of the week is a CJ’s specialty and is perfect for watching the game on one of CJ’s flat screen televisions in the cool and comfortable bar on Smokehouse Bay.
CJ’s is open from 11 a.m. until closing seven days a week with free Internet access. Specials for Monday night football are a great way to kick off the season, and every Thursday and Friday night, Tony G performs Motown, with Juliet adding her flair for the motor city on Saturday.
A new Web site, www.CJsonthebay.com, showcases all the new menu items and drink specials. Happy hour begins every day at 4 p.m. and features half-price beer, wine, and well drinks until 7 p.m.
With a warm September sun slanting toward Smokehouse Bay, the culinary adventuress and I arrived among an excited crowd waiting for the unveiling of a new restaurant and the grand opening of CJ’s on the Bay.
The grand opening event for a new restaurant identity was as exciting as the first time experience we all can remember when we crossed over the Jolly Bridge, but for Jacquie and Curt Koon and the new CJ’s on the Bay, a one year Marco anniversary, coupled with a new restaurant grand opening will always be a recipe to remember.
Tom Williams debut adventure/thriller novel Lost and Found has been released by Archebooks and is now available on Amazon. A website with reviews and storyline is available at www.lostandfoundadventure.com