A la Carte: A new sparkle on the beach

Stilts Bar and Grill open at Marriott’s Crystal Shores

There is a new restaurant on South Beach, but this open-air, fresh and sunny, beachside bistro is not wedged into the throngs of Miami, but is located on our very own 600 South Collier Boulevard. Perched above the sea grapes, sand and the boardwalk, Marriott’s newly opened Crystal Shores Vacation Club now offers an inspired luncheon and dinner venue with a panoramic view of gulfside paradise.

Stilts is the name for the new restaurant anchored above the dunes. With an equal blend of Caribbean flair, Miami art-deco and sultry south Florida, this newly hatched fledgling has already found a sure footing with a menu created by global culinary professionals.

Chef Brian Klein is the vice president of food and beverage for Marriott Vacation Club International and oversees 53 restaurants around the world. Chef Eugene Martin is the director of food and beverage for Stilts and Crystal Shores, and is celebrating his 24th year with Marriott. Together, the two Marriott professionals have combined individual talent and ingredients to create a Marco-South Beach menu and recipes.

“We wanted this to be fun.” Chef Brian Klein explained. “We wanted to kick it up a notch. It really is all about quality. I believe it is better to have seven great and outstanding items on a menu, instead of 14 that are just average or ordinary. It’s also all about fresh product. Without that, there is really nothing to work with.

“Here at Stilts,” Chef Brian continued, “We wanted this to be an enjoyable and exciting atmosphere — above and out of the norm. There are some items on the menu that might look commonplace, but they really are not when they arrive at the table. For instance, our pulled pork sliders. This is not just a barbecue pork sandwich— it’s three of them ‘White Castle’ slider style — but with grilled onions piled on top and the perfect pickle that makes these little sandwiches special.

“And speaking of special,” Chef Brian smiled as he introduced Chef Eugene Martin.

“Eugene is a graduate of Johnson Wales Culinary Institute. He has worked exclusively in food and beverage with Marriott full service hotels in Atlanta, Boston, New York City, Baltimore and now in his new home on Marco.”

“And,” Eugene smiled. “I’ve brought the best of all that experience right here to Stilts. The crabcakes and the jumbo lump crab salad from Baltimore, the barbecue sauce from the south.”

“Don’t forget the scallop poppers,” Chef Brian chimed in. “The scallop poppers are totally Eugene and really fantastic. Eugene created this appetizer and it just might be the signature dish for the resort.”

Many visitors and newcomers to Marco will ask: Is there an ocean view restaurant right on the beach?

There are only a few, is the answer. But now there is one more!

After an absolutely incredible morning above Marco Island with Dave Odom’s Island Hopper aerial adventures helicopter tours — read about this later in ETC — Marco Eagle photographer Glenn Walton and I climbed the beach boardwalk stairs to enter Stilts.

An open-air excitement instantly flows when entering Stilts, but the sun is held in check by louvered slats and all-weather blinds that can be adjusted to enhance the day. The view of the gulf is incredible and the water clarity and color this time of year is an event not to be missed. Stilts, as the name would suggest, is well anchored above the dunes and the height of the restaurant platform adds to the outstanding view.

With a big smile, Mario Petrov greeted our arrival as we were seated under a lofty overhead with spinning ceiling fans. The seating at Stilts is spaced well apart, which lends to the theme of wide-open tropical spaces.

After our interview with Chef Brian and Eugene, the scallop poppers were definitely an appetizer choice. For only $10, this is a recipe and appetizer that truly embraces the theme of Stilts. Three very large diver scallops are patted dry, wrapped in lean bacon and then pan seared to perfection with a citrus beurre blanc sauce. The olive oil and butter citrus infusion perfectly compliments the scallop poppers served over mixed greens finished with a tangy vinaigrette. Oh yes, for scallop fans everywhere, this signature starter is a must. The divine combination of the greens, smoky bacon and the scallops — wow!

For lunch, Glenn chose the pulled pork sliders with fries — all entrees come with a choice of fruit or fries — and for $11, this was a meal two could easily share. The pulled pork was tender and tasty, the grilled onions perfect and with the tangy pickles and fries this is another winner, especially with Chef Eugene’s Marco Island South Beach BBQ Sauce.

My choice for lunch was the spicy grouper tacos with fries. For $14, two corn tortillas are filled with pan-seared grouper and jalapeno slaw, served with salsa and sour cream. The flavors again reflected the talent in the kitchen and with the slaw offering a new twist, Stilts again, rises above.

Stilts is open to the public seven days a week with lunch beginning at 11 a.m. Dinner is served until 9 p.m. Resort information and Stilts reservations are available at 393-6767.

Chef Eugene promises his strip steak, Maryland-style crabcakes and blackened grouper are dinner entrées that are island contenders. With a new and eager staff waiting to please, Stilts is a new and exciting beachfront restaurant that really is on the rise.

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

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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