Where: 10395 U.S. 41 N., Naples
Information: 593-5555, www.randysfishmarketrestaurant.com
Hours: Open daily 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Beverages: Full bar
Service:Friendly and informal
Prices: Lunch items are less than $15, dinners mostly less than $30, including a salad and side dishes.
Recommended dishes: Clam appetizer ($9.95), seafood gumbo ($4.95-$8.95), black grouper dinner plate (market price)
Verdict: Fresh seafood cooked to order in a relaxed, Florida atmosphere.
I had wanted to give Randy’s Fishmarket a try for a long time, and now that I have, I have to admit I’m hooked. Locally owned, Randy’s is a typical Florida restaurant — colorful, cheery, family oriented — and it serves fresh seafood and Southern classics at prices that won’t break the bank. Located on the corner of U.S. 41 and 103rd Avenue in Naples Park, Randy’s may be landlocked, but its fish and shellfish is a favorite with both locals and visitors. During season be prepared for a long wait to get a table, especially during stone crab season from November to May.
Randy’s raw bar offers a good variety of appetizers that range from oysters on the half shell (market price), available raw or steamed; clams ($9.95 for a dozen); peel-and-eat shrimp ($9.95 for a half pound); New England steamers ($13.95); and the classic shrimp cocktail ($9.95). After a long deliberation I order a half dozen raw oysters. They are big and plump, served with a spicy cocktail sauce and a side of extra horseradish for those who like an extra kick.
Clams steamed in white wine and garlic also turn out to be a delicious appetizer that can easily double up as a light lunch. Once we are done eating the clams, it’s hard not to use all the bread and crackers in the basket to mop up the garlicky wine broth they were cooked in. While I’m not a big fan of mussels, I have to admit that the ones served at Randy’s have a delicate, easy-to-like flavor that is enhanced by fresh garlic butter and white wine ($8.95).
For a taste of old Florida try the conch fritters ($8.95). They are better than in most places, and they don’t come out of a Sysco truck. Tenderized pieces of conch, finely chopped onions and peppers and Caribbean spices are fried golden brown and served with a sweet and tangy dipping sauce. The fruity sauce has a surprising bite to it, while the fritters themselves are crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Appetizers are not all seafood-based. There are a few selections, including a Caprese salad ($9.95) and chicken wings ($7.95), geared to those who are not in the mood for fish.
Soup lovers should definitely order at least a cup of seafood gumbo ($4.95 or $8.95 for a bowl). I did, and by the time I was done with it, I was wishing I had ordered a bowl. Fresh seafood — think crawfish, shrimp, snapper — andouille sausage, okra, celery, bell pepper, onion, rice and tomatoes are slow simmered in a savory broth spiked with Cajun spices.
Entrees are prepared fresh and to order with any of the seafood available at Randy’s fish counter. One of the house favorites happens to be fish and chips ($13.95), a more than generous portion of a seasonal variety of fresh fish morsels dusted in seasoned breading and deep fried, then served French fries and cole slaw. Randy’s rendition has nothing to do with the grease laden fish and chips you might have had elsewhere, but I do suggest to drizzle it with malt vinegar as they do in England —it enhances the fish flavor and gives it a pleasant tang. Many of the entrees are fried favorites —fried clams, calamari, crab cakes and the likes— but there are also many pan seared options for the health conscious.
One of the best aspects of dining at Randy’s Fishmarket is the possibility to mix and match any fish with any of the sauces and preparations offered on the menu. Executive chef Richard Miller usually mingles in the dining room and is more than happy to answers questions and give suggestions to customers. The grouper Neapolitan, made with locally caught black grouper, tomatoes, artichokes, olive oil and white wine, is another house favorite. It may not be on the menu, but Miller will happily prepare it whether the dish is mentioned among the specials or not.
If you want to try something different than grouper or snapper, check out the Oh My God Shrimp Platter ($36.95 for five, $25.95 for three). As the name suggests, these shrimp will surprise you with their size, close to the one of a lobster. You can order either three or five, depending on your appetite, and choose between fried, blackened or sautéed with lemon, butter, white wine and garlic.
Whether you are in for lunch or dinner, make sure to save some room for Randy’s key lime pie. Silky, airy and with just the right amount of limey tanginess, it is the best key lime pie I’ve had in town.
Connect with Chiara Assi at naplesnews.com/staff/chiara_assi