Stilts: Beachside dining a few steps above the rest

Stilts

Where: Marriott’s Crystal Shores, a Marriott Vacation Club Resort, 600 S. Collier Blvd.

Information: Open daily for lunch and dinner. 393-6790

It was one of those blustery days. Not raining, just very cloudy and a little windy. The surf was up and it was a perfect night to enjoy dinner on the beach.

I had not eaten dinner at Stilts, yet both my children, Noah, 13, Samantha, 11, had dined there. Samantha’s teacher had taken her to Stilts during the summer, and Noah went with his friend Joey and his mother, Julia. So now, it was my turn.

Stilts is the on-site restaurant for the Crystal Shores, a Marriott Vacation Club Resort and the former site of the Radisson hotel located on the south end of Collier Boulevard.

We arrived at Crystal Shores. Signs pointed the way to Stilts and you did not have to enter through the resort. Stairs near the pool area led up to dining room and there is an elevator for those who need it.

Sunset had come and gone before we arrived. The light was fading, but you could still see and hear the pounding surf from the second floor location. Noah said it reminded him of Bermuda.

The restaurant was about half-full. Comfortable chairs and metal tables scattered the balcony-type restaurant, open on three sides to the beach. Stilts is tucked in between the resort and a condo, so if you are worried about it being to windy, don’t be. There are also clear roll-down shades in case of inclement weather.

Stools line a bar at the back of the restaurant, for the just-here-for-a-drink crowd.

A server appeared promptly after a quick look around the restaurant and seated us at a table in the middle — all the tables near the railing facing the beach were occupied. He took our drink order — sodas and water — and left us with menus to peruse.

A family of four was just getting up to leave from one of the desirable tables, and when our server returned with our drinks, we asked if we could move. He graciously moved our silverware and drinks to the new table.

The “railing” around the edge of the dining area is actually glass panels, so the view of the beach is unobstructed and parents with small children can safely enjoy their meals.

We moved on to ordering our dinner. Stilts’ menu wasn’t overwhelming with too many choices. There is enough to satisfy the meat, chicken and seafood crowd along with some vegetarian choices. After a recommendation from Samantha on the spinach and artichoke dip, we decided on that particular appetizer and the scallop poppers. We chose the sweet chili-glazed grouper and teriyaki pineapple chicken. Both entrees were served with a house salad and choice of potato.

Three large diver scallops wrapped in bacon and pan-seared with a citrus beurre blanc sauce arrived at the table. A perfect amount, one for each of us. Too large to pop in your mouth, we all had to cut the scallops into two or three pieces. Wrapped with smoky bacon, the clean sweet taste of the scallop complimenting the citrus sauce was divine. This original creation from Stilts’ Chef Eugene Martin has become the signature dish for the resort.

The artichoke and spinach dip was a little disappointing. The dip was runny, a bit grainy and did not want to stay on the flat bread and multi-colored tortilla chips. Samantha said on her previous trip the dip was very good and the right consistency. We decided on giving it another try on our next visit.

Small dinner salads arrived with blue cheese dressing on the side. I would have preferred the tomatoes cut into small pieces for easier handling, but the greens were fresh and the dressing had a generous amount of blue cheese chunks. A sprinkle of croutons was an added crunch.

Our dinner arrived shortly after we were finished with the salads. It’s nice to sit and chat with my kids and not have to cook and serve dinner at the same time.

The teriyaki pineapple chicken was enough for two. Four pieces of grilled chicken glazed in a not-too-sweet teriyaki glaze with a generous amount of pineapple. Grilled asparagus spears, our favorite way to cook it, on top with a moist baked potato with butter and sour cream completed the plate. The chicken was tender, not overcooked, and the grilled pineapple added another layer of flavor.

The sweet chili-glazed grouper also was served with asparagus and potato. The filet of grouper had a nice baked crust with a slather of the sweet chili glaze. The glaze was not too spicy for me, but had enough heat to satisfy Noah’s taste buds.

Childhood was calling and we all wanted the rice crispy treat for dessert. A large — and I mean large — square of puffed rice cereal and marshmallow, topped with chocolate and a puff of whipped cream, served with a strawberry on the side, was enough for the three of us. A sweet favorite of most children, the extra garnishes brought it to the adult table.

I forgot to mention the service, which in my book, which means it was great. Our server left us alone to enjoy our dinner and at the same time kept our glasses full and brought food at the appropriate times.

One last thing. Remember Noah’s comment about Bermuda? Samantha and I chuckled over that, since we have never been to Bermuda!

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