If you go
Jack’s River Bar
Where: 475 North Road, Naples
By boat: Go under the bridge at Tin City, past Bayfront on Gordon River; continue on for seven minutes; Naples Harbour Yacht Club is on the right.
Information: (239) 213-1441; JacksRiverBarNaples.com
475 North Road, Naples, FL
NAPLES — After two years or so living in Naples, I finally know what’s behind the Naples Municipal Airport. Fish tacos, a most unique Caesar salad presentation and a cheeseburger that would be a challenge for Paul Bunyan for to finish were all waiting behind the aviation center of town.
Located at the Naples Harbour Yacht Club behind the aforementioned Naples Airport, you can access the road to Jack’s River Bar off Airport-Pulling Road at the stoplight by the driver license office. Jack’s River Bar is far from the hustle and bustle of Fifth Avenue or Third Street South in Naples proper, but just as deserving of its own culinary praise.
Jack’s River Bar is designed to have an island getaway feel, but the upside to putting an island getaway in a yacht club is that it’s extremely clean and comfortable — no sand in your shoes or weathered wood picnic tables here, but the guests have just as much fun. Situated along the Gordon River, there are three bars within the club — downstairs in Jack’s River Bar, outside by the pool and upstairs in a sensual space replete with grand piano and high ceilings. It’s quite surprising when you come off the elevator to find a space that looks like it belongs in Casa de Campo or an other swanky respite.
Regardless of what you order at Jack’s River Bar, be sure to read the menu in its entirety. Some of the dish names and descriptions, courtesy of novelist and food and beverage manager Jason R. Jones and Executive Chef Charles Bartholf, are hilarious. Chef Bartholf is also an artist who works with agate when he’s not in the kitchen. His cuisine presentation is creative already, but come December, he intends to further showcase that streak when he revamps the menu.
Rather than stick to a specific cuisine — a la Italian, French or German — the menu at Jack’s River Bar is designed in traditional private club style with an array of dishes to please every palate. This type of menu usually doesn’t please me, but at Jack’s River Bar it really works well. They’ve limited the dishes to the very best of each of the cuisines represented.
In fact, I ordered something from almost every genre to see if the variety of dishes were prepared to my high dining standards of: 1. Do the flavors leap off the plate? 2. Would I wrestle someone bigger than me for another bite? And, third, am I longing for a second helping, despite being stuffed? Here’s how they measured up.
The fish tacos were a standout and something I knew I’d be back for even before I finished the dish. They are prepared with a single, long mahi-mahi filet rather than pieces of fish, dusted in Cajun seasoning, sautéed and then finished in the oven. Bartholf serves it with red pepper, cilantro, lime, lettuce, onion, tomato and a spicy remoulade. But the final ingredient — sliced Mandarin orange segments — sent me right over the edge with a sweet tang on the back end of the bite.
One of Jack’s calling cards is the “really huge burger” section of the menu. Ingesting the Double Trouble in its entirety will earn you a photo on Jack’s wall of fame and a T-shirt. Only a select few have finished the four patties on a bun concoction with cheesy bacon fries. I had one bite of someone else’s Double Trouble burger and it was seasoned well, cooked perfectly and kind of scary — like whatever got left on the plate might come after you.
Scrumptious side orders didn’t take a backseat to the entrees. You’ll find them under the “Some other stuff you may want” section of the menu. The mac and cheese is made with penne pasta, creamy cheese and crumbled bacon. The beet, caper and onion salad was a creamy and refreshing alternative to the usual side salad suspects. Bartholf has also perfected the art of the appetizer with Jack’s River Bar’s “as seen on TV” deep-fried pickles, parmesan crab quesadilla, Cajun chicken nachos and Coconut shrimp attack.
The Caesar salad was prepared as a lovely bouquet with long romaine leaves contained within a toasted bread ring and topped with the restaurant’s homemade dressing. The rest of the bread which has been “popped” out of its larger form is served on the side like a traditional crisp. This is a portion to share and quite large. And the macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi salad is served on field greens with feta and a raspberry vinaigrette, a refreshing blend of sweet and savory flavors that meld together beautifully in one bite. Bartholf will also gladly cook what you catch — leave the preparation to him for a special treat.
Bartholf is from Wisconsin and also makes a homemade Wisconsin cheddar cheese soup, among his other soups, which are also all homemade. Some of the entrees I didn’t get to try included the double dog dare ya’ dish of two hot dogs, the mahi mahi Reuben and the around the world panini sandwiches. The panini choices include rosemary grilled chicken, a Cuban, veggie and one last panini for which I’ll make a special trip back to Jack’s — the French dip panini.
Jack’s River Bar also has live music on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Guests are allowed to use the pool, which makes it a favorite destination for locals who want to grab some grub, cocktails and enjoy a swim in between watching the game.
Although enjoying the Naples Harbour Yacht Club does require membership, the general public is welcome to dine at the restaurant on multiple occasions. Eventually, regular repeat guests are asked to consider membership, which at $200 annually is a steal for people who don’t have a pool or country club membership, but want a luxurious place to swim, dine and drink.