Q: Could you solve a “discussion”? What’s the oldest, continuously run, same-location restaurant in Naples?
— Buzz Hill, North Naples
Photo by ERIC STRACHAN // Buy this photo
A: Kelly’s Fish House Dining Room, at 1302 Fifth Ave. S., just south of the Gordon River Bridge, is the oldest, continuously run restaurant in Naples.
“I’m 99.9 percent sure that’s the oldest,” said Old Naples historian Lois Bolin.
“Kelly’s would win hands down,” said Bill Barnett, a Naples councilman and former mayor who knows a thing or two about local restaurants.
“None are as old or as popular as the Fish House,” said city historian and Naples Daily News columnist Doris Reynolds.
Pat and Bob Combs opened the Fish House Dining Room in 1953. Sixty years later, the nautical look of the seafood restaurant — with its glass-topped tables serving as display cases for native shells — has hardly changed, Reynolds said.
“The Fish House became noted for its unusual décor, for the fresh fish which came directly from Combs Fish Company and the fishing fleet tied up at the back door. Its most famous dish, however, was the Fish House key lime pie,” Reynolds wrote in “When Peacocks Were Roasted and Mullet Was Fried,” one of her books commemorating local color.
In 1971, the Combs family sold the waterfront property to Kelly McGill, who added her name to the landmark restaurant. Today, Kelly Ellis, the son of “Mama Kelly,” still owns the family restaurant and Combs Fish Co. across from Tin City.
TIN CITY’S FIRST RESTAURANT
Q: Do you know the name of the first restaurant in Tin City, other than Riverwalk? I believe there was at least one before Merriman’s Wharf.
— Ray White, Naples
A: Tin City Food & Spirits was the first dining spot in what was originally called the Old Marine Marketplace when it opened in 1976, said Vin DePasquale, one of the co-developers who transformed a former clam-shelling and oyster-processing operation into a collection of shops and eateries at 1200 Fifth Ave. S. in Naples.
“We built Tin City in stages. There were three buildings involved,” he said.
The first stage was the building along U.S. 41, De-Pasquale said. The building’s easternmost space on the Gordon River was where Tin City Food & Spirits was located. The name changed when DePasquale sold it, although he could not recall what it was called then.
In the same location, Tommy Merriman soon opened Merriman’s Wharf, the name that stuck with the place the longest. In the early ’90s, Naples City Councilman Bill Barnett’s son, Jeff, operated Bill’s Pier on Fifth there. The waterfront restaurant eventually became Pier 41, and it has been Pinchers Crab Shack since 2007. In 1979, during Tin City’s third stage, Riverwalk restaurant opened where it still operates today in the former Doxsee clam cannery, DePasquale said.
MORE LOCAL RESTAURANT NEWS
■ Mr. Big Fish opened for dinner Sunday, Feb. 10, and for lunch on Valentine’s Day on Thursday in the former Tropical Palm Café space in Neapolitan Way shopping center off U.S. 41 North in Naples. The local restaurant focuses on fresh seafood, but its menu also has steaks and a few chicken dishes, as well as beer and wine.
Mr. Big Fish, 754 Neapolitan Way, isopen11 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. 239-213-9342.
■ Old Fogies opens today in Bonita Springs, serving up music, food and fun at 26455 Old 41 Road, in the Shoppes at Hawthorne just north of Buffalo Chips Restaurant. Its old-fashioned lunch counter includes grilled cheese, BLTs, chicken salad, tuna salad, hot dogs, Italian sausage and fresh salads. Drinks include beer and wine as well root beer floats and shakes.
Check out the unique entertainment venue’s website at oldfogiesbonita.com.
Old Fogies is open 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. 239-676-1360
■ Naples Caribbean Market & Take-Out Restaurant closed in January in Pebblebrooke Center, 15215 Collier Blvd., in North Naples. The local business, which specialized in dishes and products for Jamaican, Haitian and Latin cuisines, opened in November 2011. A thrift store soon will replace it.
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.