Although it has just begun, the new year is already shaping up to be a big year for new local eateries.
Nearly 30 restaurants have plans to open in 2013, and those are just the ones we know about. You undoubtedly have already heard about some of these, too, because some are behind schedule and had intended to open in 2012.
Nevertheless, it’s impressive when you see a compilation of what’s in store:
A few fast-casual chains plan multiple locations in the area this year. The early buzz is good for Culver’s, a chain that plans to debut in Florida this year with at least three locations, including one each in Naples and Fort Myers.
Individual franchisees are still looking for area locations, so specific sites cannot be announced yet, said Paul Pitas, a spokesman for the Wisconsin-based chain, known for its custard and Butter-Burgers.
“I would imagine over the next month or so we will have more specifics,” Pitas said.
The company is counting on transplanted Midwesterners in Florida to be good ambassadors for Culver’s.
“We know that along the west coast there are a lot of folks who have relocated there and know the brand very well,” Pitas said.
Gulf Coast Donuts LLC, the local franchisee for Dunkin’ Donuts, plans to open three more stores this year. First, a new shop is planned in Immokalee this summer. Up next, the North Naples location in Uptown Center will relocate a mile east to the out-parcel space in front of the former Albertsons supermarket and Naples International Pavilion at Livingston and Immokalee roads.
The third local Dunkin’ Donuts planned this year is the most anticipated and a holdover from 2012. Because it’s being built from the ground up, it probably won’t open until late in the year on the southern edge of Courthouse Shadows shopping center on U.S. 41 East in East Naples, said Keith Roman, district manager for Gulf Coast Donuts.
“As far as I’m concerned, that one in Courthouse Shadows can’t open fast enough,” Roman said. “It’s coming as soon as we can get it there.”
The new locations come on the heels of three area Dunkin’ Donuts that opened in 2012. The Bonita Springs store relocated last January to the former site of Jimmy’s Roadhouse on U.S. 41 North; a new Golden Gate store opened in July in the former Saltwater Cowboys Bar & Grill; and an East Naples store just opened Monday night near Davis and Collier boulevards in the former home of Burger King, Rodeo BBQ and Rincon de Mexico, among other eateries. It even was a Subway/Dunkin’ Donuts combo many years ago.
Meanwhile, Orange Leaf, a fast-growing, self-serve frozen yogurt chain, will open at least two, possibly three stores this year in the area. Orange Leaf is targeted to open locations March 4 in former video stores in Riverchase Plaza in North Naples and in Marco Town Center on Marco Island.
“The idea is to open them both at the same time,” said Bil Potter of the Florida development company for Orange Leaf, which plans 120 Orange Leaf locations in the Sunshine State within the next decade.
In 2012, Orange Leaf opened locations in Miromar Outlets in May, the Village on Venetian Bay in June and next door to the Lani Kai Island Resort in Fort Myers Beach on Dec. 19.
Also, expect some pizza-pizza from Little Caesars this year. In mid-February, local franchisee Luis Velez will relocate the pizzeria he has operated for nearly five years in the Kmart plaza in Golden Gate a block away to a building with a drive-thru now under construction on the other side of the parkway. This will be the Naples area’s first Little Caesars with a pickup window for its Hot-N-Ready pizzas, wings, ribs and Crazy Bread.
Velez also hopes to reopen the Little Caesars location in the Bed Bath & Beyond Plaza in North Naples that another franchisee operated for 24 years until closing it in September 2011.
Mercato, the upscale development at U.S. 41 North and Vanderbilt Beach Road in North Naples, will continue its upswing of new venues.
First up this year, The Wine Loft is expected to open today or Thursday in a previously undeveloped space on the ground level beneath Silverspot Cinema. The locally owned wine and tapas bar will seat about 125 patrons, including about 30 in a loft for private parties. There is additional seating outdoors next to AZN Azian Cuizine.
“I hope we are going to fill a niche that’s missing there,” said Sarah Kearney, who co-owns the new business with her husband, Michael.
The Wine Loft will be open every day from 11:30 a.m. to midnight or 1 a.m. Lunch will be available, and tapas-style dining and the regular appetizer menu will be offered. The menu, which features salads, sandwiches and flatbreads, probably will change quarterly, Kearney said.
The bar will have live entertainment, including a pianist, some nights.
The Kearneys plan to have cooking classes once a month with wine pairings, including wine tastings every Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Taps Bar & Lounge plans to open in late February or March near The Counter burger cafe in Mercato. Taps already has two other locations in Florida.
Taps offers 60 wines by the glass and about 30 beer brands on tap and 350 in bottles, including imports, craft beers and microbrews. Its lunch-dinner menu features tapas, bruschetta, salads, sandwiches and desserts.
Nearby, Second Cup also is targeted to open in February or March in a smaller, free-standing building on Mercato’s piazza. Although the coffee shop chain has more than 350 locations in Canada, this will be its first in the U.S.
Should you want dessert with that, Le Macaron French Pastries plans to open in March next door to Grace & Shelly’s Cupcakes, which opened its fifth store last summer in Mercato.
Ironically, macaroons — a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg whites, sugar and almond powder with frosting-like filling — have been called the next cupcake. As with cupcakes, the French delicacies come in many colors and flavors.
Le Macaron, a fast-growing chain, already has seven locations in Florida, including one that opened Nov. 16 in Miromar Outlets in Estero.
New venues at Mercato are only the beginning of what is happening in North Naples this year.
A new Thai-Japanese restaurant will open in early February in Magnolia Square, on the northeast corner of Goodlette-Frank and Pine Ridge roads. Thai Udon Café will be operated by Khwanjai Sawai and her husband, Adam Satinsky, principal cellist for the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra for more than 15 years.
Not only did Sawai design all the authentic Thai dishes and hot Japanese entrees and salads, but she created the restaurant’s look, as well, Satinsky said.
“I can already tell it’s going to be an amazing visual experience as far as ambience goes,” he said.
Thai Udon Café will open in the former locations for Salvo’s Pizzeria and China Bowl.
The Local, a new local bistro focusing on locally grown and farm-raised products, is planning to open this month in the Bed Bath & Beyond Plaza space vacated by La Bamba, which moved across the street last year. The new bistro will focus on healthy techniques and artisanal beverages using ingredients produced within a 100-mile radius, when possible.
Continuing its expansion in North Naples, Skillets plans to open its fourth area location Jan. 10 in the former North Naples location of Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro in The Pavilion shopping center, on the northwest corner of Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41 North. The new location will feature Skillets’ same successful menu, and will be the first to have a coffee bar, serving cappuccinos, lattes and gourmet coffees.
Although it has been six months since it closed its original, 12-year location on Radio Road in East Naples, Martin Fierro Steakhouse is planning to open a new place at the end of February in Marquesa Plaza on the southeast corner of Livingston and Pine Ridge roads. The Argentine restaurant will be between Moravela’s Pizza and the Comcast office.
Riverchase Plaza on the northeast corner of U.S. 41 North and Immokalee Road will have two new eateries splitting the space of its former Blockbuster store. Saladworks, one of the nation’s top fast-casual salad franchises, is planning to open its first restaurant in Southwest Florida before the end of February. Next door will be the new Orange Leaf.
In Granada Shoppes, on the southeast corner of U.S. 41 North and Immokalee Road, Chuck E. Cheese's plans to open a huge pizza and entertainment venue this year, although a specific date has not been released. The Texas-based chain, which has 500 locations nationwide, offers food, games, rides, prizes and entertainment for families.
But what might be talked about more than Chuck E. Cheese’s coming this year is the expansion project on 10 acres next to The Bay House, just off U.S. 41 North and the Cocohatchee River. Bay House Village, in the permitting stages now, is planned to include an Italian bistro, a boutique hotel, and a small brewery and bakery, as well as an outdoor performance area, said owner Peter Tierney.
“It’s not just The Bay House area anymore. There are a lot of options,” he said. “We’re moving forward, and we are kind of excited. It’s going to be a really neat project.”
Tierney is so excited about the plans that he wants to coin a new phrase for the area.
“We’re no longer in North Naples,” he said “It’s Upper Naples, beautiful Upper Naples.”
Osteria Tulia, an Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue South created by former Campiello Chef Vincenzo Betulia, is set to open this month, most likely Jan. 11, in the former downtown location of Ristorante d’Angeli.
The new kid on the block intends to create the ambience of a rustic chic Italian farmhouse for sampling ancestral recipes from the Sicilian-born chef. Look for reclaimed-pine walls, roof and tables; antique Chicago brick; generations-old antiques and objects; gas lamps and shimmering painted tile.
Also in Naples, Burger King is shooting for Jan. 10 to open its new place in the former longtime location of McDonald’s in the food court at Coastland Center mall. This new franchisee also recently purchased the formerly corporate-operated BK on Immokalee Road in North Naples, as well as another location in Fort Myers.
North on U.S. 41, Caffe Portofino, the artisan Italian bakery that opened last summer in Neapolitan Way, is soon tripling its square footage for dining space and an espresso bar. A 2,200-square-foot adjoining space is expected to be added to the existing 1,100-square-foot store by end of this month or the beginning of February.
Closing last summer on Collier Boulevard after operating nearly 30 years, Erin’s Isle is returning to a new location next week.
Former owner Mike Ward will be back Monday operating a new Erin’s Isle in Hibiscus Golf Club off Rattlesnake Hammock Road in East Naples. Hibiscus is one of the few public golf courses in the Naples area.
“We saw this as a great opportunity that would benefit both of us,” said Al Cooper, the general manager for the golf club, who invited Ward to take over the former Bogey’s Bar & Grill.
At age 65, Ward had considering retiring and even auctioned off all of his restaurant equipment after Erin’s Isle was forced to close in July when the land was sold and Ward’s lease was not renewed.
Expect the same popular menu Ward offered at the original Erin’s Isle.
At Courthouse Shadows, the previously mentioned Buffalo Wild Wings is targeted to open mid-month in another former Blockbuster store where Airport-Pulling Road meets U.S. 41 East. The 6,000-square-foot location will be Collier County’s first for the chicken wing chain.
Marco’s Pizza is still slated to bring its first location to the area by Jan. 15. The first of at least three area locations will be in Collier Plaza, the same shopping center off Collier Boulevard that has been home to Inca’s Kitchen and the original location of Señor Tequila’s Fine Mexican Grill.
A local franchise of a Toledo, Ohio-based chain, Marco’s will serve wine and bottled and draft beer. In addition to pizza, its menu includes freshly baked sub sandwiches, chicken wings, salads and more.
In Golden Gate Estates, Betty Lou’s Restaurant is targeted to open during the beginning of February in the former location of The Kountry Spot bar and grille in Wilson Plaza, the center on the southeast corner of Wilson and Golden Gate boulevards. Owners Betty Lou and Ken Swanson, who have lived in Golden Gate Estates for more than 25 years, plan to open Betty Lou’s serving just breakfast and lunch, but expect to add dinner hours in March. The family restaurant will feature homestyle food such as country-fried steak and meatloaf, Betty Lou Swanson said.
A new breakfast and lunch nook is expected to open this year in The Shops of Olde Marco on Palm Street on Marco Island. The offshoot of Bistro Soleil at the Olde Marco Inn will be called Petit Soleil and will feature Chef Denis Meurgue’s comfort foods served in an intimate atmosphere. Petit Soleil will have traditional breakfast favorites as well as a lunch menu with a variety of salads, sandwiches and hot-cooked meals.
After an extended delay in opening its new location in Bonita Springs, expect Gatsby’s Pizza to finally open this month on Bonita Beach Road. Gatsby’s is located in the elbow of that L-shaped center fronted by C Level Wine Bar. The pizzeria received its food service permit from the state the day after Christmas, but a recorded telephone message over the weekend said it would open Jan. 10-14.
Gatsby’s Pizza might be one of three pizzerias opening on Bonita Beach Road this year, although the other two actually would be in North Naples.
Doc’s Pizza House on Bonita Beach Road was put on hold in 2012 with plans to open this November by the folks who have operated Doc’s Beach House for more than 20 years. The former D’s Sports Bar nearby also is being readied for a local pizza shop, but the name or any other information on the new business could not be obtained by press time. This is the place that also was formerly many other eateries, including Jimbers, the Tiki Bar Café and a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.
After opening its first Collier location in East Naples, the local Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee is looking for its next spot in Bonita Springs, said regional manager Andrew Lloyd. Expect it to open before the year is over, although a location has not been named yet.
Elsewhere in south Lee County, Pollo Tropical plans to open an outparcel location later this year in Gulf Coast Town Center.
Happy New Year!
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