Best of March: The top things we ate in SWFL

Will Watts

The top things we ate? More like the topsy turvy things we endured while we ate as the month started out normal and morphed to something else as the weeks went by.

Here is the best of March.

Shrimp and cole slaw from The Crabby Lady, Goodland.

Crabby Lady, Goodland

It seems like a lifetime ago. There was a traffic jam on Goodland on this Sunday afternoon, bumper to bumper from about a quarter-mile before Stan’s Idle Hour to just past Little Bar. And patrons were also walking the streets, in a constant state of celebration. Side by side. It would have taken all of Goodland to keep this many people six feet apart, but that was not an issue yet.

As we pulled into the Crabby Lady, we took the only available spot in their parking lot; and perhaps the only open spot left in Goodland.

Thinks got off to an appetizing start with the blue crab dip; homemade crab dip served with pita points and tortilla chips. Very delicious. Unfortunately, the crab is not necessary, as cheesy is the overwhelming taste. And that’s ok. The tortilla chips were incredible, and I was tempted to take some home for nachos later. The pita bread was just as good, if not better.

We also enjoyed a cup of Crabby Lady’s “Famous” (their words not ours) seafood bisque. It comes to the table looking like a serving of Southern grits. But the taste was undeniably good.

For my entrée, I picked the shrimp basket. You can pick grilled, blackened or fried. I picked blackened, and while they were good, blackened they were not. Just heavily seasoned. My partner in dine picked the mahi, mahi special with French fries. He also picked blackened. And while tasty, it was also not blackened.

Can’t wait until all this COVID-19 stuff is over and we can enjoy crowds like Goodland’s once more.

The Crabby Lady is open for delivery.

Verdi’s Bistro, Marco Island

Temperatures hovered perfectly in the low 70s for our early evening dinner outside at Verdi’s Bistro. We came with hearty appetites and decided to share two appetizers, the mushroom crostini (toasted bread, sautéed mushrooms with a gorgonzola cream sauce) and the warm baked brie (featuring arugula, roasted shallots and garlics, toasted walnuts and a balsamic drizzle).

The brie featured a nice melody of flavors – I have a weakness for toasted walnuts and I add roasted garlics to a lot of dishes at home (they’re supposed to be good for you).

Perhaps I was a tad more partial to the comfort-food flavors of the mushroom crostini. Don’t let the fancy name fool yet, it’s downright decadent and finger-licking good.

For my main entrée, I selected the salmon. The dish comes with a minimal but tasty house salad, featuring a garlic roasted vinaigrette dressing (the best part).

The sizable salmon features a lemon butter sauce and sits atop a bed of parmesan risotto and sautéed spinach. This was perhaps the best salmon I’ve eaten in quite a while. Cooked to absolute perfection and complimented perfectly with these two extremely tasty sides. My compliments to the chef.

My dining companion picked the “Triple Tail Med Style.” It also comes with a house salad but for a slight upcharge you can select a soup or larger salad. He selected the roasted beets salad, featuring red and golden beets, mandarin oranges, red onions, gorgonzola cheese and toasted almonds in a white mandarin vinaigrette.

The golden beets really added to the visual appeal of this dish. It almost earns a perfect score with just a minorpoints deducted for less than flavorful mandarin oranges.

The triple tail featured tomatoes, green and black olives, feta cheese and was served over sautéed spinach and jasmine rice.

Oyster Society, Marco Island

At this point in the month, restaurants were operating at half capacity now. Some have switched to take-out only. But on this Sunday night before the restrictions set in place, the restaurant had a full house. And even though the pandemic was likely on everyone’s mind, you couldn’t tell.

For my starter, I picked the ‘Islander Roll’ from the sushi bar. As the menu says, this is the “better Cali” and takes a traditional California roll as its inspiration. This one features blue crab, cucumber, sesame seeds and tobiko. Large and fresh were the first two words that come to mind. And the cucumber added a nice crunch.

Speaking of starters, my dining companion picked the ‘Local Farmers’ Salad,’ featuring honey and spice roasted vegetables (carrots, baby radish, butternut squash, parsnip and pickled mushrooms) along with sweet heat pecans, watercress and pecan oil. This dish is a beauty to behold. A work of art.

We both also enjoyed the Creole seafood soup. Amazing flavors.

For his main dish, he picked the seared diver scallops, featuring mascarpone cheese stuffed ravioli, English peas, pea tendrils, a red beet puree and a vanilla bean beurre blanc. The scallops sat atop the ravioli and the entire dish was a perfect and subtle blend of flavors.

I had the roasted chicken, featuring skin-on chicken, crispy herb baby potatoes, honey cardamom carrots and a rosemary chicken jus. Let me just say, the vegetables all by themselves would have made a marvelous meal. And the tendered, juicy chicken underneath the seared skin just added to the experience.

The Oyster Society is currently open for takeout.

Margaritas, Marco Island

By this point in March, I thought I’d be out of work for a while. After all, I got out to dinner for a living. Fortunately, the prevailing winds from the community and this newspaper, is how important it is to support island restaurant’s. They’re fighting to keep the doors open.

We launched the ‘Takeout Edition’ of my weekly feature with Margaritas!

The first step was visiting their website to make my selections (margaritasontheisland. com). I couldn’t believe the amount of options. Much more than I ever noticed when I was in the restaurant. Perhaps I was ordering so far in advance of dinner, my stomach felt less rushed and I could take more time.

I was ordering a late lunch, early dinner. I placed the called (239-394-6555) at 2 p.m., for a 4 p.m. pickup (I didn’t know the demand and wanted to give the staff plenty of time).

I ordered the fresh guacamole featuring fresh ripe avocados, tomatoes, jalapenos, onions and a splash of lime juice and the jalapeno queso blanco, cheese sauce with bits of fresh jalapeños and green onions. The order came with two takeout boxes filled with their yummy chips and several containers of salsa and pico de Gallo. (We’d previously tried the queso fundido, which adds Mexican chorizo to the mix. Which I also highly recommend).

Speaking of chorizo, one of the entrees I ordered was the “Chori – Quesadilla,” Margaritas’ homemade

chorizo and Mexican queso layered in a flour tortilla with a side of sour cream.

All entrees also come with Mexican rice and your choice of beans.

While chorizo is a bit naughty, it’s a delicious Mexican sausage that just can’t be compared to any other. This tasty, heartburn inducing meat is one of my favorites. Just remember, it doesn’t take a lot to make a dish sparkle, and this dished shined.

The next entrée I sampled was the “Entomatadas,” two corn soft tortillas filled with shredded chicken and cheese, topped with tomato sauce, sour cream, green onion and Mexican queso fresco.

This is Mexican comfort food that I highly recommend.

I also enjoyed the “Texas Enchiladas,” two soft corn tortillas filled with ground beef

and cheese and topped with Margaritas’ homemade chili con carne, Monterey jack cheddar cheese, sour cream and green onions. Yum!

I’m just now realizing how much “comfort” food I ordered. Can you tell we’re going through something here?

Lastly, another favorite, the “Tacos Locos,” featuring three corn tortillas dipped on a red enchilada sauce filled with your choice of shredded beef, chicken or pork and topped with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, queso fresco and sliced avocado.

The meat of choice was the pork. This entrée came with lots of fresh avocado and was generous in size and flavor. A real winner.

Margaritas is a family-run establishment. And it never disappoints. I love this place. It is currently open for takeout.

Stay safe. And if you can, support local restaurants in their time of need. Thank you!

This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food.

If you go

Crabby Lady

  • 123 Bayshore Way, Goodland
  • 239-500-CRAB (2722)
  • crabbylady.com

Verdi’s Bistro

  • 241 North Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-394-5533
  • verdisbistro.com

The Oyster Society

  • 599 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-394-3474
  • theoystersociety.com


  • 1069 N. Collier Blvd. Marco Island Fl, 34145
  • 239-394-6555
  • margaritasontheisland.com