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Best of May: The top things we ate in SWFL

Will Watts
Correspondent

May saw the return of limited-capacity open dining rooms; but restaurants continued to up their delivery and takeout game; likely essential to the future survival.

We continued the “Takeout Edition” of “Watts for Dinner” in order to free up tables for those who choose to eat at the restaurant.

In May we ate at two different Joey’s and featured some favorite breakfast spots. Here’s a look back.  

Empire Bagel, Marco Island

Empire Bagel Factory is firing on all cylinders, providing excellent and cautious service in this time we find ourselves going through.

Craving a delicious breakfast sandwich or a bag of bagels? No need to wait. You can order right now. Empire’s website (empirebagelfactorymarco.com) allows you to make selections today and schedule your pickup for later, even tomorrow. It’s all digital. And you can go ahead and pay in advance.

I ordered two breakfast sandwiches, two lunch sandwiches and a dozen bagels for future breakfasts.

First, my breakfast sandwich. I picked the bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel ($5) and made it double meat ($2.50 more). You can select that, the type of bagel and the amount of toasting you want, among other things. For me, it’s better than telling someone (in person or on the phone); less room for mistakes and miscommunications.

My partner in dine picked the sausage breakfast sandwich ($5). He also picked the double meat option.

Both sandwiches were huge! Lots of egg, melted cheese and it comes with sausage patties instead of links; my fav! You can also pick ham or pork roll for your meat.

Later that day we tackled the lunch sandwich: The turkey club ($8); several layers of Boar’s Head Oven Gold roasted turkey and bacon with your choice of cheese and toppings.

First you pick the type of bagel you want it on and whether you want it toasted or not – there’s plain, asiago, poppy, sesame, garlic, everything and onion, to name a few.

Next, the cheese: pick from American, cheddar or provolone.

Then your toppings: lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, banana peppers, mayo and/or mustard.

Let me tell you, they stack these sandwiches high. Your money goes a long way here. And Boar’s Head is my favorite deli meats.

Empire Bagel has a wonderful, safe, streamlined process.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: A well-run ‘Empire’

Joey’s Pizza and Pasta, Marco Island

Joey’s Pizza and Pasta delivered two nights worth of amazing meals to two very hungry and homebound people.

First up is the Philly cheesesteak Stromboli ($12.95), Philly steak, onions and cheese baked in a Stromboli pizza crust … crazy good! And huge! I could eat this every night of the week. The shaved steak is tender, juicy and delicious and oozing with cheese and wrapped in a giant pizza crust.

Speaking of pizza crust, we ordered a 16-incher off the specialty menu ($21.95). The buffalo chicken pizza features grilled chicken breast tossed in hot sauce with mozzarella cheese (no pizza sauce). I couldn’t get over just how big those chunks of cheese were. And the hot sauce … just the right amount. It’s like combing two of my favorite things, chicken wings and pizza.

We also shared a Doreen’s salad ($16.95), one of my favorite’s on the island. It features blackened chicken, thick sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, roasted red peppers and croutons served over greens and topped with balsamic vinaigrette. This salad is a meal. It also comes with a garlic knot.

But let me tell you, Joey’s knots are legendary! We order a dozen more for $6.95. And they’re good for days! Just reheat and eat.

Joey’s has not become an island mainstay by accident. You’ll love every bite. And the delivery is quick, with social distancing guidelines in place.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Joey’s has me tied up in (garlic) knots

The Island Gypsy, Isles of Capri

The Island Gypsy, a friendly on-the-water outdoor eating establishment that typically draws a crowd, and this reopening weekend was no different.

The staff were wearing masks and gloves but having been distancing for a while now, this was the most people I’ve seen in one place in a while; it says a lot about both the food and atmosphere here.

We started with two salads to share, the Calypso chicken chopped salad ($15) and the lobster salad plate ($16.50).

The Calypso features a chopped blend of bacon, pears, gorgonzola, tomatoes and chicken with a Key lime honey vinaigrette dressing.

In addition to lobster, the other salad featured mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, red onion, the Key lime honey vinaigrette and is served with flat bread crackers.

Both salads were fresh and delicious, and it was hard to pick my favorite of the two. I know, the lobster. But I have a weakness for chopped salads, because … well … bacon! On the lobster, the crackers were a nice touch.

We also shared two entrees, the fried shrimp wrap ($13) and the shrimp and scallop pasta ($22.95).

The wrap features lightly battered fried baby shrimp topped with coleslaw, shredded lettuce, tomatoes with a sweet Thai chili drizzle served in a wrap and with French fries.

Although as amazing as it sounds, if I were to put by critic’s hat on, I’d say it packs a lot of different flavors into one wrap and may not be for everyone. But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The pasta dish features sautéed jumbo Gulf shrimp, arid scallops tossed in a garlic parmesan cream sauce with mushrooms, tomato and spinach on a linguini pasta and served with garlic toast points.

Incredible! Lots of shrimp, tails intact. The sauce shines. The perfect balance. Yum! We highly recommend this dish.

To top things off, dessert! The Island Gypsy’s famous and gigantic carrot cake. So rich! So moist! So amazing! And the candied walnuts, OMG! A quick word of warning, if there’s two or three or you; one slice is still enough – it’s the size of two large slices. Don’t pass this up.

The Island Gypsy is one of the pearls in the Isles of Capri community.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ Takeout Edition: Island Gypsy serves up amazing reopening

Hoot’s, Marco Island

Hoot’s has two locations, Marco Island and South Naples. Both are open for breakfast and lunch, and in season, the Marco location is open for dinner. For the sake of this review, we ordered takeout from the Marco location.

The staff were all wearing face masks on this day. A welcome sight.

From the breakfast menu, I ordered the “Tumbleweed Pasta” ($10.50), “eggs scrambled with scallions, tomatoes, mushrooms and angel hair pasta, topped with jack and cheddar cheese.”

The scrambled egg looks like a thin open faced omelet on which everything else sits. I have seen this dish on the menu for some time now but found the combination a bit off putting. Finally, curiosity got the best of me.

The meal took me back to my college days, when resources were more limited, and we’d create “unique” dishes from leftovers and whatever ingredients we could find in the frig. That being said, this dish was a very satisfying breakfast. If you’re going to eat carbs, breakfast is a great time to do it. The ingredients go well together. I added some hot sauce too. Yum!

My partner in dine picked the “Scramble Skillet” ($9.95), featuring “home fries, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms topped with scrambled eggs and our homemade hollandaise sauce.”

This hearty meal is a real winner. It proves you don’t need meat to have a filling and tasty breakfast. Loved the presentation.

Both breakfast meals came with toast, which originates from fresh bread made at the restaurant, assorted jams and butter.

For our next meal I had the tuna melt ($9.95) from the lunch menu. It’s served open-faced and features rye bread, tasty tuna salad and big slices of tomato covered in Swiss cheese. Amazing!

My dining companion had the “Desert Chicken” ($11.50), not the dessert chicken, which was written on the box. Although, I’m curious about dessert chicken. I jest. I was happy that there was something written on the box to indicate what’s inside. This dish features a grilled chicken breast filet, green chiles, mushrooms and melted jack cheese. And it was just as amazing as it sounds.

Both lunch dishes came with golden, crispy and delicious French fries. Both featured fresh ingredients – one of the best tomatoes I’ve had in a long time; not to mention the crunchy pickles.

We also shared a 10-inch chicken quesadilla ($10.95), with rice and beans. Superb! It was a good day for eating.

It’s nice to have Hoot’s back in the fold; as you could tell just by seeing the smiling faces at each table.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Hoot’s is back with breakfast and lunch

Joey D’s offers pizza perfection

Our next dining destination is Joey D’s, a Naples institution. For the sake of this review, we ordered takeout from the Marco location.

From the specialty pizza section, we ordered the “Old Country Pizza” (large is 16’ for $14.99, small is 12’ for $12.99 or deep dish for $15.99). We went with the large traditional crust. This pizza features fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, roasted garlic, olive oil, herbs and spices with marinara sauce.

Thin, crispy and cooked to perfection. This pizza is one of the closest we’ve come to replicating New York-style on Marco Island. And best of all, no blisters. For the record, Jersey if their claim-to-fame recipe.

We also ordered a half dozen of garlic knots ($4.99). Best value in the place! I couldn’t believe how big they were. Peppered with parmesan and featuring a side of delicious marinara, soooooo good!

From the specialty subs menu, we ordered the grilled chicken breast sandwich ($10.99) featuring garlic and spinach. Featuring all white-meat chicken and plenty of spinach, this sandwich could use some only be improved with some melted mozzarella. Might I suggest it as an add on?

If you’re craving a pizza night, you can’t go wrong with a large pie from Joey D’s; and don’t forget the knots. As always, support local restaurants in their time of need, if you can. Stay healthy and eat well.

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Joey D’s offers pizza perfection

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

If you go

Empire Bagel Factory

  • 277 N Collier Blvd. #1, Marco Island
  • empirebagelfactorymarco.com
  • 239-642-4141

Joey’s Pizza and Pasta

  • 257 North Collier Blvd, Marco Island
  • 239-389-2433
  • joeyspizzamarco.com

The Island Gypsy

  • 292 Capri Blvd., Isles of Capri
  • 239-394-1111
  • theislandgypsy.com

Hoot’s

  • 563 E. Elkcam Circle, Marco Island
  • Eagle Creek Shopping Center, 12676 Tamiami Trail East, Naples
  • 239-394-4644
  • hootsbreakfastandlunch.com

Joey D’s

  • 701 Bald Eagle, Marco Island
  • 299-389-5639
  • Joeydsnaples.com/marco-island