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Destination dining: Snook Inn restaurant on Marco Island lives up to its catchy jingle

Snook Inn has been a Marco Island restaurant landmark for more than 30 years. With new owners as of 2018, it remains a destination-worthy experience.

Gina Birch
Special to The News-Press

If ever you find yourself on hold when calling the Snook Inn Restaurant & Chickee Bar, you may recognize the jingle.

“A rustic setting of a time gone by, the Marco River sings its lullaby — Snook Inn, Snook Inn, where the best of times begin.”

The catchy tune, which the restaurant has used in TV and radio commercials, plays on a loop for its waiting callers. It gets in your ear, enticing you to hop in your car for a dining drive.

This Marco Island restaurant has been a waterfront landmark for more than 30 years. The family-owned concept was purchased in 2018 by the Carvelli Restaurant Group, owners of the nearby DaVinci’s, Marco Prime and The Oyster Society restaurants.

“They have taken the old charm of the place and improved it even more,” Snook Inn's manager Megan Criser says.

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Views from the observation deck at Snook Inn on Marco Island.

One of the most notable improvements is doubling the size of the outdoor bar. Indoor dining still exists, but some walls have been removed, opening the space so the Marco River is visible from every table.

The water view, after all, is the Snook Inn's star attraction.

The old school salad bar is still there, although temporarily covered due to COVID-19. When it reopens, its bins will be full of an assortment of vegetables along with house-made coleslaw and potato salad.

As for the regular menu, “We are trying more daily specials, a lot of fresh seafood,” Chef Ardany Rivas says. Local grouper is the most popular selection. It comes in sandwiches, on salads and in platters; blackened, grilled, pan-seared or fried.

The blackened mahi tacos are the next best seller. Topped with an avocado crema, Criser says the blackening seasoning he uses on the mahi is mild and pairs nicely with a side of beans and rice.

Snook Inn offers local grouper in platters, baskets and sandwiches.

Snook Inn's appetizers are ample, designed for sharing with parties of four in mind, or a hungry couple. The mayonnaise-based fish dip is made from smoked yellowfin tuna and is served with seeded crackers.  

Nachos come piled with chunks of spicy ahi and avocado, the chips are wontons, and the reviews are rave.

The raw bar features oysters on the half shell, littleneck clams and peel-and-eat shrimp. The restaurant crafts its own Snook Inn hot sauce, but Criser warns, "a little goes a long way." It’s for sale in the gift shop along with T-shirts, hats and sundries.

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Meat eaters have center-cut rib eye options — in a sandwich or as an entrée. They also have baby-back ribs and mojo-marinated, roasted chicken.

For the diet-conscious, gluten-free buns are available, as are plant-based Beyond Burgers. 

For dessert, the Key lime and peanut butter pies are decades-old favorites. The recipes come from one of the original owner's grandmother.

When it comes to cocktails, Snook Inn has many one might expect from an island's waterfront bar, including frozen daiquiris, margaritas and pina coladas. But diners can also find some modern twists. 

“The frosé is phenomenal,” Criser says, gushing with enthusiasm. A Snook Inn signature, the drink has rosé wine, Absolut grapefruit vodka and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

“It’s sweet, tart, slushy and refreshing," Criser says, "it has it all.”

Snook Inn's bartenders juice their citrus fruits fresh and offer house-made syrups as mixers. 

Blackened mahi tacos with rice, beans and a tropical cocktail from Snook Inn on Marco Island.

The bar menu also includes island classics such as the rumrunner and mai tai, each made with crafty twists.

“We did some research on the original recipes for both and went back to the basics so they are not as sweet, but they are so good,” Criser says. 

The 1930s mai tai uses Naked Turtle Rum, Orgeat, orange liqueur, house-made pineapple syrup, fresh lime juice and a Gosling Rum floater. The rumrunner is made with Plantation White Rum, Gosling Dark Rum, pomegranate-blood orange puree, fresh lime and pineapple juices.

If you’re a Bloody Mary fan, Snook Inn's double as an appetizer. They're made with a meat straw, a cherry pepper stuffed with prosciutto and provolone, blue-cheese-stuffed olives and more.

Snook Inn offers stunning sunset views of the Marco River on Marco Island.

Whether you come by boat or car, Snook Inn's tables are seat-yourself. An upstairs observation deck serves as a waiting area, as well as a prime spot to catch the sunset and watch dolphins at play.

The drive to this dining destination includes a rural stretch of County Road 951, with scenic bridges and a meandering residential street lined with palm trees; homes with well-manicured lawns ranging in style from ranch, to Mediterranean and modern.

Walking up to the chickee bar, you may just think you missed a turn and ended up in the Florida Keys. The low thatched roof with varnished, carved wooden posts, picnic tables, fans and live music beckon you to relax. 

A laid-back family friendly spot, the energy and the music pick up as the night goes on. Servers frequently comment on how much they love working here and it shows.

That cheery jingle is spot-on.

“Snook Inn, Snook Inn, where the best of times begin.”

Gina Birch writes about food and wine for The News-Press and at thebirchbeat.blogspot.com. Follow her as @ginabirch on Twitter and find her on Facebook

Dining destination: Snook Inn

Address: 1215 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island

Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily for lunch; 4:30-10 p.m. for dinner; late-night bar menu served 10 p.m.-midnight

Call: 239-394-3313

More: live music daily; snookinn.com

Staff wear masks at Snook Inn on Marco Island