Best of October: Here are the top things we ate in SWFL

Will Watts

This is quite the recap. We had five Fridays in October, so there’s an extra review for the month. We also got to try something new – always a treat. And the highlight for me, visiting two Marco Island favorites. Here’s the best things we ate during the past month. Happy eating!  

Sand Bar, Marco Island

We ordered two winning appetizers, the fried calamari ($9.99) and mozzarella sticks ($8.99). The same thing made both great, the marinara sauce. We also shared an amazing veggie flatbread ($13.99). The bread itself was crazy good and the dish was very cheesy, featuring mushrooms, green peppers, onions and big slices of seasoned, ripe tomatoes. This one’s a real winner.

Another notable, the miso glazed salmon ($23.99); grilled and topped with mango salsa, served with mixed veggies and a side of rice. This meal was a hearty winner. I highly recommend it.

And the grouper Veracruz ($25.99); sautéed with garlic and featuring capers, green olives and served with spaghetti tossed in a light tomato sauce. Also, a winning dish. Lots of pasta served with this one and it makes a great dish on its own.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Sand Bar – Bar food and beyond

Fin Bistro, Marco Island

Fin Bistro is top notch all the way. We started with a couple of items from their “Beginnings” menu. I partook of the “Umami Kobe Sliders” ($16) which featuring Vermont sharp cheddar, butter pickles and garlic aioli on toasted Bistro bread. All I can say is small on size, big on flavor. Leave it to Fin Bistro, one of my favorite restaurants on the island, to class up the slider. Who knew it was even possible.

My dining companion had the “Fin Lump Crab Cake” ($13). The dish features shiitake mushrooms, green apples, watercress and lemongrass curry emulsion. Even as a takeout order, this dish was a work of art. And it tasted as good as it looked.

As salads go, you can’t go wrong with the roasted beet, palm hearts salad ($9) featuring creamy gorgonzola, spiced walnuts, aged balsamic, herbs and baby spinach. The golden beets made for an unexpected visual surprise. This is a can’t miss salad. I highly recommend it.

From the “Fresh Caught” section, we picked the “Key Largo Dorado” ($29) featuring a coconut crusted and sautéed colossal lump crab and cream corn with shiitakes, leeks, Fresno chili and curry lime butter sauce. OMG! Right! An incredible invention. This dish earned the highest praise of our entire meal.

From the “Sweet Endings” portion of the menu, we ordered the “Sweet Potato Sopaipilla” (warm pastry with cinnamon, orange blossom honey, chocolate sauce, toasted almonds and served with vanilla ice cream) ($9.50). It was a deep-fried delight with decadent toppings. Save room for dessert!

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Fin Bistro – top notch all the way

Outback Steakhouse, South Naples

This is one of my rare visits to a chain restaurant. There are some downsides to chain dining, but they do know how to manage things. For example, we ordered and paid online, a real nice convenience at this time. I also picked it up curbside without leaving my vehicle. Another plus.

Now on to the food. If you’re going Outback, it’s almost obligatory to order a “Bloomin’ Onion” ($7.99) For the uninitiated, it’s a giant “handcarved” onion deep fried to a golden brown, similar in taste to an onion ring until you dip it in the restaurant’s spicy signature sauce. Then it’s a whole ‘nother experience.

The taste is incredible. And so freakin’ naughty. I tried it, but I didn’t inhale.

That wasn’t the only appetizer on the menu for us. We also ordered the “Sydney ‘Shrooms” ($6.99), battered and fried mushrooms served with a spiced ranch dressing. Personally, I liked this a bit more than the onion.

Both my dining companion and I also partook of the French onion soup ($6.99). One thing you can say about Outback, they know how to handle onions. Topped with melted provolone, this might have been my favorite dish of the night. And that’s saying a lot.

For my main entrée, I had the “Queensland Chicken & Shrimp Pasta.” Yes, it comes with two meats, but I decided to go all shrimp instead. It’s fettuccine noodles tossed in a bold Alfredo sauce and topped with the restaurants delectable wood-fired shrimp. An amazing dish.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Down Under delights from the Outback

Kretch’s, Marco Island

It’s been 34 years to the month that Kretch’s Restaurant first opened on Marco Island. And despite this pandemic, it appears to still be going strong.

A highlight of the meal was seafood crisp ($12.95), a crisp flour tortilla (more like a tostada) with shrimps, scallops, crabmeat covered in a combination of cheeses and served with black olives, jalapenos, lettuce and tomato. I go into most dishes skeptical, especially when it’s something I haven’t experienced before. I must tell you it was well executed, and it works. It really works. I love it!

Then there’s the mushroom caps ($9.95) featuring Florida- grown portabella mushrooms stuffed with crabmeat and topped with lobster sauce. This starter dish earned high marks.

We also partook of the restaurant’s baked French onion soup ($5.95) with caramelized onion in hearty beef broth with crème sherry, rye bread and melted gruyere cheese. First, the rye bread – which was also included along with some yummy rolls, as a side – was terrific. So good! And it makes the soup all the better. And the beautifully-blended soup was the highlight of my meal.

We also sampled the famous seafood strudel ($16.95 or a lighter version for $11.95), which Kretch’s touts as an original creation. The strudel is a light pastry filled with shrimp, scallops, crabmeat, broccoli and cheese and served with lobster sauce. I didn’t know what to expect. It’s an original, for sure, and worth a try.

With this meal, Kretch’s clearly demonstrated why they’re in their fourth decade of service to Islanders.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Kretch’s a Marco Island original

Deep Lagoon, Marco Island

Finally, something new! We welcome Deep Lagoon Seafood, located in the Esplanade, to Marco Island.

We tried the grouper fingers ($14) and the conch fritters ($10). Both were tasty.

We also tried the tropical seafood salad ($18) featuring sautéed shrimp and scallops over baby greens, mandarin oranges, tomatoes, cucumbers and craisins. A work of art.

The best entrée was the tropical mahi ($26), blackened fresh mahi, topped with a homemade mango salsa and served over mashed sweet potatoes and fried plantains. A beautiful and tasty dish. And I give it an A for originality.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Take a dive into Deep Lagoon

Support local business and tip 20 percent, even on takeout, if you can. Cheers!

This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food. Not all dishes are featured in print, but you can find a gallery of all reviewed dishes online at marconews. com.

More:Hey Marco Island, looking for a place to eat?

If you go

Sand Bar

  • 826 E. Elkcam Circle, Marco Island
  • 239-642-3625

Fin Bistro

  • 657 S Collier Boulevard, Marco Island
  • 239-970-6064

Outback Steakhouse

  • 9975 Triangle Blvd., South Naples
  • 239-732-1351

Kretch's Restaurant

  • 527 Bald Eagle Dr, Marco Island
  • 239-394-3433

Deep Lagoon Seafood

  • 760 North Collier Blvd. Suite 105, Marco Island
  • 239-235-7497