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

Will Watts
Correspondent

It was all about variety in January. Texas Roadhouse has a huge number of stick-to-your-ribs dishes. Doreen’s Cup of Joe has one of the largest breakfast and lunch menus I’ve ever seen. Mangoes Dockside Bistro has burgers, sushi and so much more. Su’s Garden surprised us with one of the largest vegetarian menus on the island and ZAZA Kitchen gave us authentic Mexican food and Detroit-style pizza. 

Here’s the best things we ate during the past month. Happy eating!

Texas Roadhouse, South Naples

First up for January 2021, Texas Roadhouse in South Naples. We ordered online and scheduled curbside pickup, meaning we never left our car. So nice! Ordering was easy and so was customizing your food. You can schedule your pickup and there’s designated parking for getting your order.

For starters, we picked the fried pickles ($5.99), pickle chips hand-battered, golden-fried and served with ranch or Cajun horseradish sauce for dipping, and grilled shrimp ($6.99), seasoned shrimp drizzled with garlic lemon pepper butter and served on toasted fresh-baked bread.

The pickles came just as advertised. The coating was spicy and delicious, but overall, this dish did not resonate with me. However, the shrimp were amazing. I only wish I had more than five.

TR’s fried catfish ($13.99) features U.S. farm-raised catfish breaded in cornmeal and fried to a golden brown. It was good, no muddy flavor. The breading was even better.

The grilled salmon ($16.99) features a Norwegian fillet salmon steak grilled moist and tender then topped with a lemon pepper butter. The salmon looked incredible and earned rave reviews (best dish of the night).

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Texas Roadhouse is big on flavor

Doreen’s Cup of Joe, Marco Island

Doreen’s is one of my favorites for breakfast on Marco Island.

First up the chilaquiles (pronounced chee-luh-key-lays), or breakfast nachos. The bottom layer was corn tortilla chips soaked in a red sauce; topped with an egg (any style, I picked scrambled) diced tomatoes, a spicy green tomatillo sauce, cheese and avocado slices. It also comes with rice and beans.

If you’re looking to step outside a traditional breakfast dish, this is a great way to start. Mildly spicy, it’s a delicious wake up call.

The California omelet features sun dried tomato, goat cheese and leeks. This omelet was huge and fantastically fluffy. What a great combination.

Then there’s the avocado toast, which features two slices of wheat toast with avocado, chopped tomato and egg any style and served with arugula. Also, a worthy effort.

The French toast features sliced braided challah bread, dipped in a creamy egg custard topped with powdered sugar and whipped cream. What can I say? It’s as good as it sounds.

Doreen’s Cup of Joe has everything you could possibly want for breakfast: fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee selections and the broadest breakfast menu I’ve seen on the island.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Doreen’s – the perfect place for a picky crowd

Mango’s Dockside Bistro

Mango’s Dockside Bistro has a vast menu to satisfy all tastes, from seafood and sushi to dinner plates, burgers and tempting desserts.

Often a large menu in a restaurant will denote lesser quality than say a restaurant that specializes in certain dishes. I think it comes from that ol’ saying, jack of all trades, master of none quote stuck in people’s psyche. That’s just not the case here. We ordered a broad range of dishes to sample and I was impressed with each.

We ordered several items from the “Sunset Starters” menu, including coconut shrimp, jumbo shrimp and one of the two new flatbreads being offered. The flatbreads come in caprese, featuring fresh Basil, cherry tomatoes, baked on flatbread and drizzled with a balsamic glaze, or the Hawaiian, flatbread topped with BBQ sauce, grilled chicken and fresh pineapple. The flatbreads are $10 each.

We got the caprese and we enjoyed it a lot. The bread was soft, for the most part, but with nice crunchy corners. There was a lot of cheese and the ingredients worked well together. And it’s the perfect size to eat alone as a meal or share as an appetizer.

The coconut shrimp ($12) featured five crispy fried shrimp, with an incredible coconut batter and is served with sweet chili sauce. Yum! The jumbo shrimp cocktail ($14) features three monster shrimp served with cocktail sauce. The sauce was almost gelled. Not sure if that was intentional or not. But it works! The shrimp were fresh, light and delicious.

We also ordered a mango tropical roll ($15) and a Philly roll ($12). The mango roll features shrimp tempura, avocado, is topped with fresh mango, tempura flakes and a sweet soy sauce. Fortunately, the mango was just right (because the restaurant doesn’t have a lot of control over that). The roll was huge. But very fresh and soft. The Philly roll featured smoked salmon, cream cheese and avocado.

A new offering, the “Quinoa Power Bowl” ($14), features fresh avocado, roasted peppers, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, sweet roasted corn, fresh mango and micro greens and finished with a cilantro lime aioli. You can add grilled or blackened chicken or shrimp for $4 more.

First, what a fresh and amazing offering. Kudos to you, Mangoes. The ingredients work perfectly. Fresh! Tasty! And healthy!

The caramelized pecan North Atlantic salmon ($25) features grilled salmon topped with caramelized pecans and mango Beurre blanc, served on a bed of baby greens with gorgonzola, fresh strawberries and red onion. Finished with Mangoes’ “Sweet n’ Sour” dressing. The salmon was cooked to perfect and the greens were fresh and inventive. I highly recommend this dish.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Variety is the spice of Mangoes

Su’s Garden, Marco Island

Su’s Garden, a Marco Island landmark. Everything we ordered on this trip was vegetarian, but not vegan (meaning we had eggs, broth and food with milk as an ingredient). Su’s has one of the largest vegetarian menus on the island. And we hope to eat less meat in 2021.

Things got off to an appetizing start with some vegetarian spring rolls ($1.75), dumplings (4 for $5.75) and lettuce wraps (chicken or vegetarian $8.50). The first thing you’ll notice about Su’s, the food is not as oily as most Chinese restaurants; that enhances the flavor both the promotes better health.

You can get the dumplings steamed or pan fried. We picked the latter. You won’t miss the meat. These dumplings are huge, hearty and delicious!

Same with the lettuce wraps, featuring water chestnuts and a mildly spicy seasoning served with leafy lettuce. This is a favorite dish of mine that I’ve eaten at P.F. Chang's and Pei Wei, so my expectations were high. And this dish delivers. I highly recommend this appetizer.

We also ordered two entrees, vegetable fried rice ($8.95) and broccoli with garlic sauce ($12.50). Firstly, you’ll be amazed at how much stronger the other flavors have when you leave out the meat. And I’ve found that rice and pasta dishes can really carry themselves well without adding meat. Both dishes were amazing and plentiful. Huge, huge portions.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Su’s Garden has the veggies and so much more

ZAZA Kitchen, Marco Island

The cheese enchiladas ($11, more if you add meat) are made with corn tortillas and topped with a house sauce and cheese; you can add your choice of meat – tinga de pollo (chicken in a mild tomato sauce), falda (brisket), carnitas (seasoned pork) or ground beef. It includes Mexican rice and refried beans or the house charro beans.

The green sauce is tangy and delicious. The rice is the perfect complement and the house charro beans, which struck me as a little sweet, are amazing.

The Baja fish burrito ($15) features grilled or blackened fish (I picked the latter), lettuce, rice, pico de gallo, guacamole, and cilantro aioli. It’s more than a mouthful and will leave you satisfied.

ZAZA’s quesadillas (from $11 to $15) are made with flour tortillas and melted cheese along with your choice of meat and were the highlight of the meal.

And don’t forget the Detroit-style pizza (prices range from $15 to $25 depending on size and toppings). We got the white pizza featuring a house cheese blend with ricotta and pecorino, along with garlic and olive oil. This pizza is square and features a thick crust that’s airy. It’s baked inside an oiled steel pan, and comes out crispy, especially on the sides. It’s different from the other island pizza offerings and worth a try.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: Fresh Mex and pizza too!

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

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

More:‘Watts for Dinner’ the Takeout Edition: 21 Spices speaks the language of satisfaction

If you go

Texas Roadhouse

  • 6815 Collier Blvd, Naples
  • 239-417-1111
  • texasroadhouse.com

Doreen’s Cup of Joe

  • 267 Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-394-2600 
  • Doreenscupofjoe.com

Mango’s Dockside Bistro

  • Located in Esplanade, 760 N Collier Blvd # 109, Marco Island
  • 239-393-2433
  • mangosdocksidebistro.com

Su's Garden Chinese Restaurant

  • 537 Bald Eagle Dr #2700, Marco Island 
  • 239-394-4666
  • susgarden.com

ZAZA Kitchen

  • 1095 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island
  • 239-970-5205
  • eatatzaza.com