'Watts for Dinner’: CJ’s on the Bay – you’re about to enter the Blue Zone

Will Watts

Our next dining destination is CJ’s On The Bay. This isn’t my first trip to the “heart of the rock” but it’s a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon.

We decided to do things a little different this time. You see, CJ’s is a Blue Zones Project approved restaurant featuring a variety of plant-based options. There are items throughout the menu with a blue check mark to make healthier choices easier.

Everything we selected for this review had that little blue check mark. And while it may have been healthy, it was just as tasty as ever.  

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Things got off to an appetizing start with CJ’s hummus ($11.49). Made with garbanzo beans, tahini,  garlic and cumin, it’s served with sliced whole wheat pita, cucumbers, carrots and celery. The restaurant offers three hummus toppings: classic, roasted red pepper, spicy or black bean and corn.

We picked the roasted red pepper which was a beautiful and tasty puree. The hummus was super fresh and delicious with all the dippers, although I was partial to the pitas.

I also ordered a bowl of the vegetable garden chipotle chili ($8.49). With carrots, corn and more than one type of bean, you won’t miss the meat. The flavor is deep, hearty and mild. This dish takes everything about soup and chili that you love and combines it into an amazing new dish.

You can add sour cream, onions, cheese or bacon for a small upcharge.

My dining companion picked the “Crunchy Kale Salad” ($11.99) featuring Julienne kale, garbanzo beans, cucumber, broccoli, a grape tomato medley, red onion, dried cranberries and a peppadew vinaigrette. This dish earned rave reviews, especially the dressing.

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For my main entrée, I selected the Beyond burger ($14.99), a plant-based “burger,” topped with lettuce, tomato and onion and served on a whole wheat bun. I had mine topped with a slice of pepperjack cheese. I’ve had Beyond burgers before, but this was perhaps the thickest.

I won’t pretend this is just like real meat, but the Beyond is the closest we have to date. The taste is amazing and there’s a bit less guilt associated with this one. And I think you’ll find the way CJ’s uses the Beyond meat is better than most restaurants.

It’s served with a side, either fresh fruit, French fries or chips. I’m guessing the Blue Zones choice would be the fruit, but I have a weakness for CJ’s house-cooked chips. A must have!

My partner in dine picked the “Veggie Wrap” ($11.49) featuring portabella mushrooms, hummus, bell peppers, carrots, green onions, tomatoes, pepperoncini, and micro greens. You can add feta, goat cheese, avocado or chicken for an extra charge. He added feta and avocado. You can have it in a whole wheat tortilla or in a lettuce bed.

The ingredients were super fresh and the tortilla, which was quite tasty, was packed. I highly recommend this dish.

For his side, the fries. And yes, I stole more than one. Skinny, salty and delicious.

Our waitress for this trip was vey attentive, checking on us often. The entire staff is all smiles. Every seat has a water view, there’s an indoor and outdoor bar, and the restaurant features some beautiful artwork inside.

I want to applaud CJ’s for making healthier selections easier. And for making them just as tasty, if not more, than the fried and fatty foods that tempt us every day.

For more on Blue Zones, visit bluezonesproject.com.

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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.

If you go

CJ’s on the Bay

  • 740 N Collier Blvd #105, Marco Island
  • 239-389-4511
  • cjsonthebay.com