Best of the Banner, November: The top things we ate in SWFLA

Will Watts

November brought some of the finest French food I’ve ever eaten. We also visited a popular "Taco Tuesday" and a not-so-off-the-beaten-path "Country" restsurant for some fine Thai vittles.   

Tartine & Tartelette, Naples

So often you hear the words “hidden gem.” While often used with too much liberty, I can honestly say Tartine & Tartelette is a 100 percent authentic hidden gem.

“Galyna and Sergiy welcome you for lunch and dinner to discover the flavors of French cuisine,” reads the website. These are two very hands on owners.

The food is pure artwork. The flavors are amazing, sometimes subtle, other times dramatic. What’s inescapable is the hard-to-imagine quality of the food. It tastes like it was made with all the care of someone who loves you. I’m not even kidding here. The food is incredible. The atmosphere is transportive and the attention to service and detail is pure perfection.

The “Brie au four, miel et noix” ($16.50) is baked brie with mixed nuts, seeds and honey. This was by far the best warm brie I have ever eaten. Sweet, savory and satisfying.

Speaking of sweet, I also had a bowl of the onion soup ($10.99). Another warm cheesy, bready delight. My dining companion opted for the mushroom truffle soup ($14.99). Topped with a mushroom mousse, the soup also featured small whole. And it wowed!

For my main entrée, I selected the “Boeuf Bourguignon” ($35.90). Pieces of slow-cooked beef in a red wine sauce, with mushrooms, bacon and onions. It came with a side of crispy potatoes. Every bite was pure delight. The bacon is subtle but adds depth to this dish. And the beef, not too fatty, not too lean. It was the perfect cut. My compliments to the chef. I highly recommend this dish.

My partner in dine picked the “Blancs de poulet farcis au chèvre frais” ($34.99). It’s chicken breast stuffed with fresh goat cheese and pistachios along with a centerpiece of beets with a root sauce. This dish earned high marks from my guest. So much so that I highly recommend this dish as well; the first time I’ve done that twice in the same column.

For a night of the finest French dining, visit Tartine & Tartelette. But make a reservation first at OpenTable (opentable.com). Seating is limited.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: Fine French dining at Tartine & Tartelette

Maria’s Restaurant, Bonita Springs

Funny story. We initially planned to go to our next dining destination on Monday. But it turns out Maria’s Restaurant in Bonita Springs is closed on Monday. And now I know why. They’re resting up for Taco Tuesday.

The line was out the door for $1 tacos. You order and pay at the entrance, then you take a number and wait for your food. And these aren’t some tiny street tacos. These are meaty, full-sized, authentic and delicious tacos.

We tried them all: carnitas (roasted pork), al pastor (adobo marinated spit-grilled pork), chorizo (spicy pork sausage), chicken and steak. OMG! So good. Especially the al pastor and carnitas.

We also had gorditas (deep fried masa pockets filled with meat, in our case, the carnitas). Super great!

We also had elotes – classic Mexican street food that features corn on the cob charred on the grill, then slathered in a spicy chili, creama and

cotija cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

We also took home some tamales – chicken, pork and cheese and jalapeno. Another winner.

There was a DJ in the bar area, and we hear the restaurant often features live music. A party atmosphere. And the service was top notch.

Maria’s Restaurant is the place to be on a Tuesday night. I have no idea how they can afford to sell $1 tacos, but I’ll be back for more – like every single week. I’ll also come back on a regular night to sample their full menu.

Full review:‘Watts for Dinner’: It’s time to experience Taco Tuesday at Maria’s

Muji Thai Country & Sushi, Bonita Springs

I’m not sure what the “country” in the name stands for, but this restaurant looks like a cozy little house on the side of Bonita Beach Road. And much of the parking is in a grassy area nearby. So that might have something to do with it.

The “Tom Kha” soup ($6.95) is a Thai spicy and sour soup in herbs with coconut milk, lemon grass broth, mushrooms, tomatoes, scallion. You also get your choice of meat. I picked chicken. This is one of my favorite soups and Muji’s was no exception. Really great!

For his main entrée, my dining companion also picked a dish from the Thai menu, the “Pad Prik Kang” ($15.95). It’s a sauteed red curry paste mixed with green beans and kaffir leaves. You can pick tofu, vegetables, chicken or pork. He picked the latter.

I ordered the “Sushi/Sashimi and Shrimp Tempura” ($25.95) featuring shrimp tempura, a California roll, three pieces of sushi, nine pieces of sashimi and your choice of soup or salad.

This is a huge combo and probably meant for two. I did not let that deter me. I focused on the sushi and sashimi first. This is a great combo. High quality fish, a nice presentation and some amazing flavors.

The atmosphere is warm and cozy. There’s indoor and outdoor seating. The staff is friendly and do a great job overall. Give Muji Thai Country & Sushi a try.

Happy eating!

Full review:Photos: Muji Thai Country & Sushi, Bonita Springs, 2021

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 the-banner.com.

If you go

Tartine & Tartelette

  • 11121 Health Park Blvd #900, Naples
  • 239-888-1151
  • tartinetartelette.com

Maria’s Restaurant

  • 27080 Old 41 Rd, Bonita Springs
  • 239-495-1868
  • facebook.com/mariasrestaurantbonita

Muji Thai Country & Sushi

  • 4185 Bonita Beach Rd SW, Bonita Springs
  • 239-221-7305
  • mujithaicountryandsushi.com