Grab a taste of summer, while you still can

Will Watts
Correspondent

The school buses are rolling again and it’s time we capture those last moments of summer 2022 before it’s gone – and before it becomes nearly impossible to find a table.

If you’re looking for a nice meal to encapsulate these days, here are just a few suggestions from the area’s many wonderful eateries.

The “Avocado Grilled Cheese” from Tropical Smoothie Café, Marco Island.

Vegetarian

Start with a smoothie from Tropical Smoothie Café. One of my favorites is the “Acai Berry Boost” ($6.99, 470 calories). It’s a blend of acai, pomegranate, banana, blueberries and strawberries. Oh, and it’s delicious.

On the food side, nothing says summer like the “Avocado Grilled Cheese” ($7.29, 930 calories). This sandwich is two toasted sourdough slices with an American/firehouse cheese blend, bacon, smoked tomato spread and smashed avocado in between. It’s a winner.

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The artichoke dip ($12.99) from The SpeakEasy is cheesy baked goodness is served with house-made chips, which are the true star of this dish. Taste wise, think flatbread cooked to tortilla-like greatness. You can tell there’s artichoke in the dip only by the texture, but the taste is all cheese. And that’s ok with me.

“Broiled Seafood Casserole” from Capri Fish House, Isles of Capri.

Seafood

Capri Fish House on Isles of Capri offers the unique “Mussels or Clams Marinara” ($14.99). We selected the clams, and it’s just as described. Surprisingly this was one of the better marinara sauces I’ve had. And I eat at a lot of Italian restaurants. The dish is beautiful, tasty and fun to eat. I give it high marks. It’s a must try that I highly recommend.

More:Cheap Eats: Earning your just desserts

Speaking of unique, I must also mention the “Broiled Seafood Casserole” ($21.99). It features assorted seafood broiled in a “delicate lemon butter sauce” and served with rice and vegetables. This dish was a work of art. He reports that the flavors blended well, the veggies were nice and crisp, the spinach was a nice touch. The shrimp were a bit overcooked and it could have used a little more lemon flavor but tasty overall.    

“Clams Marinara” from Capri Fish House, Isles of Capri.

Island Gypsy Café has these coconut shrimp ($13). Six hearty coconut encrusted shrimp served with a Thai dipping sauce. Delish! The sauce is perfect with this dish, a mix of salty and sweet. And the shrimp are cooked to perfection.

Then there’s the lobster and shrimp mac and cheese ($25). Many places only served baked mac and cheese. This was much more like the pot mac and cheese you grew up with, with the added benefit of lobster and shrimp. And Island Gypsy was generous with the seafood. Another plus. Bacon! Overall, I enjoyed this dish immensely.

Coconut shrimp from Island Gypsy, Isles of Capri.

Back to Marco Island and a newer addition to the food scene, Deep Lagoon. The crab rangoon ($13) features handmade fried dumplings stuffed with fresh blue crab, cream cheese and green onions and topped with a spicy mayo and served with a side of sweet chili dipping sauce. It sounds like a lot of different flavors. And it is. But it works. Even with the dipping sauce. It’s a sharable serving size and you won’t be disappointed.

The crab rangoon from Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House, Marco Island.

If you’re looking for caught-that-day fresh fish, look no further than Leebe Fish. During our recent visit, the catch of the day included snapper, grouper, tuna, swordfish and stone crabs. I decided on the snapper. You can get it in a basket, as a taco, a platter or a sandwich. I picked the latter. You can also get it fried or blackened. That was a tougher choice for me. So, I asked the staff. After all, they should know. And so, blackened it was.

A blackened snapper sandwich from Leebe Fish, Marco Island.

For your side, you can have a “secret recipe” slaw, made with vinegar, not mayo, or rice and beans or fries. Since I was having a sandwich, this was a no-brainer. Fries!

My sandwich come on a bun, a whole fillet, stacked half on top of half. That makes for a thick sandwich. It comes with the hose tartar sauce. It was so good, I asked for more to dip my fries in. And the fries: crunchy, delish and plentiful.

Back to the sandwich. It was seasoned to perfection; with Arthur Treachers, I presume. Given it’s sold in the lobby. I give this sandwich two huge thumbs up.

The swordfish platter from Leebe Fish, Marco Island.

My dining companion had the Swordfish, as a platter, with black beans and rice. It was a thick cut and won his approval. Which is not easy. He’s very picky with his fish. He also liked his sides.  

“Brew House Jumbo Wings” (boneless) from the Marco Island Brewery, Marco Island.

Chicken

What’s summer without some hearty chicken. And one of summer’s best is the “Brew House Jumbo Wings” ($12.50) from the Marco Island Brewery.

When ordering the wings, you have some choices to make. Bone-in or boneless? Mild, hot, killer hot, barbecue, sesame Asian, garlic parmesan, hot garlic teriyaki or firecracker? You get celery sticks and, for a small additional charge, bleu cheese.

We selected the boneless, mild. And let me just say, these are perhaps the best boneless wings I’ve ever eaten. I’ve tried boneless many times before. And lots of places seem to say, “you don’t want the bone, well what do you know about wings.”

The taquitos appetizer from Zaza Mexican Kitchen, Marco Island.

Then just deliver something Frankenstein-ish that barely resemble chicken. Not here. These were as big as chicken tenders; the coating was like a tempura – very tasty – and the flavoring was mild but delicious. And the bleu cheese? So good! Chunks of real cheese! Yum!

At Zaza Mexican Kitchen in Olde Marco, the taquitos ($10) can’t be missed. This dish includes four small tortillas with a meat filling, in this case tinga de pollo (chicken deep-fried, then topped with guacamole and queso fresca. Yum! So crunchy and delicious. Packed with chicken and a generous amount of guac. I could eat my weight in these bite-sized treats.

The honey sesame chicken salad from Mango's Dockside Bistro, Marco Island.

Mango’s Dockside Bistro’s honey sesame chicken salad ($16) features crispy fried chicken tenders, drizzled om honey. You also get caramelized pecans, Mandarin orange bites, strawberries, mango, and crispy wontons on a bed of mixed greens with a sweet onion dressing. Everything about that says summer! This salad is as beautiful as it is delicious. The dressing and the honey made a fantastic combination, "tropical and sweet."  

The “Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich” from Stonewalls, Marco Island.

Over at Stonewalls, the “Classic Crispy Chicken Sandwich” ($13) is one of my favorites. This giant chicken breast fillet is golden brown and beautiful, served with lettuce, tomato, pickle and honey mustard. It is a work of art and earns high marks. I highly recommend this mega sandwich.

The garlic burger and fries from The Crazy Flamingo, Marco Island.

Burgers and sandwiches

The Crazy Flamingo has one of the most unique, and best, cheeseburgers I’ve eaten. The half-pound cheeseburger ($9.99) with fries is served on a garlic sub roll. Amazingly, the thick, juicy burger patty is shaped like the roll. Impressive. Topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle, this burger is a standout. I highly recommend this dish!

At the Smith House Restaurant & Tavern you can get a grass-fed cheeseburger ($16.50). It’s served with tomato, lettuce, pickle and onion and on a grilled brioche bun. I added mayo. Mustard and ketchup are also available.

For your side, you can choose fries, house-made chips, cole slaw or a fruit cup. I picked the fries, but they were more like breaded potato wedges. Huge! And lots of ‘em.

A cheeseburger from Smith House, Marco Island.

In the sandwich category, Mango’s Dockside Bistro has this huge club sandwich ($14). It features honey ham, roast turkey and applewood smoked bacon, along with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise. You can have it on white, rye or multigrain toast. I picked the latter.

I opted to skip the ham and ask for extra turkey instead. You get two sides and can pick from fries or black beans with rice, coleslaw, or fruit. I selected the fries (sweet potato for a $1 up charge) and the slaw.

The club sandwich from Mango’s Dockside Bistro, Marco Island.

The fries were sweet and delicious with a hint of cinnamon. The slaw was tasty with bits of the restaurant’s namesake (Mangoes) mixed in. The turkey was piled high with fresh veggies and just the right amount of mayo! A perfect lunch! I highly recommend this dish.

Enjoy the last days of summer! And happy eating!  

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

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

Capri Fish House

  • 203 Capri Blvd., Naples
  • 239-389-5555
  • caprifishhouse.com

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

  • 1093 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-970-8866
  • tropicalsmoothiecafe.com

Marco Island Brewery

  • 1089 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-970-0461
  • marcoislandbrewery.com

The SpeakEasy

  • 1106 N Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-970-2929
  • speakeasymarco.com

Deep Lagoon Seafood & Oyster House

  • 760 N. Collier Blvd., Ste. 105, Marco Island
  • 239-235-7497
  • deeplagoon.com

Mango’s Dockside Bistro

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

The Crazy Flamingo

  • 1035 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-642-9600
  • Thecrazyflamingo.com

Stonewalls

  • 551 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island
  • 239-389-1995
  • marcostonewalls.com

Leebe Fish

  • 350 Royal Palm Dr., Marco Island
  • 239-389-0580
  • leebefish.com

Island Gypsy Cafe

  • 292 Capri Blvd., Naples
  • 239-394-1111
  • theislandgypsy.com

Smith House Restaurant & Tavern

  • Shops of Olde Marco, 210 Royal Palm Drive, Marco Island
  • 239-389-8414
  • smithhouse.business.site/