Capri Connection: End of summer season bay side fun
“It is time for vacation, cleaning and updating,” wrote Debbie Cooper to the Capri Coconuttele to announce the brief closing of what has become one of the most popular restaurants and chickee bars in Southwest Florida. Pelican Bend will close from Sept. 5 (the day after Labor Day) and will reopen on Friday, Sept. 22 (the first day of fall).
Pelican Bend is a family owned and operated restaurant that had its beginnings on the Isles of Capri in 1979. The Cooper family held an event they called “Friday Night End of Summer Season Bayside Fun” to bring closure to another busy year. In spite of threatening skies, people came out in droves.
“This turned out to be much larger than we anticipated,” said Debbie Cooper. “I think everyone had a good time.”
There was certainly enough to make the event memorable. The Sunset Menu that began in full force last year ran from 4 p.m. until closing, instead of its regular 4 until 7 p.m. time frame to the delight of so many. Steve Cooper and his wife Morgan began this new fanfare to help bridge the gap for folks who wanted to eat earlier than the regular restaurant hours, and for those who wanted to dine in the open while watching the sun set on beautiful Johnson Bay. The menu has become so popular that it was continued one night a week even after season. During season, the Sunset Menu is available on Thursday through Sunday. On this special night, the outdoor grill remained open and kept the popular hogfish tacos and fried green tomato shrimp sliders popping. There are other special treats on the menu, but these two seemed to be the most popular.
The husband and wife acoustic duo, Band Phoenix (Bill and Tricia Lund) played continuously.
“They are playing my kind of music,” said Larry Megel one of the attendees. No matter what the age of the guests, most were singing along, swaying, and some even dancing to their favorite tunes.
Pelican Bend’s motto is: “We are dedicated to providing fresh local fare in a casual and friendly atmosphere.” This is what they have strived to do for 38 years. Steve Cooper, grandson of Mickey and Annie Cooper who began the business, not only serves as a chef for the Sunset Menu, but also is a fishing Captain brings in fresh catch for the restaurant continuously. On the night of this closing event, Steve and others on the boat brought in a fresh catch that included the delectable red snapper which he was seen cleaning as guests enjoyed the festivities.
Pelican Bend continues to be a popular place for locals and tourists alike. Throughout the season, it is not unusual to see a line forming outside the restaurant long before the doors open for dinner. The marina behind the restaurant makes it possible to come by boat. One guest even comes on his seaplane. This is a place to unwind, tell fish tales, and solve the world’s problems in a friendly, family atmosphere.
“The Bend,” as it is called by locals is open for lunch and dinner and is known for its Captain Bertie’s Chowder. Sautéed fish of the day is the evening’s signature dish. Most order it with the lettuce wedge and the home-made creamy garlic dressing. Many of the locals and their guests take their own catch to be cooked and served Old Florida style, and many make sure to order the Bend’s special hush puppies.
“We really don’t have to advertise much,” Annie’s son Mike Cooper once said, “because people always tell others about us.” It is no longer a “best-kept secret.” Cooper said the secret is out, and folks have now found where Old-Fashioned Florida seafood and a chance to experience Old Florida island eating are at its best. One thing that made this restaurant internationally known was the near 15 foot Burmese Python captured behind the restaurant on Dec. 16, 2014. From whence it came, no one really knows.
Pelican Bend is located at 219 Capri Blvd. on the Isles of Capri, Naples Florida 34113.
Reservations are not accepted. More information is available on their website.
Contact Ann Hall at email@example.com.