‘Watts for Dinner’: A brave and unique offering marks latest CJ’s visit

Will Watts
“Not-Your-Mother’s Baloney” sandwich from CJ’s on the Bay, Marco Island.

Happy new year! This week’s dining destination is CJ’s on the Bay, Marco Island. For 14 years, this has been the “heart of the rock” for island events like the recent Jerry Adam’s Chili Cookoff.

Call this week’s event a late lunch or early dinner, but we were there just after 4 p.m., eating outside near the water on a nice and cool day.

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

MORE'Watts for Dinner': The best dishes of 2022

I was so excited for my meal selection this day. From the “sandwiches and more” portion of the menu, I picked the “Not-Your-Mother’s Baloney” ($14.99, you can add bacon for $3 more) sandwich. The dish features Brasstown grass-fed, all-beef bologna, provolone cheese, arugula, tomato, pickle, potato chips, mustard aioli on oat-topped wheat bread.

It comes with one side, your choice of fresh fruit, fries, slaw or chips. I selected the house-made chips.

“Chicken Cavatappi” from CJ’s on the Bay, Marco Island.

The first thing you need to know, it’s fried baloney, albeit lightly, on toasted bread. Maybe that was obvious to some, but to be fair, the sandwich, as described, would be perfectly delicious uncooked.

The fired baloney took me back. That was a staple in my lower-middle-class home when I was a kid. Fried baloney, white bread and mustard. On a good week, lettuce and tomatoes too.

While this one is a bit fancier, the memories still poured in. Arugula goes well with this sandwich and I loved the combination of the mustard aioli and melted provolone. I have mixed feelings about the potato chips on the sandwich, even though that’s what I picked as my side. Don’t get me wrong, the crunch-factor was great, but it left me wondering how the sandwich might taste without them.

Even so, I have no reservation in highly recommending this sandwich. It’s a brave and unique offering for the menu and it works! Bravo!

A house salad from CJ’s on the Bay, Marco Island.

My dining companion opted for a selection from the “CJ’s Entrees” menu, the “Chicken Cavatappi” ($23.99). This dish features chicken breast, pancetta, portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and a smoked gouda cream sauce.

It comes with your choice of a side house salad or soup.

He loved the mushrooms and the dish in general, citing the pancetta as the only weak link. He suggested perhaps a blackened or more well-done version.

The atmosphere and service at CJ’s is top notch. And even in the early evening, the restaurant attracts a crowd. Add in the food, and it’s not hard to see why CJ’s is so popular. Happy new year and happy eating!

MORE‘Watts for Dinner’: Old favorites and new discoveries from KJ

AND‘Watts for Dinner’: Sip and shop at the new Pours at Publix

ALSO‘Watts for Dinner’: Saki opens second location in East Naples

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

If you go 

CJ’s on the Bay