If area restaurants are any indication, new life in the new year may mean that the local economy is turning the corner. Seeing more restaurants opening than closing is a good sign.
Passers-by are noticing the renovation work at the former location of the Romano’s Macaroni Grill in the Granada Shoppes at the southeast corner of U.S. 41 North and Immokalee Road and are curious about what is going on there. I’ve had at least three readers recently ask me.
I previously reported that Sweet Tomatoes is opening a restaurant there in the first quarter of this year, but because of the interest, I thought an update is needed. The chain’s target opening date for its first Collier County location now is March 22, about two years to the day when Macaroni Grill closed.
Eric Pate’s Backstreet Bar & Grill
After more than a three-year hiatus in Panama, Eric Pate recently moved back to Naples to open his new restaurant, Eric Pate’s Backstreet Bar & Grill, 849 7th Ave S., in the former location of Gina’s on 7th Ave and Nektar Restaurant.
Pate previously owned Cloyde’s Steak & Lobster House in Venetian Village for more than 15 years. His family continued operating Cloyde’s for a few more years until they recently sold it. Through a local restaurant dynasty begun by patriarch Cloyde Pate, the Pate family has been involved in the local dining scene for more than 40 years.
Old-timers may remember Pate’s Marker Four restaurant near the Cove Inn. Today, that Naples Bay location is the home of the Boat House restaurant, and also was the former site of the Chart House.
The Pate family owned and operated Corks Steakhouse & Wine Bar, 862 Fifth Ave. S., until a few years ago. Bert’s Seafood & Chowder House recently opened at Corks’ former location.
Eric’s brother, Stanley, owns Pate’s on U.S. 41 in the Ramada Inn of Naples, a Holiday Inn for many years until recently. Years ago, Stanley Pate owned Pate’s Piccadilly Pub on Fifth Avenue South.
Another brother, Nate, who once worked at the family’s Catch 22 in Bayfront Place, where Tavern on the Bay is located today, has teamed up with Eric at his new restaurant.
“We’ve been around awhile and have a very good following,” Eric Pate said. “I’m very excited to be opening this restaurant. I think we will have a pretty good season once everybody hears about us.”
Not only did Pate retain the chef from Gina’s, but he kept a few of the pasta dishes that were popular with Gina’s patrons. The menu includes Linguine with clams, Rigatoni alla vodka with grilled shrimp, and Penne alla Neapolitan with chicken, but the restaurant specializes in high-quality steaks and fresh seafood, Pate said.
“Most of the people around here are pretty familiar with Pate’s restaurants,” he said. “We serve big cuts of prime beef. We’re not shy.”
Backstreet Bar & Grill opens daily at 5 p.m., except Sunday, when it is closed.
Dixie Moon Diner
“Dixie Moon in Bonita is reopening, or so says the banner out front,” JackStraw commented on my recent column on restaurants opening and closing in 2009.
It’s true. A large banner at 26930 Old 41 Road proclaims, “Coming Soon — Dixie Moon Diner.” A smaller sign states, “New Owner — Let’s share the love Bonita.”
Dixie Moon Diner will be at least the third reincarnation for the restaurant. The original Dixie Moon Cafe at Old 41 Road and Dean Street closed for a couple of months in late 2008 and reopened later that year a few blocks north near the northwest corner of West Terry Street as Dixie Moon Cafe & Country Buffet. Then, it closed for good last summer.
Well, not exactly for good. New owner Necmettin Orcan and his general manager, son Ismail Orcan, plan to give the old diner new life when it reopens later this month.
While the diner’s exterior obviously lacks the charm of the original building in the city’s historic district, the interior makes up for it. Ismail Orcan enthusiastically talks up the place, proudly noting that the traditional American diner will have 250 items on its menu.
“Bonita needs a good place to eat,” he said. “I give my customers options from A to Z, breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Orcan has apparently done his homework. He said he visited many area diners and talked to restaurateurs to get an idea of what works.
The diner will offer a breakfast buffet on weekends and daily chef specials.