Saturday, May 23, 2009

Doc Ford’s Fort Myers Beach Review– Room for Improvement

The new Doc Ford’s Fort Myers Beach Rum Bar and Grille has its bugs to work out, after several visits. We’ve had good meals at the original, Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille, and do miss and expect that quality.

Doc Ford's Fort Myers Beach, at the former site of the Bridge Restaurant, has a lovely Sky Bridge north- sided perch, with a northeastern view. It overlooks the bay, boat docks, and further off, the shrimp fleet. The deck seats have the best views. Inside, it’s a warm mix of wooden flooring and walls with posters of Randy’s books. The noise level is quite noisy inside, without sound absorbing fabrics. People sometimes shout to be heard, two feet away. The sound bounces off the reflective windows, hard floors, ceilings and walls. Nothing to absorb the sound. This high noise level helps turnover the seats-a trick known to restaurant designers! Seats away from the bar have a broad water view. On arrival, we were given a buzzer that sounded in 10 minutes. Tables sat with dishes left behind, and one sat with just a cleaning rag for 10-15 minutes. Customers paced, buzzers in hand, waiting for seats. More tables awaited cleaning during the evening, as folks filled up the parking lot from 6:30 on. Anticipating a storm, management sent some staff home before 6:30pm. Only light rain followed, as well as quite a few uncleaned tables and lost restaurant revenue-oops.

Could you go wrong with a $6 Mohito, at a rum bar? Yes. Ours has a bitter, rather than the characteristic fresh, sweet sugar, soda and lime taste. The mint is dark, soggy, and past its prime. After two bitter sips, we sent it back. this should improve by your visit. Our server quickly brought an Old Havana Rum Punch (5.75), a very tasty tropical rum drink with grenadine. The Pom Pom Mojito, (6.75) with pomegranate liqueur and Appleton white rum, is innovative and good. There’s Pineapple or the Mango Mojitos, too. Rums by the glass include Brazilian Oronco (11), Depaz Blue Cane Amber Rhum (11), and Ron Abuelo Anejo 7 Yr (8.50). Kudo’s for having about 25 wines by bottle, and many by glass. The house wine is Foxhorn, for reds and whites. You can die of thirst before getting a glass of wine. One of us initially ordered the Coppola Zin, which they couldn't find, then he ordered the Cakebread sauvignon blanc (15). Then, some 20 minutes later, the bartender somehow found the Coppola Red Zin, which is what he wound up with. Stock needs to be maintained, and alert servers should know what’s in stock.

Appetizers include Jerk Nachos (8), Steamed Mussels (10), Fish Fingers (9), Southern Fried Crab Cakes (10), and Fried Calamari (9). Our Tomlinson’s Taquitos (8) have chicken, poblano and red peppers, and onions wrapped in a fried corn tortilla, with a refreshing Lime cilantro pesto (8). This is recommended- light, crisp, and well worth the money for four slender taquitos.

Ceviche Cocktail (9) has marinated grouper and snapper, scallops and shrimp, with fresh lime juice, cilantro, jalapenos and tomatoes for $9. A good portion, and decent quality, With the jalapenos, it’s good bang for your buck. Entrees include Cedar Plank Salmon (22), Achoate (Randy, shouldn’t it be Achiote?) Grilled Grouper (market price), Dry rubbed Rib Eye (25), and Baby Back Ribs (19). The Campeche Fish Tacos (14) the least expensive entrée, has a mound of grouper bits with cabbage, papaya pico de gallo in a flour tortilla, with Cuban black beans and rice. It's looks the same as the Grouper Fish Tacos served at the owner's other spot, the Beached Whale. Though a good portion, we sent ours back because of a bad smell to the salsa. Our server quickly returned with another, which, fresher, still had a minimal off odor. Fresher ingredients make a difference.

The Banana Leaf Snapper (22) features a rectangular of leaf-wrapped snapper, coated with masa harina, ancho chili puree and lime juice. While we liked this at Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar, it came instead with a big glob of the same Tomlinson’s Taquito pesto. The manager admitted they switched the sauce, to see how it would be received. It doesn’t swim with the snapper, or with the disappointed customers. It's not fun being Guinea pigs. The fish is overwhelmed by the spicing. Not recommended.

A better entrée is the “Southern Style” Shrimp and Grits,($22) which is unlike anything we’ve had in the South. I’ve made over 30 styles, and have recipes for lots more. By Southern, Randy must mean Mexico, as the 6 nicely cooked shrimp are dusted with a mildly spicy “masa Mexican tamale flour”, pan seared and served with mild jalapeno cheese grits, with julienned veggies and a tomatillo-cilantro sauce. We like the creativity and taste better than the snapper. (I think they're fried, not pan seared.) Mexico is now an honorary part of the South, and Charleston and New Orleans are Mexican outposts.
Wary of ordering more disappointments, we shared the large Drunken Parrot Carrot Cake (7), dense with carrots, and a denser cream cheese based icing that is very sweet, and enough for 4 in size and calories. Chef Greg Nelson crafts very good food at Doc Ford's Sanibel Rum Bar, and Randy Wayne White has published two cookbooks- we’re not sure what is going wrong at the Fort Myers Beach branch. Owners Marty and Brenda Harrity, Mark and Heidi Marinello and Jean Baer need to take things off cruise control.Other friends later visited, and had a waiter who seemed “drunk”, and messed up orders. Doc Ford's Fort Myers Beach has its share of inconsistency on food and service-may it only improve.

For people that rarely return anything, the suboptimal Mojito at a rum bar, and “fishy” Campeche Fish Tacos are disappointments.
While we won’t return soon, we are pleased with the rapidity with which our server and the manager brought replacement items-a very good sign. It’s best to visit Doc Ford's Fort Myers Beach for drinks on the porch-a great water view, and it's not noisy like the interior. I believe Chef Greg Nelson and staff can get things right in time to have both Doc Ford’s cruising on even keels.

708 Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Myers Beach, 765-9660.


Anonymous said...

This place JUST opened! Are you not being a little long and harsh on a new restaurant?

And why the shout outs to the Internationally know author of the books with the namesake's character in them? That seams really inappropriate and even strange in the truest sense of the word.

Is this restaurant really striving to be in the same league as the people you normally follow?

Clearly not so why did you review this so unfairly? It seems a blithe on your other postings.

Ivan Seligman said...

When I visit a place and have a bad experience, I figure it could have been a bad day-people and places have them. I don't ever, ever write a "negative review" based on that one experience. To get a "reality check", I return a second time, or my "foodie" friends visit, and tell me their experiences, without knowning my experience, to color theirs. I then "average" the two or three visits, drop the worst "negative" obsevation, and write it up. Not all places are above average. My readers really want to know what I feel is mediocre, good, or great.

I compare a place to its competitors in price, setting, etc. I don't compare a burger place to a fancy spot on 5th Ave. I was at Bayfront Bistro on Ft Myers Beach its first week, not merely its first month, and food and service were good. That's comparing apples to apples.

I know a place isn't tops in the first month. People ask me to give my opinions, after they've eaten there. Someone first calls the new restaurant and asks along the lines of "Do you have the kinks worked out enough for my family to have a vey good expeience tonight?". If, "yes", I go and visit. If "no", I wait till they feel ready.

Doc's is run by good owners who have good service/food at other locations (Sanibel). We and other guests expect the same good quality. New and old cooks and servers have months to practice at the other restaurant,before the place opens, to deliver good quality.

If you are open for business, you deliver decent food and service, or put a sign up that warns, "We're gonna be mediocre for a few month, then get our act together." If short staffed, then limit the number of customers that night, put quality above profits, so quality is maintained for ALL customers. THAT's fairness. If quality CONSISTENTLY is lowered, diners are unhappy. The owner needs to know, to improve.

lf I and others all agree a place is not good after two to three visits, and feel we've wasted our money, I then write my review.

What's "inappropriate" with "shout outs" to the author? RWW's said to be a good guy. He's a financial partner in this. I'm sure he wants his good name associated with the very good quality at Sanibel Docs, not with the lesser quality at the Ft Myers Beach Docs. Trust me, I didn't ask Mr White to put his Doc's name on the place!

You overlook something. I also complimented the chef and gave a wake up call: "Chef Greg Nelson crafts very good food at Sanibel, and Randy Wayne White has published two cookbooks- we’re not sure what is going wrong at the Fort Myers Beach branch. Owners Marty and Brenda Harrity, Mark and Heidi Marinello and Jean Baer need to take things off cruise control.Other friends later visited, and had a waiter who seemed “drunk”, and messed up orders."

I also said in the first paragraph "We’ve always had very good meals at the original, Sanibel Doc Ford’s, and miss and expect that quality." I don't give out compliments lightly, and Docs' Sanibel is high on my list, Docs FtM Beach is not, yet.

Other customers should get no less quality at this or any place open for business. My review is a wake up call, from over a dozen diners, who feel my review is actually much, much kinder than their words on their experiences.

I next reviewd Chef Brooke's, a one woman/chef/baker/bus person operation open less than 2 weeks-her service and quality is tops. Doc's is capable of the same. Step up to the plate, Doc's, and deliver.

If any place consistently (that's my beef-consistency!) falls short on different days with different customer, customers don't get their money's worth. Sorry. That should NOT happen consistently to customers. For each negative criticism my reviews receive, I get waay more emails of "Thank you for telling it as it is."

I have a following and credibility BECAUSE I visit several times, and put my name to my reviews and comments. Why do you choose to hide behind "Anonymous"? It's your turn to step up to the plate, state your relationship to the restaurant, and sign your name to your words!

Anonymous said...

I have been there several times and have always had great service and food. I also think the review was awfully sarcastic and a little rude at times. I recommend folks to go and try for themselves.... Go there and eat you won't be disapointed.

Anonymous said...

Your correct, I was there the 3rd night open, very slow service, Staff acted like they never worked together before. Imagine that, Food was slow, amazing they did over 1k meals. food was typical docs on sanibel, very good. Yes it was slow, its a new place, find anyplace in swfla that was doing 1000 meals a night after day one.... you wont find it. I have been there several times, I enjoy it, Great food, Fantastic location, and A great
Staff. Lucky for Docs that more people have eaten there than read your article... they are still packed every night, even for lunch. most people know there will be headaches in any knew business, it takes a great food critic to point out flaws in a business that has the heart to open up in a time like this. Bravo to you. Why don't you do yourself a favor, and anyone who reads this, and go back in now and do a proper article. There is a reason why Docs is doing so well, it is not because of Critics, it is because of hungry people that enjoy great food and a great location. I only found your petty article when I googled Docs website. Your article doesn't only talk down to Docs on the beach but to the people that enjoy going there also, as if they didn't know what good food was.

Anonymous said...

How about Great new location, Look forward to the same food as Docs on Sanibel and I'll be back in a month or so when you get your bugs out. Oh and by the way, Hoorah on opening a business in these down times, wish I could do it, but can't, so I will just write about it.

Anonymous said...

I think the issue here is that your comments go beyond just "telling it like it is". You have much conjecture and some assumptions in there. It also seems real personal. The naming of names is likely to come back on these owners for ever given the power of search engines. Not to mention the review comes up really high in search engines which hurts the restaurant in social media in ways that are infinite, not that a fair review even to the negative shouldn't be displayed. It should. But yours displays no grace. It's a mark on your reputation and theirs! A phone call as you suggested in the first reply to Anonymous would have been appropriate, to the owners since you know their names.

Anonymous said...

We just had a bad experience at Docs and its been open 2 months. Wish we read your experince first and ate somewhere else and just had a drink at Docs. Prices are too high for that food.

The owners let every seat in the place be filled and serve 1000 meals, its not ok for 1000 working folks to eat those meals and hav to settle for second best food. Owners pack them in with first timers like us.Good for them. Americans are not stupid and wont return. Someone big sould have been over to seeyou when food and drinks returned. Bet most of the writers critisizing you are owners or employees. My friend works where the owners had them all write in votes for a contest to make it seem like their place was loved by all. Docs employees here can do the same filling up your blog so dont be fooled. Truth hurts.

WE read your reveiws and glad you tell it like it is. You tell about places we wouldnt know and so we tried Mad Take Out and liked the sandwiches and prices. Magazines and newspapers sell ads for the restraunts so their writers get their meals paid for and can't tell the truth you do. Keep telling it like it is. The BayFront Bistro is much better than Docs, so try it and let us know if you agree.

Ivan Seligman said...

Thank you, six "Anonymous" writers, for your thoughtful comments.

While several parties had signficant disappointments on different nights, Doc's track record on Sanibel is solid, and, i reiterate, I trust this Fort Myers Doc's will get there soon.

I routinely "name names" -put owners or chef's names when available/verifiable on a review. I do not know any of the owners. Their names are easy to Google and cross verify.

I've gone back and toned down some observations. Had I a video,it would have shown the same as my original words. I do believe things will improve. It is gutsy to open a place now. I admire that, and give Doc's a lot of credit. This Doc's location lets it outshine the Sanibel location.

Serving 1000 people a day is phenomenal business, but not when the quality isn't yet up to snuff, from a customer's view. Consider taking in 15% less diners if necessary, for a couple weeks, giving concentrated uniform good service to those slightly fewer customers. Then ramp it back up to 1000 a day, and eveyone will be happy. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Good call!

I definitely have faith in you now, the Fort Myers News-Press Critic agrees with you with their june 12,09 review

Their headline is...

>Food mysteriously mediocre at Beach Doc Ford's<

and they say >>

>You'd think Southern-style shrimp and grits would be simple, too, but it wasn't - and it was overvalued at $21.95. The dish contained a half-dozen jumbo shrimp encased in masa flour and pan-seared. They were a little tough, but not bad. The abundant grits were a little dry but had a good chili kick and cheesy consistency. On the side were crisp sauteed julienned vegetables. A tomatillo sauce that encircled the plate seemed unnecessary (unless it was supposed to compensate for the dry grits).

The plot got more complicated with the mahi entree. The fish itself was perfectly cooked and deftly flavored with soy sauce. The problem was the side of stir-fried vegetables and jasmine rice. It looked like someone had dumped a carton of leftover Chinese food on the plate; the veggies were limp and the rice sticky and lumpy. We also could have done without the watery vinaigrette of prickly pear cactus and ginger, which tasted of neither.

This is a signature dish of the house?<

My neighber ate there and won't go back.I won't eat food that looks like leftovers. When two critics have similar lousy experinces, the wealthy owners should listen to that, not the cash registers ka-ching, ka-ching of money from people never returning.

Keep on telling the truth, and exposing Docs and other places. Review some more Fort MYers places.
Bottoms up,

Sanibel Sue

Anonymous said...

Guess what?

It's September, and Doc Ford's still does not have their act together. We agree with the blogger and other's comments.

Why settle for average food and overworked servers? The tourists follow the advertising to Docs. What else do many of them have to go on? Locals know better, and go to Flippers or Bayfront Bistro for better prices and better food.

We like funky casual Dixie Fish Co., right by Doc's. Doc's is just an overpriced and failed Dixie Fish Co. wannabe.

Anonymous said...

This seems like a shiny new TOURIST TRAP!

The t-shirts may taste better than the average food.
As others suggested, go to Dixie Fish V and J Bistro or Bayfront Bistro and some of the less touristy spots and get the feel of real Florida dining.

They have been open a year and the food is average. I see no need to spend any more of my family's money there.