Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bert's Seafood & Chowder House - A Star is Born on 5th Avenue South!

  Bert’s Seafood and Chowder House opened a week ago at the former Naples 5th Avenue South site of Cork’s Steakhouse, with the best fresh Cape Cod-style seafood in Naples. Truluck’s and McCormick & Schmick now face more competition with Bert’s attractively price, top quality seafood. Bert’s has a warm welcoming feel, looking as if it’s been here for years. Generous portions of authentic, delicous preparations are served in a family-friendly setting. I am happy when I can give a strong positive review. You are happy to smile and return, over and over, to a comfortable spot.
Bert’s owners Jim Hammar and Tom Shields respectively run the front and back of the house with Chef Michael Geary and friendly efficient staff. Walk in off 5th Avenue South, and take in the 30 foot long attractive teak bar which welcomes you on your left, with three friendly bartenders to serve your favorite drinks and even food at the bar. On the right of the bar are four-tops. At the back is a wine room dining area that seats 12-16 comfortably.
Most glasses of wine are $7, with only a few more than that-compare that to wine prices elsewhere on 5th, with smaller pours as well. Ther's agood selection of bottles, with names like Toasted Head, Kendall Jackson Specila Select, BR Cohn Silver and Frogs Leap. Martinis are $9- vs 12-17 along 5th, and at Mercato. The right side of the building is the main dining room with a wood beamed open ceiling and rich red walls. Perhaps 160 people can be seated inside and out.

The décor is warm, with woods and a rich deep red walls. Numerous black and white large prints decorate the walls, showing nautical Naples around the turn of the century. Somebody cares, and did their homework, even going to the historical society to buy these authentic prints.

Bert’s has that "been here for years" look, with a comfortable warm feel. My photos were taken at 4:30 pm, the place is packed by 7 pm in season. This is a keeper, unlike the Pate’s' Corks, which was later sold to a businessman who then watched it go downhill.

Starters include Flash Fried Calamari ($12), Fried While Belly Clams (10), Steamed Mussels (12), and Seared Manie Lobster Sliders (14).

I flipped over the rich creamy Bert’s Signature Seafood Bisque (cup/bowl - $7/9), one of the richest and best seafood soups I’ve had in a very long time. If you love a lobster bisque, then this will thrill you with it creamy good texture, rich taste, and generous chunks of crabmeat, scallops fish, shrimp and lobster. You’ll briefly hold and savor every luscious mouthful before reaching for the next addictive spoonful. It’ll put a smile on your lips!. A “must have” while in Naples.

Bert’s clam chowder ($6/8) is the real thing, creamy, slightly sweet, and brimming with diced potatoes and a good amount of clam. It’s very good. I do prefer the Seafood Bisque, if I had to choose just one soup to try. Many people offer lobster rolls, however few get it “right”., accordingly to my Maine and Massachusetts friends. Bert’s has the quintessential “true lobster roll”, with chunks of lobster meat overflowing the special roll, for only $23 Others put in gooey filler and use hot dog rolls-that’s not gonna cut it with a New Englander. You can’t find the roll at first on your plate-the abundance of tender lobster meat completely hides the roll! There’s "no" filler to speak of-this is the way it should be! And the roll? It’s the real deal with the crust properly sliced off, buttered and then lightly grilled to crispness. Served with fries or potatoes, it’s THE best lobster roll you’ll have outside of a Cape Cod fisherman’s home. Recommended.

The salad is fresh, not from a typical restaurant’s plastic bag.

I could live forever if I were prescribed a lobster diet at Bert’s. The doctor could not write for a better dish than the Baked “Lazyman’s” Lobster Casserole ($30), with the equivalent of meat from two 1.25 lb lobsters. Lightly buttered, topped with chef Geary’s wonderful lemon butter crumbs, then baked to tenderness, this is a “must have” dish when in Naples. This much lobster would easily cost $50 at Truluck’s. Highly recommended.

The Bert’s Signature Baked Seafood Platter (30) is generous on fresh taste and light great breading. The plump whole belly clams melt in your mouth, unlike the rubbery strips you may have had for years at lesser locations. The cod strips are tender and slightly sweet with oceanic freshness. The medium sized shrimp are cooked just right with that enticing slight ‘crunch.” It’s not easy to get both thick and thin portions of food baked just right-the thicker pieces are just as tender as the smaller items. The baked or fried foods are a “make or break” for a seafood restaurant, and Bert’s healthier baked platter passes with flying colors.

Bert’s Seafood Pasta’s (29) linguine pasta and its delicate creamy sauce is a well chosen counterpoint to the perfectly cooked tender scallops, shrimps and lobster. There’s the meat of two Maine lobster claws, a quintet of good sized shrimp and large succulent scallops It’s such a generous portion that my guest had to take home half, and said the sauce was better the next day. It's that better next-day goodness that also goes for soups. Chef Geary is consistent in his masterful cooking of every dish we’ve sampled.

Baked Scallops are an art form here, tender as "buttah" and oh so tasty! The lemon herb butter crumbs have a light delicate taste that complements the slightly sweet scallops perfectly. This generous platter, with choice of starch and melted butter is only $25.
Bert's is family friendly, with the affordable ($5-7) choice of fish and chips, linguini, chicken tenders or fried shrimp plates for kids.
The Char-grill offers USDA choice open flame grilled filet (6oz/10 oz for $24/ $32), and a big New York Strip Steak, 16 ounces, for just $28. You'd pay over $40 at many steak places around! And, unlike other pricey spots, it includes a choice of fries, baked or mashed potatoes, and a small house or Caesar salad. Why pay $5-12 extra for a side potato or salad at other steakhouses?

Tom Shields (same name as his dad), Layne Perkins, Chef Michael Geary

Who’s the competition? Swan River offers similar New England style cuisine, however they are over four miles away. Mercato’s more upscale McCormick & Schmick’s looks like a high end steakhouse, yet serves nicely priced seafood. Truluck’s, a couple blocks west on 5th Ave S. serves fresh seafood in a more formal dining style with a range of prices. Randy’s is funky and unique. Each has their niche, and I’ve been enjoyed each. I’m not sure where Esquire’s John Mariani finds his “fried catch o’the day” in today’s Naples, elso I'd toss that in the differential of choices. Why, I've not seen it offered in ANY SW Florida spot in over 15 years. Check out Bert’s, you deserve the best in fresh seafood.

826 5th Ave South, Naples, 213-1111

 ***ADDENDUM  02/02 2011***


Anonymous said...

Hahaha. What employee wrote this article? The lobster roll, and any other cape cod dish, was terrible. To say it was a threat to trulucks is a joke. Just another example of a few guys with some money thinking they can own a successful place because they eat out a lot. Leave the restaurant business to the professionals and invest your money elsewhere. The decor was great, as well as the bar but the "if you build it they will come" attitude never works. Although i like what Aqua has done by opening it up and adding patio space, Berts colors were warm and comforting. I bet the former owners and GM are kicking themselves after they saw how good Aqua is doing with good food and a great bar and waitstaff.

Ivan Seligman said...

You haven't been out of your cave in a long while!

Berts opened 2 years ago and closed one year ago. Yes, they are ancient history by now!
You're a little late to the party, but welcome just the same. I was surprised Bert's couldn't succeed-it was a favorite of quite a few of my neighbors from Massachusetts, who enjoyed simple good New England seafood.

I am glad Aqua is doing well. Sorry you have a chip on your shoulder about Bert's owners. They tried, and didn't succeed in a tough business. I give them a lot of credit for giving it their all.