Saturday, June 25, 2011

Naples Trail Café & Grill - Delicious Home Cooking, Kicked up a Notch!

If you’re looking for a favorite spot for breakfast and lunch, you’ve come to the right place. The Trail Café & Grill has been one of my favorite breakfast and lunch spots for almost a decade. Not many visitors know about it-I sometimes run into people I’ve not seen in years, so it’s like a homecoming.. Since I don’t cook breakfast/brunch at home, I like to meet friends at the Trail Café-it’s the same fine quality I’d try to cook for my friends. We can talk over delicious food in a homey setting, and the generous portions and prices and are as sweet as any dessert. Last year Trish, the former manager of the Café for years, and her husband Christopher bought the Café from the former owners/ antique collectors.
The Trail Café has only improved on a very good thing since then! Not a surprise, as Trish and Christopher, both professionally trained as chefs, have grown up in the restaurant business Being the lead cook at Michelle Bernstein's Azul for years, the Culinary supervisor at the Estero Hyatt's Tanglewood and Tarpon Bay restaurants, and working at Joe’s Stone Crabs in Miami Beach gives you the benefit of the pair's immeasurable experiences. Trish says, “Every dish is made “from scratch” and made-to-order with the love and care you would find sitting at your grandmother’s kitchen table.”

The Café is refreshingly homey with antiques and knick-knacks nicely displayed on the walls, behind the counter, and even above the windows. By keeping the menu favorites and adding new dishes, Trish and Christopher have successfully maintained customers and added new ones.
Hidden in a little strip center on the east side of US 41 in North Naples- it’s a local’s spot, a refuge far from the touristic areas. Truth be told; during the Season, expect a waiting line, as locals proudly bring their out of town guests to their favorite spot! There’s ample parking. You are quickly greeted by a friendly server. Sit in the quieter entrance half, or go to the busier rear half with the attractive counter seats. Booths and tables have comfortable seats, and are nicely spaced apart. This is for relaxed dining, not like other noisy “sardine can” breakfast spots, whose tables are turned almost hourly.
   The cozy ambiance, attractive setting with antiques, friendly servers and wonderful food reminds me of  memorable brunches at some of the better Bed and Breakfast places. (Top B and B owners pride themselves on the quality of their breakfasts, and national magazines like Gourmet would often publish their recipes.)
 There’s a breakfast and a separate lunch menu, with breakfast/brunch served all Sunday. This write up is based on several visit’s experiences-all enjoyable.

Start with seasonally fresh squeezed orange juice ($2/2.80), coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Many go for the eggs, be they scrambled to order, or sunny side up.
The two egg breakfast sandwiches ($4-5) have a choice of cheeses (White American, Swiss, pepper jack, Cheddar, etc), breads (bagel, croissant, white, wheat, marble rye, sourdough, English muffin and multigrain), and choice of side (cottage fries, hash browns, fruit, grits or sliced tomato. Add a side for $1.00.

The Trail’s Benedicts are a delicious sextet, ($10-14), with choice of Egg Benedict, Lox, Florentine, Bacon, sausage or Crab Benedict with thermidor sauce. All Benedicts come with choice of hash browns, cottage fries, grits, fruit or sliced tomato.
My sweet tooth is satisfied with the original Razzleberry stuffed French toast ($11), with glazed pecans cooked inside the toast, with a cognac-razzleberry compote drizzled on top. It’s a generous and delicious serving!
The Belgian waffle with the works ($9) is plate-sized, topped with seasonal fresh strawberries, sliced banana, and graced with freshly whipped cream- pecans or chocolate chips can be added if desired. The organic pure Maine maple syrup is from Strawberry Hills Farms, and it tastes soo much better than the chemically synthesized high fructose corn sugar swill peddled at lesser spots.
One of the prettiest breakfasts around is the $10 fruit bowl’s bounty of seasonal watermelon, sweet strawberries, fresh tangerines (not canned Mandarin oranges), banana, blueberries, grapes mangos and sliced orange, with a choice of sorbet (the mango is terrific!) or yoghurt.
The accompanying dense, moist crunchy apricot pecan bread is a house specialty, a must-have!

Lighter eating is the Peach croissant French toast ($12), topped with grilled peaches and glazed pecans with a buttery brandy and maple syrup sauce.

The breakfast menu is served Monday through Friday morning, 7am until 11:30 am, and all day on Saturdays and Sundays. It also offers build-your-own omelets or skillets, with more than 20 ingredient options.

Ready for lunch?
The Trail Café’s fish and chips would make a British visitor broadly smile, as the battered and deep fried fish is served tender, with just the right crispness to the crust. While the French fries are good and crisp, I recommend having the house’s specialties-the more unusual crisp sweet potato fries and home made potato chips.
A refreshing treat is the D’anjou pear & turkey croissant ($11) using thinly sliced special honey roasted turkey breast, ripe yet crisp pear slices, dill Havarti cheese, lettuce and tomato with a sweetly tart mango chutney mayonnaise, all on a croissant. (Get yours toasted.) My dish’s photo has the sweet potato fries, and a crisp garlic pickle.
The Greek salad ($12 ) has a delicious imported feta cheese and a good choice of Kalamata olives which work well with the Greek hard salami, pepperoncini peppers, dressed with a Greek vinaigrette.
The London broil horseradish cheddar sandwich ($11) is nicely cooked- medium rare as requested- with a tasty Wisconsin white, cheddar, and horseradish topping with grilled onions, lettuce, fresh tomatoes served on your choice of bread, with a choice of salad, fresh fruit, French fries, or my two favorites- sweet potato fries or house-made potato chips.
The chips are made on the spot from Russet potatoes, deep fried, and served large, hot and crisp!

There’s a large variety of dishes to be had, each done with a twist that makes it better than what you may have had elsewhere. The juicy bacon cheeseburger comes with healthy fixins.
 Visit their website to check out the offerings. I can’t type that much.

Bottom line- This is a very special breakfast/lunch spot with generous portions of food that’s truly fresh, deliciously prepared and reasonably priced with friendly servers. All is from scratch, be it apricot pecan bread or long simmered soups and healthy sauces. Trail Café & Grill is the match of other caterers, and “favorite spots” elsewhere in the USA. Best part, it’s here in Naples, and you don’t have to cook! Have breakfast and lunch seven days a week, 7 am until 2 pm..

Trail Café & Grill is at the south end of the Lynnwood Square strip mall in North Naples at 12820 North U.S. 41, one mile north of Immokalee Road , serving  598-2480,

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