Sunday, August 5, 2012

There's Magic in the Air at Cloyde’s Steak & Lobster House


Cloyde’s Steak and Lobster House, cantilevered over beautiful Venetian Bay, has been one of Naples’ few waterfront spots for two decades. Aging founding owner Cloyde Pate let the aging proud lady drift downhill, and people stopped coming. Fortunately now, things have greatly changed.  Cloyde’s dynamic new proprietor, Michael Hocter, has revitalized the spot into a refreshingly attractive destination, with food quality, pricing and service to match.
Yes, it's a Dolphin, One of Three, Seen from Our Window!
It gets better!  Where else can one additionally  have drinks or dine unobstructively overlooking a beautiful bay, smiling as pods of dolphins leap and kayakers glide past?  Exactly! This is a rare gem that is constantly improving, especially with Michael adding the monthly supper club evening’s entertainment for only $30…Yes, nothing else comes close for a night out on the town!
Michael Hocter dined a few times at Cloyde’s in 2009, heard it was for sale, and bought it. With his years of restaurant expertise, he and  Executive Chef Smith “Smitty” Saintheard have been perfecting traditional American cuisine.
Prepti Claisara  Consults with Michael Hocter, on the Line
It is an art to cook a steak, prime rib, lobster tail or shrimp just right, time after time, and they do just that. If you instead seek colorful foams, expensive microgreens, $300 tasting menus, ingredients you can’t pronounce and peculiar tasting con-fusion concoctions all too often delivered in micro-sized portions-please go elsewhere.  
    I ate at Cloyde’s a few weeks ago, and returned just to try the $30/per person (plus any drink tab, tip and tax) monthly Supper Club Soiree. That's why this write up is a "double header". And yes, I’ll be back for more!

There's optional valet parking-an elegant touch. Enter, and often Michael Hocter will greet you and escort you to your table. As one woman said "He's so friendly-just like a warm teddy bear!" Reservations are helpful to get a window-side seat; not a problem as most seats have a good water view through the tall windows.

   The $30 supper club menu starts with not one, but two “Opening Acts”-a  hefty trio of quite plump, slightly sweet perfectly cooked jumbo shrimp  in an iced cocktail glass, graced by a half dozen petite shrimp, atop a delicious cocktail sauce that's alive with just the right balance of heat and sweet.
Kori Gowan of Merle Norman Cosmetic Studio and Spa, with Her Shrimp Cocktail
Then, enjoy the hearts of Romaine salad, tasty with just the rich green parts of the leaf, aged Parmesan cheese, butter-crisped croutons and freshly made Caesar’s dressing.
Have a drink, or go for a dance or two to the voice and live music of  talented entertainer Robert DiLeo.
 He knows all the favorites, and some oldies you may never have heard of! Slow dance to “Volare,” speed it up with Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” and   slow it down with Dean Martin’s hit “That’s Amore.” People aren't shy-the dance floor fills up fast!
 During our evening, people could easily see a trio of dolphins that swam under the restaurant and then off to the other side of the Bay.
 Visitors were busy with cameras recording their first ever dolphin sightings! It’s not rare-one server said seeing at least one dolphin an evening is a pretty frequent sighting.
Now, sit back and choose your one entree  from three- surf ‘n turf, roasted prime rib of beef or grilled cedar plank salmon accompanied by baked or sweet potato and green beans or fresh asparagus. 
    There's about 20 wines by the glass, priced from $7-11, and a good assortment of bottles at wallet-friendly prices. I was very, very happy with the Coppola "Director's Cut" Cabernet Sauvignon for $62. Check-you'll find it's marked up quite a bit higher elsewhere. Bottles are available from $32 and up.  The cucumber martini is my refreshingly crisp summer favorite.
 My friend’s certified Prime roasted prime rib of beef came as requested, properly cooked, and  with a tenderness that’s not commonly found in any but the top restaurants.
The Nebraska beef is rubbed with a goodly spice mix that nicely complements the beef, then slow roasted for 8 hours. My tablemates all ordered the baked sweet potato (rather than the regualr baked potato)  with our dishes. It’s cooked till you could cut it with a glance. I loved mine plain; others  topped it with  the accompanying granulated sugar, sour cream and butter. Delicious!
My Surf and Turf  (above) is a “steal” with about an eight ounce slab of  luscious ribeye steak and the tail from what looks like a 1.5 lb lobster. Both are perfectly cooked. The accompanying green beans are crisp, beautifully green, and full of taste.
Organic Scottish Salmon, Cedar-Planked
My other friend quickly devoured her  cedar plank roasted Scottish salmon- again perfectly cooked, and graced with a side of creamy light dill sauce.

Have a pause and chat or dance by the dolphins. Then  finish with “the final number” a layered tower of  sweet  Key lime mousse cake, with whipped cream rosettes and a white chocolate swirl.
 This was good, however this Florida- raised guy who has baked quite a few pies wouldn’t mind a tart slice of Key lime pie instead.   

During the evening, the kitchen put out over 100 orders in a short period of time. Michael donned a chef’s coat, and helped, cooking alongside his cooks on the line. Later he helped serve, and bussed tables. He does what it takes to make your evening very, very memorable. Say "hi" as he comes by checking on everyone.  If ever I’d open a restaurant, I’d want him and Chef “Smitty” covering my back as co-partners.

Customers now flock to a revived Cloyde's daily, while other restaurants in summer are empty, even with their half-off coupons.  Cloyde's prices are very, very reasonable-it’s like getting a 30-50% off dish to begin with, and not having to bother to print or cut coupons! What are some favorites on non-supper club nights? The $16 Maryland lump crab cake is crustacean-rich, and happily filler-poor.

Steamed musssels ($13) are the real thing, with Prince Edward Island's stars in a light wine broth.

Cloyde's $17 Tilapia Alexander is one of my favorite seafood dishes-light and flaky with a great bread crumb crust and beurre blanc sauce-this "must have" treat melts in your mouth!
  The cedar plank roasted organic Scottish salmon is $19, blackened Mahi Mahi  is $18, and Fresh Seafood Pasta Primavera is $18. The New York strip steak is $29 for a big 12oz, and $34 for a huge 14oz slab.   Pork Chop Milanese is a favorite at $25. My companion swooned over the picture-perfect oven roasted Angus prime rib, (below). You'll not find this quality for $22 at other steak places.
My beef favorite is the bone in filet mignon. (I started in on it before I could take a photo).
Dessserts include a huge wedge of luscious chocolate fudge mousse cake (it's so rich-I couldn't finish it)
 and the coconut dusted snoball with chocolate syrup, paired with a hot cappuccino.

Cloyde's is the place to go for good ‘ole American steaks and seafood properly cooked at very reasonable prices-prices you've not seen in 10-20 years. The waterfront setting can’t be beat. The inexpensive bonus of a monthly dinner club with options like surf and turf, music and dancing for $30 is simply THE best dining and dancing deal around.  There's no charge for playful dolphins.

What’s the competition? Nearby MiraMare serves traditional Italian food with a quite similar view, Upscale M Waterfont Grille, on the opposite side of the Bay, has very creative dishes.  I've been a regular at each, because I’ve consistently had only delicious meals at each spot. Try 'em, and see what best floats your boat, or  kayak!
Reserve for the next Supper club on Sept 12th, at 261-0622. 4050 Gulf Shore Blvd N.,  Naples, www.cloydes.com


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