Where are the best fish tacos in Southwest Florida? Friends know I am obsessed with fish tacos. When I heard Coastal Locals and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Southwest Florida Chapter were holding a competition to find the best fish tacos in the area, I volunteered my certified food judging skills to participate.
During the month of June, I traveled from Charlotte to Collier Counties stopping several times in Lee County in between, and met up with other judges to sample Southwest Florida’s best fish tacos in the Coastal Locals Fish Taco Frenzy Competition. In total, 25 restaurants were visited by the Coastal Locals judging team with many restaurants offering up more than one type of taco.
Unfortunately, I did not participate in all the tastings which makes me sad because I have not tasted the first, second and third place tacos (yet)! In the dozen restaurants I did visit, I tasted amazingly delicious fish tacos, including ones from two Charlotte County restaurants. I really can’t wait to sink my teeth into the winning tacos.
One of the things that impressed me with the Coastal Locals Fish Taco Frenzy Competition was the variety of seafood used in the tacos. I tried fish such as lionfish and salmon to grouper to octopus.
Competition was tight and Deep Lagoon Seafood in Naples earned third place with a blackened hog fish taco cooked in butter and a Cajun spice rub and topped with avocado slices, red and white cabbage slaw and chipotle sour cream. Second place was awarded to Edgewater Beach Hotel in Naples with their taquito-style shrimp tacos. The shrimp with black beans in a cilantro-lime sauce, fennel and mandarin orange are wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with shaved scallions and Sriracha.
And drumroll please…first place was earned by the Nauti-Parrot Tiki Hut. Chef Eddie whipped up a grilled sea scallops taco which included red cabbage slaw, a tangy honey-mango pico de gallo, pomodoro tomatoes, red onion, red pepper, cilantro and freshly squeezed key lime juice wrapped in a corn and flour tortillas bound with chipotle sour cream. Clever! Visit the Nauti-Parrot Tiki Hut at 3448 Marinatown Lane, North Fort Myers, Fla.
In addition to bragging rights, first, second and third-place winners will receive plaques and the public is invited to a celebration at Nauti-Parrot Tiki Hut on Aug. 1. Learn more about the Fish Taco Frenzy Competition and upcoming competitions by following the fun online at the Coastal Locals’ Facebook group (Facebook.com/groups/coastallocals) and website. Also, search for #FishTacoCompetition, #FRLANews, #FRLASWFL and #CoastalLocals on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to find posts related to the competition.
How Did Charlotte County Restaurants Rate?
Charlotte County is my backyard and no, I’m not biased but entries from the two participating Charlotte County restaurants were superbly delicious and certainly gave the other entrants a swim for the fin! Scotty’s Brewhouse at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda served up a tuna taco while Farlow’s on the Water in Englewood dished out grouper tacos.
Jon Bonne, an aspiring chef at Scotty’s Brewhouse, created the scrumptious dish. It’s a seared Ahi tuna with an avocado and pineapple pico de gallo, topped with Sriracha mayonnaise and a fried wonton shell. The sweetness from the pineapple, earthiness of the avocado, savory from the tuna, hint of zip with the cilantro, saltiness from the shell, and a smack of heat from the Sriracha mayonnaise play well together. The lime is grilled and squeezing the juice on the taco adds another taste element with the citrus flavor. The black beans and rice have a good spicy kick to them. Yum!
Over at Farlow’s, I devoured the three domestic black grouper tacos Chef John Mazza prepared which were served in a corn and flour tortilla which had a nice texture and did not get soggy and break apart. The tacos include shredded cabbage, mango pico with kiwi, tomato, black bean and onion, and a mayo remoulade with Sriracha served with an arugula salad. They’re best served with their signature white sangria or a refreshing blueberry lemonade mojito.
Co-owner Laurie Farlow gave me a tip for a gluten-free, low-carb fish taco – ask to have it served in lettuce leaves vs. the tortillas. Farlow’s serves them that way upon request.
So, am I sick of fish tacos? Absolutely not! I’m ready to taste some more. Who wants to take me out for fish tacos?
Oh, and stay tuned because I’m working on individual posts for each eatery I tasted their tacos. In the meantime, head over to Facebook to view my gallery of fish tacos.
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