2017-08-10 / Top News

Charlotte County restaurants compete in Best Fish Taco competition

Chef John Mazza of Farlow’s on the Water with domestic black grouper tacos. Chef John Mazza of Farlow’s on the Water with domestic black grouper tacos. Which Southwest Florida eatery has the best fish tacos? Page One Graphics Inc. and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Southwest Florida Chapter partnered to launch the Coastal Locals Fish Taco Frenzy Competition. Throughout the month of June, judges traveled from Naples to Englewood tasting palate-pleasing fish tacos at 25 eateries, with some restaurants serving up three and four different types of tacos.

Tacos were up to interpretation, and fish included ahi tuna, grouper, lionfish, lobster, octopus, salmon and shrimp. Contents were prepared in a variety of ways, including blackened, deep-fried and grilled, and included delicious and surprising toppings such as shredded cabbage, mango pico de gallo, sliced pickles and spicy sriracha sauces.

Judges evaluated each taco on its own merit using a scoring system to rate originality, presentation, taste and texture. Scores plus judges’ comments were used to determine the winners.

Jon Bonne, an aspiring chef at Scotty’s Brewhouse, with his ahi tuna tacos in fried wonton. 
COURTESY PHOTOS Jon Bonne, an aspiring chef at Scotty’s Brewhouse, with his ahi tuna tacos in fried wonton. COURTESY PHOTOS Out of the 25 participants, Charlotte County was represented by two restaurants, Scotty’s Brewhouse at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda and Farlow’s on the Water in Englewood. Jon Bonne, an aspiring chef at Scotty’s, created a scrumptious seared ahi tuna with an avocado and pineapple pico de gallo topped with sriracha mayonnaise and a fried wonton shell. It was complemented with a grilled half lime meant to be squeezed over the taco. Although not a regular menu item, this creative take on a fish taco is available as a special at Fishermen’s Village’s newest eatery. Order it with a side of black beans and rice.

Chef John Mazza’s entry from Farlow’s was a delicious domestic black grouper taco. One of the waterside restaurant’s most popular dishes, the black grouper sits on a bed of shredded cabbage in a corn and flour tortilla and is topped with mango pico de gallo, tomato, black beans, onion and finished with a mayonnaise remoulade with sriracha served with an arugula salad. For those 21 years old and older, order with Farlow’s signature white sangria or a refreshing blueberry lemonade mojito.

All restaurants in the competition brought out their best, and winners were celebrated Aug. 1 at the Nauti Parrot Tiki Hut in North Fort Myers. 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. Edgewater Beach Hotel in Naples took second place with its taquitostyle shrimp tacos. The shrimp — with black beans in a cilantrolime sauce, fennel and mandarin orange — are wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with shaved scallions and sriracha.

The Nauti Parrot Tiki Hut went in for the “fin” and hooked the judges with Chef Eddie’s grilled sea scallops taco. This award-winning taco included red cabbage slaw, a tangy honeymango pico de gallo, Pomodoro tomatoes, red onion, red pepper, cilantro and freshly squeezed key lime juice wrapped in corn and flour tortillas bound with chipotle sour cream.

In addition to bragging rights, first, second and third-place winners received plaques. Up next, Coastal Locals will be on the hunt for the best chicken wings in Southwest Florida, and restaurants are encouraged to register now for the September competition. Learn more about the Fish Taco Frenzy Competition, the upcoming chicken wing competition and other competitions either on the Coastal Locals’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/coastallocals or visit http://coastallocals.com. ¦

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