Sixteen restaurants and three county bands provided a great show to complement the great showing at the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce's Taste of the Beach on Old San Carlos Boulevard Sunday.
The 18th annual event was called the best ever in terms of success.
"This is the best, most successful Taste of the Beach in the 18-year history of the event," said FMB Chamber President Bud Nocera. "Thank you to you all for that."
The 18th annual Taste of the Beach highlighted 16 restaurants competing for awards and country-style bands entertaining the masses.
Nocera congratulated the restaurants that won awards and applauded all of the participating restaurants for their hard work and dedication to the event. He also gave a shout-out to Steve DeAngelis for serving a key role in organizing the event as well as the many sponsors and volunteers for their roles in the event.
"We also want to thank our talented judges," added FMB Chamber Chairman Norma Jean Pevey. The celebrity chef lineup included Chef/Town Councilman Dan Andre of Mango Street Inn; Recipe Publisher/Author Dean Foster; Restaurateur/Chef Michael Harpster; Town Vice Mayor Joe Kosinski; Chef Maura Methany of Norma Love Confections; Firefighter/Chef John May; and John Menzies of Captain John's Fish & Chips.
The judges determined six best dish awards in three categories. The awards went to Bayfront Bistro for best appetizer with Pork Belly Taco; Yucatan Beach Stand for best beef/pork dish with Lamb Chop with Mashed Potatoes; Nemo's on the Beach for best fish dish with Mahi Tacos; Beach Bums for best shellfish with New England Lobster Roll; Sidewalk Caf/Sharkys for best non-meat dish with Chicago deep-dish pizza; and Royal Scoop for best dessert with Vanilla Ice Cream with Pecans and Caramel topping.
Nemo's on the Beach was selected as the coveted People's Choice award, and Nauti Turtle was chosen Best Decorated Booth for their creative set-up. Lee County Board of Elections balloted attendees' votes for those awards.
Eight of the participating restaurants assembled three-person teams and went head-to-head in the fan-favorite server competition in the parking lot at the corner of Old San Carlos Boulevard and Third Street, across the street from Smokin' Oyster Brewery, the server competition sponsor.
Nauti Turtle's team captured the crown in a time of 1:38 without spillage. Doc Ford's followed them in second in 1:53 without spillage, and Matanzas Inn Restaurant took third in 2:03 without spillage. First-place winners received bragging rights and $75 apiece, while second place collected $50 per server and third took home $25 per person.
Country music star Craig Campbell, who headlined the three-band concert portion of the Taste of the Beach, played after The Brett Eldridge Band, another rising star in country music, and local country rock band, The Grayson Rogers Band. Corporate sponsors Suncoast Beverage and Island Food Group financed the shows.