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Review: The Gavel holds court for all-day East Naples dining |

Review: The Gavel holds court for all-day East Naples dining

If you were born in the Midwest, chances are you were born in a town with a restaurant like The Gavel Grill. Generally, it didn’t have a conceived concept such as this neighbor to the Collier County government complex does — just some family patriarch’s name, like Kenny’s or Bill’s or something with an Old World nod like The Wooden Shoe.


The place served food all day, and if you didn’t want to fix it yourself, you would go here, because you could eat any style you wanted. Meals were big enough that your toast or half a burger left the restaurant with you in a napkin. The food was tasty; the coffee was godawful.

At The Gavel Grill, coffee is extremely decent. Otherwise, its three-part daylong dining shows some of the same quirks, both good and not-so, of the restaurants from our formative years.

Breakfast is a high point, updated a bit from Main Street coffee shop days with meals like its garden skillet. Ours included just-right poached eggs over sautéed onions, tomato, green pepper, spinach and mushrooms ($8.95). Throw on a mound of cheese for an extra 70 cents.

There are Greek, meat lover and Popeye (spinach) skillets in that price range as well. Benedicts come in two varieties at $10.95; a third, the lobster benedict, is $12.95. Hotcakes? Of course, with various fruits or chocolate chips, $5.95 to $7.95

The meal we’re aspiring to, however, is the pound cake French toast — a worthy reward for having lost that 15 pounds — with its whipped cream, warm syrup and powdered sugar ($7.95).

Our dining companion has had lunch there and pronounced its BLT well-loaded. But among its 20-plus sandwiches, the grilled chicken-bacon ranch ($10.95) caught our eye. So has the wiener schnitzel sandwich ($10.95) — The Gavel’s version of a pounded, coated, fried pork tenderloin, straight out of Indiana.

Both are around for dinner as well. So are half-pound burgers with various cheeses, plus a black-bean or turkey burger ($8.95-$10.95) and salads from Cobb to Greek to a cherry- and candied pecan-gorgonzola ($8.95 to $10.95).

The Gavel seems to be a favorite of the courthouse crowd, and it caters subtly to that with a few titled meals like the Throw the Book at Them pizza, $9.95 plus 50 cents per topping.

Entertainment is in the evening mix, which prohibits much conversation on most nights. (Wendy Renne on Tuesdays seems to be the most talk-friendly; we would lobby for a quiet guitar night, too.) On this particular Monday evening, the repertoire roamed from Bill Withers to Pink Floyd to Johnny Cash, most of it inhibiting grabbing the waiter’s attention or getting a full explanation of the meal being ordered.

That meant my dining companion, whose mouth was watering for spaghetti with meat sauce ($9.95) and sausage, got fettuccini with white wine sauce, vegetables and sausage ($10.95). 

We swapped dishes, and I felt I got the best end of the deal. Laden with chunks of nippy-sweet Italian sausage, peppers, tomato, onion and just a hint of garlic, it was fresh and light-tasting, and still enough for two meals. I might have dusted it with a bit of Parmesan, but none of the waiters could hear me over the lyrics to “Comfortably Numb.” 

My dining companion dug into what had been my choice, the house specialty four-piece “honey-stung” fried chicken ($13.95). He inhaled the mashed potatoes and gravy and even worked on his zucchini-squash vegetable sauté. He was being a trooper; he had already sacrificed his craving for the Mom’s Meatloaf entree ($12.95) to try a suggested Italian dish, and had been disappointed in the lack of red sauce.

It may have been made worse by the fact we had ordered Grandma’s Meatball (actually three of them) as appetizer; he had gotten a hint of The Gavel Grill’s rich sauce and a tender pork-beef-veal blend in its meatballs ($7.95). We rarely order red sauce because it’s hard to find a flavorful enough blend, but this one was hearty, with a rich sofrito of garlic, onion, parsley and other herbs.

Garlic bread comes with both, tender inside and with a crunchy crust and lightly herbed.

If you are as desperate to find liver and onions on a menu as I am to avoid it, The Gavel Grill is your place. It’s $12.95 here. If you’re a seafood addict, there are Case Closed crab cakes ($16.95), fish and chips (($11.95) and a honey-almond salmon with potatoes and veggies ($14.95). All come with knife-cut romaine salad (regular or Caesar) as well.

Dessert? Where would you put it?

Dining at The Gavel isn’t an open-and-shut case. We love the fact it had reduced the vast number of TVs that flanked the walls at its predecessor, Chrissy’s, and had scaled them down to two. We weren’t wild about the music dominance and the fact that smoke could waft in from the patio bar on occasion.. 

But the food was definitely yes-come-back. You won’t need a lawyer for that judgment.

The Gavel Grill

Where: 3340 U.S. 41 E., East Naples, in the Courthouse Shadows shopping center

When: 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays

Information: 239-316-7683

Rating: 3½ forks

Something else: Full bar; reservations recommended for large groups; an entertainment calendar is on its website

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off
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