By Laura J. Cummings
You won’t find dusty boots or spittoons at The Saloon at Coconut Point Mall, and the menu might be a bit too refined for the campfire crowd. Still, it lives up to its name as a place to unwind with friends, enjoying the best in American cuisine and cocktails.
Chef-owner Skip Quillen has a knack for developing successful restaurant concepts, starting in 1995 with Pazzo! Cucina Italiana on Naples’ Fifth Avenue. With The Saloon, his fourth and newest concept, the Southwest Florida restauranteur just wanted to have fun.
“We wanted to do a real American–style restaurant. What the area really needed was more of a grazing and kind of casual, celebratory place,” said Quillen, who let his passions lead in designing The Saloon.
Western era paintings from his personal collection adorn the walls, complimenting rich wood decor and plush, velvet settees.
“I love cowboy art,” Quillen said. “I was an aficionado before I did The Saloon. There’s over $100,000 of real artwork in there.”
If you’re wanting to have a drink before dinner, prepare for the audible thunk of a hefty, 36-page drink menu bound in soft leather.
“With a name like The Saloon, we had to make sure we got it right,” Quillen said.
With so many options — over 50 original Saloon cocktails and hundreds of traditional classics — it may take you a while to decide! The cocktail list ranges from martinis to mules to margaritas and whiskey sours. Plus, there’s more than 40 draft and bottled beers, a fine wine list and craft American spirits.
If you’re looking for a safe bet, you can’t go wrong with The Saloon Punch. Featuring blueberry moonshine, limoncello, muddled fresh blueberries and lemon sorbet, “it’s super sweet and super popular,” said our server, Matt Maurizi, who’s been with Culinary Concepts since 1998, starting as a table busser at Pazzo! as a teen. He later met his wife, a pastry chef, while working at another Culinary Concepts restaurant, Chops City Grill.
That kind of loyalty is rare in the restaurant industry but common on Quillen’s teams.
Bar Manager John Tucker, who has been with Culinary Concepts for eight years, recently led The Saloon to regional recognition with two SWFL Palm Awards for Best Bartender and Best Craft Cocktail, determined by popular vote of B103.9FM listeners.
Quillen likes to acknowledge the contributions of every team member in making his restaurants successful.
“I’m so lucky to have the great people I do,” he said. “It infuriates me when individual chefs get all the credit. If you need a glass of water, the bus boy’s the star. As a team, we all rise together.”
That team camaraderie translates to friendly service and a comfortable atmosphere for The Saloon’s guests to enjoy hand-cut steaks and seafood cooked over a hickory and applewood fire grill.
“I think the best chefs are humble, and they let the work speak for itself,” Quillen said.
And speak, it does. Beginning with The Saloon’s famous “bubble bread” and ending with Southern-style Mississippi Mud, the menu offers scrumptious bite after bite.
On the American BBQ menu, you’ll find the Applewood Smoked Beef Brisket and Slow Roasted St. Louis Ribs. The Saloon’s barbecue offerings are cooked in small batches from scratch, “low and slow” for up to 15 hours a day — the old fashioned way!
At the ready on each table you’ll find The Saloon’s four house-made, signature BBQ sauces. For the brisket, the staff recommends “Grandpa” sauce, a tribute to traditional backwoods BBQ. Those who prefer Memphis style BBQ should try the Sweet Willie, while Cracker Q offers a taste of the Deep South with mustard and brown sugar.
Of note, The Saloon is the only place in Southwest Florida where you’ll find a smoked prime rib! And any grill entree can be topped with Sweet Willie BBQ sauce, smoked brisket and pulled pork to make it a “Lonesome Cowboy.”
While the menu is heavy on meats, there’s lighter fare, too. Seafood selections include salmon, shrimp, lobster tail, fresh haddock and mahi mahi. And the menu is constantly evolving.
General Manager Stacy Gibson invites locals to enjoy “a fun, upbeat atmosphere and amazing food” at The Saloon. Check out the early dining menu from 4:30-5:30 p.m. which offers “out the door for $34” including two courses and a bottle of wine.
Bubble Bread – This fun sounding starter is simply scrumptious! The name comes from the bubbling cheeses baked atop classic Italian ciabatta bread, accented with garlic and herbs. It’s a delectable blend of ricotta, blue cheese, white cheddar, cream cheese, sharp jack, fontina and Romano cheeses.
“Smoke and Fire” Hickory Smoked Wings – These little drumsticks are smoked and then flash-fried for flavor, served “Jason’s sweet and salty” — named after Corporate Chef Jason Mattozzi. They’re tasty all by themselves, or try them with Saloon BBQ, buffalo sauce or, if you like it hot, the Ghost Chile sauce.
Jumbo Crab Cake – This crab cake is meaty! It’s a blend of three types of crab: premium blue crab, king crab and lump crab meat. It’s served with a zippy citrus mustard sauce. Delish!
Smoked Prime Rib – Only at The Saloon will you find smoked prime rib with a flavor profile unlike any other prime rib in the region. This 14-ounce cut is lightly smoked in-house and served with au jus, creamy horseradish and a choice of side.
Apple Wood Grilled Pork Chop – Prepare for happy tastebuds with this 14-ounce, bone-in, center-cut pork chop. It’s served in its own juices mixed with Knob Creek maple bourbon demi glace. Enjoy it with flavorful cherry-pepper potatoes and spinach salad.
Mississippi Mud – Chocolate lovers will want to save room for the Mississippi Mud — decadent layers of chocolate mousse, whipped cream, caramel and Oreo cookie crumbs, all in a mason jar! If chocolate’s not your thing, try the classic Coconut Cream mousse pie topped with toasted coconut and loads of whipped cream.
23151 Village Shops Way, Suite 103
Coconut Point Mall, Estero