“It might be a dive, but the food is killer!” How many times have we heard variations on this saying? When it comes to trying out a new restaurant, word-of-mouth is often what leads us there. This friend or that neighbor says, “Hey, have you ever tried so-and-so down the street? Best burger in town!” Before long, you end up there trying their burgers, and wings and anything else you can sink your teeth into because it is so good!
You are not there for the upscale service or fine silver, although the ambiance is interesting enough. It is the kind of place you like to grab a cold beer and some hot Cajun fries. It looks like it has probably been there forever. Within a 30 minute or less ride of North Port, Englewood and Port Charlotte, Nav-A-Gator Bar & Grill is “that” place. If you haven’t been, then you are probably new to town.
Nav-A-gator Bar & Grill is a family-friendly restaurant and bar, along with being the site of a marina, kayak and airboat tour destination. It’s pretty much a tourist attraction also, since much of the menu and gift shop features gator gear and grub. The inside of the restaurant is reminiscent of every single restaurant you have ever visited while on vacation in Florida. It was the one that was off the beaten trail, where all the locals ate, nothing fancy but their fish was fresh, steak was perfectly grilled, and the staff was always friendly – -that is Nav-A-Gator. Thousands of $1 bills ensconce the walls, in lieu of any recent paint or wainscoting, which is undoubtedly a southern decorating trick. The outside of the restaurant area features seating, a sandy “beach” area with stages, and heaters for those cool evenings. From bikers to moms with babies, it really is the place for everyone.
Nav-A-Gator has lasted all these years, with a “no frills, just good food” attitude. Their menu embraces some of Florida’s most famous culinary offerings including gator bites, swamp cabbage, harvested from our state tree, the Cabbage Palm, and blackened grouper and shrimp. Their popular prime rib sandwich is smothered in sautéed peppers and creamy melted cheese and served on a soft hoagie roll. Their Cajun fries and chips or mammoth-sized onion rings are a perfect accompaniment to any of their sandwiches. Tasty burgers, fresh salads, homemade chili and perfectly seared steaks, cod and pork provide a variety of choices for the guests you will inevitably bring back. A full-service bar features specialty drinks that include Siesta Key Rum, a nice selection of wines, and several local craft-beers.
An outdoor stage and play area for the kids makes Nav-A-Gator a well-rounded place for the entire family. With live music most Thursdays through Sundays, the beats keep your weekends lively with a definite chance of having a super fun time. With many local and regional bands filling in the events page, planning a night out with friends is always well-received when the hot-spot is Nav-A-Gator Bar & Grill. Nav-A-Gator is located at 9700 S.W. Riverview Circle in Arcadia. They are open Sun-Thurs 11Am to 9PM and Fri-Sat from 11AM to 10PM. For menus and additional information, please visit nav-a-gator.com.
Photos courtesy of Nav-A-Gator Facebook page.