by Kelly G Cooper
What was once a remote wilderness accessible only by boat and home to the Calusa then Seminole Indians, has evolved into one of the worlds top tourist destinations and winter resort. Naples, Florida rich in human and natural history began to attract interest during the Florida land boom of the 1880s, however much of the groundwork for growth and development was laid during WWII.
In 1943 an influx of servicemen with their families relocated to Naples when the U.S. Army Airfield was activated. By 1946 the First Baptist Church was erected, one of three churches in Naples at that time, and served as a place of communication and gathering for families. Today this structure is still used as place for socialization and family gatherings only in a different way, as it has been rechristened into an A-List dining venue now know as the Chapel Grill.
While driving along 8th Street South one summer day in 2011, retired New Yorker and current Naples resident, Stephen Fleischer noticed an old abandoned church and thought, “they are going to demolish that building.” Without delay he felt compelled to revive the beauty of the former abandoned church and restore the 65 year-old historical landmark.
Fleischer soon learned that the building served not only as a church but also as the Senior Friendship Center of Southwest Florida in later years. Intrigued and impressed that the façade had been preserved through changing ownership, he was delighted to learn the structure had continued to embrace and support the community with open doors.
The evening of November 5, 2012 the Chapel Grill opened its doors and has been satisfying palates with first class service for locals and visitors alike ever since. One year later the site of the former church was dedicated as one of the city’s historic landmarks and unveiled a bronze Diamond Jubilee plaque, which proudly stands at the location on the corner of 7th Avenue South and 8th Street.
Unlike many other restaurants downtown the Chapel Grill not only holds a beautiful history but also presents a unique setting just two blocks off 5th Avenue South offering covered outdoor patios including bars and dining while providing complimentary valet parking.
You can relax and enjoy the fresh air while sipping on crisp wine overlooking Cambier Park, the community’s first public green space, or you can enjoy the Halpbern beef and Berkshire pork in the dining room where the renowned Evangelist Billy Graham spoke.
With seafood delivered fresh daily the Chapel Grill has become known for their grilled lemon-lime marinated coastal water Mahi-Mahi and plank roasted wild caught Atlantic salmon with bourbon maple glaze.
Treat yourself and enjoy the flavorful mouthwatering dishes prepared by Chef and General Manager Jorge Nolasco who invents culinary masterpieces inside of their state-of-the-art kitchen. Join the Chapel Grill for your next Sunday dinner and enjoy a three-course meal with their signature slow roasted prime grade prime rib, you will be more than gratified!
The Chapel Grill takes pride accommodating any taste and budget while offering a selection of services from private dining to catering off-site events and customizing your menu upon request. Located at 811 7th Avenue South, two blocks south of the notable 5th Avenue South, the Chapel Grill is a can’t miss dining experience that not only offers a melting pot of cuisines but a bit of history that you cannot find elsewhere.
You are welcome to gather with friends and family, dine in or out and break bread as generations have before.
The dining room opens at 5:00 p.m. (closed on Mondays) with happy hour in the tavern from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. and remember every Sunday offers a fabulous brunch and prime rib special, so enjoy a little bit of heaven right here in paradise!