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The Best and Worst Eating Establishments in the Everglades.

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Traveling the 80 miles along the Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41) between Naples and Miami does not offer much to eat, so it is very easy to give a restaurant review. This area is big on natural scenery, one of the prettiest views in the state, so don't expect the interstate exit with half a dozen restaurants in one location. Of the few restaurants that are there, they are all unique.

Leaving Naples, the first restaurant is at the intersection of county road 92 that goes down to Goodland & Marco Island. The Iron Rhino Saloon may be known as a biker bar, but don't let that scare you away. I am partial to this place because I can walk to it from my house. The food is good, and they serve up enough hot wings to try and make chickens go extinct. I always go for sandwiches myself.

The belief that bikers are rebels against society ready to cause trouble disappeared back in the 80s. Today's bikers are rich, retired lawyers and sheriff deputies over 60 years old going through that second or third childhood. They put a lot of money into colorful airbrush painting on their bikes, so they will not do anything that will endanger their wheels. They are actually very nice. On the weekends they often have charity rides from here.

Owner Gary and his wife Elaine will treat you like a member of the family.

One of the most popular things at the Iron Rhino is karaoke night. Here is a video I found on Youtube of some really good singing, so it gives you an idea of what you will see here.

The next restaurant along the Tamiami Trail is not really a restaurant, but a subway sandwich shop at the gas station at Carnestown at the corner of highway 29. Only stop here if you want a quick sandwich. I have noticed that the employees here change at an almost daily basis, and often those present are complaining to each other about work. So it gives me good incentive to avoid it. There are many excellent restaurants to the south in Everglades City and Chokoloskee, but that is for another time. I only want to cover those along the Tamiami Trail today.

A couple miles down you get to Ochopee (population 11 at last count), site of the smallest post office in the United States. Directly across the street from the post office is a wonderful place known as Joanie's Blue Crab Café. It is the last mom & pop place you will find along the trail. Excellent food and great service by the two ladies working the grill and tables. Lots of old Florida memorabilia on the wall. They will tell you to find a seat, and go to the soda fountain and pour yourself a soda or grab a beer from the cooler. It is not air conditioned, so you get the Everglades breeze blowing through from the screen porch. I had not stopped here before, but I wish I had come by earlier, because it is a great place. This is one place you get the local feel of the area. I will be back again, definitely!

Here is a video on Youtube of Joanie's:

After about 30 miles of scenic highway and Big Cypress wilderness, you finally get to the next restaurant, at the Miccosukee Reservation. The Miccosukee Restaurant is near the entrance of Shark Valley at Everglades National Park. I have stopped by here a few times, but I do not plan on coming back.

Here is a restaurant review that sums it all up.

The few times I ate here, the food got progressively worse. The inside was far from clean and the service mediocre. The worst part was the bowl of chili with fry bread that I ordered. Spoonful is more like it. The portion was smaller than the small cup of coffee I had from McDonalds that morning. If you take a one-cup measuring cup, that is all the chili there was. And it tasted bland and was obviously chili from a can. And the fry bread was the size of a biscuit, the worst I have ever had. It was day-old fry bread that was greasy brown in color. I didn't think anyone could screw up chili and fry bread. It certainly wasn't worth the eight dollars I paid for it. Did I mention that everything on the menu was over-priced?

I was so disappointed that I decided to forget everything beyond here, and turned around and headed home.

But not before another stop at Joanie's.
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