At 9 p.m. my friend and I rattled to the Pelican Larry’s on Pine Ridge Road in Naples in his massive work truck — this ridiculous cracker and potato chip bag-filled hybrid of a moving van and ice cream truck with the charm of neither — for the quintessential American activity of eating a late bar-food dinner. The choice was simple: Pelican Larry’s is open late, and unlike 5th Avenue, has the kind of clientele that wouldn’t judge two yokels emerging from a big cracker truck.
A small outdoor patio welcomes you into the popular Naples nightspot, where a television-blanketed bar dominates the center of the dim main room. Tables stretch around the bar and lead to an area in the back with two pool tables and more televisions.
The menu consists of a raw bar that includes oysters, clams and shrimp; seafood, burgers and chicken; a couple of salads; and of course, the usual array of deep-fried pub fare.
We ordered one of the daily specials, the Seafood Jambalaya over rice ($11.95), Larry’s half-pound burger with cheese ($7.45) and a 60-ounce pitcher of Miller Lite ($7), which after tax came to $27.30.
The Jambalaya arrived with two pieces of genius garlic bread. Instead of simply baking them like most places, they broil the top crisp, leaving the middle and bottom soft and warm. The sizeable entrée was a delicious medley of shrimp, sausage, scallops, fish, okra and carrots in a spicy-sweet Cajun broth over yellow rice. On an empirical scale, it was good Jambalaya. On a bar food scale, it was out of this world.
The half-pound burger was pristine in all respects and might be the best bar burger in town. The meat and cheese were first-rate and the vegetables fresh, but the Pelican Larry’s burger distinguishes itself where most others fail — the bread, a doughy sourdough bun in ideal modest proportion to the meat. And they serve it with mayonnaise, which, for my money, is how a burger should come.
The most popular menu items with the late night pack are the Chicken Wings ($7.95), Mozzarella Cheese Sticks ($5.95), Grouper Fingers with Fries ($10.95), and Chicken Fingers with Fries ($6.95). The early crowd is rewarded with Happy Hour, 3 to 7 p.m. daily, where wings are $.30 apiece and drafts $1.
After the meal, my friend was so taken with the meal he raved like a paid testimonial.
“This is the best bar food I’ve had in a long time. It’s no wonder people come here just to eat. And it’s open until 1:40. If you need late night food, this is the place.”