Despite Naples’ coastline and the countless canals and inlets that criss-cross town, there are scant waterfront dining options for Neapolitans on a budget. But all the way at the end of Vanderbilt Beach Road, about a block north on Gulfshore Drive sits Buzz’s Lighthouse Restaurant, a comfortably casual seafood spot overlooking the calm waters and beautiful homes of Vanderbilt Lagoon.
From the outside Buzz’s is a cute if kitschy spot. A long ramp to the front door is striped with pastel slats cut into a lighthouse silhouette. A miniature imitation lighthouse juts out of one corner of the restaurant, and another row of Easter-colored fencing runs along the roof. Tacky? A bit, but it works for this weather beaten eatery.
The menu at Buzz’s also lacks sophistication in a charming sort of way. Composed of a simple list of sandwiches and broiled or fried seafood plates, this isn’t the place to go for a low-carb or healthy meal. However if you’re looking for simple, inexpensive fare in a low key and lovely setting pull up a plastic patio chair and make yourself at home.
A friend and I do just that on an overcast afternoon. Sitting at a scarred table overlooking the water, we take in the fresh air, enjoy a light breeze and marvel at just how good it feels to eat outside without sweating profusely. Our server is friendly woman who seems almost matronly in her concern for our wellbeing. She drops off two unsweetened iced teas (in plastic cups) with thick lemon wedges and a small pitcher for refills. After the first few refreshing sips I start to feel blissfully relaxed. I know we’ll be well taken care of here.
A few minutes later our food arrives, for me a breaded shrimp plate served with two sides: French fries and a roasted tomato with cheese ($12.50); for my friend a Philly cheese steak ($7.95) sandwich with potato chips, a pickle spear and another roasted tomato ($3.25) on the side.
My meal is a golden mess of deep fried glory. It’s beautiful, although I can feel my blood pressure rising just looking at it. Four butterflied and breaded shrimp rest atop a giant pile of thinly cut fries. On the side is a cup of tangy cocktail sauce for dipping. It leans a bit too much to the sweet side for my taste, but the horseradish kick is still present, if not powerful.
The shrimp, meanwhile, are large and very moist. They’re also fairly bland, and the breading, while not a bit greasy, is low on flavor too. I find myself scraping out the last drops of cocktail sauce to liven up the shrimp. The roasted tomato is a nice break in flavor and texture, but the light cheese coating baked on the top seems more for decoration than taste. It almost hits the mark, however it’s slightly undercooked, soft at the edges while still hard and somewhat watery at the center.
Served in a large plastic basket, my friend’s cheese steak is a massive sub roll stuffed with sliced steak, cheese and soft-cooked onions. It’s good, he tells me as he devours most of the oversized sandwich.
As we finish our lunches and wipe our hands on the paper napkins, the sun starts slipping out from behind the clouds, blanketing Buzz’s porch in hot light. We pay our bill, a reasonable $28.83 before tip, and head back out past the lighthouse, the pastel colored façade and the cutesy wooden cut outs.
For the hour at Buzz’s I almost feel like I am on vacation. A few minutes later as we pull into the traffic on Goodlette Frank Road, the restaurant and it’s peaceful outdoor setting seem miles away.
Want to go? Buzz's Lighthouse Restaurant, 9180 Gulfshore Drive, Naples. 239.597.2551