EJ's Bayfront Café perfect for grabbing coffee and a bite or enjoying a full meal

EJ's Bayfront Café opened March 19 in the former restaurant location of Chrissy's at Bayfront, 469 Bayfront Place. The cafe, open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, offers a breakfast and lunch menu with breakfast served all day.

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EJ's Bayfront Café opened March 19 in the former restaurant location of Chrissy's at Bayfront, 469 Bayfront Place. The cafe, open 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, offers a breakfast and lunch menu with breakfast served all day.

If you go

EJ’s Bayfront Café

Where: 469 Bayfront Place, Naples

Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, with breakfast served all day

Cost: $6.95-$9.95, breakfast; $5.50-$10.25, lunch

Information: 239-353-4444 or www.ejsbayfrontcafe.com

— EJ's Bayfront Café, which opened earlier this year at Bayfront in Naples, looks like any other cute metropolitan cafe with its open-kitchen atmosphere. You can grab a coffee and a bite or a full meal with a large group.

But behind the new ownership of EJ's Bayfront Café is the astute, reckoning culinary mind of Eric Joseph Becker, a Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts graduate and entrepreneur.

"I had always envisioned living by the ocean, and Bayfront is the closest to my dream of having a restaurant on the water," said the 29-year-old Becker, who proudly displays his degrees on the walls of EJ's. The proximity to Fifth Avenue's valuable foot traffic didn't escape him, either — after all, he did go to business school as well as culinary college.

EJ's Bayfront Café is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for breakfast and lunch, although patrons can get breakfast all day. EJ's has free Wi-Fi and Becker encourages people to bring laptops and stay all day. Whether customers come for an early breakfast or lunch, Becker knows those customers won't be able to resist a myriad snacks as the day goes on.

Becker envisions EJ's Bayfront Café as a highly social place. He says he loves talking with people, sharing stories and welcomes pets. Water dishes are provided for the Fidos and FiFis who come to EJ's.

Becker and Chef John James have restructured the menu to highlight some Neapolitan favorites found at most Southwest Florida restaurants like EJ's, along with several new items.

One special James created is the island mahi ($10.95). Patrons so loved this lunch entrée special that Becker added it to the regular menu. The dish is made with mahi fish and stir fry vegetables in a sesame ginger sauce and brown rice.

Other new additions include two new burger dishes. One is the black-and-bleu burger salad ($9.25) which is served with blackened burger, bleu cheese crumbles, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions atop mixed greens. The jalapeño burger ($8.75) is grilled to specifications with jalapeño slices, melted Swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato.

On the breakfast side of EJ's Bayfront Cafe, customers can get a variety of teas and 100 percent Columbian coffee. One of the other trademarks Becker is passionate about is EJ's OJ — it's freshly squeezed in-house daily. The specials are seasonal and based on available ingredients.

Becker says he enjoys bringing joy to people through food and Chef James has a long history with preparing food for Neapolitans. Becker was thrilled to find a culinary counterpart who shares his passion for food. What has resulted is variations on dishes that send diners over the moon — one of which is Chef James' otherworldly banana-stuffed Challah French toast ($10.25), inspired by a dish he had years ago. James put his own creative spin on it and what results is a positively addictive version — like a cloud of bananas encased between two slices of Heaven.

Becker and James have a lot of changes planned. They'll be adding more pastas to the menu and have created a "build your own omelet" section where customers can pick three ($8.95) or pick five ingredients ($9.95). Variations on items like the Mediterranean-style omelet, another flavorful dish bursting with fresh spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese among other fresh ingredients, are also available.

New soups (cup $4.25/bowl $5.50), sandwiches and daily specials which will change frequently are in the works as well. Lunch specials include dishes like roasted pork loin quesadilla with peppers, onions, cheddar and jack cheese and tomatoes, served with salsa and sour cream (9.95); and Greek panini with capicola ham, salami, olive oil, vinegar, tomato, onion, and provolone cheese with a choice of side ($10.25).

The relaxed nature of Bayfront makes it one of the most beautiful places to dine in Naples already. James' years of experience and the breath of fresh air Becker brings to the table in terms of support, management and shared culinary understanding makes it a great restaurant.

With this combination of attributes, EJ's Bayfront Café is in the running to become one of Naples' top spots for casual daytime dining.

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