Farlow’s on the Water is fusion of the finest - Charlotte County Florida Weekly (2024)

. ABOVE: Executive Chef Austin Davis with Shane Legg in the background. SUE WADE / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Keith and Laurie Farlow’s sprawling waterfront restaurant has, for more than 20 years, fused fresh seafood and Caribbean flavors from Keith’s youth in St. Croix with southern comfort from Laurie’s Louisville upbringing.

When the couple came to visit Keith’s parents in 2003, Keith’s dad, Dave, who owned Country Hound Café, took them to see a failing restaurant that he thought would be perfect for them.

Laurie said, “In a way, we built Farlow’s from scratch at a time and place where there was nothing else like it in Englewood.”

Keith, raised in the fish-teeming islands, had been aghast that so little whole, fresh fish was sold around town.

Laurie remembered saying, “This might be just a small town, but I think it’s ready for some changes. There are people coming here and living here who expect more.”

People would find it at Farlow’s, which remains unlike any other Southwest Florida restaurant.

“Ignorance is bliss,” Laurie mused. “We just did what we’d have liked ourselves. Keith always had a vision for a Caribbean restaurant with fresh fish and produce. But marrying in the Kentucky piece — fried green tomatoes, corn pudding, a Kentucky Hot Brown ($28)?”

. RIGHT: Keith Farlow with Casimiro Rosas, lead dishwasher with Farlow’s for 15 years.


So priceless, in fact, that Farlow’s again walked away with 10 Best of Englewood awards this year, including Best Overall Restaurant.

But Farlow’s unique fusion of flavors is only part of the story.

Keith and Laurie agree that the true key to their success is their staff, many of them there for more than a decade.

Keith said, “We pride ourselves on hiring the best and keeping the best.”

Keith, himself a chef, joined us for dinner beside the boardwalk, eagerly acknowledging the creative chefs who’d invented some of the most popular plates on his menu. Among them today are Executive Chefs Juan Beltran and Austin Davis, and Executive Sous-Chefs Andrea Amato, Connor Hahn and Brandon Hensley.

. ABOVE: Farlow’s late Executive Chef John Mazza shows off a fresh goldentile.

Farlow’s being an Englewood award-winner for co*cktails, we couldn’t go wrong with a Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon martini with Peachtree Schnapps and a glass of crisp Starling Castle Riesling.

Server Kaeley Alphas made us willing guinea pigs, quickly delivering a gratis starter special that really needs to be on the regular menu.

Chef Carson Branch and Chef Austin had 24-hour-marinated their Seared Spanish Octopus ($18) to a state of fork-cut tenderness equal to butter, then plated the tentacle with hand-rolled squid-ink gnudi (pronounced “nudie,” basically what the Tuscan word means). Gnudi are like gnocchi on a diet. Made with little or no flour or potato, these are creamy little pillows of ricotta or Parmesan, cheese ravioli without the pasta pillowcases.

The whole dish was a blend of flavors and textures, from the squid ink’s briney umami to the fruity zest of a tomato-papaya reduction, and ricotta two ways: chewy in the gnudi and whipped underneath.

. LEFT: Farlow’s house specialty St. Thomas Goldentile is fresh Gulf golden tilefish topped with lump blue crab and washed in citrus beurre blanc, here with corn pudding and veggies.

It was a challenge to leave part of it behind, but we wanted room to enjoy more dinnertime pleasures: our entrées themselves, desserts to follow, and the 150th Kentucky Derby, airing that very night on Farlow’s only TV set.

While we watched, longtime bartender Patrick Kilcoyne recalled how a TV ban after Farlow’s 2015 bar expansion was lifted just in time for the next running of the Derby.

If we hadn’t bet on two winning entrées, if not horses, we would have had to console ourselves with even more dessert than we ended up having.

Let’s put dessert first, then, where it rightly belongs at Farlow’s.

These aren’t your usual gratuitous Key lime pie and cheesecake options, which we find easy to skip.

After seeing one borne past us to another table, I couldn’t resist the Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding ($12), a work of art drizzled with caramelized Maker’s Mark, which blended with melting ice cream to create marbleization almost too beautiful to eat. The bread pudding was dense but not too sweet, the pecans as rich as in pecan pie but without the sugar-loaded guilt factor.

Bill’s a pushover for cheesecake and pineapple upside-down cake, so the coconut garnished Piña Colada Cheesecake ($11), with cheesecake sandwiched between layers of delectable pineapple goo, proved irresistible for him.

For dinner, Farlow’s has steakhouse-quality wet-aged, hand-cut steaks and pork ($28 to $48.90), plus chicken (hovering around $28) and vegetariana ($27.50), but it’s the seafood, another Best of Englewood, that 70% of guests order. We did, too.

I chose the house specialty St. Thomas Goldentile ($39) — fresh Gulf golden tilefish topped with Caribbean seasoned lump blue crab and scallion curls, washed in a light citrus beurre blanc.

If Farlow’s prices seem high, keep in mind that a typical entrée here still comes with a basket of warm dinner rolls, a side salad for which they recommend Laurie’s own vinaigrette, and two generous sides, so popular that people also order them à la carte ($4 to $5).

. ABOVE: Farlow’s Bourbon Pecan Bread Pudding with vanilla bean ice cream.

I offset Laurie Farlow’s fluffy southern corn pudding side with fresh chef’s veggies. Bill had the same, then added a potato recipe that he makes at home: mashed with herbed Boursin.

But one particular entrée spoke poignantly to Keith Farlow that night.

Bill had been looking forward to Peter Island Scallops ($34.90) ever since he’d previewed the online menu. This comforting bake of U12 sea scallops and blue crab is topped with sautéed spinach, tender artichoke hearts, lemon and white wine cream sauce, and finished with oven-browned Asiago. It’s a dish to melt your heart, and Keith could scarcely speak as he reminisced about the humble chef whose invention it had been.

“He helped create this restaurant,” he said. “That’s his dish.”

Executive Chef John Mazza had worked for Farlow’s even before there was a Farlow’s on the Water.

. RIGHT: Keith and Laurie Farlow watch the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby on Farlow’s only TV, installed just in time for the 142nd running in 2016.

The 1996 Lemon Bay grad had been a star pitcher for the high school, and cheffed three years for Keith’s father at Country Hound. He came over to Farlow’s 20 years before his recent death at 41.

Mazza’s coach, Cary Humphrey, posted months afterward: “I was informed today of the passing of … John Mazza. … Unfortunately it was not known by any of his teammates.”

The whole Farlow’s family still mourns his loss, and we all remembered him that night. ¦

. ABOVE: Farlow’s outdoor dining fills its garden patio and waterfront.

. LEFT: No wonder Farlow’s co*cktails, like Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon martini with Peachtree Schnapps, are Englewood award winners.

Farlow’s on the Water is fusion of the finest - Charlotte County Florida Weekly (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Maia Crooks Jr

Last Updated:

Views: 6508

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Maia Crooks Jr

Birthday: 1997-09-21

Address: 93119 Joseph Street, Peggyfurt, NC 11582

Phone: +2983088926881

Job: Principal Design Liaison

Hobby: Web surfing, Skiing, role-playing games, Sketching, Polo, Sewing, Genealogy

Introduction: My name is Maia Crooks Jr, I am a homely, joyous, shiny, successful, hilarious, thoughtful, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.