Zen Asian BBQ
10823 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, (239) 260-7037, eatatzen.com
Why We Love It: We were scratching our heads wondering when the noodle craze from up North would migrate to Southwest Florida. Really, any “It” food from around the Pacific Rim can be found here—ramen with a coastal twist from a king crab leg, a runnyegg- capped bibimbap or fusion plates like spicy tuna “tacos.” What’s better is that the trendy yet cozy wood-lined space is the right mix of fun and low-key. If you’re entertaining folks from your main office in Chicago and want something that feels urban (including staying open til the wee hours), drift into Zen.
Ideal Meal: When your team is ravenous after a morning meeting gone into overtime, fuel up with the daily lunch specials. The full regular menu is available, but there’s no need when you can get chirashi, basically a giant rice bowl topped with sashimi, plus bottomless miso soup and salad bar (the platters of fresh greens and veggies are brought out each afternoon). For dinner, book early to reserve one of the Korean barbecue tables—the hands-on approach is a guaranteed good time. Order the short ribs. The tender slivers of perfectly marinated meat are the easiest to get right because they cook up quickly and retain their flavor even if you get carried away in conversation a few seconds too long.
Vibe: The managing partner and chef set out to build a rustic Japanese pub, and their impressive assortment of Japanese beer and sakes supports that—so does the tasteful Buddha fountain, exposed piping (which cleverly routes gas to the barbecue tables) and a brick accent wall. We’ll venture a step beyond: It’s not just a pub, it’s a gastropub, our first pan-Asian one at that.