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Chef Adam Nardis

Always up for a challenge during the course of his culinary career, Adam Nardis is set to launch a new local venture on Black Friday. The longtime local chef and his wife, Erin, are debuting Coldwater Oyster Market & Bar in south Fort Myers.

The fresh seafood-centric casual restaurant and market will feature a craft cocktail bar and live music. “I’m very excited about it,” Nardis said. “I’m happier to be moving toward what I think is the trend in the industry right now, moving toward a more casual fare and environment. We’re keeping it loose, keeping it casual.”

Interestingly, though, Nardis won’t be spending a lot of time in the kitchen this time. He has hired Dustin Laugherty as Coldwater’s chef de cuisine, while Nardis will spend more time greeting and meeting guests.

“I’ve been a chef for a long time,” Nardis said. “This is the first project I hired a chef and I’m not going into this as an executive chef.”

Laugherty has worked in the kitchen alongside Nardis at the most recent restaurants where Nardis has served as executive chef: Seventh South Craft Food + Drink and M Waterfront Grille in Naples and M’s sister restaurant in Rhode Island. “It’s a great opportunity for him and he deserves it,” Nardis said.

After working as a chef in Naples for more than 18 years, Nardis also is ready for a new opportunity and a fresh canvas to explore in another market. After opening Seventh South last fall with co-owner Barry Larkin, Nardis said his share of the partnership was recently bought out by Larkin, who continues to operate the downtown Naples restaurant with a new chef. The Nardises, raising four young children in Estero, wanted to be closer to home and significantly cut their commute.

They moved their new restaurant into the Marlins Plaza spaces where Marlins Brewhouse and Chronic Tacos operated for a few years before closing last month near Popstroke on the north side of Six Mile Cypress Parkway between U.S. 1 and Metro Parkway. Coldwater’s central spot is the anchor and occupies nearly a quarter of the center, which also hosts eateries Slurping Dragon, American Grilled Cheese Kitchen and Dunkin.’ Despite the closing of Marlins Brewhouse, Marlins Plaza will retain its name and continue to sport a 10-foot marlin hanging high above Coldwater Oyster’s space.

Coldwater’s seafood, though, will be less about tropical marlins and more about marine life preferring to live where the water is deepest and coldest: the Atlantic Northeast and the Pacific Northwest. Nardis said the cooler climate slows down the metabolism, producing slightly crisp, sweeter oysters than the meatier, saltier oysters found farther south on the East and West Coasts. Coldwater will offer a selection of oysters from the Chesapeake Bay and north on the East Coast and from San Francisco and north on the West Coast.

Coldwater Oyster will serve fresh oysters, clams, lobster and crab legs in a casual, family-like environment. The idea is to fill a market niche here, which is already engulfed with subtropical seafood. “There’s not a lot of people honing in on coldwater seafood,” said Nardis, noting that plenty of transplants, tourists and others in Southwest Florida understand the value of it.

Coldwater Oyster will have a 15-seat raw bar and an open cold kitchen. Its seafood market will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, displaying fresh lobsters and shellfish in a 6-foot case. All the seafood in the boutique market will be available in the dining room at night.

“We also are looking at bolstering the Lee County bar scene. We wanted to have a fairly extensive bar program,” Nardis said. His wife, who was on the bar team that opened The Continental on Naples’ Third Street South in 2014, will oversee Coldwater’s cocktail program. In addition to craft creations, the bar has 44 beer taps and a strong wine selection. “A lot of detail went into sourcing the wines,” Nardis said.

The 160-seat restaurant, which will have about 20 more once outdoor seating is added, has 20-plus TV screens and a stage for music, which is an important part of the casual venue. During its large-scale grand opening next month, they plan to host bands all day. The space has three overhead doors that will be open as much as possible.

The Coldwater team has been working to maximize the venue’s square footage. “We did have to make some transformations. We added some character,” Nardis said. “We took a place that had fantastic bones but wasn’t made to be a full-service restaurant.”

After launching Nov. 26, Coldwater Oyster Market & Bar will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 5611 Six Mile Commercial Court.

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