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Uncle Julio’s Mexican restaurant launches this afternoon on a new outparcel lot in the northwest corner of the Coastland Center mall property in Naples. 

“We’ve been excited about coming to Naples for some time now and we’re thrilled to be open, which is happening today,” said Dan Wheeler, chief marketing officer of Uncle Julio’s Corp. “Today is all systems go and we can’t wait to open those doors.” The restaurant’s grand opening celebration will be later this month when the smashing of a large chocolate piñata will replace the traditional ribbon-cutting. 

Uncle Julio’s has 35 upscale casual restaurants across 11 statesThe private company’only other Florida location is in Orlando at ICON Park on International Drive. 

In Naples, Uncle Julio’s restaurant and full bar are in a new freestanding building along U.S. 41 just west of CMX CinèBistro, which opened last year at the mallOther nearby mall outparcels planned for development around the former Sears department store footprint along Golden Gate Parkway include Bahama Breeze and Twin Peaks restaurants and bars.

Uncle Julio’s initially planned to open the Naples restaurant in late 2020, but the pandemic delayed the project. Before construction began, plans were changed to better accommodate the expected higher levels of takeout business. The pandemic shifted consumer behavior to call-ahead or order-ahead online orders and coming in to pick up meals or have them delivered. “We learned really quickly with new restaurants that it made a lot more sense to develop an area of the restaurant that can service that business in a more efficient way rather than trying to retrofit an already busy lobby area, Wheeler said. 

The nearly 11,500-square-foot Uncle Julio’s in Naples features an abundance of indoor and outdoor dining space, more than the average Uncle Julio’s location. The restaurant’s design is one of the newest prototypes for the chain and reflects the Naples vibe with a mosaic mural on the building’s western exterior. A large semicircular covered patio is divided for either dining or cocktails. Umbrella tables ring an exposed patio area just outside the covered patio.

The concept’s fresh, from-scratch approach is apparent with its open kitchen. “You can see tortillas being made. We make our tortillas from scratch, making our own masa dough and we have tortilla machines right there in full view of the customers as they make them throughout the day,” Wheeler said. “That’s also where they make our signature dessert, which is known as the chocolate piñata. We make the chocolate globe in-house. We make the homemade churros that go in it and the fresh fruit and even the whipped cream and the sauces that you dip in it are made from scratch. It’s a very popular dessert when you smash that thing open and it opens up to the delight of your fellow diners, so it’s definitely one of our signatures.” 

Uncle Julio’s lunch and dinner menus also are especially known for fajitas with mesquite-grilled meats and freshly squeezed Swirl Margaritas. Guacamole is made on a tableside cart with fresh avocados, lime juice, onion, tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro and saltwith the nontraditional ingredient of garlic-infused oil—and served in a traditional molcajete. 

The new restaurant is open for lunch and dinner on weekends but only for dinner on weekdays for now. The restaurant will be open for weekday lunches in the future. 

Uncle Julio’s, 2096 Ninth St. N., is open 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. 

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