By Laura Layden
Naples is on yet another top 10 list.
It landed at No. 9 on the list of Best Small Town Food Scenes in the U.S., based on votes by readers of USA TODAY’S 10 Best travel section.
USA TODAY editors chose Naples as one of their 20 best places to enjoy a happening food scene in a small town, then readers voted for their top 10 from the nominees.
“It’s great to be in the top 10 because that means we get a lot of publicity,” said JoNell Modys, public relations and communications manager at the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Frankenmuth, Michigan, took the No. 1 spot, with Fredericksburg, Texas, coming in 10th place for its food scene.
The 10 Best Readers’ Choice Award contest launches new categories every other Monday at noon, revealing each category’s 20 nominees. After four weeks of voting, the contest closes. On the Friday after voting ends, winners are announced.
In other recent voting by readers of USA TODAY’s 10 Best, Naples ranked No. 1 as the Best Destination for Luxury Travelers, and it came in second as one of the best Alfresco Dining Neighborhoods in the U.S.
“We’re really on a roll with lots of editorial and readers’ choice accolades for having a great food scene here in Naples, and in Marco Island as well. It really does reflect what has been going on here since there has been a great evolution of dining opportunity over the past five to 10 years,” Modys said. “There has always been a lot of locally owned restaurants. Now there is even more of them, and what they are offering is really resonating with what travelers like.”
In visitor research surveys in January and February, dining rose to the No. 1 favorite activity in the Naples area, surpassing the beach.
Locally sourced, fresh ingredients are commonly used at area restaurants, following a global trend, and Naples has some attributes that help it stand out including creative chefs and delicious seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, Modys said.
“We have more restaurants that are staying open later and just have more of an eclectic, fun vibe,” she said.
Naples has also been named one of the top 20 American cities for food as part of Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Awards for the last three years.
“The consistency of these recognitions is very significant. And people notice that,” Modys said.
The awards could help attract younger visitors.
“Research is showing that millennial travelers like to travel for specific food experiences, or they seek out what is the best in an area, often based on online reviews,” Modys said.
With announcements and stories about the top awards continuing to live online, they’ll pop up in Internet searches by travelers, which could influence their decisions for years to come.
Naples could soon make it on another top 10 food-related list. Voting is open through May 9 for the Best Cuban Sandwich in Florida. The duo of Cuban sandwiches sold at Naples’ Fernandez the Bull restaurant is at No. 2, ahead of well-known eateries such as the venerable Columbia Restaurant in Tampa and El Mason de Pepe in Key West.
Fans of Fernandez the Bull can cast their vote at http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-cuban-sandwich-in-florida/fernandez-the-bull-naples/share/