Show tunes, serious ballads and sing-a-long songs are the name of the game at this hip restaurant and bar just blocks away from downtown Naples. With two karaoke nights—Mondays at 7 and Fridays at 8:30—you can find the crowd that best suits your style.
“Tommy T runs our Monday karaoke,” says Mel Biondi, co-owner of Bambusa Bar & Grill. “Tommy has a following of regulars who like his style. Friday night with Papa Tony is more of a mixed crowd with younger people.”
The stage at Bambusa is small with a wired mic, so you can’t move much, but it’s smack in the middle front of the floor plan so everyone inside can see you. Plus, the sound system is terrific, and Papa Tony does a great job at making singers—even rookies—feel at ease.
“The whole place has a comfortable feel to it,” Biondi says. “It’s a good vibe.”
Expect a lot of soulful ballads early in the evening when singers really want to show off their chops. Crowd-pleasers like Billy Joel’s Piano Man and earworms like Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers come a little later after the drinks have been flowing.
Tip: Come for the singing but stay for the food. Bambusa is the only restaurant in town to offer the Tortellacci, a house-made pasta that looks like a large tortellini stuffed with a blend of spinach and cheese and delicately topped with a tomato cream sauce.
Details: 600 Goodlette-Frank Road, Naples; 239-649-5657; bambusaonline.com
Preliminary figures show that the Island Coast AIDS Network (ICAN) raised $30,000 during the Southwest Florida AIDS Walk/Run/Ride held Saturday, April 16 at Cambier Park in downtown Naples. The top individual fund raiser was Mr. Thom Croce, a Naples High School teacher, with $4,600. The top fund raising team honors went to Bambusa Bar and Grill team which raised $4,100 in the walk portion of the event.
This year's event was expanded to include a certified 5K footrace and a 100 mile "century" bike ride. A large crowd participated in the Walk/Run/Ride and many brought their dogs with them to enjoy the park and Downtown Naples.
The Island Coast AIDS Network is a United Way Partner agency that provides vital support services such as food, transportation and case management services to over 400 AIDS infected individuals and their families in Southwest Florida. Our mission is "To stop the spread of HIV/AIDS and assist individuals infected and affected in Southwest Florida."
For years, I thought I was doing my body good by eating whole wheat breads, pastas, and grains. I struggled with a variety of health issues during my adolescence and early adulthood, but I thought, doggedly, that if I just kept eating my whole grains and vegetables, all problems would eventually be resolved. So it came as no small shock that the very grains I was consuming for their much-touted “health properties” might actually have been making me sick.
The wheat on the market today is a new breed, different from grains consumed by Americans in the early decades of the 20th century. And more and more research suggests these new strains might not be as healthy as they’re cracked up to be, leading to exponential increases in gluten sensitivities among other potential human health issues.
Wait, Wheat? — The Need-to-KnowModern wheat differs from its origins as the result of intense cross-breeding programs, which have turned the crop into something neither physically nor genetically like its old self. While the classic plants grew over four feet tall, modern wheat (grown in 99 percent of the world’s wheat fields) is now derisively dubbed “dwarf wheat,” standing just two feet in height with an abnormally large seed head balanced atop its stocky stem. These dramatic physical changes are paralleled by genetic shifts, the result of crossing wheat with non-wheat grasses and inducing genetic mutations through irradiation and exposure to toxins. (It should be noted that these processes are not the same as genetic engineering.)
The Role of GlutenThe compositional changes of wheat have very real impacts for the humans who consume it. Crossbreeding programs have changed the structure of wheat’s gluten proteins, providing a possible explanation for why the prevalence of celiac disease and gluten intolerance has increased dramatically in the United States over the last 50 years . Today, approximately one in every 133 Americans has celiac disease.
An increase in celiac diagnoses can be partly attributed to heightened awareness of the disease (it’s also possible this incidence rate is exaggerated, as the phenomenon isn’t yet observed in other parts of the “developed” world). But as occurrences of celiac disease have escalated, so too has the prevalence of gluten sensitivity — which researchers now define as a separate clinical entity, similar to (and perhaps even more widespread than) celiac . Gluten (found in most wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and, through contamination, various other products) has been linked with varying degrees of certainty to nutritional deficiencies, skin problems, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, autism, heart disease, cancer, and mood and digestive disorders in people with sensitivities . As of now, there’s a clear association between gluten and these health issues — but researchers can’t yet say with certainty that gluten is the direct cause.
Other SuspectsWhen it comes to modern wheat, gluten is quickly becoming the most famous “protein of interest.” But wheat’s composition has changed in other ways that are raising eyebrows.
Some critics of modern wheat cite health risks associated with its high levels of the starch Amylopectin A, which has been linked to the development of insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain) in rats . However, studies on the starch are few and far between, and those that do exist are typically at least a decade old.
Also under suspicion are modern wheat’s polypeptides, chains of amino acids that make up the protein gliadin in the plants. Wheat critics accuse these polypeptides (also called “exorphins”) of acting like endorphins in the body, making people feel “high” after eating wheat-laden carbs — and prompting them to crave more. However, there’s no definitive proof of this direct link between gliadin and addictive behavior. As with Amylopectin A, few contemporary studies address the question of whether or how much polypeptides might affect people’s health. In short, more research is needed to confirm whether or not modern wheat’s polypeptides pose a risk to human health.
Whither Wheat? — The TakeawayThe verdict is still out on whether modern wheat’s high starch content and exorphins are of serious concern for the average wheat consumer. What is certain is that modern wheat has changed distinctly from its historical composition, and the modified gluten protein might be a culprit in the striking rise in both celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.
For my own part, I’ve been gluten-free for going on ten months. Some, but not all, of my health issues have begun to resolve — enough so that I’m committed to remaining gluten-free. The elimination of gluten from a person’s diet is a matter of individual choice and medical needs. But the increased prevalence of gluten sensitivities is a strong call for more research into the new world of wheat.
This article was read and approved by Greatist Experts Dr. Douglas Kalman and Dr. John Mandrola.
St. Petersburg’s nightlife options are about to get a little more fabulous. Bambusa Bar & Grill expects to open in historic Kenwood in late 2017 at 3100 Third Ave. N., the former home of Georgie’s Alibi. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly establishment will resemble the longstanding one in Naples.
Though construction has been a bit delayed due to Hurricane Irma, co-owner Mel Biondi says the process should begin in the next 30 days. Steven Soutner, also a co-owner of the new neighborhood restaurant, worked together with Biondi to open Bambusa's Southwest Florida flagship 13 years ago.
“Steve and I have been doing this for a long time,” Biondi told CL. “The two of us started in food and beverage even before we met. We started in San Diego and we ended up back in Denver, Colorado. Steve’s from PA. We did a couple more restaurants there and a hotel. We learned a thing or two along the way, what’s successful and what’s not.”
According to Biondi, they’d been looking for a site in St. Pete for a while before settling on the Kenwood location, where the Alibi operated until 2015.
“We have looked for quite a time up there. We looked at a lot of things that we weren’t even interested in. There were some things down on Central, but there was no parking. We liked the idea of a free-standing building — we didn’t want to be sandwiched in. We realized how important parking is to establishments,” he said.
The food menu will resemble the original restaurant’s, which spans the gamut from seafood, burgers, pizza and pasta to soup, salads and wraps. Their plan is to bring on some new items and tailor the casual lineup to the area.
Biondi says the nightly entertainment is similar, too. He was tight-lipped with details, as to not reveal too much before opening day (though popular Tampa Bay drag performer and producer Kori Stevens has announced on Facebook that she’s going to be Bambusa’s entertainment director). The Naples location enjoys bingo and karaoke nights, along with weekly drag performances by the Bambusa Babes.
Once construction kicks off, the restaurant will start hiring for new employees.
“We have a solid staff down here. When the establishment opens up in St. Pete it will require more attention from us. We’ll probably split our time,” Biondi said, as both he and Soutner live in Naples. “We have several ex-employees that will be coming back on board with the company. They know what they’re doing. We’ll set them up, and we’ll work with them.”
“Hopefully everything will go smoothly, but you always hit bumps in the road when you open a new restaurant,” he added.
As far as whether or not they’re an “LGBT-only” place, Biondi says Bambusa is rooted in the community, supporting events such as AIDS Walk and Gay Pride, but that it’s ultimately welcoming of everyone.
“We don’t close the doors to anyone,” the co-owner said. “The community knows the establishment belongs to them.”
Under dim lights, friends and strangers lit 49 candles to honor each of the 49 lives lost in the massacre. They sobbed and hugged one another, placed their hands on each other's shoulders.
The names and photos of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub Sunday night were projected in a slideshow Thursday night at the front of Bambusa Bar and Grill in downtown Naples.
"This is our community," said Steve Soutner, co-owner of the bar. "Orlando is not alone. We all stand by them, we all stand together. This tragedy affects everyone, no matter who they are."
Pulse and Bambusa are 191 miles away, but the prayers reach.
On Thursday night, about 200 people came to Bambusa to mourn the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting and to raise money for the families. An auction raised more than $9,800, and 25 percent of the bar's take Thursday night will go to victims.
Gay Pride Month is celebrated in June to honor the Stonewall Riots and, more recently, to mark the Supreme Court ruling that made gay marriage legal nationwide.
"It's especially hard to see this attack happen during a month that celebrates so many great things for the gay community," said Pedro Blanco, 64, a Bambusa regular. "It's so cold and calculated that the shooter would pick a place that was having a big celebration."
Soutner and Mel Biondi, partners and co-owners, said they strive to make their bar a safe and joyful place for patrons.
"This is always a place of fun, love and joy," Blanco said. "That's ultimately what you come to a gay bar for — for the love and acceptance."
The people at the bar will continue to live in love and acceptance, they said, because living in fear isn't an option.
Jason Donahue, 44, and John Donahue, 56, met when they weren't looking for love, in a place where all they feel is love.
They saw each other across the bar at Bambusa 10 years ago this November.
Jason Donahue, who has lived in Naples for 16 years, said the gay community in the area is small enough that everyone at Bambusa knows one another.
"And if you come in and we don't know you, we'll know you by the end of the night," he said.
The Donahues had friends over to their home for game night Saturday. When they awoke Sunday morning, all they saw all day was news of the tragedy.
"We didn't go out, didn't do anything," Jason Donahue said. "We didn't know what to do. We watched as the body count went from 20 to 50. It was horrifying."
"I thought it was only a matter of time something like this would happen," he said. "John and I are going to the gay pride festival in Orlando this weekend. Will I have my guard up? Yes. But it's the right thing to do, to stand up and defend who we are."
St. Petersburg | It’s been nearly two years since St. Petersburg staple Georgie’s Alibi closed its doors for the last time at 3100 3rd Avenue North, but the spot synonymous with Pride and the LGBTQ community is getting ready for its comeback: in the form of Bambusa St. Pete.
Bambusa Bar & Grill, an LGBTQ-friendly restaurant and entertainment hotspot in Naples, recently announced their St. Petersburg expansion via social media, albeit with limited details. Speculation as to the location of the incoming eatery began almost immediately.
It was soon confirmed by Megan Towers, one of “Bambusa’s Babes,” self-described as the cast of female impersonators who perform at Bambusa in Naples. “At this time construction has not [begun] but should happen shortly,” Towers shared via social media. “Once the remodel is near completion the hiring process will begin!”
“As for the location, I know some have speculated [its whereabouts!,” Towers wrote. “I can confirm it will be in the former Alibi location!”
Reception online has been largely positive, with residents of the Historic Kenwood neighborhood particularly excited. Frank Clemente, a sponsor coordinator for the upcoming Come OUT St. Pete, publicly celebrated the announcement. He called the news uplifting and noted that St. Petersburg’s “gayborhood” was “doing up the magic all over again!”
As for Bambusa itself, the eatery features a diverse menu and full-liquor bar, complete with a happy hour. Food options begin with appetizers like poutine, pot stickers and angus sliders, and others with an Italian-flair like fried mozzarella and “mama’s meatballs.”
There are a range of pizzas, salads and burgers, as well as full-blown entrees and seafood options. A variety of sandwiches, Tex-Mex, wraps and desserts round out their offerings.
The Naples location offers a plethora of entertainment as well, including the aforementioned “Bambusa Babes.” Weeks are rounded out with card games and Bingo, with an alliterative adjective we can’t print here. (It rhymes with “itchy.”) On top of the drag performances and communal gatherings for gaming, other nights feature karaoke and the potential for other live performances and fundraisers. As the night progresses, a DJ becomes the featured entertainment.
With fun comes responsibility, something Bambusa Bar & Grill advises it takes very seriously. Their website boasts that the restaurant does its best to seek natural products that come from animals raised in “a truly natural manor” with “no antibiotics, no added hormones, no growth promoting drugs, no artificial ingredients, a 100 percent vegetarian diet and humane animal handling practices.”
It further asserts that the restaurant’s produce is grown “without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides… not from GMO crops,” and to help the environment, they recycle their glass bottles, aluminum and oil used to prepare food. (They also use mostly-compostable paper products.)
Bambusa Bar & Grill’s St. Petersburg location is expected to open in late 2017. You can follow their progress and stay up to date on their latest updates by visiting BambusaOnline.com.
If you're seeking casual nightlife in Naples, FL, this bar's delicious drink options and neighborhood feel make the perfect pick. Happy hour runs daily from 4pm to 7pm, and the bar menu is available all day. Choose from a variety of beer, wine and cocktails like the Jamaican Jammer or Barracuda. When hunger strikes, go for the Texan burger with cheddar, barbecue sauce and bacon or the Fishermen's Wharf wrap with beer-battered cod and Swiss.
The transformation starts with a headband. In front of a three-panel makeup mirror, Andy Spaulding ties back his hair. He covers his face with a thick layer of tan concealer, draws raised eyebrows and paints pink streaks across his cheeks.
The sun is setting on a Friday evening. Andy is becoming Alyssa — a fiery, outspoken drag queen. Spaulding, who spends his days as the director of a local daycare, becomes Alyssa Lemay at night. She competes in pageants and hosts drag shows across Southwest Florida, including Bambusa Bar and Grill in Naples as one-third of the drag queen trio The Bambusa Babes.
“Drag is theatrical, and I always loved performing,” said Spaulding, 32, a music student from Ohio who tried drag after seeing a show at a local gay bar.
Alyssa's performance is drawn from tips from seasoned drag queens. Spaulding learned how to apply the make-up, a more-than hourlong process, from YouTube. He makes almost all of Alyssa’s outfits. His great-grandmother taught him how to sew.
“Painting my face is one of my favorite parts because it is getting in to character,” said Spaulding, who has been performing as Alyssa Lemay for 10 years. “It is when I get to really think through everything.”
At the dining room table in his Fort Myers home, the makeup is done, and the pads, dress and wig are next. Spaulding’s boyfriend, Tommy Tillis, helps with zipping up the dress and adjusting the wig. “Do you want the hair over the shoulder, or should I push it back?” Tillis said. “I’m what we call the ‘drag husband,’ ” he added.
“I love the way she performs. I watch a lot of the queens here in Fort Myers and to me, Alyssa has the most character when she performs,” Tillis said. “She feeds off of the audience’s energy, and most of the queens here don’t do that; they just do it to make a quick buck.”
But to Spaulding, performing as Alyssa Lemay is about more than making money. It is about representing the drag community. Alyssa often participates in Pride benefits to help support LGBTQ organizations.
“Thats why I respect her,” Tillis said. “She is the best representation of the drag community because she goes above and beyond. She is a professional.” Tillis sprays one last bit of hairspray, and the transformation is complete. Alyssa is ready. “There you go, queen,” Tillis said.
Naples friendly neighborhood bar is growing! The concept announced plans to open in the former Georgie’s Alibi location at 3100 3rd Avenue North. More than just a spot for good eats, Bambusa owners like to keep their restaurant active with happy hour deals, irreverent bingo, karoke and DJs spinning mixes on a weekly basis.
The LGBTQ-friendly restaurant offers a bountiful menu that ranges from pot stickers and poutine to artichoke chicken and bacon wrapped meatloaf. Venture south of the border with mahi tacos and grilled tiger shrimp with pico de gallo.
Eclectic events and menu items help Bambusa stand out
Have a hankering for pizza? Bambusa serves up BBQ chicken, Margarita and meat combo pies. Other items of note include the hearty Bambusa burger made with Angus beef, the sky high Dagwood sandwich (turkey, smoked ham, bacon) and the chocolate tuxedo bomb. (Chocolate Cake filled with white Chocolate and dark Chocolate Mousse in a Ganache shell. Served with Gelato.)
Bambusa owners intend to open their doors in early 2018. This isn’t the first Naples concept to set its sights on the Burg. Sea Salt St. Pete and Cider Press Cafe both began in Naples before setting roots in St. Pete’s blossoming culinary scene.
The restaurant also features a full liquor bar, with an abundance of craft beers and wines to choose from, too. Learn more about Bambusa, and keep up with a potential opening timeline, by following the restaurant on Facebook and their website.