Fort Myers has been recognized by Nation's Restaurant News as one of the "50 Cities That Sizzle,"
along with Miami, New York, San Francisco and other major metropolitan areas.
According to the trade publication, Fort Myers has something for everyone, from popular chains such
as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Chili's, Romano's Macaroni Grill and Beef O'Brady's,
to a rapidly-expanding list of home-grown hot spots including The Veranda, Varian's and Bistro 41,
to name a few.
Beyond the great variety of four-star cuisine, there is nothing typical about dining at area restaurants.
Between the cities of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs, and the islands including Fort Myers Beach,
Sanibel and Captiva, there are restaurants to suit any budget or mood.
So whether you're seeking fare for the entire family from a nationally recognized chain or
a romantic meal for two in a unique setting, you'll have no trouble finding it.
Best of all, even the most elegant restaurants tend to have relaxed dress codes and will
accommodate more casual attire. Some of the most informal establishments even welcome patrons in swim wear!
Due to the abundance of fresh local fish, shrimp and clams, seafood is the centerpiece of many restaurant menus. Roy's, in The Promenade in Bonita Springs, was one of the first in the area to offer Euro-Asian cuisine which recreates the flavors of Hawaii and the Pacific Rim in an open, display kitchen. Menu highlights include grilled miso-crusted butterfish, Mongolian-style short ribs and seared Ono or Opakapaka (harvested from Hawaiian waters).
Diners seeking more traditional seafood in a decidedly more casual setting may prefer The Timbers and its adjoining Sanibel Grill sports bar on Sanibel Island. Popular items include its trademark Crunchy Grouper or Crunchy Shrimp, smoked fish, and an extensive array of beef and fresh seafood selections. There is also a children's menu.
Ironically, The Timbers' original location is now occupied by Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille,
so named for the main character in proprietor Randy Wayne White's island-themed adventure novels.
Although it's also a sports bar, the restaurant is famous for its gourmet finger food, fresh seafood
entrees and extensive drink menu.
Also on the island, The Jacaranda strikes a rare balance between island casual and fine dining.
Original seafood dishes, steak, wine and live entertainment in the lounge all have contributed to
its long-standing reputation as one of the area's premier restaurants.
Back on the mainland, sophisticated, contemporary Blue Pointe Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill serves
everything from Maine scallops and imported cold-water oysters to more than a dozen types of fish such
as black grouper, salmon and walleye. It is located in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, which is
gaining a reputation as a dining destination. Besides Blue Pointe, fine-dining restaurants
include Bistro 41, Bacchus & Co. and Cru, as well as a variety of establishments offering burgers,
pizza, pasta, coffee and ice-cream.
Seafood isn't the only reason for the popularity of many restaurants around The Beaches
of Fort Myers and Sanibel. For example, as the name suggests, the Sanibel Steakhouse started locally and
is so big with beef lovers it has expanded to locations in Fort Myers, Bonita Springs and Naples.
Furthermore, ambience is what draws many people to some of the area's more unusual restaurants,
including the one at The Cabbage Key Inn, north of Captiva and Useppa islands. Reportedly, Jimmy Buffett
was inspired to write the hit, "Cheeseburger in Paradise" after eating one of the inn's huge and juicy burgers. The restaurant is almost as famous for its screen-enclosed dining room, whose walls are plastered with thousands of signed dollar bills from patrons.
On a slightly smaller scale, similar décor is featured at the ultra-casual Barnacle Phil's on the barrier
island of North Captiva. There, everything but the signature black beans and rice is brought to picnic tables
in plastic baskets. Ample indoor and outdoor seating as well as dock space make the restaurant especially
popular among boaters. To the north, The Pink Elephant on Gasparilla Island is also accessible by boat.
It is part of the world-renowned Gasparilla Inn which was established in 1911.
The Pink Elephant serves continental cuisine with a "Floribbean" flair.
Another highly original spot is The Bubble Room on Captiva Island. The unusual layout of this
rambling three-story restaurant provides the ideal backdrop for its gold mine of nostalgic décor
from the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Its nationally recognized menu features such whimsically named dishes
as "Duck Ellington" and "Gone With the Fin," as well as what may be the largest portion of prime
rib available in the area. However, some people go there just for the inimitable red velvet cake, Key
lime pie and other oversized homemade desserts.
Naturally, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel are home to some of the world's most picturesque,
waterfront restaurants. For many years, The Mad Hatter at Blind Pass on Sanibel and The Mucky Duck
on Captiva Island have provided peerless sunset views and eclectic, award-winning menus.
Other fine-dining restaurants with stunning views of the Gulf and local waterways include:
Windows on the Water at the Sundial Beach Resort (on Sanibel),
The Promenade Café at Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa (just east of the Sanibel Causeway at Punta Rassa),
The Lighthouse Restaurant (overlooking the Port Comfort Marina in south Fort Myers),
The Channel Mark (on San Carlos Bay, just east of Fort Myers Beach) and Vincenzo's
on the Bay (Bonita Springs).
For fine waterfront food in a less refined atmosphere, check out Joe's Crab Shack, overlooking
the Caloosahatchee River in downtown Fort Myers. Deliberately tacky décor, extended happy hours
and dancing waiters set the stage for a delightful seafood lunch or dinner against a boisterous
backdrop. In proximity, and yet on the other end of the dining spectrum, is The Veranda.
The converted home (actually, two turn-of-the-century residences) is a downtown landmark
and features a beautifully landscaped, open-air courtyard and a varied menu with Southern accents.