Can't-Miss Restaurants Around Fort Myers
Eat where you want – but don’t miss these treasures
There are so many restaurants – which ones to choose? That largely depends on your tastes and budget, but there are a select few that should be at the top of your list. Whether it’s their longevity, their food or their ambience, they have that certain something that makes them special. Trust us on this. You won’t be sorry.
CABBAGE KEY: This one is reachable only by boat, which is a bit of a bonus because you are likely to meet some of the region’s fun-loving dolphins along the way. Cabbage Key – about 5 miles west of Pine Island in Pine Island Sound – is on the National Register of Historic Places and was occupied by the Calusas as far back as 100 BC. The family of bestselling mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart owned the island for a long time. It passed through several hands after that but for many years now, it’s had a bar and restaurant with walls covered in signed dollar bills left by those who have visited. Among the many celebrities who have visited are Jimmy Buffett, Ernest Hemingway and Julia Roberts. You can get a cheeseburger or chilled smoked salmon or black beans and rice, a mahi sandwich or shrimp for lunch. Dinner’s a bit fancier (bring your own fish and they’ll cook it for you). Stone crab claws are served in season. If you don’t have your own boat or know someone who does, there are boat companies like Captiva Cruises that will take you there for a great excursion. And don’t forget to sign your dollar bill and leave it on the wall.
FARMERS MARKET RESTAURANT: At 70 years old, it is the oldest dining establishment in the county and there are good reasons for its longevity: The Southern-style food is delicious – think chicken-fried steak, meatloaf, smoked pulled pork, shrimp and grits, fried okra, collard greens, corn muffins and coconut cream pie. And, of course, the iced tea is sweet unless you specify otherwise. Other reasons include the portions are large, the prices are reasonable and the cheerful servers call you honey and mean it. Warning: Do not try dieting while dining here. Even the four-vegetable platter can be packed with calories. The restaurant is tucked onto Edison Avenue just a bit east of Fowler Street in Fort Myers. Cash only.
HAROLD’S: Chef/owner Harold Balink is the force behind this spot tucked into the Regal Plaza in south Fort Myers, where the atmosphere is casual but the farm-to-table food is not. Balink’s culinary chops are top-notch, and so is his knowledge of wine, which means the wine list is impressive, too. (There’s also a full bar.) The menu changes according to what’s seasonally available, but count on there being some form of foie gras, as well as seared scallops, house-made pappardelle Bolognese, steak and fresh fish. The bar offers its own bites, such as H’s grilled cheese, crispy pork dumplings and a meat & cheese plate. Reservations highly advised.
NICE GUYS BEER & PIZZA LOUNGE: Sometimes you just need a pizza. And sometimes that need occurs around midnight. Never fear – Nice Guys is (are) here. This popular pizza joint on Cape Coral Parkway stands ready to sate your cravings until 1:30 a.m. every day but Monday with such intriguing pies as the Hot Honey (hot honey, salami, prosciutto, garlic and tomato), Black Gold (black garlic, seasonal fruit, gorgonzola, mozzarella, fresh basil, prosciutto and extra-virgin olive oil), General Tso’s (fried chicken, broccoli, pineapple, garlic, EVOO, General Tso’s sauce, mozzarella) and fun munchies like hummus, cool ranch tots and marinated olives. You can, of course, get a conventional pie as well, and there’s a vegan menu, too. How nice is that?
TARPON LODGE RESTAURANT: You can stay at Tarpon Lodge, contained within an atmospheric building dating to 1926, or simply take a drive (or boat ride) out to Bokeelia on Pine Island for a meal. Lunch is served here, but at dinner you can also take in a lovely sunset. Smoked fish dip, bronzed Gulf pink shrimp, crab cakes, shrimp and grits, pork tenderloin, bacon cheeseburger and a vegan plate of roasted grilled vegetables with harissa-infused quinoa offer something for every taste. Reservations are a good idea for dinner.
THE VERANDA: Situated smack in the heart of downtown Fort Myers, The Veranda consists of two turn-of-the-century homes and a lush courtyard, where dining also takes place, weather permitting. This is a spot known for its bar, complete with piano, where politicos are known to hang out and trade gossip, and where tuxedo-clad servers deliver Southern regional cuisine to guests ensconced in thickly upholstered armchairs. Southern grit cakes, beef carpaccio, Caesar salad (prepared tableside), chateaubriand and a Southern Sampler (fresh fish, Gulf shrimp and sea scallops) are among the menu standards.