The foodie movement is alive and well in Fort Myers, and the number of high-quality restaurants in the area is a testament to that fact. While there are plenty of tried and true, long-standing favorites here, there are always new and unique spots popping up to tickle your taste buds.
For a bit of romance and a great sunset, it's worth the winding drive through Sanibel Island to the Mad Hatter. This small, beachside restaurant has a superb menu with service and view to write home about.
Expect Southern hospitality and charm at the well established Veranda in downtown Fort Myers. This is a long standing, special occasion, lets linger over a cocktail kind of place.
Keep in mind that hours often change during summer with many locally owned spots closing on Monday's for a much needed break after 'season.'
From the elegance of restaurants in historic buildings, to hidden treasures tucked away in nondescript strip malls, these 10Best restaurants have the right combination of atmosphere, service, food and overall quality that keeps diners coming back.
Regulars refer to the restaurant as 'Gloria's', after chef/owner Gloria Jordan. She is passionate about food, wine, music and life in general; this passion is evident in her establishment. She is seen more often on the floor these days, than in the kitchen, working the room in sassy high heels and fashionable dresses. Gloria is Cuban but has worldwide experience and training, explaining the many flavors and cuisines she is able to bring together. This is the only true tapas bar in Fort Myers, serving delicious bites like plums stuffed with Gorgonzola, wrapped in Proscuitto then baked. And tender pork ribs tossed in a Mojo Isleno sauce. The Roast Suckling Pig is quite a treat; serving eight or more, it must be ordered in advance.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Regulars come here not only for the Meditteranean cuisine with a twist, but also to socialize with the spirited Cuban owner.
Gina's expert tip: There is often live music on the weekends
This unique Sanibel restaurant is where foodies go while on the island. Award winning Chef Melissa Talmadge sources local ingredients year-round, for a seasonal menu that leans toward small plates. Her creations are innovative and consistently pleasing. Sweet Melissa's staffers are consummate professionals, and can easily recommend the best wine pairings for your meal. Many nights a week, you can find a local guitarist playing relaxing dinner music. There's a small patio that's lovely for al fresco dining when the weather allows and a cozy, full-service bar. You'll definitely want to secure a reservation for dining in the Winter and Spring tourist seasons.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Some of the best, most innovative, and consistently prepared food you'll find on Sanibel Island including local produce, seafood, beef and everything in-between.
Gina's expert tip: Most of the parking is in the rear of the restaurant.
Don't expect chicken parm at this Italian restaurant; Chef Marco Corricelli doesn't serve the more common, or Americanized Italian dishes. His food is inspired from many different regions in Italy, his pasta handmade daily and cooked just right. The meatballs are stuffed with ricotta and they are divine. The specials go fast each night, so get your order in swiftly if you see something that peaks your interest. The food here is all fresh, flavorful and served with flare. Try the gilled octopus, served atop marinated kale and chic peas. The Brussels sprouts are simple and delicious, grilled with speck. The wine list mostly consists of Italian selections from smaller producers. Chef keeps an eye on the restaurant from the open kitchen and almost always makes time to greet diners with a friendly "ciao."
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The chef from Milano makes pasta fresh everyday with a small menu of specialties from all regions of Italy and wines to match.
Gina's expert tip: Enjoy summer dining specials
Occupying two old homes dating back to 1902 (they were joined by Peter Pulitzer for his long-time fishing buddy, Fingers O'Bannon, in the early 1970s), for years the Veranda has provided a charming atmosphere as well as consistently good cuisine. Specializing in regional flavors and seafood, a restaurant favorite is artichoke fritters stuffed with blue crab. The personal yet professional service will enhance your dining experience whether you choose to eat indoors or out. The Veranda's lounge is a favorite with the downtown legal crowd. You'll often find live music here, the type one might expect from a sophisticated establishment. A favorite special occasion place, the Veranda is the perfect place for romance and quiet conversation.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Romantically set in a beautiful, historic downtown Fort Myers house, this restaurant makes for a special evening out.
Gina's expert tip: The bar is full of legal eagles after work.
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You would never guess the treasure found inside of this restaurant situated in a strip mall with no frontage, on the bustling Bonita Beach Road. Serving modern American cuisine with a French twist you'll also find a selection of gluten free and vegetarian dishes. The produce and fish are mostly local, however Walleye is almost always on theme for Midwest transplants. The sauces made in house, and the risotto is decadent. The Tenderloin Saga is a signature dish; thick steak topped with Saga blue cheese and a mound of crisp pommes frites on top. There is a unique selection of craft brews and a wine list that covers the globe with 150 bottle selections and twenty by the glass.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A hidden gem inside of a strip mall with no footage, once you walk through the back entrance you're in for a dining treat.
Gina's expert tip: Much of the art on the wall is for sale
A small restaurant with a big city feel, BLANC has a cool atmosphere, great service and superb food. Known for it's Robata Grill, the high heat is perfect for searing meat, cooking vegetables and keeping dishes gluten free. The French proprietor is extremely picky about the ingredients served here and with only 22 seats to fill, he almost has to be. The fish is brought in daily and he makes morning trips to the market to search out the freshest seasonal produce. A recurring special is the house cured trio of salmon; if it's offered when you are there don't pass it up. The dish, like many here, is a work of art.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A chic, gourmet restaurant tucked inside of a tropical shopping plaza, has a seasonal menu full of unique twists and simple classics.
Gina's expert tip: Make a reservation, the space is small
SOUTH FORT MYERS
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A farm to table establishment by popular chef Harold Balink, this intimate space only has room for about 30 diners at a time, many of whom are fans of Balink and know each other. Sometimes it feels like your a guest at a special dinner party. The menu changes weekly as chef seeks out seasonal produce and meats from local, small production farms. He is known for making carnivores happy, and the creative preparations found here continually impress critics and followers alike. Wines selections are handpicked and not ones you are likely to find in retail outlets. The staff pays great attention to detail and always make you feel welcomed.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: An intimate dining experience with hearty dishes and superb wines, run by one of the area's most beloved and talented chefs.
Gina's expert tip: Check the chalk board for unique wine specials
Angelina's screams elegance from the moment you pull up to the building. Be sure to try the award winning ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and mascarpone cheese, topped with a citrus tomato butter and truffled almonds. The herb marinated grilled veal chop with black truffle parmesan risotto and fresh Italian black truffles is sensational. So is the Cappesante e Pancetta di Maiale; pan seared scallops, slow roasted pork belly, Yukon gold potato puree and Brussels sprout citrus salad. Wine lovers will go cross-eyed over the 4,000 fantastic selections and the thirty foot wine tower. If you are dressed beach casual, you may find yourself excluded from eating in the dinning room but the bar and patio both have the same great menu and ambience.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: An award winning restaurant where dining is a special event. Enjoy first rate Italian cuisine and one of the area's best wine lists.
Gina's expert tip: Enjoy piano music in the bar before dinner.
Part of Lovers Key Resort, Flippers On The Bay is a hidden gem between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs. The dining is alfresco and more upscale than one might imagine after taking a gander at restaurant on stilts. It's the only spot on the beach giving diners a view of both the sunrise and the sunset, while serving food for both. The chef is full of laughter and you can almost taste that in his food. Try the Lobster Eggs Benedict for breakfast and the Miso Seabass for dinner, it will melt in your mouth. Sitting on the Estero Bay, you still have a clear view of the Gulf of Mexico and it's one of the best spots to see the dolphin show, presented by Mother Nature.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Flippers is the best hidden gem on Fort Myers Beach with an award winning chef and views of both the sunrise and sunset
Gina's expert tip: Call ahead seating will save you a lot of time in line on the weekends
This beach side dining spot has been an island favorite for the perfect combination of food and ambiance, for three decades. With only about a dozen tables, each one has a spectacular view of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. The vibe is cozy, with dim lighting and exquisite attention to detail. The menu changes frequently with lots of fish offerings; the bouillabaisse consistently gets rave reviews. Start with a glass of bubbly or another selection from the high-end wine list and perhaps order the foie gras. Other tempting specials include lamb, duck and decadent homemade desserts. Sunset seatings fill up fast so by all means make a reservation. This is a true, waterside gem.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Every seat in this cozy den has a view of the beach. The food and service have been renowned for years; a special place.