For more than 10 years, Cru has been one of the most popular restaurants and bars at the well-known Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers. Even though it has gone through a series of changes, it has remained consistent in its offerings of creative cuisine, excellent service and a good time.
There was a time when DJs would pack the outdoor bar with weekend partygoers. While you might find an occasional live musician playing these days, the music is more eclectic, like the bartender who picks it: Jay McAuley.
McAuley is a staple in this casual space; regulars both drink and dine outside here to be in his boisterous, jovial presence. Cru also has another, more quiet outdoor dining space on the other side of the restaurant – no bar, but still good for people watching.
Cru's menu is fresh and seasonal, changing often — Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch
The inside bar often has house music, and it's hard to walk through in the early hours, since it's a popular stop before attending events at nearby stadiums and theaters.
Putting the party aside, the main reason people come to Cru is for the food, modern American cuisine. The meats and produce are seasonal and fresh, never frozen.
Chef/Owner Harold Balink has been beloved by many in the Fort Myers restaurant scene for quite some time; he's behind a couple of highly sought-after restaurants downtown. Construction, among other things, led him south to breath a different kind of life into Cru.
Learning from Balink and developing his own culinary skills, Bob Boye is the restaurant's newest Chef/Owner. And it seems he's always creating something new and inventive, while having fun in the process.
Together, the two are most conscientious about the quality of their ingredients, sourcing as much locally as possible. It’s not just about organic but, even more so, sustainable.
When reports began surfacing that Bolivian farmers who grow quinoa can no longer afford to buy it for themselves because of its global demand, Cru stopped serving one of its most popular dishes: no more quinoa. No more sea bass either.
But don’t worry, there's plenty more to choose from. Although the menu changes quite often, you'll almost always find some kind of succulent sea scallops, as well as salmon, tuna and local fish.
These chefs are also great with beef and game. Carnivores will love the selection of steaks, tender short ribs, rich pork belly and wild game burgers, to name a few.
Cru does so many things well, it’s hard to know where to start. But the famous Spicy Krab Rolls certainly rank at the top. The truffle fries with two dipping sauces are a big hit, and so are the escargot and goat cheese raviolis.
Perhaps one of the best dining experiences here is the chef’s table. Book one of the few seats at the bar surrounding the open grill, and let the chefs do the rest. Tell them your budget and your likes and they'll do the driving for the rest of the evening.
You can also see chefs in action at the tapas cooking station in the middle of the main bar. The flames in the fiery oven where the flatbreads and other appetizers are cooked will mesmerize you.
Having served famous politicians, dignitaries and rock stars, the staff here manages to make everyone who walks through the doors feel special. Just another reason why there are so many repeat customers.
Even patrons who are alone and need a place for a quick bite or cold beverage are made to feel at home, despite being in the middle of such a cool crowd.