Fort Myers is a coastal community, full of casual dining. Sports jackets and cocktail dresses are rarely required and you may be disappointed to see jeans and even shorts worn at the bars of some of the so-called ‘classy’ restaurants. This doesn’t mean you won't get top-notch service, thoughtfully prepared dishes and all of the other elements that fit the fine dining definition for most people.
While the Fort Myers area is happy to host high-end and well established corporate restaurants like Roy’s and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, where you’re sure to find great service and quality, this 10Best list highlights the locally owned dining gems that hold their own next to these big boys.
Angelina’s is one of the few spots that does have a dress code. You won't be turned away if your attire is not suitable, instead you’ll be seated in the bar area where dining is just as good.
You’ll also find well-heeled clientele and remarkable attention to detail at the historic Veranda in downtown Fort Myers, one of the area’s oldest, most highly regarded fine dining establishments.
Do keep in mind that hours tend to change in the slower summer season. Suit up and head out to these 10Best find dining spots for a special night out.
Cru is a local favorite to see and be seen in Fort Myers, with a popular bar scene. But on the other side of the bar, the dining room takes on a life of its own. The tables are always properly dressed while the servers are on their A game, offering a great knowledge of the often changing menu and wine list. The chef's are well respected and well known for inventive, quality food that is artfully prepared. If you happen to be in town for one of Cru's wine dinners, be sure to book a seat as the pairings and execution are consistently on target. Or simply reserve a seat at the Chef's Table and give them free reign to do what they do best, feed you. ((239) 466-3663)
In the middle of Estero Island, Bayfront Bistro has great views of the mangroves in what locals call the 'back bay,' where it is quite common to see dolphins at play. Almost every seat has a view of the water and the breezy, outdoor terrace is perfect for fresh air and romance. The staff is well trained on the finer details of serving; they do their best to make sure you are happy. Try the fresh oysters with an apple granata or the Chilean Sea Bass over smoked almond risotto with brussels sprouts. The wine list is expansive and quite often there are extra special selections stashed in the cellar for your special night out. (239-463-3663)
Don't let the simple name ("food" in Italian) and unassuming location of Cibo fool you. Serving up some of the most exquisite Italian food in Fort Myers, the restaurant's chic interior will make you quickly forget you're in a strip mall. Open since 2004 they've been able to expand a bit while managing to keep an intimate atmosphere. Cibo (pronounced Chee-boe) has a staff that is attentive and adept at making suggestions for both food and wine. Be sure to try mama's meatballs; a healthy mix of veal, beef and pork with Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. Chef makes delicious risotto specials each day and decadent desserts. Cibo is only open for dinner. ((239) 454-3700)
Sweet Melissa's Cafe
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 an outdoor patio that's lovely for al fresco dining when weather allows and a small, full-service bar. You'll definitely want to secure a reservation for dining in the Winter and Spring tourist seasons. (239-472-1956)
Don't expect spaghetti and meatballs at this Italian establishment; in fact don't even ask for them. This classy restaurant focuses on the skill of Michael Fattah, a chef whose attention to detail and pursuit of excellence has not gone unrecognized by regional, even national, food critics. Pasta dishes, each of them homemade, are delicious and simple with no over-the-top artsy presentation and never "over-sauced." The house specials are treated with the same high regard, allowing dishes like linguini alla Bolognese and black grouper Provencal to be exactly what they are; naturally flavorful. Chef remembers his clientele and loves to celebrate special occasions with his regulars as well as first timers. (239-495-9912)
From the moment you step into the Roadhouse Cafe, you'll forget you're in a small strip mall in Fort Myers. You might instead think you've been transported to a big city jazz and dinner club, offering something special every night of the week. The restaurant is spacious but still manages to keep an intimate touch. The chef has had many successful runs in the area and knows how to please his patrons with tastefully prepared dishes. People dress not only to dine here, but also to dance. Besides food, the music is the next big star. Many jazz greats have passed through the doors at the Roadhouse, upping the ante for an evening of sophisticated food and fun you won't soon forget. (239-415-4375)
Chops City Grill
This local restaurant is serious about its steaks. Chops dry ages its beef in house until it reaches the pinnacle of quality. Besides its great cuts of meat, this steakhouse sources its vegetables and seafood locally, using superior ingredients in all preparations. You'll find lots of small batch bourbons and other spirits, along with a wine list that spans the globe with some 400 selections. Call ahead for special requests, even wine decanting so your favorite bottle will be breathing when you arrive for your reservation. The upscale décor gives way to a lovely outdoor patio with twinkling lights and occasional entertainment, especially when the weather is friendly. (239-992-4677)
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 the staff pays 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. Sunset seating's fill up fast so by all means make a reservation. This is a true, waterside gem where shirts and shoes are definitely required (239-472-0033)
Angelina's screams elegance from the moment you pull up to the restaurant and hand your keys to the valet. The dining room is large but still intimate and the polished servers know exactly how to navigate it. You may want to ask for direction from the sommelier when choosing from the 4,000 fantastic selections housed in the thirty-foot wine tower. The food is plated to perfection, with attention to detail, and tastes as good as it looks. Try the award winning ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and mascarpone cheese, topped with a citrus tomato butter and truffled almonds. If you are dressed a bit too casual, you may find yourself being guided to the bar and patio for dining, both have the same great menu and atmosphere. (2393903187)
This downtown Fort Myers dining icon occupies two old homes dating back to 1902. For decades the Veranda has provided an atmosphere of southern sophistication, consistently good cuisine and impeccable service. Many of the staff have been here for years and will go above and beyond to make your night memorable. Specializing in regional flavors and seafood, a restaurant favorite is artichoke fritters stuffed with blue crab. 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 such a sophisticated establishment. A favorite special occasion place, the Veranda is the perfect place for romance and quiet conversation or a special celebration. (239-332-2065)
About Gina Birch
Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for 22 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality.
Besides brandishing a microphone, Gina is good with a camera and computer, publishing a restaurant guide for Lee County called FLAVOR.
Gina is a self-proclaimed Oenophile, traveling to wine regions all over the world to sip what she calls "the nectar of the Gods." When not in the vineyards she loves to explore beautiful beaches and new restaurants.
You can find more of her musings in her blog "The Birch Beat" (www.thebirchbeat.blogspot.com)
Read more about Gina Birch here.
Connect with Gina via: Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest