Lunch is one of those dining options with many personalities and possibilities. The midday meal is perfect for business meetings and first dates, as diners are typically on a schedule of getting back to work or fulfilling other timely commitments.
But there’s nothing like a long lunch on a day off or when you’re on vacation, when you can enjoy the subtleties of the noontime nosh. Bistro 41 is one of the most popular places in the area for the “power lunch.” You’ll see deals being made and business discussed over expertly prepared soups, salads and other specials.
For the health conscious crowd, Ada’s Natural Market is the preferred stop. The juice bar inside of the market can accommodate almost any concoction you crave, and the café prepares a range of vegan and organic specialties with fantastic flavor.
And if you happen to be on one of the area's barrier islands, Keylime Bistro is a laid back favorite. Serving gourmet cuisine on Captiva Island, this is a place where schedules seem to take a back seat and diners take a little longer to enjoy each other's company.
Whether you want to linger over lunch or make it a quick stop, you’ll find the perfect spot here, with 10Best.
The Gathering Place
In the center of an executive center that's an enclave for small business, you'll find The Gathering Place. The building is a bit of a maze but if you follow your nose and listen for the laughter you can't help but find this open eatery with casual seating a dining counter. The owners dish out more than great food, but also a big dose of Southern hospitality. Mrs. Anita is in the kitchen cooking up both American fare and food with a Peruvian twist. The daily specials range from traditional to gourmet and there is always something sweet to eat. It's a warm and friendly place, not fussy or pretentious and worth the effort it will take to find. (239-425-2626)
Situated almost at the end of Captiva Island, the Keylime Bistro serves up some of the best lunches on the island. No one is in a hurry to get to work or anywhere else here; feel free to linger over a glass of wine from their award winning list, or second or cup of coffee and enjoy live music on the covered, outdoor patio. The menu has lots of seafood but has quite a selection to satisfy your cravings; from shrimp cocktail to nachos and large pasta dishes to a manageable grilled cheese or crab cake sandwich. The grilled salad is a favorite, loaded with hearts of palm, artichokes, portobellos and goat cheese, then drizzled with tomato-orange vinaigrette. (239-395-4000)
Grandma Dot's Seaside Saloon
At a place called Grandma Dot's, you almost expect friendly service and delicious homemade food with that extra little touch of something special; you get it here. Owners call it a Seaside Saloon at the Sanibel Marina; locals call it scrumptious. Open for lunch and dinner, the earlier option is much more affordable. Sit with a view overlooking the water and marina, while dining on light refreshing salads, peel and eat shrimp, mesquite grouper and lots more fresh seafood selections. Dot's is also very proud of their homemade chowder. Lunches are served with a side of fruit and a big dose of hospitality. (239-472-2723)
This sexy sushi bar sports sleek furniture, mod design and walls that recall the deep blue sea. Blu's lunch is perhaps one of the deals in town with an endless special for only $16.95. You might think unlimited sushi would be limited to the boring, everyday rolls but not at Blu where you get to choose from starters like Edamame and Miso Soup to delicious specialty rolls like Spicy Tuna, Mexican, Volcano and Sugar Mama to name a few. If you're not that hungry, there is a basic lunch special that includes a signature roll and a soup or salad for only $9.95. Who says good sushi has to cost a fortune? (239-489-1500)
Fish Tale Grill By Merrick Seafood
For more than two decades Merrick's Seafood has provided fresh fish to dozens of Southwest Florida restaurants. In 2013, the family opened a restaurant next to the market in Cape Coral. Now patrons can enjoy both indoor and outdoor seating at Fish Tale Grill, while dining on affordable seafood fresh off of the boat. The menu has a large selection of salads and the Seafood Cobb is loaded with shellfish. The popular tuna wrap is beautiful as well as tasty with a ginger teriyaki glaze, cucumber, tomato, pickled ginger, mango and wasabi. Other favorites include the lobster roll, grouper sandwich, fish and chips and chowder. You'll even find suitable, live music on the deck many days, weather permitting. (239-257-3167)
Bennett's Fresh Roast
Bennett's Fresh Roast has a bit of a cult following, off the beaten path in downtown Fort Myers. Owned by a longtime, local radio personality C. David Bennett, his donuts gained international attention on the Cooking Channel's Donut Showdown. That's also where he debuted the donut dog, a popular lunch sandwich. The lunch menu also includes freshly prepared soups and huge salads. The meats for his panini's are roasted in house daily and they're full of flavor. Perhaps one of the best sandwiches on the menu is the lobster roll. Full of claw and knuckle meat, the lobster salad rests in an authentic New England hot dog bun, toasted in butter. Be sure to save room for dessert. Besides his famous donuts, Bennett also makes a mean praline bread pudding, juicy apple pie and other sweet treats. (239-332-0077)
Ada's Natural Market
Ada's is a family-run health food market that has been in the Fort Myers area since the late 70's. It has changed hands a number of times and briefly shut down before coming back bigger and better than ever. The Green Leaf Café at the front of the store offers table service of selections that taste great with half of the guilt. Choose from black bean burgers to grass feed beef dishes including a beef roulade stuffed with spinach, artichoke and goat cheese. The sandwiches and salads here are fresh, flavorful and plentiful. If you don't have time to sit, the pre-prepared options are pretty impressive. This café offers more than veggie and fruit juices, you can also find wine by the glass. ((239) 939-9600)
The Other Side Bistro
The Otherside Bistro (cleverly named as it sits on the 'other side' of a popular pub) is cool and cozy, a great find on a busy stretch of US41 in Bonita Springs. Chef Brian McCarley has a long history of serving great food in the Fort Myers area and has taken his business to new heights at this small bistro. The lunches are particularly pleasant with big salads, savory sandwiches, a juicy burger and a quiche of the day. You'll also find local favorites such as crab cakes and seafood pasta. The interior is modern, with a small outdoor dining area as well. Chef loves wine and is particular about offering a good selection and at a nice price. Cheers! (239-992-7433)
Bistro 41 features a sophisticated setting with fine American cuisine in a popular shopping center, providing foot traffic for fun people watching. With both indoor and outdoor seating, this has also become a centrally located, hot spot for power lunches. You'll see many movers and shakers meeting over the highly popular Bistro Salad; loaded with gorgonzola, portobellos, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts, in a balsamic dressing with a pesto drizzle. Other lunch favorites include the lobster melt served with tomato bisque or the savory, cheesy French onion soup. The wine list here is spectacular and the lunch service is on point, wether you want to linger or have to rush to another appointment. (239-466-4141)
Mermaid Garden Cafe
You might find the location of this alluring café a bit odd--in an executive center--but the search is something that many discerning diners enjoy. You can't help but want to come inside once you walk by the Mermaid with its green and white walls and black and white checkered tile. Chef Gloria Jordan puts a bit of her Cuban magic into the farm to table type cuisine served here. The vegetables are seasonal, fresh and accentuated by her daily drizzles. Farm fresh eggs are the protein of choice as many lunch specials include them. Baquettes and cibatta rolls are stuffed wtih slow cooked meats, seared tuna and more. Whatever you do, save room for the delicious pastries that tempt you from their glass enclosure. Wash it all down with a variety of coffee, teas and a unique selection of wine. (239-425-3480)
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