Here, the chef took a small, cozy spot once home to a popular French restaurant, gave it a much needed facelift and re-opened the doors in fall 2015.
What's on the menu, you ask? Farm-to-table fare, with offerings you won't find anywhere else in the city.
Harold's beet salad is a seasonal favorite — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Balink got his restaurant start as a kid, working at his grandparents' steakhouse in Colorado. After going to culinary school, he worked in and opened restaurants all over the nation before falling in love and settling down in Fort Myers.
So far, he’s owned many establishments from Fort Myers Beach to the downtown River District and, most recently, he was the majority owner at the trendy restaurant Cru, located in the Bell Tower Shops.
But Balink made the decision to downsize from his high-profile position at Cru, and get back to the basics following a family illness. He’s in the kitchen, running the show, but he always takes time to come out and greet friends, old and new, with a hearty handshake or warm hug.
He's a lovable kind of guy, and it shows in his food, both in flavor and presentation.
Not only is Balink passionate about food and wine, but also about serving people.
"Everyone has a niche, and for me it’s being a servant," he says.
Lion fish is a favorite dish at Harold's — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
The menu at Harold’s is seasonal. Because of his lower volume, many organic and local farmers sell special goods to him, such as meats and produce you won't find at other restaurants in the Fort Myers area.
Balink has always had a knack for cooking meat, but he's also adept at preparing things from the sea. An item that you don't often see on menus is lion fish. The beautiful, spiny creatures are non-native and endangering the state’s reef system. Divers gather them up, and this chef expertly filet’s around their stinging spines to get to their tender meat.
It's a lot of effort to catch and prepare this fish, but both diners and biologists say it's worth it. Balink sears his lion fish and serves it with things like braised fennel, saffron and tomato.
He also makes his own pasta, from a classic Bolognese to an almond ricotta angolotti served with seared scallops and a rich brown butter.
Don’t skip dessert. Balink’s list includes house-made ice cream, Norman Love truffles and warm apple pie with candied bacon, among other things.
Harold’s is in an obscure strip mall that sits off of the well-traveled US 41 in south Fort Myers. He’s open for dinner only, Wednesday through Saturday. There is a small bar that can accommodate walk-ins, but reservations are most encouraged.
Scallops topped with foie gras is a special appetizer at Harold's — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch