When Fort Myers locals hear the name Lani Kai, they almost immediately think “party.” For years, this beach resort has not only been a spring break mecca, but also a popular party place year-round.
Safely above the beer bongs and bikini contests is a large rooftop with a causal, al fresco bar and restaurant, as well as a newly remodeled, distinguished dining destination. The Island View Restaurant underwent a magnificent transformation during spring 2014. The air-conditioned space now has polished wood floors, modern nautical accessories and a fresh, chic feel.
Diners get a front row seat of the oyster shucking, as well as the wood-fired oven, at the new raw bar — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
The cocktail bar offers a view that includes miles of blue water, white sand and glowing sunsets. Across the restaurant, a new raw bar allows diners to interact with the culinary crew. The seating is also good for watching chefs expertly negotiate the wood-fired grill - another new feature and the only one you’ll find on Fort Myers Beach.
The menu takes full advantage of this cooking tool, with an entire section devoted to both wood-fired appetizers and entrees. The gourmet flatbreads come with a variety of cheeses and fresh toppings, perfect for sharing. The grilled octopus has lots of spice, and the salads come in generous portions. Chefs serve the ceviche with thinly sliced cucumbers instead of chips, and the spicy shrimp appetizer comes without breading; both are great options for gluten-sensitive diners.
While most diners expect to find good seafood at a beach restaurant, and the Island View delivers in spades, you might be surprised at the kitchen’s expertise when it comes to beef. The prime rib is succulent and tender, with lots of savory au jois. It's comfort food at its best.
Besides great seafood, the Island View turns out delicious comfort food like this prime rib — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Cocktail connoisseurs will be more than content with the drink menu, as it's loaded with specialties. Martinis are served old school, in small glasses with a sidecar, and the evolving wine list has enough selections by the bottle and glass to please the palates of the oenophiles in your party.
The Lani Kai is a lumbering building with a brightly painted Hawaiian façade, so don’t judge this book by its cover. With valet parking and an express elevator opening directly into the restaurant, dressed up diners can completely avoid the beer and bikini scene. That is, if you want to.
Either way, the party below becomes a distant memory once you get six floors up to the roof and experience the impressive shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico. It is by far the best view you'll find on Fort Myers Beach.