The Cottage is cool, a favorite spot for locals year-round for its great view, food and entertainment. As part of the more civilized Gulfshore Grill, the Cottage is a casual, outdoor beach bar with an unobstructed view of the water. People come by car, by boat and on foot to party here. You'll find live music at The Cottage just about every night. Sometimes the acts are solo and more mellow, other times full bands set up and rock the deck. At times you can also hear the music coming from the neighboring Lani Kai Resort, a Spring Break magnet. It's fun to watch the madness from the safety of the Cottage deck, but also easy to walk next door and join the raucous celebration.
Recommended for Bars because: It's not just the cold drinks, casual good food, and live music that keep people coming but also the real estate on the Gulf of Mexico.
Gina's expert tip: Be wary of the "no parking" signs when looking for a spot here, beach towing is aggressive. Take advantage of the valet
If you crave a waterfront bar with a welcoming vibe, find Dixie on the so-called 'back bay' rather than the Gulf of Mexico. Undercover, yet all open air, this rustic spot has an expansive, circular bar as well as a dining ledge that faces the water, offering great views of the fishing charters and party boats headed out for the day or night. This bar offers a lot more than 'bar food' with things like a low land seafood boil, oysters, shrimp burgers, and killer B.L. TAE: bacon, lettuce, fried green tomatoes, fried egg and avocado sandwich. The music is often gritty but always good and the crowd is quite diverse. Arrival is welcomed by both land and sea thanks to public docking space.
Recommended for Bars because: Offering a casual vibe, great music and a well-executed menu, this waterfront bar is found on the back bay of Fort Myers Beach.
Gina's expert tip: It's under rather than over the big bridge to Fort Myers Beach.
"Southern Sophistication" has been the long-running theme at Fancy's, for both food and decor. Busting at the seams, owners expanded at the end of 2013, adding a rustic wine bar with soft, chic accents, and most recently expanded to include liquor. A small loft above the bar is just big enough for acoustic musicians to entertain patrons on the weekends and occasionally weekdays during the season. Offering more than 100 wine selections by the bottle and about thirty by the glass, you can get special pricing at the happy hour, which begins nice and early, at 3 pm. The bar also hosts monthly wine tastings, highlighting features and favorites.
Recommended for Bars because: The shabby chic wine bar does not have a full liquor license to complement its cozy seating, attentive bartenders, and acoustic music.
Gina's expert tip: Foodservice in the bar is often put on hold during crunch time in the restaurant.
A funky, dimly lit pizza joint in Cape Coral, Nice Guys has almost a cult following, especially late at night. It's small, so you may have to wait for a table, or seat at the ball, but it's worth it. A bit rock-n-roll, a bit hippy, this spot with an eclectic-cool vibe also has an exotic selection of craft beers. They've expanded to include an adjoining lounge with a stage, cozy seating and interactive games. The pizzas are fantastic; try the Truffle Shuffle and their infamous garlic knots. After a night of partying, things like fried pickles, cheese stix and deep-fried Oreos also resonate well with patrons. Best of all, the staff and customers at Nice Guys, really are NICE.
Recommended for Bars because: Sit elbow to elbow with other patrons at this funky and delicious pizzeria, eatery and bar, with an adjoining space for live entertainment and games.
Gina's expert tip: Check Nice Guy's Facebook page for updated info on live music
This bar is tucked away in a downtown square that although not well marked, is well known if you need to ask for directions. Patio de Leon is hidden between restaurants and bars, but once you find the entrance, locating Room 86 becomes much easier, even with the bar's minimal markings. This speakeasy serves both inventive and classic cocktails, moonshine, wine and more. With a hip yet vintage, 1930's vibe, the live music is mostly jazz and blues. A back alley adds to the atmosphere, only this one has brick pavers and lights strewn between the buildings. The crowd here is quite mixed and always entertaining.
Recommended for Bars because: This downtown speakeasy is hip and happening, with inventive cocktails, live music and a tempting alley for a quiet escape.
Gina's expert tip: For best access, take the alley entrance next to Downtown House of Pizza.
The Downtown Social House, or SOHO for short, is punctuated by exposed brick, a fireplace and a wall of old speakers inside. The outdoor garden provides space that encourages people to indeed be 'social' with one another, through games like Jenga, shared tables and a communal fire pit. Happy Hour goes from 4-8 every day (sans Sunday) where you can enjoy specials such as $1 drafts and discounts on food. A different special is featured every day from free appetizers to free house cocktails. The craft cocktail program is ever-changing, the food consists of flavorful small bites with a few entree sized options.
Recommended for Bars because: This bar encourages being 'social' with community tables and games. The outdoor garden is inviting and the exposed brick bar inside is welcoming.
Gina's expert tip: Enjoy a fire pit and a game of corn hole outside.
Adjacent to Twisted Vine Bistro, this bourbon and blues bar has brought a new level of "cool" to downtown Fort Myers. You'll not only find an extensive selection of whiskey, wine and other spirits but also a gastropub menu with the kitchen serving until midnight. Enjoy items such as tuna and watermelon ceviche, shrimp and chorizo mac-n-cheese and lots more. The space is cozy, with reclaimed wood, low lighting and a small stage that has been home to some of the best jazz and blues musicians in the area. It has also earned a reputation for snagging big names touring nationally, looking for a gig in between stops in Miami and Tampa. The Barrel Room is a hot spot with sophisticated fun.
Recommended for Bars because: A beautiful bar made of repurposed wood, stocked with a superb selection of top-shelf spirits, this bar also has great acoustics for live music.
Gina's expert tip: Dine next door at the Twisted Vine Bistro and finish the evening with live music in the Barrel Room.
Nevermind's moniker is "Awesome Bar and Eatery", and that it is. The hotspot in downtown Cape Coral is the brainchild of successful Southwest Florida restaurateur Shannon Yates. Nevermind is a small space so it fills up fast with fans wanting specialty cocktails made with fresh ingredients, even the simple syrup is made in house. Thankfully the spot has expanded to include a neighboring Irish bar and some outdoor seating. For a refreshing cocktail try the white sangria made with St. Germaine, Citrus vodka, Sauvignon Blanc and fresh fruit. The bar bites here are savory and satisfying. Food and drinks are served late, especially on the weekends when 3 AM is the closing time.
Recommended for Bars because: It's one of the coolest spots in downtown Cape Coral with inventive cocktails and craft beers; standing room only on the weekends.
Gina's expert tip: Nevermind hosts a range of events and concerts so check the website for a listing.
The Cigar Bar has been a hotspot in downtown Fort Myers for more than fifteen years. A family-owned establishment, the bar is sophisticated and masculine, yet cozy with a unique decor that keeps your eyes busy, including taxidermy. There are oversized chairs, winged-back chairs and heavy bar stools that offer the best view of the wide selection spirits. You can even sit outside and watch the parade of people as they walk downtown. Owners take pride in their high-end spirits; cognac, single malt scotch, bourbon and fine wines. The Cigar Bar opens up into an adjacent space to accommodate the crowds and provide a venue for local bands to play.
Recommended for Bars because: The Cigar Bar has sophistication and comfort, with a great selection of scotch, cognac and whiskey, not to mention a huge humidor.
Gina's expert tip: There are additional locations at Gulf Coast Town Center and in Cape Coral.
The Firestone is a four-story entertainment and restaurant complex in a historic building, facing the newly renovated waterfront in downtown Fort Myers. The Martini Bar on the third is known to locals as the "Brick Bar", home to live bands as well as DJ's. The bar has been renovated, and while it still has some of the old rustic feel, it is definitely more posh with backlighting and other upgrades. The rooftop Sky Bar is home to some of the area's hottest DJ's who keep the party going until the wee hours of the morning. You can walk up from the Martini Bar or take an express elevator from the ground floor. Sit at the bar or reserve a spot at the comfy couches along the perimeter for some of the best people watching downtown.
Recommended for Bars because: One building, four floors, three bars, all with a different personality. Where the "in" crowd goes for drinks downtown.
Gina's expert tip: Arrive by 10 on the weekends to avoid a line for partygoers headed to the Sky Bar.