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Seafood, European and Southern: Fort Myers best restaurants



The foodie movement is alive and well in Fort Myers, and the number of high-quality restaurants in the area is a testament to that fact. While there are plenty of tried and true, long-standing favorites here, there are always new and unique spots popping up to tickle your taste buds. 

For a bit of romance and a great sunset, it's worth the winding drive through Sanibel Island to the Mad Hatter. This small, beachside restaurant has a superb menu with service and view to write home about. 

Expect Southern hospitality and charm at the well-established Veranda in downtown Fort Myers. This is a long-standing, special occasion, let's linger over a cocktail kind of place. 

Keep in mind that hours often change during summer with many locally-owned spots closing on Monday's for a much-needed break after the winter and spring tourist 'season.'

From the elegance of restaurants in historic buildings to hidden treasures tucked away in nondescript strip malls, these 10Best restaurants have the right combination of atmosphere, service, food and overall quality that keeps diners coming back.


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La Trattoria Cafe Napoli
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch


Regulars refer to the restaurant as 'Gloria's', after chef/owner Gloria Jordan. She is passionate about food, wine, music and life in general; this passion is evident in her establishment. She is seen more often on the floor these days, than in the kitchen, working the room in sassy high heels and fashionable dresses. Gloria is Cuban but has worldwide experience and training, explaining the many flavors and cuisines she is able to bring together. This is the only true tapas bar in Fort Myers with creamy croquetas, mussels and signature plums stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped with prosciutto. Most of the tapas are available for lunch as well.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Regulars come here not only for the Meditteranean cuisine with a twist, but also to socialize with the spirited Cuban owner.

Gina's expert tip: There is often live music on the weekends, usually a solo singer/musician that keeps mellow early, but if the crowd calls for it, can bring up the beat for dancing.

Read more about La Trattoria Cafe Napoli →


9
Sanibel Island
Sweet Melissa's Cafe
Photo courtesy of Sweet Melissa's


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 a small patio that's lovely for al fresco dining when the weather allows and a cozy, full-service bar. You'll definitely want to secure a reservation for dining in the Winter and Spring tourist seasons.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Some of the best, most innovative, and consistently prepared food you'll find on Sanibel Island including local produce, seafood, beef and everything in-between.

Gina's expert tip: Most of the parking is in the rear of the restaurant.

Read more about Sweet Melissa's Cafe →


Osteria Celli
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch


Don't expect chicken parm at this Italian restaurant; Chef Marco Corricelli doesn't serve the more common, or Americanized Italian dishes. His food is inspired by many different regions in Italy, his pasta handmade daily and cooked just right. The meatballs are stuffed with ricotta and they are divine. The specials go fast each night, so get your order in swiftly if you see something that piques your interest. The food here is all fresh, flavorful and served with flare. The wine list mostly consists of Italian selections from smaller producers. Chef keeps an eye on the restaurant from the open kitchen and almost always makes time to greet diners with a friendly "ciao."

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: The chef from Milano makes pasta fresh every day with a small menu of specialties from all regions of Italy and wines to match.

Gina's expert tip: Check the website for seasonal dining specials that include prefix and early dining menus that often include wine.

Read more about Osteria Celli →


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7
Downtown
Veranda


Occupying two old homes dating back to 1902 (they were joined by Peter Pulitzer for his long-time fishing buddy, Fingers O'Bannon, in the early 1970s), for years the Veranda has provided a charming atmosphere as well as consistently good cuisine. The personal yet professional service will enhance your dining experience whether you choose to eat indoors or out. 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 a sophisticated establishment. A favorite special occasion place, the Veranda is the perfect place for romance and quiet conversation.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Romantically set in a beautiful, historic downtown Fort Myers house, this restaurant makes for a special evening out.

Gina's expert tip: The bar is full of legal eagles after work.

Read more about Veranda →


6
Bonita Springs
Wyld's Cafe


You would never guess the treasure found inside of this restaurant situated in a strip mall with no frontage, on the bustling Bonita Beach Road. Serving modern American cuisine with a French twist you'll also find a selection of gluten-free and vegetarian dishes. The produce and fish are mostly local. The sauces made in house and the risotto is decadent. The Tenderloin Saga is a signature dish; thick steak topped with Saga blue cheese and a mound of crispy pommes frites on top. There is a unique selection of craft brews and a wine list that covers the globe with 150 bottle selections and twenty by the glass.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A hidden gem inside of a strip mall with no footage, once you walk through the back entrance you're in for a dining treat.

Gina's expert tip: Private dining and event space can accommodate up to 40 people.

Read more about Wyld's Cafe →


BLANC
Photo courtesy of Blanc


A small restaurant with a big city feel BLANC has a cool atmosphere, great service and superb food. Known for its Robata Grill, the insanely high heat is perfect for searing meat, cooking vegetables and keeping the menu gluten-free. The French proprietor is extremely particular about the ingredients served here and with only 22 seats to fill, he almost has to be. The fish is brought in daily and her cures the salmon in house for an artful appetizer where the fish is served three ways. Daily trips are made to local markets in search of the freshest seasonal produce. The wine selection is wordly and without a full bar, provides the base for artful cocktails.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A chic, gourmet restaurant tucked inside of a tropical shopping plaza, has a seasonal menu full of unique twists and simple classics.

Gina's expert tip: The space is small so it never hurts to make a reservation.

Read more about BLANC →


4
South Fort Myers
Harold's
Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch


A farm to table establishment by popular chef Harold Balink, this intimate space only has room for about 30 diners at a time, many of whom are fans of Balink and know each other. Sometimes it feels like you're a guest at a special dinner party. The menu changes weekly as chef seeks out seasonal produce and meats from local, small production farms. He is known for making carnivores happy, and the creative preparations found here continually impress critics and followers alike. Wines selections are handpicked and not ones you are likely to find in retail outlets. The staff pays great attention to detail and always make you feel welcomed.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: An intimate dining experience with hearty dishes and superb wines, run by one of the area's most beloved and talented chefs.

Gina's expert tip: Check the chalkboard for rotating wine specials.

Read more about Harold's →


Angelina's Ristorante
Photo courtesy of Angelina's Ristorante


Angelina's screams elegance from the moment you pull up to the building. Be sure to try the award-winning ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and mascarpone cheese, topped with a citrus tomato butter and truffled almonds. The herb-marinated grilled veal chop with black truffle parmesan risotto and fresh Italian black truffles are sensational. So is the Cappesante e Pancetta di Maiale; pan seared scallops, slow-roasted pork belly, Yukon gold potato puree and Brussels sprout citrus salad. Wine lovers will go cross-eyed over the 4,000 fantastic selections and the thirty-foot wine tower. If you are dressed beach casual, you may find yourself excluded from eating in the dining room but the bar and patio both have the same great menu and ambiance.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: An award-winning restaurant where dining is a special event. Enjoy first-rate Italian cuisine and one of the area's best wine lists.

Gina's expert tip: Enjoy piano music in the bar before dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

Read more about Angelina's Ristorante →


Flippers on the Bay
Photo courtesy of Lovers Key Resort


Part of Lovers Key Resort, Flippers On The Bay is a hidden gem between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs. The dining is alfresco and more upscale than one might imagine after taking a gander at the restaurant on stilts. It's the only spot on the beach giving diners a view of both the sunrise and the sunset while serving food for both. The chef is full of laughter and you can almost taste that in his food. Try the Lobster Eggs Benedict for breakfast and the Miso Seabass for dinner, it will melt in your mouth. Sitting on the Estero Bay, you still have a clear view of the Gulf of Mexico and it's one of the best spots to see the dolphin show, presented by Mother Nature.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Flippers is the best-hidden gem on Fort Myers Beach with an award-winning chef and views of both the sunrise and sunset.

Gina's expert tip: Call ahead seating will save you a lot of time in line on the weekends.

Read more about Flippers on the Bay →


1
Sanibel Island
Mad Hatter
Photo courtesy of The Mad Hatter


This beachside 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 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. Other tempting specials include lamb, duck and decadent homemade desserts. Sunset seatings fill up fast so, by all means, make a reservation. This is a true, waterside gem.

Recommended for Best Restaurants because: Every seat in this cozy den has a view of the beach. The food and service have been renowned for years in this special place.

Gina's expert tip: The owners often close the Month of September.

Read more about Mad Hatter →


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Meet Gina Birch

Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for more than 20 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality. She also writes for a number...  More About Gina

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