This unique Sanibel restaurant is where foodies often 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.
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: Chef Marco 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.
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 piano 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: Ask Denny, the General Manager, for special bottles of wine not on the menu
Don't let the simple name ("food" in Italian) and the unassuming location of CIBO fool you. Serving up some of the most exquisite Italian food in Fort Myers, the restaurant's chic interior will make you quickly forget you're in a strip mall. Be sure to try mama's meatballs; a healthy mix of veal, beef and pork with parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. Many of the pasta's are handmade and the chef makes delicious risotto specials each day. Open since 2004 they've been able to expand while managing to keep the intimate atmospher. The staff is full of professional who pay attention to detail while having fun. CIBO's (pronounced Chee-boe) small bar has become a bit of a "Cheers" bar for locals, especially after work. CIBO is only open for dinner.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: CIBO is one of the oldest, most respected Italian restaurants in Fort Myers with outstanding food and service.
Gina's expert tip: Longtime bartender, Pepe', makes a mean martini.
At Liberty, Chef Bob Boye takes a lot of liberty with his nightly selections. The menu resembles a bingo card, each of the twelve or so squares containing the description of a small plate to share or keep all to your self. The selections almost always include vegetarian options such as beet with coriander and lemon, along with pastas like gnocchi with gouda and mushrooms and meats ranging from short ribs to pork belly and more. While Boye manages to keep a few signature selections, part of the fun in dining in this small, modern diner-like space, is discovering what new flavors and textures he comes up with when his creativity flows.
Recommended for Best Restaurants because: A small restaurant in a small strip mall, where the chef thrives on creative and constant change when putting together is nightly small plate menu.
Gina's expert tip: There is a private room in the back for special events and parties
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 and attracts like minded diners. She is seen more often on the floor these days, than in the kitchen, working the room in fashionable attire. 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.
The scratch kitchen establishment by popular chef Harold Balink, expanded in the fall of 2021 to include a full service bar, but the space still has an intimate touch. It's kind of like being a guest at a special dinner party where a many diners know each other. The expansion, with its open kitchen, also allows Harold room to work the room and his guests love it. 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: The new bar area is first come first serve seating if you are unable to secure a reservation.
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. During winter and spring when breakfast is served try the Lobster Eggs Benedict. For dinner the Miso Seabass is a melt in your mouth signature. 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: Closed for breakfast during summer months
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 mostly 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 he cures the salmon in house. It makes for an artful appetizer presentation when prepared 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 a number of colorful 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.
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 thoughtfully curated list. Tempting specials change but often 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 and sunset seating are coveted. The food, wine and service are renowned.
Gina's expert tip: The owners often close the Month of September so double check post covid closures for the fall.