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Dining at Its Finest in Fort Myers



Fort Myers is a coastal community, full of casual dining. Sports jackets and cocktail dresses are rarely required and you may be disappointed to see jeans and even shorts worn at the bars of some of the so-called ‘classy’ restaurants. This doesn’t mean you won't get top-notch service, thoughtfully prepared dishes and all of the other elements that fit the fine dining definition for most people.

While the Fort Myers area is happy to host high-end and well established corporate restaurants like Roy’s and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, where you’re sure to find great service and quality, this 10Best list highlights the locally owned dining gems that hold their own next to these big boys.

Angelina’s is one of the few spots that does have a dress code. You won't be turned away if your attire is not suitable, instead you’ll be seated in the bar area where dining is just as good.

You’ll also find well-heeled clientele and remarkable attention to detail at the historic Veranda in downtown Fort Myers, one of the area’s oldest, most highly regarded fine dining establishments.

Do keep in mind that hours tend to change in the slower summer season. Suit up and head out to these 10Best fine dining spots for a special night out.


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Misto Bar & Grill
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch


Misto is one of those white linen table cloth, tucked in a strip mall kinda places that foodies long to find. Misto means diverse in Italian and while Chef and owner, Jeorge Lanese, is well known for his Italian expertise, he has branched out at this location with dishes like Seafood Napolean; diver scallops, blue crab stuffed shrimp wrapped in smoked bacon with a hoisin orange and Thai chili sauce over rice. The rich risotto cakes are layered with mozzarella and pesto, over an amazing veal Ragu. The rolls have a crisp but delicate surface with pillowy goodness underneath and all of it is made from scratch. Many regulars rebuff the menu, instructing the chef to send out something amazing, which he does. Misto serves lunch and has a small bar that fills up fast.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: Misty is a food lovers oasis in Cape Coral. The menu offers a fusion of flavors and big portions to fill the perfectly set tables.

Gina's expert tip: Order a bottle of wine, or two, as the mark-up is considerably low.

Read more about Misto Bar & Grill →


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

Recommended for Fine Dining because: This Sanibel Island gem with a small bar offers a seasonal menu full of beautifully plated food and service to match.

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

Read more about Sweet Melissa's Cafe →


8
South Fort Myers


From the moment you step into the Roadhouse Cafe, you'll forget you're in a small strip mall in Fort Myers. You might instead think you've been transported to a big city jazz and dinner club, offering something special every night of the week. The restaurant is spacious but still manages to keep an intimate touch. The chef has had many successful runs in the area and knows how to please his patrons with tastefully prepared dishes. People dress not only to dine here, but also to dance. Besides food, the music is the next big star. Many jazz greats have passed through the doors at the Roadhouse, upping the ante for an evening of sophisticated food and fun you won't soon forget.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: This restaurant has it all; chic décor, a talented chef, welcoming staff and world class entertainment.

Gina's expert tip: Check out the 'jazz jam' every Sunday night

Read more about Roadhouse Cafe →


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7
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 your 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 Fine Dining because: This small, cozy restaurant is run by a gentle giant who takes sourcing, cooking, plating his food seriously while offering unique wine selections to match.

Gina's expert tip: Check the chalk board for unique wine specials

Read more about Harold's →


Il Cielo
Photo courtesy of Il Cielo


Il Cielo means "the sky" and the stars seem to always shine at this Sanibel Island spot. The bar is dimly lit and stocked with unique spirits as well as wines from around the world. The glasses are polished, there are linens on the tables, the staff is courteous and knowledgalbe, and the soft piano music each night is the icing on the top to the welcoming ambiance. The menu has a big focus on seafood with both Mediterranean and Asian touches. However the steaks are quite special as well. Desserts are a big part of a romantic night out and Il Cielo has their own pastry chef. Beautifully prepared and presented, they are the perfect end to a fabulous meal here.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: The food is top notched, the atmosphere is classic and so is the service, but with a side of personality that makes your feel welcomed.

Gina's expert tip: Sunday brunch is offered seasonally

Read more about Il Cielo →


5
Bonita Springs
Chops City Grill
Photo courtesy of Chops City Grill


This local restaurant is serious about its steaks. Chops dry ages its beef in house until it reaches the pinnacle of quality. Besides its great cuts of meat, this steakhouse sources its vegetables and seafood locally, and seeks superior ingredients for all preparations. You'll find lots of small batch bourbons and other spirits, along with a wine list that spans the globe with some 400 selections. Call ahead for special requests, even wine decanting so your favorite bottle will be breathing when you arrive for your reservation. The upscale décor gives way to a lovely outdoor patio with twinkling lights and occasional entertainment, especially when the weather is friendly.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: This chic steakhouse does its dry aging onsite, while offering hard to find wines and spirits in an upscale yet inviting atmosphere.

Gina's expert tip: Enjoy great happy hour and seasonal wine specials at the bar

Read more about Chops City Grill →


4
Bonita Springs


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, however Walleye is almost always on theme for Midwest transplants. 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 crisp 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 Fine Dining 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: Much of the art on the wall is for sale

Read more about Wyld's Cafe →


3
Sanibel Island
Mad Hatter
Photo courtesy of The Mad Hatter


This beach side dining spot has been an island favorite for the perfect combination of food and ambiance, for three decades. With 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 the staff pays perfect 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 ecclectic wine list and perhaps order the foie gras. Sunset seating's fill up fast so by all means make a reservation. This is a true, waterside gem where shirts and shoes are definitely required

Recommended for Fine Dining because: While most beachside restaurants are casual, diners come to the Mad Hatter for its coastal elegance and outstanding food.

Gina's expert tip: The owners close most of September.

Read more about Mad Hatter →


Angelina's Ristorante
Photo courtesy of Angelina's Ristorante


Angelina's screams elegance from the moment you pull up to the restaurant and hand your keys to the valet. The dining room is large but still intimate and the polished servers know exactly how to navigate it. You may want to ask for direction from the sommelier when choosing from the nearly 4,000 fantastic bottles housed in the thirty-foot wine tower. The food is plated to perfection, with attention to detail, and tastes as good as it looks. Try the award winning ravioli stuffed with butternut squash and mascarpone cheese, topped with a citrus tomato butter and truffled almonds. If you are dressed a bit too casual, you may find yourself being guided to the bar and patio for dining, both have the same great menu and atmosphere.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: This award winning Italian restaurant has a dining room dress code, a spectacular wine list, mouthwatering cuisine and stellar service.

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

Read more about Angelina's Ristorante →


1
Downtown
Veranda


This downtown Fort Myers dining icon occupies two old homes dating back to 1902. For decades the Veranda has provided an atmosphere of southern sophistication, consistently good cuisine and impeccable service. Many of the staff have been here for years and will go above and beyond to make your night memorable. Specializing in regional flavors and seafood, a restaurant favorite is artichoke fritters stuffed with blue crab. 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 such a refined establishment. A favorite special occasion place, the Veranda is the perfect place for romance and quiet conversation or a special celebration.

Recommended for Fine Dining because: This historic downtown restaurant has a reputation for for consistently good food, atmosphere and service.

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

Read more about Veranda →


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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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