Al Fresco Dining at its Best in Fort Myers

Outdoor dining is more popular now than ever, and the tropical climate of Southwest Florida makes it possible year round. Even in the dead of winter, the landscape is lush and the white on the ground is sand, rather than snow. The summer can be hot but there is almost always a breeze on the water and inland spots have learned the art of angling high powered fans. 

Waterfront, al fresco dining is part of the lure at both Flipper's on the Bay and Dixie Fish Company. Both have views of the Estero Bay on Fort Myers Beach. Flipper's features global cuisine with outstanding presentation and flavors. Dixie Fish is more casual and rustic with a local, southern twist.  

Blue Pointe Oyster Bar is inland, at The Bell Tower Shops, where the natural scenery is people watching. The restaurant has two patios to accommodate outdoor dining with a menu offering lots of weekly, daily and happy hour features.

Outdoor dining is in high demand for most restaurants, and while not all offer reservations, call ahead seating is a popular option for many Fort Myers area restaurants. 


Keylime Bistro
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Situated almost at the end of Captiva Island, the Keylime Bistro is a long time favorite for its ample outdoor seating, daily entertainment and island fare. No one is in a hurry so feel free to linger over a glass of wine from their award-winning list, or second or a cup of coffee regardless of the time of day. The menu has lots of seafood (try the grouper stuffed with lobster) along with a variety of dishes to satisfy almost any craving. The dining spans breakfast, lunch and dinner. The hollandaise sauce has a key lime twist and the key lime pie is legendary.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Dripping with blooming flowers and lots of ferns, this island restaurant with mostly al fresco seating has an expansive menu and live music daily.

Gina's expert tip: The Bloody Marys are a meal on their own, with hearts of palm, shrimp and other goodies.

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Bonita Springs
Survey Cafe
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Capturing the charm and history of Old Bonita Springs, time seems to slow down at this quaint cafe. Most of the seating is outdoors, on the dog-friendly wooden deck, surrounded by vegetation, local art, and often times music. Step inside and order at the counter. Be sure to check the specials board, then find a table and when your food is ready, someone will find you. The menu has lots of classic French dishes, thanks to the heritage of owners. However, they also know how to put a southern spin on things. Sunday Brunch specials include the Not So French Toast--a bread pudding with berry sauce. Also on Sunday breakfast entrees come with signature cheddar biscuits, served for lunch during the week. The salmon is smoked in house and the crepes melt in your mouth.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: This charming, mostly outdoor cafe is friendly, quirky and best of all, serves delicious food with a nice selection of beer and wine to match.

Gina's expert tip: Dinner is served seasonally on the weekends so check the website before making summer dining plans.

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McGregor Cafe
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Part of what draws people the most to this spot is the location. The McGregor Café is housed in an old home in the middle of an established neighborhood, full of old oak trees and other tropical vegetation. It sits right off of the locally famous McGregor Boulevard. The outdoor seating is casual, you won't feel uncomfortable sitting here in your gym clothes. The staff is always friendly and there is indoor seating if air conditioning is a preference. While famous for their quiche, the salad options are numerous and generous. If you're more hungry try a bowl of pasta or go for the Reuben, the corned beef is made in house. If you like breakfast you can still enjoy it here for lunch.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: One of the first restaurants on McGregor Blvd, the outdoor dining is under large shaded trees, covered in vines. Breakfast is still served for lunch.

Gina's expert tip: Reservations are only accepted for parties of six or more during the week. Weekends and smaller parties, first come first serve.

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Christof's on McGregor
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Set in an old home along Fort Myers most famously picturesque street (McGregor Blvd), patrons love dining alfresco on the spacious wrap-around porch, or under the shade of umbrellas on the front lawn. It feels like you're attending a garden party at a swanky southern estate. Much of the menu is southern inspired but with an Italian touch. The chef/owner is Sicilian. A great example of the fusion is the fried green tomatoes stack. It also has fresh mozzarella and pancetta. The menu has burgers, large salads, truffle cream gnocchi, braised meats and more. This large property is bustling for both lunch and dinner, as well as brunch; both Saturday and Sunday.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Located on Fort Myers' historic McGregor Blvd. this restaurant has expansive lawn seating and a popular wrap around porch with ceiling fans, to host diners.

Gina's expert tip: Don't leave your furry friend out on the fun! Dogs are welcomed on the front patio.

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Blue Pointe Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill - Ft. Myers
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Blue Pointe specializes in seafood and has discounted prices on their fresh oysters each day for happy hour. The indoor dining is chic but outside seating is in high demand. It's a good thing the restaurant has not one but two outdoor options. The front patio is surprisingly tranquil in spite of the parking lot it fronts. The side option offers good people watching with an option for smoking. With a raw bar, sushi and fresh catch options, the menu leans heavily on the surf, although you can find some turf too. Don't pass on the bread. Baked fresh to order, the whole wheat pizza dough is rolled in sunflower and poppy seeds then covered liberals with garlic, herbs and olive oil.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: Centrally located at The Bell Tower Shops, this seafood restaurant has two outdoor dining spots to accommodate those who want to distance.

Gina's expert tip: Arrive early and do some power shopping at The Bell Tower Shops.

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Cape Coral
Rum Runners
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Rum Runners is just over the Caloosahatchee River, in Cape Coral. Diners can dock their boats and dine on the outside deck, the screened in terrace or inside where the air condition is comfortable. The restaurant sits on a scenic canal with direct access to the river. There is also a rather large marina here so you can bet there is almost always a steady stream of boats passing by. The menu has seafood, pastas, steaks and the chef is constantly cooking up delicious daily specials. The Bistro Salad is a signature; mixed baby greens, sundried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, gorgonzola and more, tossed in pesto balsamic dressing. The owners and chef have a long history of operating successful restaurants all over Southwest Florida. Once you dine here, you'll understand why.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: A significant part of the seating in this Cape Coral restaurant is outdoors, with a waterfront view and an award winning kitchen.

Gina's expert tip: Oysters on the half shell are $1.50 each during happy hour, 3-6:30 daily.

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Dixie Fish Company
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Undercover, yet all open air, this rustic spot has an expansive, circular bar as well as a dining bar facing the water, offering great views of the fishing charters and sightseeing boats headed out for the day or night. The whole fried fish is a signature. The daily fresh catch is battered, fried whole, and served with a sinful garlic butter sauce. Start with the smoked fish dip, or raw oysters then add the low land seafood boil, shrimp burgers, crab sliders, or the popular B.L.TAE: bacon, fried green tomatoes, fried egg and avocado sandwich. Sides have a Southern flare such as collards and red beans and rice. Dixie attracts great musicians and is a hot spot for live music especially on Sunday afternoons.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: This casual al fresco restaurant is known for its whole fried fish, views of shrimp boats and live music.

Gina's expert tip: You can park in the neighboring Doc Fords, they're under the same management

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Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

LYNQ is a restaurant and bar with a menu crafted to link cuisines and cultures serving everything from Mediterranean to Japanese. The pho has become extremely popular, and there is often special pricing on it. The outside patio has evolved to be one of the best kept secrets in Fort Myers. The tropical landscaping has grown to completely block the parking lot that sits just a few yards away. Bistro lights add a soft glow and there is a stage for live entertainment that doubles as a seating area when not being used for music. The bar's windows slide open to accommodate both indoor and outdoor patrons.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: The lush patio at LYNQ has become a most popular spots in south Fort Myers to wine and dine, sometimes to live music.

Gina's expert tip: The menu has many vegan options both in food and wine.

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Shuckers at The Gulfshore is a local landmark, one restaurant with three great vibes. The upstairs, indoor bar and dining room have glass sliders opening to the beach, making it feel wide open. The outside deck, also called The Cottage, serves the same menu, however, shirts are not required here. Underneath both, in the sand, the beach bar serves a smaller menu and shoes are definitely not required. Start with the famous Beach Bread then try the signature Grouper Sandwich or Grouper Platter. The Gulfshore Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take advantage of the free valet parking as the spots are limited and tow trucks often frequent the beach.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: There are three spots to dine at this beach bar and restaurant; Shuckers, The Cottage and The Beach Bar; all open air with superb views.

Gina's expert tip: Enjoy live music every night of the week.

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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. All dining is alfresco. It's also more upscale than one might imagine after taking a gander at the restaurant on stilts; in fact it's a foodie paradise. The cuisine is global with ingredients and preparations that are local, Mediterranean, Latin, and more. Sitting on the Estero Bay, there is also a clear view of the Gulf of Mexico; a great spot to see dolphins and tropical birds. There is space for boaters to dock and dine, however, many call in both food and drink orders to go. Flipper's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Recommended for Outdoor Dining because: This waterside restaurant between Fort Myers and Bonita beaches is completely open air, serving high end food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Gina's expert tip: Call ahead seating is a good idea on the weekend when wait times increase.

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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