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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Fort Myers Restaurant Guide

After doing my Fort Myers guide a few years ago and then following it up with an Instagram guide, I thought I should do a restaurant guide...as that is kind of what I'm best at! So, the following eats & drinks are my go-to's when I'm in my hometown — where I lived for 18 years. Let me know if you have any south Florida favorites — xoxo darling, Hayden.


Bennett's Fresh Roast

Donuts that feel like big pillows in your sticky hands (come on, when you eat donuts they get sticky) are the bread and butter...or should I say fried dough and icing of Bennetts. Do they also do deliciously aromatic coffees from all over the world as well? Absolutely. Get a chocolate chip and a cinnamon twist with a Columbian cup in-house and sit in a cozy corner of the little shop near downtown Fort Myers. 
You might not spot this unassuming cafe from the hustle and bustle of McGregor. It's in the middle of a strip center but upon entrance you're transported to the brunch-y type of cafe you'd see in most major cities. Exposed brick walls, massive tables, metal chairs and friendly service round out the experience. They do wonderful specials but I'm always down for one of their fluffy chocolate chip pancakes. 
On a fairly industrial road, European American is a gem among the warehouses. With the best iced coffee in Fort Myers...I promise and a pastry case that could rival any place it's just delightful. I like to go for the Hunter (two eggs, applewood smoked bacon, potatoes and (my personal favorite) banana bread. Get an eclair on your way out for later...because why not?
This sweet family-owned business is just downright adorable. It's off of 41, so very convenient if you're in downtown FM. The pale yellow walls reflect the warmth you receive from the staff. They do great fluffy pancakes (yes you can get them with chocolate chips) and omelets. 
On Sanibel, this place does the best breakfast on the island — seriously. They do the crispiest bacon I've maybe ever had and all of the lighthouse memorabilia on the walls just adds this extra level of kitsch you want at an island cafe. They do delightful hot cakes, soft scrambled eggs and crusty toast. My best friend basically demands to go here when she visits, which I think is quite the endorsement. 
Okay, The Bagel Factory is the place I demand I go every single day I'm home. I adore it. Their everything bagel, double toasted with plain cream cheese is something I have dreams about. They are the perfect amount of salty, flavorful and crispy....I'm drooling. My parents ship a half dozen out to me a few times a year and I covet them. My family goes twice a week, we have a table that we prefer to sit at and everyone in there will greet you with open arms. It's that classic small town vibe but with a huge clientele. 


If you know me, I'm not a big seafood eater but I will eat seafood at Bert's. Located on Matlacha (pronounced mat-la-shay) in what could be described as a wooden shack, dishes up flavorful grouper fingers and homemade chips (they are curly and golden brown and delicious). Get a seat on the dock so you can watch the sun set in the sky above and hear the water lapping at the wood. It's such a Florida place and I love that. 
Y'all know how there is a place in high school that the cool kids eat at? Well Blu Sushi is my version of that. Every high school birthday dinner, every instagram story to show off has been at Blu...not that there is anything wrong with that! The restaurant gives off the vibe that it isn't in a tropical shopping center across the courtyard from where all the snowbirds (an older person that spends about half the year in Florida) back in January–April. Now, I am not a seafood/fish person, except on rare occasions so I love their Lava Drops. They are crab chopped and mixed with spicy mayo, cream cheese and then tempura fried. Drizzled with eel sauce they pair perfectly with wasabi.
Located on a farm in east Fort Myers, Buckingham Farms is a delight. With an airy store and plenty of outdoor seating, it feels like you're much further into the state than you really are. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner but my favorite is lunch. The light hits the rows of crops just right and the sandwiches are divine — the Farm Hand on wheatberry bread with cheddar cheese, sliced tomatoes and crispy bacon is where it is at. 
Right on 41, in an old Juicy Lucy (remember those?!) BurgerQuE is an oasis. You walk through this tall metal gate and bam, there's a bar, waterfall, hanging canoe, outdoor seating — everything. Obviously they specialize in burgers, bbq and craft beer. Sip on a Green Bench Sunshine City and indulge in a Messin' With Texas sandwich — beef brisket, pulled pork, spicy pickles all on a grilled cheese...yum. 
This place is within walking distance of my childhood home, and I've walked/driven there many a time. It's in a cute old house with a giant patio out front and a wrap-around porch I'm jealous of. Both lunch and dinner are good but there is something about watching the sun filter through the porch/windows at around noon that is special. The Cajun Chick sandwich with grilled cajun chicken, bacon, provolone, lettuce, tomato and onion on a toasted bun is a great meal — served with your choice of homemade potato salad (delicious) or homemade chips (also delicious). 

Dixie Fish Co.

Basically a shack across Matanzas Harbor from Fort Myers Beach, Dixie is so Florida. Like soooo Florida. The building is all open air and everything is unassuming. You can pull up your boat to one of the nearby docks (a lot do) and drink the day away. I like the fish and chips — crispy beer battered grouper with homemade chips.  
There are a few locations of Doc Ford's in the Lee county area but my favorite is the Sanibel version. Named after the famous character in a RandyWayne White book series, the restaurant gives off island vibes to the max — if you can sit out on the patio. While the seafood is great, I'm a big fan of their Cuban sandwich — traditional ham, slow roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles on a Cuban roll.  
When Fancy's opened I think I went ten times, I was (and still am) obsessed. They do some of the best chicken and waffles I've ever tasted — flavorful, succulent chicken and fluffy waffles doused in delicious syrup. They also do lovely mac & cheese, grilled cheese, tomato soup and red velvet cake. The place is adorable and feels like it could be out of Southern Living — with wood walls, Ball jar candle holders, old windows, hydrangeas on the tables, etc. 
I've been going to the Farmer's Market since I was a wee one. It's super close to my elementary school so we would go before (or after) school events for home cookin' and pie. The fried chicken, chicken fried steak and meatloaf are all stars of the menu. You can also get a veggie plate, which is just multiple sides on a plate & I love that. End the night with a big slice of coconut cream pie. 

Ginger Bistro

The best Chinese in town, in my opinion, Ginger Bistro is in an unassuming strip center that has been in Fort Myers my whole life. Tucked into the corner, you wouldn't expect to walk into some fairly modern digs with ducks roasting at the back. They do Chinese, dim sum and H.K. style bbq. I'm basic in my Chinese choices, so I like the Kung Pao Chicken, dished up with zucchini, celery, water chestnuts and green peppers. 
Yet another delicious restaurant in an unassuming strip mall, Gloria's is classic Spanish cuisine. Have a chicken empanada, drizzled with salsa verde — it's such a crispy pocket and when you bite in the pastry just flakes off. The EspaƱol Taver-Galician Style is wonderful — with think slices of pork, chorizo, bolo ham and mozzarella cheese topped with an aioli spread and served on panino bread. I'm not sure if they still do it but they had a gelato dessert (usually mango) that came with these cookies & syrup that were oh, so good. 
This "seaside saloon," which calling this gorgeous spot in Sanibel's marina a saloon is kind of hilarious, is my go-to for grouper on the island. Have the grouper sandwich with homemade chips and a glass of cold lemonade. The breeze will drift over you as you dine with locals, snowbirds and tourists on their spring break at the bar. 
My favorite place in town for Indian food, the Palace is off 41 but at the back of a shopping center. This place taught me to love Indian cuisine — with their grainy (in a good way) Dal soup, fluffy naan, spicy chicken curries and onion chutney it's a yummy way to eat something other than seafood in town. 
Probably my go-to for lunch or dinner on Sanibel, Island Cow reminds me a bit of Dr. Seuss book. Pastel walls, white beamed ceilings and more than enough Adirondack chairs all along the outside of the building make this the perfect breezy place to have a casual meal. One of my favorite aspects is these little muffins they give you to start your meal. They are a cross between a Funfetti cupcake and a blueberry muffin and they are worth every bite. My best friend and I adore their pasta — Kristina's Angel Hair with fresh, juicy Roma tomatoes in garlic, white wine and butter is *chef's kiss*. 
Probably one of the most beautiful patios in FM, McGregor Cafe is on McGregor Blvd. (the street that is lined with palm trees). The actual restaurant is tiny, with only a few tables but the best seat in the house is under the massive tree outside. The lunch crush is truly a real thing during season but in the summer you can get a table easy. They put their drinks in massive mason jars (I'll have an icy lemonade please!) and they do very pleasant salads and sandwiches. The Wild Thing is thinly sliced roast beef, herb garlic cream cheese on a fresh croissant. My mom loves the chicken salad and I love the slice of pound cake it comes with. 

Nice Guys Pizza

Located in Cape Coral, I would say Nice Guys is the college/young person place you never thought Lee County could have. You walk in and the atmosphere is a mix between geeky, gothy and yummy...the pizza. They have a bunch of craft beer and they stick to their guns (re: LGBTQ review), which we love. Make sure to get sausage on your pizza, you won't regret it. 

Salvatore's Pizza

I've been eating Salvatore's cheese pizza since before I could remember. While the location has changed a few times, the crust has never. I think you could describe the crust as dessert...it's that light, flavorful and almost sweet. Everything about the pizza is good but that crust is what we all want in a New York-style pizza crust. 
Looking for a casual meal on Sanibel? Maybe you just got back from kayaking or from the beach and you're not looking your best? Schnapper's Hots is perfect. This pastel building does delicious hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers. Plus, they have hand-dipped shakes, which, you should for sure get. 
Probably in my top five restaurants in FM. The Veranda is in the heart of downtown in a beautiful old house. It's classic southern charm and feels like someone should shoot a preppy ad campaign inside it's bar — dark walls, hunter green carpet and vases of hydrangeas. The rest of the house is light-filled with white tablecloths. If you can, get a seat in one of the window boxes or out on the patio (which feels like a bit of a rainforest). They have this bread that is covered in a sticky sauce and it pairs so well with butter...now I miss it. I usually get the classic french dip with fries — because treat yo'self. The key lime pie is a good ending to the meal as well. 

Three Fishermen

Located just over the bridge from downtown Fort Myers, Three Fishermen is a cute spot on the water for homemade applesauce and delicious blackened grouper. Their hushpuppies are also crispy, golden pockets of goodness. 

Two Meatballs

Looking for a classic Italian meal? Two Meatballs is a cozy spot off Daniels Parkway. Rich wood floors, dark red booths — it just feels like your grandma would love it...heck she probably does! Obviously you should get the meatballs because they are so flavorful and moist...I'm sorry but they are! 
I pretty much demand we go to this tea room when I'm home, it has seen a lot of good times — birthday lunches, send-off parties and it's even where I went to eat after learning I got into Texas. The lilac table clothes, mix-matched china teacups and pots, sweet old ladies and the sound of light chatter will greet you upon entrance into this older house on the outskirts of downtown Fort Myers. You must have the roast beef panini that comes with chicken and rice soup. It will have you cleaning your plate and asking more. I haven't had a bad tea (they have a ton) and the scones don't stink either.


This is probably the most classic ice cream shop in FM. Located on your way to or from the beach, it used to be a tiny cement block building but they have since built a very nice shop nearby. You can get a homemade drumstick, something we should all experience at least once in their lives. My favorite flavor is the creamsicle — feels like summer in a waffle cone. I'm not sure if it is still there but my Petit Gourmet restaurant review used to be framed near the entrance. 
There are a few locations of this chocolatier but the one off south McGregor is my favorite. And no, we aren't talking about the chocolate here...it isn't my favorite. It's all in the baked goods and the gelato. Get a cup of stracciatella and purchase a brownie or chocolate chip cookie to-go (trust me, you'll want it later). 
Hannah and I discovered this bright turquoise building on the way to Fort Myers Beach and boy were we delighted. First of all, the owner is amazing. Second of all, the ice in these snowballs is cut so fine it's like nothing I've ever tried. Also, I've never had a bad flavor...they are all delightful from the seasonal (candy corn, peppermint bark, etc.) but I highly recommend the ice cream with cream on top — go crazy and get some vanilla soft serve in the middle. 
Probably my first stop after I get off the plane is Sun Harvest, a citrus themed gift shop/packing house that is what Florida dreams are made of. The first stop is at the back of the building where they offer free samples of their various OJ flavors — cranberry orange is the best so grab a jug of that and get in line. If you're visiting in the spring, the line will be insane so be prepared. Now, you are going to order the soft-serve orange & vanilla swirl cone. You might need to order a second because it is probably the best thing you'll ever taste. It's like summer, happiness and delicious all wrapped in one cake cone. 
With slices of cake bigger than your head, a kitschy aesthetic that takes the word kitschy to a whole new level and "Bubble Scouts" as servers, the Bubble Room is a trip and a half. It's unlike any other place I've been. Where Christmas meets early Hollywood glamour...their words, not mine. Bubble Room is a place to go eat at once for the experience but I like to get a slice of their cake and take it to the beach for sunset. The Orange Crunch cake is a must-eat if you like the flavor orange. Skip the bright red velvet and go for the White Christmas — a white cake with toasted almonds, homemade whipped cream, coconut and white chocolate shavings. 


This brewery is right across from the Edison Ford Winter Estates so it's perfect if you want to grab a cold one after a hot day's tour. The taproom is fairly small but they do have a patio. The Beach Hound Brown is a true southern English-style nut brown that I love.

Fort Myers Brewing

The OG brewery in FM, this is a bit of a ways out...unless you are at a spring training game for the Red Sox. Located in Gateway, the atmosphere is warehouse but there are tons of picnic tables out front and they always have a good food truck. Wednesday nights there is a burger truck and it is A+. I like almost every beer they pour but faves include: No Nombre (Mexican-style lager), Gateway Gold (blonde ale), High 5 IPA, Clean Shave (IPA). 
Some of my family (we're talking a few generations back) owned a restaurant in La Belle (Flora & Ella's for those old-school people) so the hamlet will always hold a special place in my heart. This brewery is fairly new and the building is so nice — Florida architecture, food from Buckingham Farms and pretty good beer. It's a great spot to spend an evening out on the porch sipping a Red Tide Red.
In Estero and another brewery with warehouse design, PCB pours great IPAs and the San Carlos Proper is a great sip-able beet on a hot Florida day. All of the bartenders are super nice and it's a real family place. 
On the way to Fort Myers Beach, Point Ybel has one of the smallest taprooms but makes fantastic beer. They are probably the most experimental of the ones listed but dang do they make it work for them. The Kittens Paw (India pale lager), Sanibel Red Island Ale, Bud Weisberg (kolsch) and Causeway Haze (IPA) are some great options.
The only bar on my list, because let's face it going out in Fort Myers is weird, The 86 Room is a speakeasy tucked into Patio de Leon with exposed brick walls and a bar that takes up most of the room. They go a classic Pimm's Cup — literally in a branded glass — and it's one of the only places in FM where I can find one. 

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