As a long time visitor and winter resident of Fort Myers, Florida we have tried just about everything. Here are the 5 must-try restaurants in Fort Myers, Florida.
About the Area
Fort Myers, Florida is a broader area than solely the city of Fort Myers. Just like any other city in the United States, it’s actually an area made up of many boroughs, smaller cities, and neighborhoods such as Cape Coral, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Bonita Springs, Estero, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and to a lesser extent Naples.
There are some great restaurants serving fresh fish that didn’t make this list in Historic downtown Fort Myers (the River District.) The dining experience has elevated recently in the area offering some farm-to-table options coupled with great service.
For the purpose of this post, the area of Fort Myers is anywhere within a 10-mile radius of Fort Myers Beach.
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grill
With a few locations across Southwest Florida, Doc Ford’s is part of local a restaurant group themed around books written by local author, Randy Wayne White. The books borrow heavily from the region, but outside of the name, the restaurants hold little relevance to the books.
Our preferred location is near Fort Myers Beach on San Carlos Island. We don’t eat there because of the affiliation with the books, in truth, I have started one of them but never finished it. We eat there – every trip – because the food is excellent and the prices are appropriate. Sitting on the deck, we often see dolphins swimming nearby, and of course, boats and yachts coming into the bay.
Believe it or not, my favorite dish on the menu is their fish sticks, though we have yet to have a daily special we haven’t loved.
Skip One (on 41)
Skip One is a fisherman’s kind of spot. The building is small and nothing to look at, aside from a pair of anthropomorphic shrimps in questionable positions.
The fish is some of the freshest we have experienced in the world. In fact, its freshness competes on a global level even when we lived beachfront in Thailand, visited Borneo, lived in Perú, and England. Listen carefully. Diners visit Skip One for one reason and one reason only, incredibly fresh seafood – they do not visit for the sides, you shouldn’t either. The dining rooms (3) offer kitsch but that’s not the reason to visit either. It’s award-winning seafood, served at dinner only – they won’t be serving breakfast any time soon and I haven’t seen any gluten-free options.
Skip One serves both a broth-based conch soup and a New England Clam Chowder. Do the unthinkable – ask them to mix them. It’s not on the menu, but it’s a known favorite even though it seems like it shouldn’t be.
Our favorite dish is the shell-on Spicy Shrimp (one pound if we are sharing.) Soaked in butter and seasoned with a cajun blend and old bay, this bib-required meal is one of the first we race to eat when visiting the Fort Myers area.
Pro tip: upsize your shrimp two levels ($1 per level) to larger crustaceans, it’s less work and more satisfying. If you order something without hush puppies, add them, with butter and honey. You’ll be fat when you leave, but you’ll leave happy.
If you arrive in “season” (October to March), be prepared to wait. If you don’t mind eating late, you should be able to get a table just about any night of the week after 8:15 pm. You may be tempted to try their stone crabs, seared scallops, or grouper – but know that you’re missing out on the best thing on the menu if you bypass the shrimp.
Named for the father/daughter pair who created the restaurant, Luigina’s is a rare mix of Italian and Portuguese cuisine. The pairs wouldn’t seem to go together at first. Spain and Portugal have plenty in common, sharing the Iberian peninsula, but Italian and Portuguese restaurants are harder to find.
My daughter loved their macaroni and cheese, the bechamel sauce made from scratch in-house. My wife never misses Tia Nita’s Chicken: Grilled chicken breast topped with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and topped with a creamy garlic lemon butter sauce with basil. Served with vegetable of the day and garlic mashed potatoes. I can’t pass up the Portuguese Shrimp Rice: Saucy tomato rice with shrimp parsley and cilantro.
With top-notch food and service that feels like family, don’t pass on Luigina’s.
Mikael’s Kitchen (Cuban Food)
A new entrant on the scene in Fort Myers is the absolutely authentic Mikael’s Kitchen. Signs downplay “Mikael’s” in favor of “Comida Cubano” so look for the green and yellow sign. The restaurant falls somewhere closer to Cuban fast-casual with a massive menu but also a drive-through window available.
The Cuban sandwich, medianoche, and croquettes are superb. But the restaurant also offers more than a dozen dishes, as many sides, and even small grocery items for those longing for Cuba. Either from the window or along a glass-enclosed buffet. I’ve tried a number of items and have been impressed with everything I’ve had including lobster tails and saffron rice.
While it’s mostly sugar, a Café con Leche and croquettes is a nice way to start the day and this has become our new tradition in Fort Myers.
Love Boat Ice Cream
Love Boat is not a restaurant, but a must-try ice cream shop. The largest location is situated about four miles from Fort Myers Beach and is a perfect way to end a day on the water. Love Boat hand makes their extensive menu of ice cream (traditional, lactose-free, and sorbets.)
Classics like Rocky Road and Cookies and Cream are available but do yourself a favor and try Birthday Cake featuring chunks of yellow cakes and icing mixed in. My wife loves the brownie batter malts.
Love Boat sells their ice cream to area restaurants but guests will prefer visiting the actual site, map available here.
What do you think? Do you have favorites in Fort Myers (and surrounding areas) that should be added to this list?