Benjamin Franklin was right about many things, but I take issue with his contention that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Surely there’s one more certainty: Restaurants come and go with astonishing speed.
And so, if it’s been a while since you’ve visited The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, here’s a guide to what’s new on the culinary scene. Be prepared to chew through a feast of new dining options around the region.
Chatterbox on the Beach - The yellow building with the thatched roof offers burgers, cheesesteaks, salads, baby back ribs and brisket smoked on site as well as pizza.
Shaking Crab - If it’s a Cajun style seafood boil you crave, or some other zesty seafood dish such as gumbo, crawfish or shrimp, this newcomer has it and more.
The Stage - For those in the mood for a meal, beverages, dancing and a show by a tribute band, this is the place. Prices range depending on the band.
Stone Balloon Bar & Grill - Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub has been replaced by a Cheers-style establishment serving a variety of sandwiches, burgers, entrees and munchies as well as adult beverages.
Straight from New York Bagels - The name pretty much says it all – bagels, bialys, plus pastries, cinnamon rolls, breakfast sandwiches, deli sandwiches, salads and don’t forget the corned beef and pastrami.
Swiss German Bistro - While Swiss and German fare is generally meat-centric, this bistro also offers some vegetarian fare, including cheese spätzle. But there are also plenty of wursts, schnitzels and other traditional dishes.
Backyard Beer Garden - Two amigos, Chris Ilardi and Gabe Ferraro, took over the former Two Amigos and created a cool new spot with intriguing menu items like pork belly bao buns, wings, roasted cauliflower tacos, avocado BLT and lobster grilled cheese.
The Doener - This recently relocated shop specializes in German street fare such as knackwurst, falafel, currywurst and bratwurst.
Ginger Bistro - This wildly popular Fort Myers restaurant, serving dim sum and authentic Chinese fare, now has a Cape location as well. This one also boasts a full bar.
Keg & Cow - The former Mr. Brews Taphouse has the same owners, but a new brew and beef concept, serving nachos, fried pickles and other munchy fare.
Keke’s Breakfast Café - Breakfast and lunch are served daily, including a wealth of waffles and pancakes, omelets and other egg dishes, paninis, burgers, wraps, salads and sandwiches.
Metro Diner - A classic diner serving what diners are known for: biscuits and sausage gravy, waffles, pancakes, Benedicts, salads, hot turkey plates, shrimp and grits, burgers, club sandwiches and serious pies for dessert.
Mom’s Restaurant - Just like the original on Fort Myers Beach, this place serves breakfast and lunch, including its signature biscuits and made-from-scratch cinnamon rolls.
Duck Donuts - Start with a freshly made vanilla doughnut, then pick a coating, a topping and a drizzle. These are seriously good doughnuts.
FK Your Diet - Owner Doug Miller is a former foster kid (FK) who opened this place that specializes in comfort foods, the kind he cherished when his foster moms would make them. Five percent of revenues will be donated to organizations that help foster kids.
The Saloon - The re-invented Blue Water Bistro by the same owner specializes in steaks, craft burgers, barbecue, salads and homemade desserts, offers 250 types of spirits, 50 draft and bottled beers, 50 wines and an array of craft cocktails.
Skillets - Breakfast and lunch are the orders of the day, just right for a spot adjacent to Florida Gulf Coast University and the apartment complexes that surround it. But the rest of us are invited to partake of its bounty as well.
Tacos and Tequila - The name pretty much explains the specialties and there are plenty of varieties of both along with other Mexican dishes and drinks.
Thai Udon - This is a branch of the accomplished Naples restaurant known for its well-executed Thai and Japanese fare. It’s another of the new spots just south of FGCU.
Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi - Worn out from shopping? Wasabi is ready to refresh with sushi, a teppanyaki meal and cocktails.
Zoe’s Kitchen - A fast-casual Mediterranean-inspired chain that opened across from Coconut Point with another location on Daniels Parkway. Choose from a variety of proteins served as kabobs plus orzo, wraps, pasta, salads and fresh-baked cookies.
American Grilled Cheese Kitchen - Grilled cheese devotees will find four breakfast varieties, 11 lunch and dinner options, plus salads, sides and sweets.
Artisan Eatery - Chef Tim Yoa, formerly of Naples Grande Beach Resort’s The Catch of the Pelican, serves fast-casual breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu features locally sourced eggs, meats and honey formed into panini, flatbreads, pastries, homemade soup, vegetarian fare and more.
Bimini Bait Shack - This sprawling two-story restaurant in the shadow of the Sanibel Causeway is the former SS Hookers and Summerlin Jake’s, although it’s hard to recognize. It’s now far more casual with loads of nautical knickknacks, a lively atmosphere, lots of seafood, munchies and a full bar.
The Boathouse Tiki Bar & Grill - Where Marina 31 once stood this grand new open-air structure overlooks the river and offers a wealth of beverages, bar fare, a gigantic TV screen and, should you be in the mood, a swimming pool.
Bullig Coffee & Bites - A charming little spot next to the Butterfly Estates, it has coffee and “wafflewiches”, which are precisely what they sound like – sandwiches made with waffles – plus salads, sweets and a friendly staff.
Chelle’s Special Touch - In the former Po’Boys, chef Michelle Pope whips up breakfast, sandwiches, salads and soul food Fridays that feature smothered pork chops, oxtails, beef stew, collards, black-eyed peas and other made-from-scratch goodies.
Chronic Tacos - This is something of a do-it-yourself spot, where you select the base (taco, burrito, torta, etc.), a protein and toppings, then add beans and rice if you desire. Beers can be found at the adjoining brewery.
Deep Lagoon Seafood and Oyster House - A second location of the Naples restaurant, this waterfront spot offers loads of fish, a raw bar, gator bites, pasta and tacos.
Glory Days Grill - The former Leeroy Selmon’s has transformed into Glory Days, where steaks, nachos and other hearty fare plus lots of adult beverages await diners.
J&C Crab - Chow down on Cajun-style seafood boils, selecting your combo, seasoning and spice level.
Krispy Kreme - The beloved shop caused extreme excitement when it opened this fall. Mercifully, lines have shrunk somewhat and now you can drive through 24/7 to satisfy those hot doughnut cravings.
Lan Xang - For a taste of Laotian, Vietnamese and Thai food, this newcomer has a good mix, offering both small and large plates in a casual spot at Royal Palm Square.
Leopardi’s Italian Restaurant - The former home of Dwyer’s and the Tilted Kilt recently became Leopardi’s, owned by Anthony Leopardi, founder and owner of Cornerstone Builders of Southwest Florida. It features the northern and southern Italian recipes of his wife, Gina.
Maverick Grille - All three locations offer bowls, salads, wraps and gyros filled with beef, chicken, chicken salad or gyro meat plus five toppings. Add sides and maybe some baklava or brownies for dessert.
Mellow Mushroom - This trendy chain is known for its creative pizzas plus calzones, wings, hoagies and salads. Another is due to open soon at University Village just south of FGCU.
OK UK Fish-n-Chips - Those in search of authentic fish and chips used to have to travel to North Fort Myers, but can now get the same cod, shrimp or chicken and chips at the southern branch of this fast-casual shop.
Pho 99 - Besides pho, there are dishes such as oxtail soup, shaking beef and crepes for dessert at this lovely little Vietnamese restaurant.
PrimaFila - Whether you are looking for a calzone, pizza or a full dinner – think penne puttanesca, veal Marsala or Francese – this downtown spot has you covered.
River District Café - What was once Gwendolyn’s Café remains a breakfast and lunch joint run by a trio of dedicated restaurateurs who pride themselves on making everything from scratch.
The Saucy Meatball -This Gateway restaurant by the Basile family features fast take-out fare in the front, more leisurely dining in the back. Italian is, of course, the cuisine.
Spice Club Indian Grill - Owned by the folks from India Grill, this one’s not fancy but the food is solid, with a reasonably priced buffet lunch (menu available, too) and full menu at dinner.
Silk Road - Uzbeki cuisine has arrived in Fort Myers and Silk Road delivers with delicacies such as kabobs, samsa, baked eggplant and other classic dishes from the region.
The Sub House - This isn’t a new restaurant, but it’s a new location with more seating. The menu still offers burgers, hot and cold subs, wings and burgers.
Terra Nostra - The former Cork and Barrel is now Terra Nostra Ristorante, serving Italian classics such as osso buco, wild mushroom ravioli, seared ahi tuna and tiramisu.
FORT MYERS BEACH
Original Shrimp Dock and Bar - Housed in an historic shrimp packing facility at the end of Main Street near Fort Myers Beach, this boat-to-plate restaurant is the latest addition to Salty Sam’s Waterfront Adventure near the shrimp fleets. The menu features Florida style seafood, gator, burgers, pizza, local craft beers and a prime view of the marina and Back Bay.
The Shark Bar - Grouper fingers, Cuban sandwiches and vegetarian burgers are among the eclectic items on the restaurant’s menu.
Yucatan Waterfront - The owner of the Fort Myers Beach Yucatan Beach Stand has transformed the longstanding Sandy Hook restaurant, adding a waterfront patio overlooking Matlacha Pass. On the menu: tuna nachos, crab cakes, cracked conch, slow-cooked babyback ribs and more.
Dante’s Coal Fired Pizza - From salads and appetizers to coal-fired pizzas and wings, Dante’s has expanded from its original Pine Island Road location and now has three branches, including this Sanibel spot.
Sanibel Fresh - Fresh Roast has left the island (although it remains in downtown Fort Myers). In its place is Sanibel Fresh, the brainchild of chef Amy Visco Schmicker (Sunset Grill), who is using nitrate-free locally sourced meats, local eggs, honey from the famed Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. of LaBelle and other local ingredients. For every bag of oat grains she uses, one goes to the Harry Chapin Food Bank. You’ll find homemade blackberry jam, acai bowls, homemade granola and gluten-free options here.
Traders 2 - If you like Traders, you like its little sibling tucked into a nearby shopping center. Most of the menu is a bit different and more casual but there are a few crossovers.