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Paradise Dining in Florida's Island Sanctuary

There’s more than just warm weather, beautiful scenery and a host of unique eco- and heritage-based attractions and activities to attract visitors to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida. There’s another slice of paradise – the culinary kind, with a delightful selection of dining options to enjoy.

In fact, Fort Myers has been recognized by Nation's Restaurant News as one of the "50 Cities That Sizzle," along with Miami, New York, San Francisco and other major metropolitan areas. According to the trade publication, Fort Myers has something for everyone, from popular chains such as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Chili's, Romano's Macaroni Grill and Beef O'Brady's, to a rapidly-expanding list of home-grown hot spots including The Veranda, Varian's and Bistro 41, to name a few.

Beyond the great variety of four-star cuisine, there is nothing typical about dining at area restaurants. Between the cities of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs to the islands of Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, there are restaurants to suit any budget or mood. Best of all, even the most elegant restaurants tend to have relaxed dress codes and will accommodate more casual attire. Dinning in paradise is a pleasure when a gorgeous sunset is the backdrop.

Due to the abundance of fresh local fish, shrimp and clams, seafood is the centerpiece of many restaurant menus. The Euro-Asian style of Roy’s in The Promenade in Bonita Springs. Here they have an Aloha hour that has infused cocktails and tropical inspired bites. Menu highlights include grilled miso-crusted butterfish, Mongolian-style short ribs and seared Ono or Opakapaka (harvested from Hawaiian waters).

Diners seeking more traditional seafood in a decidedly more casual setting may prefer The Timbers and its adjoining Sanibel Grill sports bar on Sanibel Island. Popular items include its trademark Crunchy Grouper or Crunchy Shrimp, smoked fish, and an extensive array of beef and fresh seafood selections. There is also a children's menu. Ironically, The Timbers' original location is now occupied by Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, so named for the main character in proprietor Randy Wayne White's island-themed adventure novels. Although it's a sports bar, the restaurant is also famous for its gourmet finger food, fresh seafood entrees and extensive drink menu. Also on the island, The Jacaranda strikes a rare balance between island casual and fine dining. Original seafood dishes, steak, wine and live entertainment in the lounge all have contributed to its long-standing reputation as one of the area's premier restaurants.

A more traditional seafood offering is located at the Island Cow on Sanibel. The setting for this restaurant is very casual and has a little of everything to eat. Outside is a dining area that most of the time has a live band playing at, indoors looks like an old island cottage. Pets are very welcome at the Island Cow.

Seafood isn’t the only reason for the popularity of many restaurants around The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. At Chip’s Sanibel Steakhouse, USDA prime corn-fed beef is center cut, hand trimmed, and gently aged on premise to ensure the highest levels of quality and tenderness. The steaks, flash-seared at 1700 degrees to lock in the juices and retain maximum flavor, are served with fine wines and a classy panache diners don't soon forget.

Back on the mainland, sophisticated, contemporary Blue Pointe Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill serves everything from Maine scallops and imported cold-water oysters to more than a dozen types of fish such as black grouper, salmon and walleye. It is located in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, which is gaining a reputation as a dining destination. Besides Blue Pointe, fine-dining restaurants include Bistro 41, DaRuMa and Cru, as well as a variety of establishments offering burgers, pizza, pasta, coffee and ice-cream. Another location in the heart of Fort Myers is the No.4 best barbeque restaurant in the US, Reuben’s Smoke House. The highly regarded Fort Myers 11: Eleven Café is known for its all fascinating twists on childhood favorites and the ability for the customers to completely customize their meal.

The Bubble Room is Florida’s most outrageous and unique restaurant. This location is sure to fill up every customer with the large portion sizes and endless desert trays. The outstanding décor and music are sure to create an amazing memory.

On a slightly smaller scale, similar décor is featured at the ultra-casual Barnacle Phil's on the barrier island of North Captiva. There, everything but the signature black beans and rice is brought to picnic tables in plastic baskets. Ample indoor and outdoor seating as well as dock space make the restaurant especially popular among boaters. To the north on Gasparilla Island isThe Pink Elephant. Known for its imaginative regional cuisine this menu has delectable steaks and seafood. The great part about being in southwest Florida is being able to travel by boat and park dockside in order to enjoy a great meal. This restaurant has been around for over 60 years providing amazing service with incredible food.

On the other end of the dining spectrum isThe Veranda. The converted home (actually two turn-of-the-century residences) is a downtown Fort Myers landmark. This dining for two venue features a beautifully landscaped, open-air courtyard and a varied menu with Southern accents.

On Fort Myers Beach nestled along the white sandy beach is an outdoor restaurant, Junkanoo. This eatery has many island infused cuisine it’s the perfect setting along the beach. Sit back and relax while enjoying the crashing waves while enjoying a delicious meal.The Boat House Tiki Bar and Grill is one of the best places in Cape Coral to watch sunsets while enjoying the outdoor atmosphere. This whimsical location provides live bands as well as an outdoor, indoor feel. The beauty in dining in Lee County is endless.

Naturally, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is home to some of the world’s most picturesque, waterfront restaurants, including The Mad Hatterat Blind Pass on Sanibel Island; The Mucky Duck on Captiva Island; The Tarpon House Restaurant at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers; and Pinchers on Fort Myers Beach. For further information on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com or become a fan of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel atwww.Facebook.com/FtMyersSanibel.

EDITOR’S NOTE:The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida includes: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres. A comprehensive media kit and images are available upon request.