The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel have lush expanses of sand and gentle surf that do wonders to soothe the soul, but if it’s something edible you need, then you’re also in luck: There are loads of comfort foods available in the region, however you define comfort. Chocolate or cheesecake. Chowder or cheesesteaks. Pulled pork, biscuits and gravy, shrimp and grits or fried green tomatoes.
While our definitions of comfort food may vary, the one thing all such items have in common are calories. Lots of them. No rice cakes or kale salad in this lot. And so, for your comfort, we present a plethora of places in which you may partake of whatever pleasures your taste buds and cures what ails you.
Farmers Market: This bastion of Southern fare is hard to beat. Sweet tea, corn muffins, thick wedges of meatloaf, fried chicken, corn fritters, fried okra and mile-high pies are all specialties of the house. (Cash only.)
Fancy’s Southern Café: It hasn’t got the Farmers Market’s history, but Fancy’s nonetheless delivers Southern comfort in the form of hot boiled peanuts, fried green tomatoes, frog legs, deep-fried cheese grits, meatloaf, shrimp and grits, country fried steak and chicken and waffles. Mac and cheese and the sweet potato souffle are great sides. There’s red velvet cake, too.
Heavenly Biscuit: This pint-sized eatery delivers just what the name promises – great biscuits – as a sandwich or with gravy – and first-class cinnamon rolls. Cash only but there’s an ATM on site.
Pecking Order: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, Southern biscuits and cornbread, fried okra and a Black Betty lava cup are sure to satisfy.
Ginger Bistro: Signature dishes include Peking duck, Hong Kong style barbecue, lunch-time dim sum, salt and pepper calamari, Mongolian beef. This is the Chinese food served in the Chinatowns of my youth (think Philly and New York City). Comfort food indeed.
India Palace: Try the all-you-can-eat lunchtime buffet or samosa, pakora and bhaji appetizers at dinner, followed by lush curries and other well-seasoned dishes, buttery naan bread and sweet gulab jamun drenched in honey syrup and rosewater for dessert.
Siam Hut: The pad Thai is addictive, but other goodies worth sampling include the curry puffs, Chinese sausage salad, all of the Thai-style curries, duck royal and crispy trio.
Caffe Toscano: The fegatini (a rich liver pate) served with crisp Italian bread, will cure what ails you. So will the pappardelle Bolognese, the osso buco if it’s on special that night and the squid ink pasta with seafood. If there’s olive oil cake, order it. It may not sound decadent, but it is.
Ristorante Fabio: If you aren’t sure whether you can handle a meal and dessert, start with Tina’s tiramisu, a superb rendition of this classic dessert. If you do have room for something more substantive, consider the fettucine Alfredo or linguine with clam sauce.
Fine Folk Pizza: The pizzas are as fine as the folk here and come in intriguing flavors like Florida barbecue chicken, broccoli rabe and sausage and the Barnyard (bacon, steak and chicken plus caramelized onions and roasted garlic with two cheeses). Still not comforted? Try the smores or cannoli pizza for dessert.
Nice Guys: Yes, they’re nice but their food is even better. How about cool ranch tots with chimichurri sriracha crème, garlic knots or wings (ranging from mild to extra hot), followed by a signature pizza? Try the Washington Carver (peanut sauce, bacon, provolone, mozzarella and raspberry jam), the Chosen (smoked salmon, capers, cream cheese aioli, red onions, tomatoes, EVOO), or the Burriza (pulled pork, black beans, corn, cilantro, lime, sriracha crème, barbecue sauce and jalapenos) or any of the other creative pies.
Sasse’s: If hearty Italian fare is what you crave, Sasse’s will feed your soul. Start with braised meatballs and move on to the transcendent osso buco Milanese. Desserts vary, but chef/owner Josef Zimmermann’s creations are always worth the calories.
Only the diner will do
Dolly’s Produce Patch: This homey diner serves the usual lineup of hearty breakfast fare and sandwiches for lunch, including grilled cheese and reubens. Coconut cream pie and other seasonal favorites are on the dessert menu.
Go-Go Diner: There’s a Culinary Institute of America grad inside this little space next to the bingo parlor whipping up biscuits and gravy, red velvet pancakes and corned beef hash, plus reubens and serious burgers for lunch.
The Oasis: This Fort Myers institution serves up classic fare like pancakes, chipped beef on toast, benedicts, open face pot roast sandwiches and sweet potato fries. And you’re likely to get a comforting bear hug from the owner.
That certain something
Blue Dog Bar & Grill: Tear into some peel and eat shrimp or a crunchy blue crab cake. How about a burger with toppings like house-pickled jalapenos, a fried egg or goat cheese and a side of sweet potato fries with caramel brown sugar aioli? Sure to cure what ails you.
Bubble Room: Fun and food come together at this longtime island favorite where the dishes have fanciful names like Prime Rib Weismuller, Guy “Lamb”ardo, Pastablanca and Duck Ellington. Portions are large, the dining rooms are decked out in bubble lights and Christmas décor and the servers wear Scout uniforms. Don’t skip dessert. Both the red velvet cake and the orange crunch cake are superb.
CRaVE: The name pretty much says it all with indulgent breakfast benedicts, salmon hash and such, lunch and dinners featuring shrimp and grits, shepherd’s pie, meatloaf and crab cakes.
FK Your Diet: The initials stand for Foster Kids (what were you thinking?), which is what owner Doug Miller was, and his menu consists of all the items he considers comfort foods: biscuits and gravy, breakfast burritos, pancakes with a milkshake (!), wings, pulled pork, fried chicken, fried bologna and grilled cheese. Really want some comfort? Some of the profits go to helping other foster kids.
The Gathering Place: The place looks like a nursing home – which it used to be – but is now a mix of shops and this quirky café that serves arepas, mac and cheese, Belize-style stewed chicken or pork with black beans and rice, Cuban sandwiches, turkey clubs and fresh-baked desserts galore, (which vary by the day).
The Other Side: The setting is classy, but the food is stick-to-your-ribs-and-soul in the form of fried green tomatoes, baked five onion soup, short rib grilled cheese and lobster and shrimp fettucine.
Philly Junction: For an authentic Philly cheesesteak, this is the place, complete with rolls from Amoroso Bakery in the City of Brotherly Love. Get the basic, a pizza steak or a pizza Italian, Whiz wit or witout.
Daddy Dee’s: For 40 years, this quaint little shop has been serving big cones or sundaes, milkshakes and banana splits amidst an array of train memorabilia, including a little train that chugs around the ceiling.
Love Boat: This homemade ice cream comes in a multitude of flavors, including Gator Tracks, chocolate brownie swirl, red velvet cake, Dirty Turtle and many other swoon-worthy flavors that have been curing the blues for half a century.
Royal Scoop: With flavors like Spongebob, Cupid’s Love Potion, Caramelicious Cups and Death by Peanut Butter, comfort comes quickly at either location.
Gotta be chocolate
Noela Chocolates: A small shop but filled with hand-crafted tidbits of blissful joy such as tiramisu, chocolate raspberry brulee, strawberry rumshine and turbano cherry.
Norman Love Confections: Whether it’s bite-sized chocolate truffles, pastries, oversized cookies, scones, croissants or artisan gelato you crave, it’s available at Norman Love. Warning: You may never be able to eat other chocolates again after tasting these all-natural, artisan creations.