If you’ve experienced at least one winter tourist season, you know that getting a reservation for your favorite restaurant becomes increasingly difficult as the temperature plummets up north. November? Chances are pretty good. January? Harder. March? Start booking now.
But through the end of the year, it’s a great time to visit The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, especially if you have kids and enjoy a bargain. While the region is known for its laid-back attitude year-round, summer and early fall are even more casual, and spending a long weekend at the beach with the younger set can be the stuff of great memories.
So, while you’re soaking up the sun and frolicking in the surf, get some value-added enjoyment with bargain rates at area hotels and some bonuses for kids plus a few adult discounts worth toasting as well. Here’s just a sampling of what’s in store:
Bennett’s Fresh Roast in downtown Fort Myers not only offers freshly roasted coffee and daily made-from-scratch doughnuts (get there early for the best selection), but kids (kindergarten through fifth grade) who come in with a parent and read a book (lots of choices supplied at the café) while they are there receive a free doughnut. (One per day while supplies last.) Other options here include strata, breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal, lunch salads, lobster roll, Bennett’s doughnut dog, panini, croissant and more. 2011 Bayside Parkway, Fort Myers.
The Blue Giraffe is a popular Sanibel spot for breakfast, lunch or dinner with a full bar for the adults and a boardwalk where the kids can work off some steam. The kids’ menu offers French toast sticks, mini pancakes, eggs and bacon or cereal for breakfast and eight options for lunch including grilled chicken, mac and cheese, pasta and popcorn shrimp. For dessert: how about an ice cream sundae? Adults have a plethora of options including steak and eggs, chicken and biscuits, crab trap omelet and much more. 2075 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.
For the family on the go, consider grabbing a kid-pleasing meal at Schnapper’s Hots, where hot dogs, burgers, fries, onion rings, milkshakes and 40 kinds of ice cream have been delighting kids of all ages for close to 20 years. 1528 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.
The Bubble Room on Captiva is always a hit with kids. There’s a train that runs around the place and the rooms are loaded with kitsch that will keep their attention along with the kids’ menu, which offers smaller portion (at mercifully lower prices) and pictures for them to color. The adult menu contains gargantuan servings of whatever you order but make sure to save room for a large piece of red velvet or orange crunch cake (which can be packed to go and is big enough to share). 15001 Captiva Road, Captiva.
Fine Folk Pizza n south Fort Myers features a dizzying array of artisan pizzas of varying sizes. The kid angle here is that pizza acrobats come to your table while you wait for your food and teach the kids how to make a pizza dough. 11300 Lindbergh Blvd., Fort Myers.
Jason’s Deli with locations in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Estero, has a wealth of food choices, including multiple soups, a salad bar and a choice of soup and half a sandwich for smaller appetites. Kids love the free soft-serve ice cream. This is an ultra-casual spot where you order at the counter and food is quickly delivered to your table.
The Boathouse Tiki Bar & Grill just east of Fort Myers sits along the Caloosahatchee River. It’s a sprawling open-air bar and restaurant with a beach and a pool, making it a kid-and adult-pleasing spot. There’s a full bar, full menu for adults and a $6.95 kids’ menu with six options plus a side of fruit or fries and a drink. 17101 State Road 31, east Fort Myers.
At Shima Japanese Steakhouse at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa on Sanibel, watch the hibachi chefs whip up your dinner. This is always a kid-pleaser. On Tuesdays, entrees are two for one, which is likely to make the adults happy, too. 1451 Middle Gulf Drive, Sanibel.
For adults only
Sometimes, you might want an adults-only meal. So, area restaurants offer some off-season treats for adults, too.
Harold’s Restaurant, an intimate and excellent farm-to-table in south Fort Myers, has an ever-changing menu because chef/owner Harold Balink relies on seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients. Hogfish and lionfish can sometimes be found on the menu, along with Jackman Ranch beef, scallops, Buffalo style cauliflower and other inventive fare. The bargains come from the well-chosen wine list, on which bottles are discounted 50 percent during the summer (at least through the end of August). 15250 S. Tamiami Trail, Fort Myers.
Angelina’s Ristorante has drawn food and wine lovers to Bonita Springs for several years with its superb food – including house-made pasta – and its extensive wine list. Through Sept. 30, all bottles priced at $175 or lower are 50 percent off, an excellent deal when paired with dinner at this elegant establishment. 24041 S. Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs.
Palladio Trattoria, a relative newcomer to the Bonita dining scene, is also an Italian restaurant, offering 40 percent off bottles ($90 or less) on its summer wine list on Wednesday; ladies’ night Thursdays with 50 percent off drinks $10 or less and 25 percent off entrees; date night Sundays featuring a three-course dinner and bottle of wine for a set price; and a 5-7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday summer pasta trio for two for $39.99. Chef/owner Emma Calcana also conducts periodic cooking classes and other special events. Check the website for the time and topic of the next one. 28340 Trails Edge Blvd., Bonita Springs.
At Matanzas on the Bay on Fort Myers Beach, there’s a summer prix fixe menu for $60 per couple available 4:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday through October. Share an appetizer (choose from four options), a small house salad for each of you, an entrée for each (from a list of six options) and a dessert to share. Also included in a bottle of Vista Point chardonnay or cabernet or take $10 off any bottle from the wine list. 416 Crescent St., Fort Myers Beach.