Sun-drenched days filled with family fun, sand and water are the elements we typically think of when considering what makes time on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel so enjoyable. But let’s be honest here: We all need a little time away from the kids, even if it’s just enough for a great dinner, a bottle of wine and a fabulous sunset.
While the majority of area restaurants welcome children, there are some that are just better when enjoyed in adults-only pairs without the distractions little ones inevitably bring. So in the spirit of keeping romance and adult conversation alive, here are some suggestions for a grown-up night on the town that includes noteworthy food, drink and ambience.
Angelina’s: If the soaring vertical wine tower doesn’t clue you in upon arrival, the lavishly decorated dining rooms, which include some secluded booths with privacy curtains, will. This upscale Italian restaurant offers fine wines, authentic Italian dishes and service to match.
Chops City Grill: Whether it’s a dry-aged steak, sushi, cooked seafood, a refreshing adult beverage or sophisticated atmosphere you seek, Chops provides it. Wine lovers will appreciate the 300-bottle wine list.
Figs Grille: Set a bit off the highway, you have to look for it, but it’s worth the search. You’ll find an elegant dining room with well-executed Middle Eastern and Italian food to match.
Manhattan Steakhouse: Talk about a hidden gem! This restaurant has survived despite being at the back of the shopping center in which it’s located. This is a classic steakhouse offering dry-aged steaks, a la carte vegetables and white tablecloths.
Roy’s: Hawaiian fusion means lots of fish options – a favorite is the signature misoyaki butterfish – plus a pineapple upside down cake for dessert that’s just right for sharing. Creative drinks, wine and warm service make this a Bonita Springs favorite for special nights out.
La Corte Bistro: A gorgeous courtyard and well-appointed dining room give this a romantic ambience. And then there’s the food – rack of lamb, veal saltimbocca, pasta Bolognese and other Italian delights – along with a carefully selected wine list. Just right for a dinner for two.
Slate’s: When the urge for Cajun or Creole cuisine strikes, head to Cape Coral and you’ll find what you’re after at Slate’s, where the atmosphere is casually elegant, the service is friendly and the menu features New Orleans classics like gumbo, etouffee and beverages such as the Hurricane and the French 75. Jazz brunch on Sundays is another option and includes a live jazz band.
Ristorante Farfalla: The flavors are Italian and Continental at this restaurant for grownups where the pasta is homemade and you’ll find classics such as cioppino and veal piccata. Add a bottle of wine and a cozy table with a white tablecloth and dinner is served.
Ruth’s Chris, Coconut Point: For elegant service, serious steaks, inventive craft cocktails, a stellar wine list and equally polished service, Ruth’s Chris delivers.
Tarpon Bay Seafood: The beach-cottage vibe belies the seriousness with which the kitchen handles a wide range of seafood. A highlight here is the ceviche (eight varieties) and raw bar, plus mix-and-match fish and sauces, risotto and a salt-baked red snapper (order an hour in advance). The Sunday champagne brunch is a blend of buffet and ordered items and is well worth the expense and calories.
Azure: French cuisine with a Southern flair is ideal for date night. Dive into some frogs’ legs, coq au vin or Moroccan lamb ragout as well as a bottle of wine then enjoy a touch of culinary entertainment as you watch the staff in the open kitchen create your meal.
Blanc: This diminutive spot packs big flavors that emerge from its super-hot Robata grill. Small plates meant for sharing include caviar, charcuterie platters, lamp lollipops and prawn skewers. No need to worry about getting close – that’s the only way it works here.
Caffe Toscano: This isn’t your typical red gravy and pasta joint. A quietly elegant dining room matches the flavors that appear on the plates. Dishes change according to what’s available locally, paired with items imported from Italy. Dishes contain just a few, intensely flavored ingredients. If osso buco or squid-ink pasta is available, order it.
CRU: Plush booths, well-trained servers and a creative menu make Cru a great choice for a night on the town. Beef tartare, purple paella and dry-aged duck breast are just three of the temptations you’ll find on the menu. Pair them with a well-crafted cocktail or a bottle of wine and settle in for a decadent meal.
Harold’s: Make a reservation if you’re planning a date night at this 30-seat farm-to-table gem tucked into a strip center in south Fort Myers. Menus change according to what’s in season but there are always scallops and they are always wonderful. House-made burrata, house-made pappardelle Bolognese and chocolate McLovin cake are sure bets, too. The wine list isn’t huge, but everything on it is a contender. Service is as polished as the food.
The Veranda: For four decades, this downtown institution has been lavishing customers with Southern hospitality in a dining room and courtyard that seem worlds away from reality. Southern grit cakes, Caesar salads made tableside and Bourbon Street filets are among the signature dishes at this oh-so-romantic spot.
FORT MYERS BEACH
Bayfront Bistro: Situated atop a marina, Bayfront Bistro has a splendid view of the water and plenty of seafood on the menu, too. Sip a minty mojito and feast on the bounty from the sea or, for carnivores, try the filet or N.Y. strip steak. Vegetarians aren’t neglected here, either. Wild mushroom risotto perhaps? Finish on a sweet note with some house-made Key lime pie.
Flippers on the Bay: For an open-air waterfront meal, Flippers has few equals. The seafood is fresh and beautifully prepared and you’re likely to see the dolphins at play in the bay as you sip your drinks and dine on inspired tropical cuisine.
Bleu Rendez-Vous: What’s more romantic than a French meal? Start with some wine (of course), and perhaps the pate or lobster bisque, then move on to the veal sweetbreads or seafood vol au vent and finish with some intensely chocolate mousse or a rustic apple galette pour deux.
Cielo: Newly renovated, this lovely restaurant is the epitome of romantic spaces and its new American menu has something for every taste. Ravioli with grilled vegetables or Dungeness crab, beef ribeye and rack of lamb are among the entrée offerings. Chocolate salted caramel mousse cake makes a great end to a meal.
Mad Hatter: This whimsical little spot has been around as long as we can remember and is a prime choice for waterfront dining. Savor a memorable meal featuring great wine and dishes such as goat cheese pillows, dayboat scallops, roasted root vegetable risotto or short ribs. Then take a romantic stroll along the beach.
Sweet Melissa’s Café: Whether your appetite is large or small, there are imaginative dishes, many crafted from locally sourced ingredients. Craft cocktails are equally well constructed.
Tarpon Lodge & Restaurant: If laid-back luxury is your style, Tarpon Lodge can offer a lovely setting complete with a sunset view and grown-up food. Start with some Pine Island clams in saffron broth and parmesan cheese then move on to a Harris Ranch black Angus New York strip steak or fiocchi (purses) pasta with cheeses and pear. Wine dinners and tastings are held regularly at this hidden gem.