As we close out another year, it’s time to reflect on the amazing experiences we’ve had and the memories we’ve made. Here at Estero Life, we especially like to reflect on the best meals we’ve eaten! 2018 introduced us to some new favorite Southwest Florida eateries — like the trendy Society and eclectic Dorona — and brought us back to a few longstanding favorites like Flipper’s on the Bay and The Pewter Mug (version 2.0). Enjoy this tasty roundup of our favorite menu finds, and start planning your next dinner out — perhaps to ring in the New Year!
Bell Tower Shops, Fort Myers
239.334.0900 / SocietyFortMyers.com
The Vibe: This dazzling, two-story restaurant and lounge offers open-air dining, brilliant visual displays and innovative cuisine. It’s named “Society” to appeal to folks from all walks of life.
Our Favorite Find: CUBAN CIGARS
This “small plate” delivers big impact. Served in an authentic Cuban cigar box, this meal starter is also a conversation starter! A Cuban-Asian fusion, this appetizer merges a classic Cuban sandwich (ham, roasted pork and Swiss) with a fried egg roll. It’s festively served atop a bamboo leaf with creamy dijon aioli for dipping.
NAPLES COASTAL KITCHEN
13500 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
239.514.4414 / CoastalKitchenNaples.com
The Vibe: Maritime goes modern for the decor of Naples Coastal Kitchen, featuring neon blue lighting at the bar, brushed metal tables and walls of periwinkle blue. The mood is “coastal casual,” and the menu features many seafood favorites from Chef Hector Hidalgo’s previous restaurant, Fish Crazy.
Our Favorite Find: TATER KEGS
Owner Stuart Bell brought “Tater Kegs” to the menu from the Midwest. These kicked-up tater tots make an appetizer that’s sure to please everyone in your party. Jumbo tots are filled with bacon, Wisconsin cheddar cheese and chives, and served with seasoned sour cream.
TRUE FOOD KITCHEN
Waterside Shops, Naples
239.431.4580 / TrueFoodKitchen.com
The Vibe: Unusual flavor profiles excite the tastebuds at this trendy spot for upscale-casual dining. The menu is ever evolving to incorporate the ripest produce of the season, including ingredients designed to promote better health.
Our Favorite Find: SEASONAL INGREDIENT SALAD
An eclectic mix of peak-season ingredients make this one of the most interesting salads around, blending Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, white beans and pomegranate with the sweetness of squash, balanced by a zippy horseradish vinaigrette. Add your choice of protein, if you wish, but this salad’s so tasty, you won’t miss the meat.
SWISS GERMAN BISTRO
The Prado at Spring Creek, Bonita Springs
239.949.9990 / SwissGermanBistro.com
The Vibe: What happens when a Swiss man takes over a German bistro? A delicious Alpine eatery is born! The atmosphere is homey and unpretentious. Chat it up with Chef Ralf and enjoy traditional, tasty comfort foods.
Our Favorite Find: HOMEMADE APPLE STRUDEL
There’s just one dessert on the bistro’s menu, and that’s just fine. Because after you try Chef Ralf’s homemade Apple Strudel, why would you want anything else? This German apple pie is served with vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream. It’s the perfect sweet note following a hearty meal of sauerbraten or wiener schnitzel.
BRIO TUSCAN GRILLE
Waterside Shops, Naples
239.593.5319 / BrioItalian.com
The Vibe: The grand, curtained terrace sets the stage for a relaxed evening with friends and family — with great food and fine wines typical of the Tuscan countryside. This is the place for alfresco dining and rustic Italian cuisine.
Our Favorite Find: PAN SEARED HALF CHICKEN
This “chef’s speciality” dish features a juicy half-chicken marinated in lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil with rosemary for four hours before roasting. It’s served over farro — a nutty grain dating back to ancient Rome — deliciously blended with imported Marcona almonds, along with roasted mushrooms and carrots.
Third Street South, Naples
239.434.7258 / SeaSaltNaples.com
The Vibe: Sea Salt is a place for seafood connoisseurs and aficionados of authentic Italian cuisine. The restaurant’s lovely garden setting only enhances the beauty of each elegantly presented dish. Third Street South captivates with its historic charm and seasonal festivity.
Our Favorite Find: WHOLE CRISPY SNAPPER
Fresh-caught Gulf Yellowtail reminds you “this is Florida.” It’s impressively presented whole — teeth, eyeballs and all. Handily, the tasty fillets are served atop the carcass for easy consumption and artfully draped with blanched broccolini. It’s further enhanced with “cheese curds” of ricotta gnocchi and a rich “lobster cappuccino.”
SOUTH FORK GRILLE
Coconut Point Mall, Estero
239.992.5040 / SouthForkGrille.com
The Vibe: This locally owned eatery is refined yet relaxing with cuisine that is both perfectly presented and palate pleasing. You’ll find white linens, candle-lit tables and bottles of wine lining the wall — plus a more casual bar area for lively conversations.
Our Favorite Find: BACON WRAPPED PORK CHOP
This bone-in beauty is unbelievably tender and flavor-infused, thanks to Chef Shaune Barnes’ addition of a bacon wrap. A sweet-and-smoky dry rub enhances the savor while Fuji apple demi-glace adds a hint of sweetness. It’s served with a succulent sweet potato hash and roasted Brussels sprouts.
2110 9th St. N., Naples
This “modern Italian steakhouse” is an eclectic gem. Live plants hang from the dining room ceiling, exposed metal ductwork adds urban flair, yet barn doors and farmhouse tabletops keep it casual.
Our Favorite Find:CUSTOM CUT STEAK
Dorona has a separate steak menu with many tantalizing options, all juicy and delicious. There’s Black Angus, raised in Nebraska; all-natural, grass-fed ribeye from Joyce Farms; and Jackman Ranch premium Waygu “Kobe style” New York strip. Aged beef options include an impressive 22-ounce, Bone In Ribeye.
FLIPPER’S ON THE BAY
Lovers Key Resort, Fort Myers Beach
239.765.1025 / flippersotb.com
The Vibe: This waterfront restaurant is all open-air with terrific views of Estero Bay (dolphins are common sightings). While the atmosphere is casual, the food is sophisticated. And the Captain’s List offers a stunning selection of elite wines you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere in Southwest Florida.
Our Favorite Find: TASTE OF THE BAY
This “signature” pasta dish is a seafood lover’s dream, offering house-made fettuccine topped with lobster claw meat, jumbo shrimp and diver sea scallops in a delectable basil pesto cream sauce, incorporating pear tomatoes, shallots and bacon. Sommelier Mladen Stoev perfectly pairs this seafood feast with Kistler Vineyard Chardonnay.
Third Street South, Naples
239.263.1955 / barbatellanaples.com
The Vibe: Barbatella delivers innovation, combing classic elements with modern touches. Enjoy terrace dining or sit in the iconic dining room with its Italianate architecture featuring ceiling roses, painted in bold green. Birdcage-enclosed chandeliers light a long community table for dining with friends — or making new ones!
Our Favorite Find: PAPPARDELLE BOLOGNESE
This hearty, lasagna-like dish is meaty and satisfying. Its flavor comes from a medley of meats: ground beef, pork, prosciutto and charcuterie. A must-try for traditional Italian food aficionados! Finish your meal with homemade Gelati or sorbet.
THE PEWTER MUG NORTH
14700 U.S. 41 North, Naples
239.596.6844 / PewterMugNorth.com
The Vibe: For nearly 50 years, The Pewter Mug has been renowned for its signature cuts of prime rib and its famous soup and salad bar. Now in a new location, this venerated restaurant has updated its decor and ambience while keeping most of the time-honored menu intact.
Our Favorite Find: ‘WORLD FAMOUS’ PRIME RIB
This is the “‘main attraction” when it comes to beef. Aged for a minimum of 21 days and roasted to perfection, the “World Famous” Prime Rib is carved in several portion sizes, from the 10-ounce “Prime Minister” to the 24-ounce “Flintstone Cut.” And if that’s not enough, every entree comes with the all-you-can-eat Soup and Salad Bar experience.