Most people who travel to Fort Myers, Florida do so to experience the beaches, nature parks and sunshine — but many also come to eat the local food. In this article, I’ve highlighted my top 5 restaurants in Fort Myers and the surrounding area (including a great lunch spot on Sanibel Island), so you’ll be able to enjoy some delicious meals during your Southwest Florida vacation.

Oxbow Bar & Grill (Downtown Fort Myers)

Oxbow Bar & Grill is a relatively new restaurant, located inside the former Art of the Olympians museum building on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in downtown Fort Myers. The restaurant is owned by Mainsail Lodging and Development, the same group that owns the Luminary Hotel & Co., an Autograph Collection property in the Marriott portfolio.

Exterior of Oxbow restaurant building on the waterfront with a wheelchair ramp into the building.

Demand for reservations at Oxbow is high, with both locals and Luminary Hotel guests vying for a table. I was fortunate to secure a midweek dinner reservation and had a great experience at the restaurant.

Large steak covered in sauce with mashed potatoes and large carrots.

I ordered the 12 oz. Grilled Prime New York Strip Steak, which is paired with mashed potatoes and carrots. The red wine reduction sauce gave the steak a delicious flavor and the meal was a highlight of my trip to Fort Myers. The Oxbow is a restaurant I’ll want to visit again during my next trip to Southwest Florida!

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille (Fort Myers Beach)

When I asked locals for restaurant recommendations, Doc Ford’s is a place that came up again and again. It’s such a hit that there are now four locations throughout Florida — St. Petersburg, Captiva Island, Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach — the latter being the one I visited.

Large shrimp in a bowl with a piece of French bread.

The meal to eat, I was told, is the restaurant’s signature dish: Yucatan Shrimp. The recipe for this tasty meal came all the way from Quintana Too, Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula, and will not disappoint! These steamed peel-and-eat shrimp are served in a dressing of real butter, garlic, mild Colombian chilies, fresh cilantro, and Key lime juice, along with a piece of French bread. You can’t go to Fort Myers without tasting these delicious shrimp!

Ford’s Garage (Downtown Fort Myers)

If you love a good burger, look no further than Ford’s Garage in downtown Fort Myers. The restaurant has a Henry Ford theme, with the chassis of a Ford Model T suspended over the bar.

All of the restaurant’s burgers are a half-pound of USDA Black Angus Beef, which the restaurant promises are served fresh and never frozen. There are loads of unique burger recipes, but I went the boring route — ordering the “American Standard” burger with the usual fixings of romaine lettuce, tomato, red onions and pickles on a slightly toasted brioche bun.

I paired the burger with the Ford’s Old Fashioned cocktail, made with Woodford Reserve (my favorite bourbon), blackberry brandy, pure cane syrup, bitters, orange and filthy cherries! It was a delicious combination!

Gramma Dot’s Restaurant (Sanibel Island)

Located at the Sanibel Marina on beautiful Sanibel Island, Gramma Dot’s is an affordable lunch spot with a laid-back atmosphere. The menu consists of the traditional seafood fare you’d expect from an island restaurant, plus burgers, chicken, salads and the like.

I ordered the crab cake sandwich, which comes with two crab cakes, homemade chips and a serving of fresh fruit. It’s a tasty meal in a great location for under $20, a deal that’s hard to pass up. Seating is available both inside and outside, but be sure to check the weather report! For wheelchair users visiting the restaurant, note that the bathrooms are not wheelchair accessible.

The Lodge (Downtown Fort Myers)

BBQ in downtown Fort Myers? Yes, please!

The Lodge, located on First Street across from the historic Arcade Theatre, offers classic BBQ in a restaurant themed as a mountain lodge. It’s a strange combination that somehow works.

BBQ brisket and turkey with macaroni & cheese, broccoli and cornbread.

I ordered smoked brisket and turkey breast, with macaroni & cheese, broccoli and corn bread. It was a real comfort food, and a nice change of pace from all the seafood I was eating along the Florida coast! The restaurant maintains a bar-like atmosphere, with a large selection of beers on tap and TVs with live sports in every direction.

Fort Myers is viewed by many as a destination for (sea)foodies, so I asked the locals I met where they liked to eat. In addition to the restaurants I visited and included on this list, the following list of restaurants came highly recommended and I look forward to trying them out on a future visit to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.

Featured image courtesy of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.

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