The Lower Gulf Coast Restaurants

In this part of Florida, fresh seafood reigns supreme. Succulent native stone-crab claws, a particularly tasty treat, in season from mid-October through mid-May, are usually served hot with drawn butter or chilled with tangy mustard sauce. Supplies are typically steady, since claws regenerate in time for the next season. Other seafood specialties include fried grouper sandwiches and Sanibel pink shrimp. In Naples's highly hailed restaurants and sidewalk cafés, mingle with locals, winter visitors, and other travelers, and catch up on the latest culinary trends.

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  • 1. Angelina's Ristorante

    $$$$

    Here it's all about enjoying one of the most indulgent, pampered meals you'll ever eat—and it's best not to show up in flip-flops, jeans, or...

    Here it's all about enjoying one of the most indulgent, pampered meals you'll ever eat—and it's best not to show up in flip-flops, jeans, or shorts (you probably won't be turned away for dressing casually, but you will feel uncomfortable). Formally trained waitstaff attend to your every need in this temple of traditional Italian cuisine. A dramatic wine tower hovers over the main room; the plush private booths surrounding it are the best tables (call early to snag one). The taste circus begins with an amuse-bouche. Pick between antipasti, crispy flatbreads, and wholesome soups before moving on to homemade pastas and grilled meats. Absolutely try the butternut squash ravioli, an inventive version with citrus-tomato butter and truffled almonds. The evening ends with a complimentary nightcap. There is also a great prix-fixe menu.

    24041 S. Tamiami Trail, Bonita Springs, Florida, 34134, USA
    239-390–3187

    Known For

    • Phenomenal service
    • Homemade pastas
    • Sea salt–baked snapper for two

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch, Reservations essential
  • 2. Old Captiva House

    $$$$

    Just across the street from the beach, this wonderfully historic restaurant is casual, comfortable, and considered by many to offer the best fine-dining experience on...

    Just across the street from the beach, this wonderfully historic restaurant is casual, comfortable, and considered by many to offer the best fine-dining experience on Captiva Island. Entrées include seafood dishes like the blackened snapper with watermelon cucumber salad, and land dishes like pomegranate-glazed lamb chops. Tempting appetizers, creative salads, and tantalizing desserts round out the menu. The restaurant has its own baker to create its sweet and savory breads and cakes. No need to dress up; island casual is welcome. Make time to enjoy the fantastic sunsets at the beach.

    15951 Captiva Dr., Captiva, Florida, 33924, USA
    239-472–5161

    Known For

    • Romantic atmosphere
    • Fresh seafood and sushi
    • Good wine selection

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations essential
  • 3. Osteria Tulia

    $$$$

    The setting at this intimate but lively restaurant is refined but rustic, with wood repurposed from a dilapidated Florida barn and 1940s-era bricks reclaimed from...

    The setting at this intimate but lively restaurant is refined but rustic, with wood repurposed from a dilapidated Florida barn and 1940s-era bricks reclaimed from a Chicago firehouse. The Sicilian-born chef (and part-owner) eschews an ornate menu and instead offers simple, finely produced Italian dishes. The signature fennel sausage is made using a family recipe, and the kitchen cures its own pancetta, makes its own mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, and extrudes its own pasta. Seasonal dishes like rabbit and wild boar shine; the tortelloni with braised short ribs pleases nightly.

    466 5th Ave. S, Naples, Florida, 34102, USA
    239-213–2073

    Known For

    • Homemade sausage and cheeses
    • Freshly made pastas
    • Rustic, family setting
  • 4. Sea Salt

    $$$$

    The city's hottest upscale restaurant draws a crowd of connoisseurs to a modern, coral-stone dining room that spills out onto the sidewalk. The menu changes...

    The city's hottest upscale restaurant draws a crowd of connoisseurs to a modern, coral-stone dining room that spills out onto the sidewalk. The menu changes nightly, and the Venetian-born chef puts a New World spin on traditional Italian favorites, which are seasoned with different types of sea salt from around the globe. The finest quality meats and seafood, much of it sourced from local farmers and fisherman, are used in all the dishes.

    1186 3rd St. S, Naples, Florida, 34102, USA
    239-434–7258

    Known For

    • Charred octopus appetizer
    • Daily prix-fixe sunset menu from 5 to 6
    • Homemade pappardelle with Wagyu beef

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations essential
  • 5. The Local

    $$

    Health-conscious foodies, hipsters, and retirees mix equally at this farm-and-sea-to-table bistro, which, as the name suggests, stocks its kitchen almost exclusively with items from local...

    Health-conscious foodies, hipsters, and retirees mix equally at this farm-and-sea-to-table bistro, which, as the name suggests, stocks its kitchen almost exclusively with items from local suppliers. Though it's in a strip mall a few blocks inland, it has a polished interior that manages to evoke both the beach and the farm. Choose from healthful options like a super-food salad or more indulgent dishes such as pork shoulder au jus with mango mustard.

    5323 Airport Pulling Rd. N, Naples, Florida, USA
    239-596–3276

    Known For

    • Pot roast with grandma's veggies
    • Flatbreads and pizzas
    • Fresh ingredients
  • Recommended Fodor’s Video

  • 6. The Silver King Ocean Brasserie

    $$$$

    The signature restaurant of the trendy Luminary Hotel & Co. truly shines, offering fine dining in an inviting, sophisticated atmosphere. The menu is brimming with...

    The signature restaurant of the trendy Luminary Hotel & Co. truly shines, offering fine dining in an inviting, sophisticated atmosphere. The menu is brimming with modern takes on seafood favorites, including flavorful deconstructed stone crab. Outdoor seating is available.

    2200 Edwards Dr., Fort Myers, Florida, 33901, USA
    239-314–3855

    Known For

    • Whole fish and seafood
    • Outdoor seating
    • Private dining in "The Florida Room."

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon.
  • 7. Traders Store & Café

    $$$

    In the midst of a warehouse-size store, this comfortable bistro, accented with stunning Florida photography from Alan Maltz, is a local favorite. The marvelous sesame-seared...

    In the midst of a warehouse-size store, this comfortable bistro, accented with stunning Florida photography from Alan Maltz, is a local favorite. The marvelous sesame-seared tuna lunch salad with Asian slaw and wasabi vinaigrette exemplifies the creative fare; for dinner, try the barbecued baby back ribs, macadamia-crusted grouper, or any of the day's finely crafted specials. The bar serves light nibbles and happy-hour twofers. While waiting for your food, visit the attached shop filled with everything from affordable trinkets to pricey island wear.

    1551 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, Florida, 33957, USA
    239-472–7242

    Known For

    • Barbecue ribs
    • Fresh fish dishes
    • Live entertainment

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations not accepted, Closed Sun.
  • 8. USS Nemo

    $$$$

    Don't be fooled by the cheesy glowing sign visible from the highway—most locals swear this is the place for fresh seafood, which is why you...

    Don't be fooled by the cheesy glowing sign visible from the highway—most locals swear this is the place for fresh seafood, which is why you need a reservation even in the heat of summer. The setting is whimsical (portholes, antique bronze diving gear, colorful fish sculptures), and the dishes are eclectic, often featuring Asian-inspired preparations. The signature miso-broiled sea bass with citrus-ginger butter strikes the right balance between sweet and savory; the ginger-steamed halibut with soy-lime dressing and the herb-grilled tuna with warm goat cheese and seared diver scallops are also winners.

    3745 Tamiami Trail N, Naples, Florida, 34103, USA
    239-261–6366

    Known For

    • Miso-broiled sea bass
    • Swordfish cioppino
    • Fresh tuna with your choice of savory sauce

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch weekends, Reservations essential
  • 9. Baleen

    $$$$

    The mood cast in the well-appointed dining room and the romantic Gulf-view patio that spills onto the sand makes a meal here the perfect Florida...

    The mood cast in the well-appointed dining room and the romantic Gulf-view patio that spills onto the sand makes a meal here the perfect Florida dining experience. There's only one small problem—lighting is so low at dinner that you can't read the menu, even with its built-in flashlight, which is too bad, because it means you also miss the effect of the beautifully presented dishes. An impressive prix-fixe option includes a starter, entrée, and dessert.  Schedule your dinner outdoors to catch gorgeous views of the sunset.

    9891 Gulf Shore Dr., Naples, Florida, 34108, USA
    239-598–5707

    Known For

    • Lobster frittata breakfast
    • Signature blackened grouper
    • Water views

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations essential
  • 10. Barbatella

    $$$

    The wine bar at this popular trattoria has a communal table, crystal chandeliers hung inside birdcages, and a wine dispenser that lets you sample 30...

    The wine bar at this popular trattoria has a communal table, crystal chandeliers hung inside birdcages, and a wine dispenser that lets you sample 30 of its more than 100 Italian (of course) wines by the 1-, 3-, or 6-ounce glass. The brick dining room, with 150-year-old recycled flooring, is more casual and open to the kitchen; the central patio is shaded and relaxed. Straight-up and expertly done classic Italian dishes include bruschetta, fried calamari, lasagna, and wood-fired pizza. Save room for the gelato, though.

    1290 3rd St. S, Naples, Florida, 34102, USA
    239-263–1955

    Known For

    • Pizzettes (small pizzas)
    • Venetian-style meatballs
    • Amazing gelato
  • 11. Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro

    $$$

    Loyal fans flock to bustling 5th Avenue South year in and year out to indulge in this restaurant's chic Persian atmosphere and cuisine. Favorite dishes...

    Loyal fans flock to bustling 5th Avenue South year in and year out to indulge in this restaurant's chic Persian atmosphere and cuisine. Favorite dishes include plum lamb with tomato-pomegranate sauce, ginger apricot shrimp (which was featured in Bon Appétit), and spicy beef in saffron sauce—all made on-site and completely from scratch.

    865 5th Ave. S, Naples, Florida, 34102, USA
    239-594–5557

    Known For

    • Authentic Persian cuisine
    • Signature plum lamb
    • Slow-braised duck

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations essential
  • 12. Chops City Grill

    $$$$

    Luxurious yet simultaneously resort-wear casual, this restaurant draws everyone from young businesspeople to local retirees. Sushi and such Pacific Rim inspirations as shrimp spring rolls...

    Luxurious yet simultaneously resort-wear casual, this restaurant draws everyone from young businesspeople to local retirees. Sushi and such Pacific Rim inspirations as shrimp spring rolls rub elbows with beef carpaccio and watermelon salad with goat cheese and pecans; grilled seafood and fine cuts of meat like dry-aged rib-eyes or strip steaks come with your choice of nine sides that include "wild" sherry-laced mushrooms for four-cheese mac. For dessert, sip a Special K Express martini, made with a full shot of espresso. Dine alfresco or inside with a view of the kitchen. There's a second location in Bonita Springs.

    837 5th Ave. S, Naples, Florida, 34102, USA
    239-262–4677

    Known For

    • Succulent dry-aged steaks
    • Region's best clam chowder
    • Delicious side dishes

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch, Reservations essential
  • 13. Cibo

    $$$

    Its flavor-bursting food and its propensity for using fresh, quality ingredients keep Cibo (pronounced chee-bo) at the head of the class for local Italian restaurants....

    Its flavor-bursting food and its propensity for using fresh, quality ingredients keep Cibo (pronounced chee-bo) at the head of the class for local Italian restaurants. In contrast to the sophisticated black-and-white setting, the menu is colorful, from the classic Caesar salad with shaved Grana Padano to the spaghetti and meatballs, salmon piccata, and veal porterhouse with porcini risotto. The lasagna Napoletana is typical of the standards set here—a generous square of pasta layered with fluffy ricotta, meat ragu, mozzarella, and the totally fresh-tasting, garlicky pomodoro sauce.

    12901 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, Florida, 33919, USA
    239-454–3700

    Known For

    • Classic Italian dishes
    • Excellent service
    • Great wine list

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch, Reservations essential
  • 14. Côte d'Azur

    $$$$

    This restaurant brings Provençal joie de vivre and flavor to Naples with dishes that are sometimes made using exotic ingredients but are always prepared to...

    This restaurant brings Provençal joie de vivre and flavor to Naples with dishes that are sometimes made using exotic ingredients but are always prepared to perfection. The narrow dining room, with yellow-striped awnings and windows inset with mirrors and flower boxes, suggests a French sidewalk café.

    11224 Tamiami Trail N, Naples, Florida, 34110, USA
    239-597–8867

    Known For

    • Good selection of wine by the glass
    • Crispy duck
    • Authentic French experience

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.
  • 15. Crazy Flamingo

    $$

    Burgers, conch fritters, and chicken wings draw mostly locals to this neighborhood bar. Order at the counter, and take a seat indoors or outdoors on...

    Burgers, conch fritters, and chicken wings draw mostly locals to this neighborhood bar. Order at the counter, and take a seat indoors or outdoors on the sidewalk. Try the peel-and-eat shrimp, sushi, mussels marinara, chicken bistro salad, or fried grouper basket.

    1035 N. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, Florida, 34145, USA
    239-642–9600

    Known For

    • Fresh steamed and fried seafood
    • Uncle Vinny's steak sandwich
    • Ultracasual atmosphere
  • 16. Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille

    $$

    For dependably well-prepared food with a water view, Doc Ford's is the top choice in Fort Myers Beach. A spin-off of a Sanibel Island original,...

    For dependably well-prepared food with a water view, Doc Ford's is the top choice in Fort Myers Beach. A spin-off of a Sanibel Island original, its name and theme come from a murder-mystery series by local celebrity author Randy Wayne White. Diners rave about the Yucatan shrimp—steamed in the shell with spicy Key lime butter. Other choice picks include the beach bread, pulled-pork sandwich, banana leaf–wrapped snapper, shrimp and grits with tomatillo sauce, and penne with rock shrimp. Live bands play Wednesday through Sunday.

    708 Fisherman's Wharf, Fort Myers Beach, Florida, 33931, USA
    239-765–9660

    Known For

    • Yucatan shrimp, steamed with spicy Key lime butter
    • Fish tacos
    • Lively atmosphere

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations not accepted
  • 17. Fernández The Bull

    $$

    You'll get authentic, critically acclaimed, unpretentious Cuban specialties at this simple storefront café a few miles inland. Stick to the basics, like the lemony lechon...

    You'll get authentic, critically acclaimed, unpretentious Cuban specialties at this simple storefront café a few miles inland. Stick to the basics, like the lemony lechon asado (slow-roasted pork basted with garlic) or ropa vieja (shreds of flank steak simmered in tomato sauce with heaps of peppers and onions). Prices are good, considering that one entrée is enough for dinner and lunch the next day and that it comes with salads, big slabs of toasted garlic bread, and two sides. The bar is wine-and-beer only; the mojitos are faux-jitos but still pretty tasty.

    1201 Piper Blvd., Naples, Florida, 34110, USA
    239-254–9855

    Known For

    • Generous portions
    • Old-school black beans and rice
    • Palomilla steak with onions
  • 18. Il Pomodoro Cucina Italiana

    $$$

    We may say tomato or tomahtoe, but in Italy, they say pomodoro. Start with hot, crusty, garlic-glazed rolls, and Caesar salad with a flavorful Romano...

    We may say tomato or tomahtoe, but in Italy, they say pomodoro. Start with hot, crusty, garlic-glazed rolls, and Caesar salad with a flavorful Romano dressing; from there you have your pick from combinations of classic Italian subs, pastas and sauces, pizzas, and proteins. The same menu applies for both lunch and dinner, but with different pricing. It ranges from standard veal parmigiana and lasagna to gnocchi pomodoro (smothered in fresh tomatoes and basil) and chicken Sinatra (battered and layered with prosciutto, eggplant, roasted peppers, and fresh mozzarella in lemon wine sauce).

    9681 Gladiolus Dr., Fort Myers, Florida, 33908, USA
    239-985–0080

    Known For

    • Rigatoni Bolognese
    • Good pizza
    • Chicken Sinatra

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No lunch Sat.–Mon.
  • 19. Keylime Bistro Boca Grande & The Loose Caboose Ice Cream Shoppe

    $$$

    Revered by many—including Katharine Hepburn in her time—for its homemade ice cream, this is also a good spot for comfort food and fresh seafood. Housed...

    Revered by many—including Katharine Hepburn in her time—for its homemade ice cream, this is also a good spot for comfort food and fresh seafood. Housed in the town's historic depot, it offers indoor and patio seating in an all-American setting. Expect slow service in season, and paper plates with plastic utensils. Be sure to order a piece of the homemade, award-winning Key lime pie.

    433 W. 4th St., Boca Grande, Florida, 33921, USA
    941-941-964–0440

    Known For

    • Extremely rich (16% butterfat) ice cream
    • Green tomatoes and crab cake appetizer
    • Caboose Thai shrimp

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: No dinner
  • 20. Matanzas Inn

    $$$

    Watch boats coming and going whether you sit inside or out at this rustic Old Florida–style restaurant right on the docks alongside the Intracoastal Waterway....

    Watch boats coming and going whether you sit inside or out at this rustic Old Florida–style restaurant right on the docks alongside the Intracoastal Waterway. When the weather cooperates, enjoy the view from the shaded outdoor tables. Inside, a rustic shack gives way to a more formal dining area in the back; there's a bar upstairs with sweeping views, pizza, and live music nightly. You can't miss with grouper or shrimp from the local fleets—delicately cornmeal-breaded, stuffed, or dipped in rum and coconut. Landlubbers can choose from ribs and steak. This is true Fort Myers Beach style, meaning service can be a bit gruff—and slow.

    414 Crescent St., Fort Myers Beach, Florida, 33931, USA
    239-463–9258

    Known For

    • Pizza at Petey's Upper Deck
    • Fresh seafood
    • Slow, sometimes grumpy servers

    Restaurant Details

    Rate Includes: Reservations not accepted

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