Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel

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buffetbuster
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 10:30:41 (permalink)
One of the things I was particularly curious about was whether you can find good Southern cooking in the Fort Myers area.  To answer this question and to try and eat my own weight in pie, I had lunch on Saturday at Flora and Ella's

in La Belle.
 
From what I read online and in the Stern's 1992 Roadfood book, I was expecting Flora and Ella's to be a run down country shack.  When I pulled up, I was surprised to see a big modern building,

surrounded by motorcycles.  Do bikers know the best places to eat pie?  I will soon find out.  
 
Since it was just a few minutes before noon, the place was very crowded.  I was seated at a small table right in the middle of the main dining room.  I made sure I sat facing the direction that gave me the best view of this.
 
There is a little bit about the history of the restaurant on the front of the menu,

but there is no way this building goes back to 1933.
 
For an entree, I ran into an unusual predicament.  Do I order the dish they are most famous for, fried chicken?  Do I go for the dish that I am particularly fond of, chicken & dumplings?  Or do I try an interesting item, that I have never had before, Hoppin John?

Once I saw that dumplings could be ordered as a side, that made the decision easier and I went with the fried chicken.


The skin was highly seasoned, but lacked the crunchiness that I like.  The meat was somewhat juicy, but the chicken itself didn't have great flavor.  This was good fried chicken but nothing special.
 
The dumplings were a disappointment.

Lots of gravy, very little dumplings.  But, things get better from here.  My side of collard greens were wonderful.

Deep, earthy flavor to these greens.
 
The little stand on my table called them heavenly pies, as this pie angel reinforces. 

I had very high hopes and I was not disappointed.  Other than the bikers, who had their own seating area in the back, almost everyone else eating was a senior citizen.  Not that there was anything wrong with that, but everytime a waitress would ask a table near me if they were having pie, they always said no.  So when the waitress read off the list and I told her I was having a slice of butterscoth and a slice of strawberry, everyone turned out to see who the pig was.  Several of the men at nearby tables even starting playfully teasing me about it.  I just sat there and smiled.  The filling on the butterscotch was ultradense, which contrasted nicely with the light as air meringue.

Very good pie, but the strawberry pie was fantastic! 
 
The strawberries sure tasted fresh.  Held in by a rugged crust and by a Cool Whip topping, I loved this pie.
 
The menu at Flora and Ella's has all kinds of country classics on it, but I would 100% come back for the pie alone!
 
Flora and Ella's
550 Hickpoochee Ave.
La Belle, FL
863-675-2891
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/10 10:43:50
#31
CajunKing
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 13:18:40 (permalink)
BB
 
Sorry to hear the chicken wasnt up to your snuff, in the south you should have went with the Hoppin John.
 
Those pies look great, good to hear all the seniors didnt want pie, saved more for you! 
 
You are right about the newer building, the restaurant used to located on Bridge St by the river.  It was moved to the new location sometime after 2002, by Ella's daughter Irene and her husband.
 
Ella died in 1998, Flora passed in 2002.
 
#32
mar52
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 13:19:35 (permalink)
Lovely report.  The picture of the chicken makes me want some right now.  Not so with the dumplings.  They look like boiled bisquit dough.  (I happen to love boiled bisquit dough but like lots of it)

As for the pie I would have had one piece there and one to go.


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buffetbuster
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 13:21:24 (permalink)
CK-
Thanks as always for the information.  It wasn't that the chicken was bad, it just wasn't as good as I had seen others rave about it.  Next time, it will be the Hoppin' John!
 
mar52-
As good as those pies were, it was awful tempting to get one to go. 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/10 13:22:46
#34
ken8038
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 13:30:04 (permalink)
Buffetbuster: Thanks for this vicarious trip to Sanibel. My wife and I honeymooned there in (OMG!) 1981.
 
I'm sure there weren't all these fabulous places to eat there back then. In fact, as I recall, most nights we drove over to Fort Myers to eat and have a drink or two because the options on the Island were so bad.
 
But we loved the scenery and of course the shelling. A centerpiece of our kitchen for all these years has always been a big glass display jar filled with small shells we gathered at Sanibel.
 
We had planned to go back for our 25th, but as we've learned over 25 years of kids and other stuff, sh*t happens and we had to put it off. But we do still plan to get back.
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 14:01:15 (permalink)
ken8038-
Glad to hear this brought back good memories for you.  Do you remember where on Sanibel you stayed during your honeymoon?  We had some similar shell displays in my parents house.  I hope you get to go back to Sanibel soon.
#36
Nancypalooza
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 14:04:24 (permalink)
I was going to say, I bet you would have liked the Hoppin' John.  There seems to be a high correlation between good greens and good hoppin' john.  Those pies are amazing.
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sk bob
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/10 20:18:43 (permalink)
I love shrimp
I love omelets
 never the two shall meet
#38
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 07:10:29 (permalink)
Buffetbuster,
 
Not sure if the report is over, but just wondering if you got a chance to stop into Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille ( http://www.docfordssanibel.com/ ) on Sanibel? We spent last Memorial Day weekend on Captiva & had a nice afternoon break at Doc's.
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 12:54:56 (permalink)
Looking for a taste of old Fort Myers, I had lunch on the Sunday at the Farmer's Market Restaurant

in the downtown area.  The outside sign made me think this could be the place in Fort Myers I was seeking for good Southern food.

 
When you walk in the front door, there is a take-out register and some counter seats to the right.  But the rest of the seating was at regular tables and I selected a table in the corner.  My waitress walked over and accused me of hiding from her.  All the waitresses here are real pros and look like they have been here forever.  The patrons were an interesting mix of locals dressed in their Sunday best and farmers in ball caps fueling up for the day.
 
The type written menu is nothing fancy,

with a few additions hand written on the back.  I placed my order and the waitress told me good choices.  I started on the bread.

The dinner roll was extremely soft, warm and yeasty, yet still took a backseat to the fantastic cornbread biscuit.  The great bread was a good sign as was the fresh sweet tea.

 
Here is my plate, with meatloaf, macaroni & cheese, green beans and squash casserole. 

The meatloaf was a fine slice of hearty comfort food and the squash casserole

was quite good, also.  The disappointment was the mac & cheese.  I just did not care for the cheese taste at all.  No big deal, because the green beans,

bathed in pork juice, were incredibly flavorful and reminded me of my grandmother's.
 
A fine roster of desserts, with a half dozen pies available.  The banana cream pie was
 
thicker than what I am used to, but still had good banana flavor.  Even better though, was the piece of pineapple upside down cake.

I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for places that serve good pineapple upside down cake.
 
Right next door to the restaurant is the actual State Farmer's Market.

If you go to Fort Myers and don't eat here, you must have some kind of Death Wish!!!
 
Farmer's Market Restaurant
2736 Edison Avenue
Fort Myers, FL
239-334-1687
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/11 13:24:39
#40
Nancypalooza
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 13:10:16 (permalink)
Awesome Cliff--the menu and the food all look really similar to the North Carolina Farmers' Market restaurants, of which the Moose Cafe is one.  Sad to hear that about the mac and cheese though.  The squash casserole, on first glance, might belong in that other thread, you know?  :)
#41
ken8038
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 13:12:32 (permalink)
<<Do you remember where on Sanibel you stayed during your honeymoon? >.

Sorry, I don't, and I even asked my wife. I'm sure we have pix stashed away in some old photo album, but that will have to wait until I feel like climbing over boxes in the attic.

It wasn't one of the well known places, it was an efficiency apartment in a small complex that someone had recommended to us for it's low key atmosphere, nice people, and proximity to the water, all of which turned out to be true. It's probably now been replaced by a luxury condo or something.

We did collectively manage to recall the names of two places on the Island that we ate at. One was a standard-issue- of-the- era Fern bar (remember that term?) called McT's, and the other was called the Machalaca Oyster House or something like that. Neither was very good and probably led to our decision to head back to the mainland for future dinners. 

Thanks again, I'm enjoying the additions to the report.
#42
CajunKing
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 13:24:55 (permalink)
BB

Now I know that we must be related.  I LOVE Pineapple Upside Down Cake.

That banana cream pie looked heavenly
#43
mar52
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 14:41:18 (permalink)
I understand having the sides in their individual bowls but I sure miss the look of a plate full of comfort food.

The macaroni looks like it came out of a can but that pie looks heavenly.  Was it as light as it looks or does your description of thicker mean what I would call dense?  Were there anyfresh bananas in it?  I need fresh bananas!


#44
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 14:57:30 (permalink)
I'm glad you asked me that Mar52, because I was a little surprised by the complete absence of any bananas in the pie.  It was nothing but banana filling.  While it was dense, it was not nearly as much as the butterscotch pie from the day before.

To compare the two Southern lunches I had, the desserts were better at Flora & Ella's, but the rest of the meals were clearly better at Farmer's Market Restaurant.  I was hoping that I would love one of these two places nough to write a formal review for the site, but both of them came up just shy. 

CK-
I think pineapple upside down cake is one of those things that just about everyone's mother made and that makes it such a comforting dessert to eat.  I wish more restaurants carried it.

Nancypalooza-
There is something about the textures of these dishes that makes it difficult to get a good shot.  The camera loves things with strong definite lines and these dishes (corned beef hash & squash casserole) don't have that!
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/11 15:03:56
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Nancypalooza
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/11 20:41:23 (permalink)
No, I gotcha.  It would make a fine new Olympic sport.  ;)
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 08:41:25 (permalink)
I really need to finish up a couple of other reports before I go starting others.....
 
A couple of stops for snacks were made.  On Saturday, I stopped at the Skyline Chili,

located in a shopping center on busy Hwy 41 in Fort Myers.  With all the times I have been to Cincy, I have never been to a Skyline Chili.  Too busy eating at the independents, like Blue Ash Chili, Price Hill Chili and especially Camp Washington Chili.  The inside was very clean and decorated with banners and photos from the Cincy area.

I asked the waitress if there were that many retirees from SW Ohio in Fort Myers and she promptly pointed out a half dozen sitting around the room.  Good for them that they can get chili down here.  If I lived in SE Florida, I would certainly visit Primanti Brothers.
 
Unfortunately, I was unimpressed by the food.  The 5-Way chili

seemed to lack the strong flavor of the other places up north I have visited and was too watery.  The coneys

were also lifeless and bland, although they sure don't cheat you on the amount of cheese you are given.  I still plan on trying a Skyline Chili in Cincy one day.
 
After the chili, I needed a palate cleanser and drove the 25 miles down to Bonita Springs for an ice cream place I read that was being given high marks.  The name of the place is Royal Scoop.

Located on an out of the way side street, the place was absolutely mobbed.  They have a decent sized parking lot and people were still having to park on the street and down the road.  It took a while to wind through the long line, which gave me plenty of time to check out the available flavors.

I ended up with a scoop of peppermint stick over top a scoop of the black raspberry.

I can't remember the last time I had such good ice cream.  The black raspberry was especially very fresh tasting, not overly sweet and with a hard texture.  Still, it was very light on the tongue.  BTW, sorry about the bad photo.  Since the place was so crowded, there were no seats, so I had to eat (and take pictures) in the car.
 
The ice cream was so good, I had to go back the next day.  Not nearly as many people in the middle of the afternoon.

This time, it was a scoop of mint chocolate chip over top the black cherry.

I didn't get the burst of flavor in the cherry like I did with the raspberry, but this was still really top notch ice cream.  The larger than usual misshapen chocolate chunks in the mint ice cream was another highlight.
 
If I lived in Fort Myers, I would definitely drive down here at least once a week.
 
Royal Scoop
15 8th Street
Bonita Springs, FL
239-992-2000
 
http://www.royalscoop.com/
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/16 08:47:14
#47
Nancypalooza
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 10:27:22 (permalink)
Oh I love a good raspberry, and a good mint.  I'm glad you're an adventurous flavor-mixer.  I'm thinking cake batter might be a southern thing--it's nearly ubiquitous around here and I don't recall ever seeing anything like that from Chris/Amy/Stephen's ice cream tour last summer.
#48
mar52
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 12:01:15 (permalink)
Ice cream is my downfall.

I love ice cream with a good dense base, texture and flavor that makes me shout out YUM!

That looks like it fits the bill.
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buffetbuster
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 13:14:59 (permalink)
Nancypalooza

Oh I love a good raspberry, and a good mint.  I'm glad you're an adventurous flavor-mixer. 
Although I have no problem mixing any flavors, I wish I was more adventurous.  I seem to stick to the mint and fruit flavors.  Cake batter just doesn't sound appealing at all.

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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 13:34:56 (permalink)
Of course, I couldn't go to Florida without trying a couple of seafood restaurants.  One of the ones that was recommended by posters here on Roadfood was Shrimp Shack, so I ate there on Friday night.
 
As it turns out, it was located just two minutes from where I used to live, although the restaurant opened after I had left.  Even though it was a Friday night, the place was empty.  The place was decorated with a Jimmy Buffet/shrimp shack theme and several of the murals on the walls were amusing.

 
Lately, I have really been craving buffalo shrimp, so I made that my appetizer.

Not nearly as hot as it looks, the sauce worked really well with the fresh tasting shrimp.  Fried shrimp was the main entree choice.


A delicate, lighter than usual breading, this was good but nothing special.  All of the sides, especially the hard hushpuppies were below average or worse.   This place wasn't bad, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat here again.
 
Shrimp Shack
1400 Colonial Boulevard
Fort Myers, FL
239-237-5100

 
The last meal before I flew home on Sunday was at Skip One Seafoods.


A nondescript box-like building south of the city on Hwy 41, the emphasis here is more on the food than the decor.  Still, I did get a kick out of this mural on the side wall.

 
When you walk in the front door, the first thing you see is the cases with the fresh seafood for sale.



The menu

has a fine list of seafood, but I was happy to see my old friend Buffalo Shrimp on the menu again.

There was less sauce on this dish, but it was actually hotter, more flavorful and with a heavy, rugged crunch.  Big thumbs up!  The surprisingly spicy conch chowder was also a winner.

 
Three different types of grouper sandwiches are available, but I settled on the fried.

Lean, firm and very fresh, this was a wonderful sandwich.
 
Skip One Seafoods would be my go to place for seafood in Fort Myers.  And not just because the owner is a Steeler fan from New Brighton, PA.

 
Skip One Seafoods
15820 S. Tamiami Trail
Fort Myers, FL
239-482-0433
 
Thanks again to everyone for reading my trip report! 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/03/16 14:01:03
#51
Nancypalooza
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 13:46:23 (permalink)
What is it with the cute shrimp murals over there?  Huh.  I don't think I've ever tried buffalo shrimp. 
#52
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 14:56:26 (permalink)
I will have to get you to a skyline here in Cincy.

The buffalo shrimp looked good, and I love the murals
#53
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 16:17:03 (permalink)
Skip One is my kind of place!  It looks like most of the hot food is fried with a few grilled items thrown in; is this the case?

If you'd headed west from Manitowoc during your recent WI visit you would've wound up in Appleton, hometown of Rocky Bleier.

Brad
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/16 21:28:50 (permalink)
I am in FortMyers this week for vacation so we went today to the Lighthouse in Sanibel and I tried the eggs benidict on the croissant it was wonderful .Hubby had the smoked sausage with eggs and potatoes. I talked to the owner and told him about this trip report.  he was very happy to hear his place was on Roadfood!!
But the real kicker is I didn't read your last post until after dinner because the first dinner I have every year for this vacation is Skip One!! My favorite of all the places we have tried.Oh NO.. I said I wasn't going to tell another soul about this place because we waited 55 minutes to have dinner.It was well worth it!!I will be sure to try the ice cream place, but tomorrow we go to Cape Coral and its ou friends choice.But we will be back to Skip One at least 1 more time this week
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/17 09:14:34 (permalink)
Brad Olsen-
Needless to say, I love Rocky Bleier!  Skip One does seem to have much fried seafood on their menu, but it is certainly a place to get fresh seafood done just about anyway you want.

janicks-
It sounds like you are having a great time down there.  Sorry if I let the cat out of the bag on Skip One Seafoods, although I am glad to hear you like it as much as I do.  How crowded was Lighthouse Cafe?  I remember they can get mobbed during the season, which is one of the reasons I was there when they opened.  If you get to the ice cream place, please report back and let us know how it was.
#56
i95
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/20 10:35:56 (permalink)
buffetbusterTo drink, I started off with a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and a fruit smoothie.

 
buffetbuster, who are you kidding? I know a Pork Smoothie when I see one and that strawberry isn't fooling anyone.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 



#57
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/20 10:55:30 (permalink)
  how in the world did you get the oj to stay halfway up the straw?!!  spooky....
#58
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/20 11:01:01 (permalink)
i95-
You are on to me.  I was so disappointed they don't have the liver smoothie anymore.

AHI MPLS-
That must have been really, really pulpy orange juice.

#59
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Re:Weekend in Fort Myers/Sanibel 2009/03/23 21:49:32 (permalink)
Okay Cliff and friends, tonight is our 8th and last night in FT.Mters and we didn't make it to the ice cream place.We did eat at Skip One 5 nights.One night we went to the Fish House on Bonita Beach rd. Not as good as Skip One. Very busy!!But not great.Also, an Italian place in Coconut Point Mall it was very good but cannot remember its name.Also at California Pizza its a chain but needed a change from seafood. We had lunch at the Farmers Market and we loved it.Thanks Bufffetbuster for all the tips.Great trip report.
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