In the winter, Fort Myers is full of Bostonians. Some are the lucky ones who every year escape the cold and snow of New England and spend moths down south. Others, like me, are just there for a day or two to take in a Red Sox Spring Training game and then return to face reality. I’m not a big Sox fan (Go Cardinals!) so I was more interested in finding something good to eat during my visit. With less food writing happening in smaller cities, it wasn’t easy to choose a place for my one dinner in Fort Myers, but I eventually settled on The Veranda.
For nearly forty years, The Veranda has been serving classic fine dining with a southern twist. In fact, a number of dishes are inspired by New Orleans cuisine. Entrees like chateaubriand and pan seared scallops are served side by side with chicken Orleans and Bourbon Street filet. All entrees are served with a house salad and my server Emory recommended the pepperoncini dressing, a house specialty. It was excellent. Even more exciting are the corn muffins with red pepper jelly that you get with your meal. The jelly is mostly sweet with just a slight hint of heat, delicious on a buttered mini corn muffin.
The atmosphere is classic. The waiters are dressed formally, but some guests are dressed casually. Most though, are business casual. The restaurant is in a old home with divided rooms and of course a large Veranda out back. The wine list is small, with a few special occasion selections, but mostly average wines not quite at the level of the food. The service is formal, but warm and friendly. My waiter Emory, was happy to engage in conversation and make recommendations about the food. (You can see him making a Caesar salad here.)
After enjoying the pepper jelly, I dug into the southern grit cake. It was topped with a pepper jack cheese and nice piece of grilled Andouille sausage all served over red pepper coulis. The grit cake was crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. It was a hearty appetizer between the cake and the sausage, so I suggest sharing unless you are hungry.
For my entree I chose, the Florida snapper filet. It was the only dish on the menu that boasted of being local. It was served with mixed vegetables, including carrots, green beans, and cauliflower, and some over-cooked wild rice then garnished with a flower. While I wasn’t impressed with the accompaniments, I was very impressed by the fish. It was encrusted with Parmesan and basil and had a nutty flavor. It was then sauced with a rich, but tangy Champagne beurre blanc and a few roasted grape tomatoes. The sauce was absolutely delicious.
Fort Myers is dominated by chain restaurants and strip malls, but if you want something more special, try The Veranda. It has delicious food and classic southern charm in a lovely setting.
2122 Second Street
Fort Myers, FL 33901