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May 9, 2009 12:51 PM

Bay Front Bistro, Fort Myers Beach: a miracle in SW Fl

I've been meaning to get to Bay Front Bistro and now that the snowbirds have flown, we had lunch today. Fort Myers Beach has desparately needed a good quality restaurant for years and one by one restaurants have opened, only to disappoint, on one level or another. Bay Front clicks on all.

Location: Snook Bight Marina is a beautiful marina with great back bay views
Building: newly built and well designed. Lots of outdoor seating on two levels and a smaller indoor area upstairs with bar and dining.
Menu: Straight forward with enough choices to please most everyone.
Server: quiet, attentive service from well-seasoned and trained waitresses. No training needed here, the women were very professional.

I had fish tacos with mango and the tortilla was nicely grilled with a smokey taste, the fish (I ordered crispy so it was fried) was not overcooked and still had the flavor of fish, it came with coleslaw with fresh pineapple, which needs a little work. (could be brightened with a little lime juice and perhaps cilantro and mild jalapeno)

My husband ordered the oyster PoBoy. He pronounced it perfect. The oysters were still very tender and hot and the sauce gave just enough bite. Very crispy french fries. No wine with this lunch, just ice-cold Foster's beer, what you need on a day when the temps are in the 90's.

We sat on the upper deck facing the bay, the view was lovely and the shade made the temperature just fine for a relaxing lunch. I can't think of anywhere else in SW Florida with this lovely a view, that casual an atmosphere with really good food.

We are excited to have a great waterfront restaurant on Fort Myers Beach.

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  1. Sending this up as there were no comments and I wanted to write about another restaurant on Fort Myers Beach that was a horrible disappointment last night. We had dinner with guests last night at the new Doc Ford's restaurant on San Carlos island just under the bridge to Fort Myers Beach. This is a wonderful location, it was the old Bridge restaurant that had fallen into neglect and was put out of its misery a year ago or so.

    Doc Ford's did light remodelling and the place has a wonderful ramshackle vibe with great views of the Fort Myers shrimp fleet. Nice ice cold beer was ordered after a day of fishing and avoiding storms.

    The food was really terrible. I can't imagine what is wrong as the Doc Ford's on Sanibel is quite good and pretty consistent. There is always start up problems but this seems to be something more. Two men ordered the Mahi Mahi that was to be served with Jasmine rice and some salsa. The mahi was very dried up, maybe left on the grill or under a heat lamp too long. Rice was undercooked it was not very good. Very tired men from a day on the gulf were not in the mood to send things back so they just ate what they could and caught a snack elsewhere later.

    I ordered the fish tacos that were described as grouper. It could have been grouper. It could have been anything as the fish was again very over cooked. No yummy grilled tortilla here like at Bay Front. This was just plopped in two unheated white flour tortillas. Didn't add to the taste. Menu described mango salsa, but it just had some red onion bits and huge chunks of unripe mango. Not good at all. The beans and rice side dish was dried out of top with shrivelled black beans. I suppose I should have sent it back but we had a very tired little boy with us and I just wanted to get us out of there. This is a great place for drinks, but there is a more amusing place next door. The Dixie Fish house, housed in the old fish house that kept Henry Ford's boats, etc. Lots of history and pictures on the wall there and a real connection to the water and Fort Myers Beach history. I am sorry to write this review and will be happy to write a new one, if they improve. LMF

    4 Replies
    1. re: LilMsFoodie


      Thank you for the reality check.

      Seven friends tried Doc Ford's Fort Myers ( a week apart) and all were very, very disappointed. We had eaten at the Sanibel one-like it, and this fell way below standards. The same owners also run the Beached Whale (some of the menu is identical, only prices are higher at Docs!), and this Fort Myers Doc Ford's is way below the quality of Doc Sanibel and the Beached Whale.

      My Mojito was lousy, with a bitter taste and soggy old mint leaves.
      The fish tacos had to be sent back due to very bad smell, food was not fresh.
      Server didn't know what what wines were in stock, or where to find wines.

      Uncleaned tables sit for 10-15 minutes-tacky.
      One server picked up 4 used glasses with "spider fingers" grasp, instead of putting on a tray or in a bussers tray.

      Food substitutions occured on the Banana Leaf Snapper, we knew because we had the original dish at the Sanibel location, and didn't like the substitution.

      Noise level indoors is very high.

      Managers were quick to make things up, bringing other items, so I think things will improve.

      Agree, for new, best to go here for drinks, and sit outside, on the quieter porch.

      We prefer Bayfront Bistro over this, for Ft Myers Beach dining.
      My report and photos is my May 23 entry at:


      1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

        Prices are going to be higher at Doc's over the Beached Whale, as they are trying to keep out the local traffic that hangs at Bonita Bills. This is an older crowd, living in very modest trailer parks on San Carlos Island. They do not want them at Doc's as they aren't going to spend $$. $5 bucks for a can of Budweiser should keep them away I think.

        I think they may have a difficult time with the location as it is difficult to get to from beach and everyone is watching their money these days.

        Another group of friends had the same miserable experience as we have had this past weekend. World travels fast..they need to do something quick.

        On a higher note, Bay Front Bistro is marketing the hell out of their place this summer. They are having free appetizers during happy hour this month which should let them pick up some new business as people experience just how good this place it. I can't think of another place with as good a venue in SW Florida at this time, can you Ivan?

        1. re: LilMsFoodie

          For a $15 oyster Po Boy sandwich and a $10 BLT sandwich at Bayfront Bistro, free appetizer is appropriate.

          1. re: turfnsurf

            Very expensive infrastructure makes their overhead very high. Lots of cheap places on FMB for those who find these prices too high. I thought it was quite reasonable given the venue and quality of the food.

    2. Many thanks for the BFB recommendation. My wife and I both heartily endorse it. In the Fort Myers area for a few days, we tried the BFB the first night. It was outstanding from start to finish. We also sat on the upper deck in early evening. The bay is peaceful and beautiful. For an appetizer I had the evening's special, a deshelled Escargot dish sauteed w/mushrooms and garlic that was delicious. Both my wife and I had the Caesar Salad, also excellent. I admit to being a bit miffed that a first-class restaurant would need to have the waitress mention that whole strips of anchovy were available for an additional dollar, but said, "Yes" nonetheless. I had the Cioppino, very well done w/good-sized Gulf shrimp and sea scallops. The mussels were also fine. The Key Lime Pie, always a "must" for me, was very distinctive and very good. My wife is a kind of tapas person, so besides the salad she had the Cerviche, which she declared to be "fresh and excellent". Also she had the Manchego Fries. It seems almost silly to rave about French Fries, but they were GREAT! Both Manchego fans, we'd never thought to shred it on fries, but now we'll also try adding it to mashed at home. We had an inexpensive bottle of White from a more than adequate Wine List. Lastly, I started with the BEST Mojito I've ever had, so much so that I stopped in at the bar on the way out to ask for their recipe, which the bartender gladly gave me. All in all, a most pleasant surprise and worth the drive from either Fort Myers or Sanibel/Captiva.

      6 Replies
      1. re: keywesttosaratoga


        Thank you for the insight into the pricing at Doc's Fort Myers Beach -I was wondering why they didn't have any specials running. Wonder what they will do when the "New kid on the block" aura wears thin. Specials there would thus only bring in the "undesirables" who might not order as much per seat.

        I've sent a lot of business to Bay Front Bistro, and get back only positives and thank you's. The only thing I didn't like was the crab cake-the server said it had lumps of lump crab, and it sure didn't-just stringy claw and lots of filler. Their "Booya" Boullabaise was good, they need to put in less potatoes. There's few better spots for drinks dinner and the view!

        KWS, I'll have to try Bay Front Bistro's Manchego fries and Mojito, I had a bad one at Doc's Fort Myers Beach. I hope they fixed that-the owners probably don't read blogs and chowhound.

        1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

          a rum bar that can't make a mojito. that is a big oops.

          1. re: LilMsFoodie

            Bayfront Bistro has been cruising on their laurels for a year, and apparrently been cutting staffing and food quality, confident that they have a "sure thing" as the best spot on the Island (which doesn't say much, given the cheap tourist spots that proliferate).

            Quite a few locals have been disappointed in Bayfront Bistro.

            Hey, if you had a captive audience on the island during the season, and could cut staffing and food quality and still make a big profit, why not?- That's the perception of locals about the restaurant's new attitude.
            So customers now may go to Bayfront for drinks, however they drive a little further to Sandy Butler for a better quality dinner.

            I recently contacted the general manager to get info for an article on waterfront restaurants, and needed a few of the summer specials. I never got the promised reply. I then spoke with the owner, Joe, who told me the GM was "sick", and promised a fast response, and I never got an email or call from him either.

            That seems characteristic of the lackadaisical attitued toward customers today, it's not what I experienced when they opened.

            Sadly. I can no longer recommend them, view or no view.

            Similarly, I've not heard good reports about tourist haven Doc Fords in the last year either. go there for a drink and to buy a T-shirt, then head elsewhere for a better meal and drinks for your money.

            The Sandy Butler
            17650 San Carlos Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33931

            1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

              I have to agree; I too have heard rather muted reports about Doc Fords on FMB. I have to say, & shoot me down in flames here, but we rather like Nervous Nellies for casual outdoor food on FMB. Prices are fair, the sandwiches are good (but don't get the ribs, we were very disappointed, despite the generous portions), nice view. All in all one of the better places on FMB. Don't be put off by the large menu; what we have sampled so far has been good as far as casual beach foods goes.

              1. re: Patsysmom

                Nervous Nellie's is almost the same menu that Icabod's used in the Fort Myers location. The location is great and I believe you regarding being one of the better places on FMB...the bar is set very low out there. Business on the beach is so poor these days, it is a miracle that anything survives.

                That menu is very familiar and successful all over town as it is essentially the same at all the restaurant owned formerly or currently by DeGenarro (sp). RC Otters, Hungry Heron, Island Cow, and now Nervous Nellies. See a pattern? Ichabod's was improving as it stayed open but alas, a lease dispute buried it.

              2. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                Hi Insatiable,

                Thanks for comments back in July, and also a huge thank you for the referrals you mentioned that you send our way.

                Disclaimer : My company (Brian Joseph Studios) manages the marketing of Bayfront Bistro, and we try to answer any comments or concerns from the online community. I am personally closely involved with the restaurant also and do everything I can to help it be the best in SWFL.

                Please understand that the restaurant was in no way "resting on laurels" and thinking that we could just sit back on the initial buzz we generated when we opened in early 09. As a very young restaurant, we experienced the typical learning curve....figuring some things out as we went along and had to meet new challenges.

                We actively ask every online reservation for their review to be added to and have done almost since the day we opened. We learned a lot from the few negative reviews and made immediate changes.

                Currently, we have 123 ratings on Out of those 123, 88 excellent , 20 very good. 92% of our reviewers would recommend us. That is a pretty impressive percentage in my opinion for a restaurant that has only been running for a year and a half.

                We went through a phase of trying to build the best wait staff team we could, the most efficient ways to serve an optimum level of diners, while always serving the highest quality, freshest food in SWFL. While we've been growing , we missed the mark a few times...but we learned from each mistake. We had to iron some things out for sure.

                I am confident that we are now providing the exceptional level of service and quality to every single diner that comes through our doors, which generated the incredible buzz about the restaurant in the first place.

                We're ready for another wonderful season on Fort Myers Beach, excited to welcome back the snowbirds and continue to take care of our loyal local customers.

                I invite you back to Bayfront Bistro to dine with us soon if you can. Please let me know if there is anything I can do.

                All the best


                p.s. Our Manchego fries really are delicious and try the Sunrise Mojito...

                Bayfront Bistro
                4761 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931

        2. We have spent time on FMB the last two Aprils and both years thoroughly enjoyed
          Bay Front. I just read a critical review on Trip Advisor of their specials policy and a refusal to accept a gift card. I grew up in Ft. Myers (FMHS Class of "59) and also have a number of NE friends and relatives who have retired there and would like to have the option of doing a Bay Front gift card for a special occasion or thank you. Any info on the
          gift card issue.

          1. So my girlfriend and I ate at the Bayfront Bistro tonight for the first time and we had mixed reviews. On one had, we thought the flavors of every dish we had were very good. On the other hand, none of the dishes we ordered were perfect. There were always one or two things wrong with each dish.

            Wine - '05 syrah from CA.
            Apps - 1. Tomato and basil bruschetta. 2. Shrimp/scallop hand grenade.
            Entrees - 1. Black peppered pork tenderloin with corn succotash and fig reduction. 2. Paella.

            First off, the bread that was served to us was by far the best bread we've had in a restaurant in Fort Myers area. It was a sourdough bread, still warm, with a very chewy inside and a very nice crust.

            The wine that we ordered was a very decent syrah and for the price was a very good choice. I was disappointed and surprised that our waiter did not bring us new wine glasses for the wine. Instead he poured the wine into the same wine glass that our napkins had been sitting which had clear streaks in the glass.

            My girlfriend had the shrimp hand grenade. I didn't get to try it but she said she liked it. I had the bruschetta. This was a really, really nice dish except for one thing. The bread. It was too cracker like. The tomatoes were very fresh along with the basil. This would have been so much better with a real french baguette or even the yummy sourdough bread. In fact, I dumped all the yummy tomatoes off the bread and ate it with the sourdough.

            Our entrees came with a salad. My girlfriend ordered the house salad and I ordered the caesar salad. We were both impressed with the freshness of the greens and that both salads weren't overly dressed with dressing. Her salad came with a champagne vinaigrette which had excellent flavor. My caesar dressing was like every other caesar dressing I've had down here. I was disappointed that the dressing didn't have anchovies in it and instead I had to ask for anchovies on the side at a cost of $1. WTF? Really? Who chargers extra for an ingredient that's supposed be in the dish by default?

            My girlfriend ordered the paella. The flavor was very nice, however, there was one flaw and it was a huge flaw. This was NOT paella. It was more like a seafood stew served over rice. This dish had no cohesion to it. It really felt like they put some rice onto a plate and poured the seafood over it. Also, I could not detect a hint of saffron in the dish. It was a good dish but it could have been so much better.

            I had the pork tenderloin which when I ordered it the waiter said to me, "We take the temperature of the pork. Is medium good for you?" Which I replied, "Yes. Anywhere between medium rare to medium is fine." Having had this conversation I was looking forward to a well cooked pork tenderloin that was NOT overcooked. Well, I got my dish and the pork was medium well to well done. Oh well. But, again, the flavor of the pork was excellent. It was nicely seasoned, it's just a shame they couldn't have cooked it medium. I also suspect the corn they used were the frozen kernels you get from a bag.

            To wrap up, I think, overall, it wasn't a bad experience. I would have to go back again to give it another try before writing this off for good.

            Bayfront Bistro
            4761 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931

            9 Replies
            1. re: duckfat73

              Hi Duckfat73,

              Your thorough review is in keeping with how Bayfront Bistro "is", compared to how it "used to be".

              When they started out, they were set up by the folks at Blue Coyote. After the training wheels were off, they were on their own, and you see the plusses and minuses, the inconsistence that would not occur at Blue Coyote. A bogus "paella"? Charging a measley $1.00 to put the anchovies back on a Caesar salad. WTF says it well. It's CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP!

              V & J Bistro closed, and that doesn't leave much for professional level cuisine on the island.

              BTW, I saw your words on Bennett's-no one has better coffee and baked goods than they do in Ft Myers. Now that's a quality outfit that delivers more than is expected, unlike Bayfront B istro, who comfortable can deliver less than expected, and know they can happily continue, as they have a profitable "lock" on dining on Fort Myers Beach Island tourists during the season. Who wants to sit in gridlock-like traffic for an hour to get off the island for just a meal?

              Glad to hear the bread was good. Some like their crab cakes and Bouillabaise-like soup. I'll suggest to others to try the shrimp hand grenade when they visit. I want them to succeed with a return to better food quality and consistency for customers.
              I truly hope Bayfront stops cutting corners, charging $1.00 to put ingredients back in a dish, stops overcooking dishes, starts serving fresh bread for bruschetta, etc., and gets back toward the original level of quality set by Blue Coyote.

              1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                Well, both my girlfriend and I moved down to Fort Myers from Manhattan about 3 months ago and, so, we're still trying to get adjusted to the restaurant scene down here. Sadly, I've come to expect a couple of things when I go out to eat down here:

                1. Expect really bad bread
                2. Expect the food not to have any salt in it

                I would say about 95% of the restaurants we've eaten meet those two criteria above. So, it's really shocking to me when I actually get food that is seasoned properly.

                I don't know, maybe it's me. Maybe I'm expecting too much. I know I'm not in New York anymore but there's gotta be some restaurants with decent chefs who care about their food they're serving.

                1. re: duckfat73

                  You are spot on right on #1 and #2!
                  I cook a bit at home and dine out too.
                  I meet new chefs in town and try their foods. Three months later when I return, the food has lost a bit of its "zip" spicing and salting. Naples (and lesser Fort Myers) customers often give lip service to authenticity. They want food "blanded down" to their often Midwestern palates, and tell the staff that in no uncertain words. If you want to survive here, with few ethic exceptions, dumbed down and low salt is the way to please!. Ugh.

                  May I add a #3? Suboptimal service.
                  During the season (Late Nov to early May) service takes a noedive in many, not all places. That's the time I cook more often at home.
                  Many of us do know very good food, have travelled around the USA and sometimes abroad, and know well whet authentic good foods can be.Some spots do a good job.
                  After being here for 15 years, I blame the "salt-free" public for "making" the chefs dumb down the food a bit.

                  1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                    Well I guess I can't comment about #3 since, so far, the service I've had has been pretty good. But, then again, I moved during the off season and have nothing to compare it to. I'll see how service is during peak season.

                    Oh yeah, I just thought of a #4. Expect, badly overcooked pasta!

                    Can't anyone cook pasta correctly here? I've had so many bad experiences, I don't order any pasta dishes anymore.

                    1. re: duckfat73

                      Al dente is just a concept most places here. So many Italians in Cape Coral and yet the restaurants in their area serve gummy overcooked pasta.

                      Try Angelina's in Bonita. Pasta is well done, they serve rabbit there which is unusual in this area.

                      1. re: LilMsFoodie

                        Thanks for the tip. I'll have to try it out.

                        1. re: duckfat73

                          Angelina's in Bonita Springs is said to have suffered significant changes a few months ago. I got some complaints for a while about the food, and "little birds" told me the reason.
                          Exec Chef Nick has departed, and a new chef and his new style moved in, with some adjustments along the way.

                          Giving him a few months to get in his groove with new offerings, and get a tight crew together-all should be in place in time for the season.

                          I hope his cuisine's quality gets up to near Chef Nick's level.

                          1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                            We went to Angelina's last night and thought they were still on top of their game. Seafood fritti was light and tender with a tasty aioli, steamed mussels were cooked perfectly with a sauce I could've eaten as a soup, and flatbread with beef tenderloin, balsamic, onions, and gorgonzola was excellent. I wouldn't give up on them.

                            1. re: RevrendAndy

                              I've attended several fundraisers there lately and thought the restaurant excellent. I do not judge a restaurant based on its special functions those, so I seldom comment about them. LMF