When John Ritter thinks back to 1948, he can almost taste the frozen treats he churned out during his after-school job at the local ice-cream parlor. Now, after a 35-year career as a film animator, he helps others to enjoy similarly sweet memories at Ritter's Frozen Custard. Here, friendly staffers handcraft each batch of frozen custard, an ultrapremium ice cream as smooth as a jazz record dipped in chocolate. At the counter, guests can sample the flavors of the day, which range from tart blueberry to gooey, crunchy mocha-almond fudge. Scoops of classic vanilla—along with more than 25 toppings—fill specialty creations such as brownie sundaes, hand-dipped malts, and freezer-ready ice-cream sandwiches.
For more than a decade, Pelican Larry’s has sizzled and slurped freshly caught fare amid lively music and entertainment. Pelican Larry’s menu makes a salivary splash with savory salads, sandwiches, and stomach quenchers served fresh from the sea. Salty scents and crunchy breading inundate the tongue in every bite of raw, steamed, still swimming, or flaky fried fish. Steer jaw jets into a platter of a dozen steamed clams ($10.95) or a half-pound of steamed shrimp ($8.95), or immerse incisors in a jerk chicken salad ($9.95) or pineapple salsa-topped mahi tacos ($11.95). DJs provide entertainment on weekend evenings starting at 10 p.m., while live music resonates through the Davis Boulevard location after 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, shining a bright beam into the ear tunnels of auditory adventurers.
Blue Water Bistro ensnares an entire underwater ecosystem in its sprawling menu of recently netted seafood and steak, doled out in a bustling eatery fit for couples or entire crews. Embark on a hunger-fueled treasure hunt for Mahi Mac ($22.70), a culinary crown jewel embedded with macadamia-nut and panko gems shimmering in grilled pineapple-togarashi sauce. Mango-infused california rolls ($9.50) put a tropical spin on a sushi staple, and chipotle-barbecue baby back ribs ($22.50) can be used to build a flaming xylophone. Guide conquering chompers through the Chicken Shanghai's ($16.90) open noodle gates, guarding thai basil and broccoli stir-fry infused with a peanut soy sauce fiery enough to melt chocolate-sculpted cabanas. The bar's cascade of fruity libations paints a breathtaking Caribbean Sunrise ($10.50) across palates amid the eatery's wooden floors and illustrious swordfish sculptures.
Sandy Stilwell is a Fort Myers native, and as such she has a passion for pouring her time back into the community—she serves on the advisory board for Gulfshore Life Magazine and is the former chairwoman of the Salvation Army's Christmas drive. Sandy brings the same altruistic vision to Sunshine Grille, one of the many local eateries she and her family maintain that give back through organizations such as the Ronald McDonald House.
Sunshine Grille serves its customers first and foremost, offering a menu of wood-fired steaks and seafood. From grilled filet mignon to sesame-crusted salmon and veggie-loaded flatbreads, most of the eatery's cuisine bursts forth unto the palate with a signature smoky flavor. The restaurant's voluminous wine list emanates sweetness, as do the live musicians that coax jazz-inspired harmonies from saxes, guitars, and keyboardists seven nights a week. These musicians work their melodic magic under soft lighting and between walls of auburn and stones stacked like the hundred-dollar bills that form the walls of the US Mint.
“Fisherman Charley,” a wooden fisherman statue in a yellow rain slicker and hat, stands guard in front of Charley’s Boathouse Grill, where chefs have prepared steaks and seafood for more than four decades. The kitchen wet-ages Angus beef for four to six weeks before hand-cutting each steak, which is measured by ounces and seared to taste. Seafood such as locally caught grouper also fills the menu alongside snow crabs, teriyaki chicken breasts, and house-baked breads.
For special events, patrons sup on some of the most popular menu items inside a converted boathouse. Up to 70 people can also gather at the “hideaway,” which has back-bay views of Estero Bay, making it perfect for actually seeing the harbor seals you dressed in tuxedos.
Pirates cheer as cannons fire smoke across the sea. Yet while the pirates are actors and the cannons are just miniaturized toys, the ship they sail upon is anything but pretend—it's a 65-foot steel-hulled vessel designed by a naval architect to look like a Spanish galleon.
Named for the prized Spanish currency of yore, Pieces of Eight Pirate Cruise evokes the golden age of buccaneering as it sets sail from Salty Sam’s Marina. The ship is helmed by a merry band of pirates—such as Pick Pocket Pete, Peg Leg Meg, and Fancy Face Phil—that bookends lessons on pirate history with sing-along chanteys and skits. The 90-minute family-friendly cruise also includes map-reading trivia, face painting, yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum. During the ride, passengers are welcome to explore the upper and lower decks or step inside the grand salon for ice cream, pretzels, and other treats.
In addition to its all-ages cruises, Pieces of Eight hosts an adults-only cruise on Friday nights, which includes cocktails and its own revue. It also charters private cruises to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.