For a long time, vegetarians and vegans had a really short list of menu options at most restaurants, and all of them contained the word “salad.” Restaurants are starting to see the big picture and offer better veg options, and here in Fort Myers there are probably more options than most folks would think. I decided to pick the ten best veg meals that our fair city has to offer.
A few ground rules: no chain restaurants, even though we’ve got some with great vegetarian options (Moe’s and Pizza Fusion come to mind). No restaurants too far outside of fort myers proper. My list also leans toward vegan or vegan-friendly options.
One more thing… no salad.
10. Ichiban | General Tso’s Tofu
Healthy? No. Delicious? Addictive? Oddly crunchy? Beloved by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike? Yes. You’ve probably eaten general tso’s chicken before. It’s almost too sweet, only a little spicy, and really tasty. If you’re looking for another option, try the Szechuan Eggplant.
9. Nirvana Fusion | Samosas & Chutney
The proverbial new kid on the block, Nirvana is doing some great things. Overall, their entrees are a mixed bag and feature more of an east-west ‘fusion’ (hence the name) than the more traditional, but still thoroughly Americanized India Palace. However, Nirvana’s chutneys and samosas really edge out the comptetion. The place also has a great bar and is incredibly supportive of local music.
8. Morgan House | Portabella Sandwich with Sweet Chips
I ate here fully expecting to be forced into eating a salad, but this sandwich is a stand out: Toasted wheat bread, sprouts, artichoke hearts, and marinated portabellas. Get it with their sweet chips (super thin slices of sweet potato).
7. Two Meatballs in a Kitchen | Skinny Italian
Two Meatballs could easily win dual awards for worst name and worst location in town. It’s really only convenient if you are on your way to the airport. Or you really like italian food. However, this dish is awesome in it’s simplicity and freshness: multigrain pasta with garlic, fresh tomatoes, pine nuts, spinach and basil. An Italian deli/market is located right next door.
6. India Palace | Aloo Gobi (Potato & Chickpea Curry)
A fort myers institution with tons of vegetarian options on the menu (a whole page, in fact). Skip their lunch menu and head for the dinner portions. Expect great food and weirdly standoffish service. Their Aloo Gobi is a good call for anyone who loves Indian food or lots of carbs.
5. Bacchus | Hummus & Pita Chips
Ok, so it’s not an entree, but their hummus is amazing. It’s served with alternatively toasted and fried pita chips and goes down really well in between a couple of beers.
4. Yabo | Capellini
Capellini is a really thin angel hair pasta. Yabo prepares it with a red sauce that uses massive amounts of garlic. somehow, the sum is greater than it’s parts in this case… much greater. Yabo is located toward the beach and has a grunge/90s’s rock vibe going on. Most of the small menu is meat and seafood, but even as perhaps the sole veg option on the menu, this place is worth the trip. They’ve also got some great beers available and make a nice date spot.
3. Opa! | Veggie Hummus Wrap
There is a really basic equation in greek/mediterranean/middle eastern food, and it goes like this: falafel > everything else. There’s a reason it’s ubiquitious street food in nyc and big cities everywhere. However, opa somehow reverses this equation. Their falafel is good, sure, but their veggie hummus pita is even better. The hummus is incredible and the veggies are perfectly fresh.
2. Chef Brooke’s Natural Cafe | Bean & Rice Burrito
Chef Brooke is an eccentric local staple. Her regularly rotating menu has lots of great vegetarian and always at least a few vegan options, all served with a ton of side items which range from marinated beet salad to simple greens. The bean & rice burrito is not only delicious but healthy, but that’s standard fare for her. Also, her unfortunately named but incredibly delicious faeriecakes are amazing and vegan.
1. Siam Thai | Green Curry with Steamed Tofu
Technically, siam thai is in North Fort Myers (right over the bridge!). Technically, Suriya Thai makes a better pad thai, but that stuff’s for tourists. Forget the technicalities, because you either love curry or you are at a stage in your life where for some reason, you have not yet tried curry. Either way, Siam Thai has the best curry in the area. Red (savory), green (earthy), panang (sweet), whichever- they’ll even make it for you without the fish sauce if you ask real nice. And if steamed tofu is too healthy for you, you can get it fried.
Runner’s up: in the downtown area, what’s up dogs has tons of potential and will serve you peanut butter, jelly and strangeness on a hotdog bun. Red Rock Saloon has a rice & bean veggie burger worth checking out. The Bar Association makes consistently awesome food with occasional vegetarian fare. For breakfast, Bennett’s oatmeal destroys all comers. Elsewhere in town, EL Chinese (near the Bell Tower) has several great vegetarian options.
Worthy mentions in the cape: Phensri Thai makes some killer non-curry Thai dishes. Back to Nature has many excellent options, including the ALT (avocado, lettuce & tomato). Finally, while a chain, Loving Hut is 100% vegan.
It’s easy to think that nothing ever changes in a city like Fort Myers. However, you can chart a positive line of growth if you look at it right. Just take a look at the above list- how many of these restaurants popped up or radically revamped their menus in just the last few years? It’s not a bad time to be veg in Fort Myers.