Fried Oysters at the Oyster Shell – Oh My!

Confession – up until last night, the best fried oysters I’d ever had were in New Orleans – and I’ve spent years trying to find fried oysters like those – plump, juicy, slightly salty, and totally no fishy flavor.

My husband, knowing my desire to try some fried oysters here in Florida, carefully picked out the Oyster Shell because other reviewers really liked it – not because it won awards, not because it was well located, not because it was large, not because of the classy view – but because it had some of the most consistent good reviews of all the seafood restaurants in Fort Myers. And he picked a winner.

Don’t be surprised by the location. The Oyster Shell is a truly for locals only – there are probably no more than 6 tables – and only one chef and one waitress. But between them – they got the job done.

And the oysters at The Oyster Shell truly impressed me. Really some of the best I’ve ever ever had. So good I ate way too many of them – so reader alert – portions are huge – go small and consider sharing. Which explains why I not only had my oysters – I got a whole soft shell crab to myself. Yummy, yummy, yummy.

Quick note about freshness – they were out of Grouper the night we ate there – why – because the chef wasn’t pleased with the quality the fisherman had brought him that day. So rather than serve fish below his standard – the waitress had to carefully explain to all the dinners that there was no Grouper. Impressive.

Also impressive – the pecan pie. It was delicious – a fabulous combination of light crust, sweet filling, and tons of pecans. Oh – I do so love a good pecan pie and this one didn’t disappoint.

Definitely a winner among so many losers here in Florida. Check it out.

Oyster Shell on Urbanspoon

Oyster Shell the on Foodio54

Life in a Double Wide – Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!

Some of our best friends bought into a ’55+’ community in Florida called the Brookridge Golf Community – 2500 double wides strategiclly located around a club house – an 18 house golf course – and a huge swimming pool.

And we dropped by for a visit.

Confession – while I’ve been in moblie homes before – generally at country fairs where it’s popular to set up a visitation center, I’ve never been inside a double wide. In fact, I’m not sure I knew before today what the difference was between a moble home and a double wide.

Well – I’m here to tell you – there’s a ton of difference. A double wide is a whole lot nicer and has a lot more potential than the fanciest moblie home I ever saw. Its actually really large and open inside. There’s a full size kitchen – and in my friend’s case – an island in the middle for prep work, there’s a very large, very open living room, with a proper media center (a 47″ flat screen TV for starters), 2 full sized bedrooms, 2 reasonably sized bathrooms, and 2 oversized walk in closets. In the master bedroom – which stretched across the entire width, the walk in closet even had his and her sides.

And with this comes a lani or florida room, a garage for 2 golf carts (you need 2 golf carts – this place was huge), and a covered car port.

There’s not a lot of land per home – which means little mowing or gardening, but you aren’t too close to the neigbors either. And the gated development on the whole has lots of green space with fully matured trees. Many of the streets are actually divided parkways.

The community offerings were wonderful. In addition to golf (of course) there is line dancing, arts and crafts, an RV club, even a drama group. In a community of 2500 homes – there’s a ton of variety of owners and ample opportunities to find friends. A monthly magazine is required to keep everyone up to date.

I have to admit to a touch of envy. I don’t know my neighbors – and they knew people on every corner. We even played a few holes of golf (they played – we watched) and ran into some of their buddies.

As my friend said – you have to think of it as a house on a lake – without the lake. I loved it.

Pretty cool. Next time you are doing the open house tour thing – Check out the double wides. You will be amazed.

Red Mule Pub – great name, good Ruben sandwich – but you have to go to Brooksville, Florida to find it!

Consider the challenge – you are a tiny restaurant in a small town about an hour from Tampa – who is going to find you? Well I did, and I loved it.

There isn’t a lot to either the restaurant, or the menu – it’s the Ruben, silly. But they also have a few other sandwiches – Pastrami, Turkey, Salami, even Liverwurst. And a short but yummy dessert list – including my favorite – brownie with whipped cream.

I knew this place would be fun when we walked towards the front door. It wasn’t the ‘winner of the best…’ sign – I’ve learned those can’t always be trusted – it was the way they had taken a single strip mall entrance and turned it into a cabin in the woods. So cute I had to take a picture. But walking in convinced me that this place would be fun. There is ‘fun junk’ every where – from the words of Jimmy Buffet songs to cartoons, signed photographs (including one of Snow White – go figure), and bumper sticker slogan signs. The tables were adorable too – they’d taken ‘toys’ like lincoln logs and covered them with plexiglass – creating a conversation piece while you wait for your food.

All 4 of us ordered exactly the same thing – a Ruben Sandwich – your choice of bread, comes with a pickle slice and a small bag of chips. The sandwich was clearly the star – tons of great tasting corned beef, sauerkraut, melted swiss cheese, and a ‘special’ sauce. Just fine.

Was it the best Ruben I’ve ever had – nope. I prefer my bread toasted – puts some crunch into the sandwich – but maybe that’s an east coast thing where people have stronger teeth. Never-the-less – it was pretty darn good – and I ate the whole thing. Always a sign that they did a good job.

My dessert was sinfully simple – a rich brownie (no nuts, sorry) served with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Sometimes simple is best – and there is totally nothing wrong with a great Ruben followed by that chocolate brownie.


Red Mule Pub on Urbanspoon


Red Mule Pub Inc on Foodio54

If this is the best – I’m really sorry for Fort Myers Beach

I love a great breakfast – and I’ve had many. Unfortunately – that’s what I didn’t have this morning at Reece’s. Nope – this one was pretty crummy. Which happens – but what bugs me is that all over the restaurant were signs saying – “Voted best breakfast in Fort Myers Beach – 10 years in a row”.

So – what should I read into that. That folks in Fort Myers Beach have no taste? That Chez Cora needs to come down here and blow them away? That John G’s in Palm Beach doesn’t have to worry?

The location of the restaurant – which isn’t even on the beach – is in a strip mall – but then almost everything in Fort Myers is either in a strip mall or a hotel. The good news – the ‘balcony’ part overlooked a cute pond with turtles (over 25 according to the chatty waitress), a white ibis eating a delicious breakfast of freshly hatched tadpoles, and a rather odd spraying elephant fountain. And the waitress was super nice – too bad the food didn’t match her clever repartee.

My biscuit was doughy and tasteless, the grits needed butter (not supplied), the eggs weren’t cooked properly, and there wasn’t a piece of fruit anywhere on the menu. This is florida people – fruit should be a given. The best tasting thing was my foot long sausage – a tad greasy – but yummy none-the-less.

My husband’s breakfast was a country fried steak – his first – so while he couldn’t compare it – he did like it. And his poached eggs were fine – if lacking in salt. The gravy was a congealed glop that he didn’t taste, the fried potatoes were frozen and re-heated. The coffee was fine – a bottomless cup of Hazelnut. But you don’t go to breakfast to pick and choose between the good and the really not good.

Sorry people – maybe everyone else loved this place – but I thought it worse than forgettable.

Reese's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

El Gaucho Inca – Awesomely good – and they know it! (Fort Myers, Florida)

We ‘googled’ Best Seafood in Fort Myers – and the top restaurant according to Urbanspoon, Yelp – and Tripadvisor was a place called ‘El Gaucho Inca’. Interesting – the best restaurant isn’t a chain, it isn’t fancy, it isn’t expensive, it isn’t even well located. Sounds like my kind of place.

So we called to make reservations – and got told – we don’t take reservations after asking our name and phone number. Is that odd or what? But at least that meant we didn’t have to rush off the beach to get there. And given the distance from the beach (an over 35 minute drive) – that totally worked.

Location – it’s in a strip mall (no surprise there) – in what can be kindly called a residential area. Personally – I think it’s in the sticks – but you can call it what you want – this is not downtown. The current space is tiny – seating for just over 100 people – max. But the super friendly Peruvian waitress told us that they are moving in just 2 weeks to a larger location in the same strip mall – doubling their seating capacity to over 200.

Just a thought on this plan – can the chef keep up with twice as many diners? I’m thinking not without help from at least a couple of sous-chefs. Which will make for a different dining experience. Just a mutter there.

Our dinner was very very good. As other reviewers have said – the dipping sauce for the bread – a startling green – was positively yummy. We cleaned the bowl – and would have licked it if we’d been at home.

For appetizers we ordered the Conchitas a la Parmesan – it was amazingly good. Perfectly cooked Scallops served on the half shell with a three cheese melt on top. I ate every bite. I never eat every bit – just saying. My husband’s appetizer, while way too large – was equally delicious. It was the Ceviche del Inca – a trio of Ceviche – fish, shrimp and squid. He was offered a choice of spice level – and opted for medium. Plenty spicy for me I’ll tell you. I loved the fish ceviche – liked the shrimp version, and thought the squid was a tad on the chewy side. But the amount of flavor packed into each bowl was memorable. I really loved the two types of corn used as ‘decoration’. Surrounding the bowls were crispy corn nuts, and stuck on toothpicks were Latino corn nibblets that had been steamed. Definitely a winner – but reminder to self – next time just stick to the Fish Ceviche – less money and the better bet,

For main courses – I thought mine was far better than my husbands – and his was very good. When I was in Argentina several years ago – a butcher explained how they cut their meat – starting with a side of beef. I mention this because they use a completely different system, and the cutting changes the way the meat tastes. I ordered the ‘beef ribs’ after the waitress explained that the chef gets his meat flown in from Argentina. That meant that the cut would be the traditional one – and it was. And it was delicious. So unique.

My husband had the Pescado a lo Macho. At $16.99 – his one complaint was that the portion was too large. The poached fish was in a sauce very similar to that of butter chicken with lots of tomato and cream. There were mounds of shrimp and squid on top of the fish along with 3 delicious black mussels. For a starch, they added plain white rice. He ordered a side of pan-fried sweet plantains that were the best I’ve tasted in a long time.

For dessert we got the Peruvian Fruit cake – which other reviewers have loved, but I thought was overly sweet. I also ordered one of their Peruvian style cookies – which i adored. It was very similar to the Christmas Crescent Cookies our German friend used to make, a soft dough with a filling of dulce de leche and covered with powdered white sugar. A completely delicious way to end a very yummy meal.

El Gaucho Inca on Urbanspoon


Denny’s – the America’s Classic Dinner Edition – Fort Myers, Florida

It’s been ages since I’ve walked into a Dennys – but it was late, we’d just flown in from Dallas – and it was open – and my husband was hungry. So Denny’s it was.

Driving up – I read with surprise their slogan – America’s Classic Dinner. Cool. The menu even featured a gal looking very 1950’s And walking in – with signs announcing free WIFI – it really carried the theme. Music from the 60’s – tin ceilings, glass bricks, booths with leather (well – I think it was just fancy plastic) covers – checkered floor, semi open kitchen.

Turns out that there are only a few of these ‘Classic’ Denny’s – and this one was the first – in 1998. They have been here for 16 years – which says – Ok – it’s been a really really long time since I’ve visited a Denny’s!

We were greeted warmly by Jayson – another surprise from previous experiences and shown a booth. Jayson – dressed Diner appropriate in a black t-shirt and pants – presented 3 – coun’t m – 3 menus. The main menu, the 3 month rotating special menu – featuring bacon, and the Dessert and Appetizers menu.

I actually was intrigued by the senior menu – 55+ and ranging from just $5.29 to $7.99. Most interesting – there were even light options – under 550 calories. At a Dennys. What has the world come to when even Denny’s thinks diet!

Can’t argue with the prices – $2 for a Cheese Quesadilla – up to about $9.99 for a steak or as a splurge $10.99 for a Pork Chop dinner. My husband opted for the Prime Rib Philly Melt for $8.99 with a side of Bacon Cheddar Red Skin Potatoes. He thought it was delicious. His only complaint – the Chiabatti bun wasn’t really crisp – but the meat was quite good, nice thick chunks of steak, generously topped with melted cheese.

The desert menu hadn’t changed – unless the addition of a Maple Bacon Milkshake can be considered a change. It’s still your basic food groups – chocolate and creme.

But even so – This Denny’s – like all Denny’s – isn’t trying to be anything but simple food, cooked fast, filling, inexpensive, decent quality for the price. And while I’d be unwilling to go out on the limb for all Denny’s – I willing to say that this Denny’s was a very very pleasant surprise.

We are planning to go back for breakfast – I want to try the waffles!

Address: 8031 Summerlin Center Drive, Fort Myers, Fl 33907

Denny's on Urbanspoon

Stuck at the Dallas Airport – Want to know what to eat? Just ask the Montreal Madame!

I don’t know what it is about the Dallas Airport – I mean I live in Montreal – why should I so often find myself here?

But here I am – and food I crave.

I have my favorite spot – In Terminal D – home to all the international flights – including the ones to Canada – I happen to be pretty fond of Cool River Cafe. It’s in a corner of one of those islands of food and shops that makes terminal D so neat looking – right near gate D27. The food is simple, but a step above the normal fast food fare, and it has table cloths and service. Winner.

But now I have a new competitor – Cantina Laredo. This restaurant is part of a small chain of restaurants – located in crazy places like Las Vegas, London, and the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Franchises are available if you are interested.

Cantina Laredo is located right around the corner from Cool River, opposite Gate D24 – It’s self-described as modern mexican. I don’t see that – I mean it looks like pretty standard Mexican to me – but it is yummy. And filling. And a nice change from the french cuisine of Montreal.

My husband ordered their Queso Laredo, a cheese dipping dish made with taco meat that while a bit liquid for my taste – more of a soup than a dip – it was deliciously yummy. And the chips were delightful – light and fresh and crisp. I do wish that the salsa had come in more than one flavor though – I’m used to some of the mexican restaurants in Park City with their 5, 6 or up to 10 different kinds of salsa to enjoy. Just one option seems skimpy.

I had my standard fare – a plain quesadilla. But it was a nice one, clearly made to order, toasted on both sides, a bit crunchy, and delicious. Service was a tad lacking – I asked for no sour creme, but that instruction clearly didn’t make it to the kitchen. And the salsa served with the quesadilla was just chopped tomatoes. But even so – if you have to eat in an airport – this is not a bad option. Not a great choice – but not a bad one either. Cool River Cafe can rest easy – it is still my go to place.

Of course – if you can get out of the airport – go directly to the Hard 8 – Texas BBQ at its messy best.