Although our area is known for amazing and varied outdoor activities, our culinary scene continues to grow and excite.
In fact, there are so many stellar local restaurants that Punta Gorda won second place in the 2020 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards - Best Small Town Food Scene – the only Florida destination nominated!
In honor of this nomination, we’ve compiled a list of Punta Gorda restaurants offering exemplary food and drink, service, ambiance, and some special extras.
Carmelo’s Italian Ristorante: OpenTable named them as one of The 100 Best Al Fresco Restaurants in America and they've earned plenty of other accolades, including more from OpenTable and from Harbor Style and TripAdvisor. Carmelo’s recently refurbished their floors and brick walls, adding to the ambiance that serves as icing on the cake of the seriously-wonderful-food that is their menu. Try the Bada Bing Pasta. Trust.
Dean’s South of the Border is a family-owned and operated Tex-Mex treasure routinely recommended by locals and visitors alike. A community institution since 1992, Dean’s is a comfortable, cozy, friendly neighborhood place with great food and a relaxed atmosphere. Whether you get the food to go or enjoy dining in accompanied by live music, Dean’s always provides a good experience.
Fat Point Brewing is the area's first craft brewery, producing a nice selection of fresh, local, hand-crafted, critically-acclaimed beers. Yes, we're talking about, but we need to give credit where it’s due: Fat Point’s beers have earned various medals: gold and silver at both the U.S. Open Beer Championship and Best Florida Beer Championships; silver and bronze at the 2019 U.S. Open Beer Championship; and bronze at the Best Florida Beer Championships. Their food, to get back on topic, is head-and-shoulders above “standard bar fare” and includes their own house-made beer cheese. Good eats, award-winning beer, a fun atmosphere, a pet-friendly outdoor beer garden, and periodic bingo and trivia nights, live music, and guest food trucks make Fat Point Brewing a must-visit in Punta Gorda.
F.M. Don’s dining room is a lovely space where you can see the history of Punta Gorda on the walls. Chef/Partner Keith Meyer became a “Punta Gorda favorite” soon after moving here. He uses French techniques and keeps his menu “fresh, varied and approachable.” You’ll sometimes see him in the dining room, revealing cooking techniques and checking in with diners, which demonstrates the restaurant's “…genuine desire to meet and exceed the expectations of [their] guests.” They’re already offering deals including their popular Filet and Cabernet special and live music on weekends. Definitely worth a special trip.
Italia at River City Grill: They buy most of their produce from local growers, exhibiting commitment to “quality, organic living, and environmentally-friendly farming.” They also use fresh clams harvested from local waters, the finest Italian cheeses available, and only fresh mussels, fish, and chicken. They even raise their own Red Angus cattle at a nearby ranch. After 17 years in business, it’s clear they know what they’re doing food-wise.
Nino’s Bakery is family-owned and operated and has baking roots going back seven generations, with ties to New York City. This full bakery also serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, has a full bar, and sells their wares at the much-loved Punta Gorda Farmer’s Market. They’ve been voted the #3 bakery in Florida by BestThingsFl.com, and are often called a “hidden gem." Order online and pick up or dine in and enjoy a wide range of live entertainment.
Peace River Seafood: this community gem draws many locals, seasonal residents, and visitors alike! Those who like seafood know that this is the place to go. Bonus: you can find locally-sourced honey, cold-pressed juice, and more at their produce and seafood market. Word of advice: do not miss the Blue Crabs!
Sandra's Restaurant - Authentic German & European Cuisine: talk about legit! Sandra’s is German-owned and operated, and serves authentic German and European cuisine using their own traditional family recipes. They also offer partially-baked Authentic German Breads made with fresh, natural ingredients and no artificial preservatives, flavoring or coloring. They feature live music on the weekends, and Schnitzel night is Wednesday.
The Celtic Ray Public House has been recognized as one of the best Irish Pubs in Florida and the food, beer, and atmosphere are appropriately amazing. With a roomy beer garden and outdoor stage, The Ray is the perfect place to spend an evening with friends enjoying a variety of live music. What’s newly intriguing is the podcast series on the life of publican Kevin Doyle. Search "Kevin Doyle – You’ll Be On The Celtic Ray" wherever you find your podcasts.
The Ice House Pub is an authentic English-styled pub housed a building built in the 1890s that was, indeed, an ice plant. With 26 taps dispensing the best beers from around the world (like Guinness, Boddingston's, Stella Artois, etc.), British-style pub entertainment including competition-style dart boards, and a full British-themed menu of staples like Fish 'n Chips, Cottage Pie, and Bangers & Mash (as well as American favorites like cheeseburgers, steak sandwiches, and giant salads), The Ice House Pub is a destination in itself.
The Perfect Caper: the lauded Asian-French cuisine at The Perfect Caper is inspired by Chef Jeanie Roland’s world travels. A multi-time nominee for a James Beard Foundation Best Chef in the South award, Chef Roland did actually beat Bobby Flay on the Food Network show Beat Bobby Flay, and has competed on Iron Chef Gauntlet. The Perfect Caper is the only Charlotte County restaurant to earn a Golden Spoon Award, Florida’s top culinary nod.
The Pier: Fresh, beautiful, and surprising entrees and scrumptious sushi would be enough, but The Pier is also one of the waterfront restaurants at Fishermen's Village, so the ambiance includes spectacular sunsets and wonderful views. Irresistible!
Of course, we’ve barely scratched the surface of our splendiferous food scene, so we encourage everyone to explore our entire area for new and different restaurants and experiences.
Bon appétit, everyone!