October 31, 2014

Dining Review: The Firestone is Hip...and Seductive

Out for drinks? The nightlife? A fine lunch or dinner? The Firestone is a welcome new addition to downtown Fort Myers.

Sesame-seared ahi tuna with black beans and rice, stir-fried vegetables and sweet chili cream sauce at The Firestone in Fort Myers.

Sesame-seared ahi tuna with black beans and rice, stir-fried vegetables and sweet chili cream sauce at The Firestone in Fort Myers.

Photography by Vanessa Rogers

Take a historic four-story brick complex. Give it an open-air rooftop bar perfect to enjoy sunset views. Add a retro martini bar to appeal to the Mad Men revivalist set. Then put in two levels of top-notch restaurant seating. Sounds like a recipe for a hip new venture in, say, New York or Chicago. But in fact, it’s right here in Fort Myers.

The Firestone is the newest addition to the downtown River District and has, in a short amount of time, become the watering hole of choice for a wide range of young professionals. The noisy, always packed-to-the-gills Sky Bar is the only downtown waterfront rooftop bar with a spectacular view of the park, marina, and newly developed water basin and fountains leading to the Caloosahatchee River.

The younger crowd flocks to the restaurant's Sky Bar for fantastic views and great cocktails.

    As restaurateur Zak Kearns’ third downtown Fort Myers eatery (along with Ford’s Garage and Los Cabos Cantina), The Firestone serves up an ambitious menu created by Executive Chef Marbin Avilez. The question for us as we traveled there for dinner on a gorgeous Friday night: Could a place known for its wildly popular bar scene also have reasonably good food? In a word: yes.

    As the purported quieter second-floor Loft was full, my husband and I were seated in the lively first-floor Grille Room, which boasts vintage brick walls, a crazy moving conveyor belt of tires and a huge wall tire encircling a portrait of—whom else?—Harvey Firestone. We had to start with signature martinis from their martinis/cocktails menu: The Sidewire ($11)—D’usse Cognac, Cointreau, lemon juice and a dash of simple syrup topped with a Grand Marnier fl oater and raw sugar rim; and the Supermodel ($9)—Ciroc Red Berry vodka, Pama (pomegranate liqueur) and cranberry juice topped with Champagne and a raspberry. Both were delicious.

    For our first appetizer, we chose the flatbread of the day ($10.95)— spicy andouille sausage, roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese— which, unfortunately, fell flat. While the edges were crisp, the remainder of the crust was soggy—and the sausage was skimpy. However, our second appetizer, the sesame-seared ahi tuna ($14.95)—tender tuna with a seared, toasted sesame crust, flavorful black beans and rice, crisp stir-fried veggies and a fabulous sweet chili cream sauce—was
outstanding. (We both liked it so much that we would order the entrée size next time.)

    Our server, Retta, was personable and helpful. When I asked her about the oven-roasted butterfish ($27.95) and she told me it was similar to black cod, I was sold. And the results, sublime. The butterfish had that same silky texture and delicate flavor; and the honey-wasabi mashed potatoes and sweet chili stir-fry (with the same savory sauce as the ahi tuna) were heavenly complements. However, my husband found his grilled pork tenderloin ($23.75)—with blackberry and fig demi-glace, roasted red potatoes and vegetable mélange— was tender, but bland. The sauce, while tasty, lacked sufficient flavor to compensate for the pork; and he would have preferred the potatoes to be crisper. (I agreed about the pork and sauce, but thought the potatoes were fine and nicely chewy.)

Inside, dishes such as the oven-roasted butterfish, with lemon-zest mashed potatoes and a passion fruit buerre blanc, offer a treat for sophisticated diners.

     We chose not to have wine with dinner, but The Firestone’s wine list (fairly large) includes 16 wines by the glass. The choice of beers (in both the restaurant and the bars) is limited.

    For dessert, we decided on two traditional favorites (both $6.95): banana bread pudding with Bourbon anglaise and vanilla ice cream; and Key lime pie. Unfortunately, the bread pudding was rather tasteless and the bourbon sauce too mild. But my pie was every bit as tart and creamy as it should be, and the graham cracker crust was perfect. I was also happy they placed only small garnishes of whipped cream on the plate rather than on the pie.

While the bread pudding missed the mark, the Key lime pie was deliciously authentic.

    After dinner (around 8:15 p.m.), we checked out the two trendy bar levels. The Martini Bar, with its glamorous neon lighting, mirrored disco ball and dance floor, was still somewhat empty and the live entertainment hadn’t yet started, but it had a great nightclub vibe. And the Sky Bar, predictably, was loud, jammed to the hilt and happening. Whether you’re looking for drinks and appetizers, a nice lunch or dinner, a great martini or vibrant nightlife, The Firestone has them all. And a waterfront view you’ll never tire of.

The Firestone
2224 Bay St., Fort Myers; (239) 334-
3473, fi restonefl .com. Open 11 a.m. to
10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11
a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Credit cards accepted. Reservations
accepted for large parties. Wheelchair
accessible.

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