We’ve come into a worldly, small-plate-driven era of modern American cuisine. Here’s where you can find the best of them locally.
SWEET CHILI CALAMARI: Gone are the days of lemon wedges and marinara. Now, fried squid is covered in a sweetened Asian hot sauce. Ocean Prime in Naples has perfected it: The pieces are lightly coated, delectably crispy, and made better with julienned bell peppers and sesame seeds sprinkled on top. ocean-prime.com
BURRATA SALAD: Most chefs let the cheese speak for itself—accented by just a few tomato slices and basil leaves. But Naples steakhouse Jimmy P’s Charred kicks it up a notch by wrapping the milky orb in prosciutto, putting it on a stack of heirloom rounds, and adding pickled red onions and drizzles of pesto and roasted red pepper vinaigrette. jimmypscharred.com
TUNA NACHOS: As people started realizing fish is really, really good for you, this healthed-up spin on the calorie bomb emerged. Wyld’s Café in Bonita Springs earns praise for its sushi-grade ahi that’s diced, then tossed with soy, sesame and scallions and served over wontons with sambal aioli. wyldscafe.com
MEATBALLS: Our compliments to the creative lamb-based versions (hello, Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro and MidTown Kitchen + Bar), but the beefy beauties (pictured) at the new Catch 41 Bar and Grill in Naples are the kind you’d write grandma about. catch41naples.com
OCTOPUS ANYTHING: Nearly every menu has an appetizer within a tentacle’s grasp, but The Continental’s on Third Street South is both unique and tasty with chunks of chorizo and a sofrito crema. damicoscontinental.com
BLUE CHEESE POTATO CHIPS: The house-made munchies at two Fort Myers eateries really hit the spot: Crave’s are baked and served piping hot, and The Standard’s are tossed with barbecue spices and doused with a chilled dressing. cravemenu.com, thestandardftmyers.com