The moment I walked into Artisan Eatery in Fort Myers, I thought: This is a vibe I can dig. Mason jars of mums sat on the tables, posters of farm animals graced the walls, and a neat row of homemade cakes sat on the counter. It felt like a classic diner, only scaled down to the size of a coffee shop and designed by your hippest friend.
From fresh salads—like this arugula mix with strawberries, almonds, feta cheese and honey poppy seed vinaigrette—to flatbreads, Artisan Eatery offers accessible yet elevated cuisine in a welcoming diner-meets-coffee shop setting.
Set in an unassuming strip of businesses off Daniels Parkway, Artisan Eatery does an excellent job of being warm, welcoming and entirely unpretentious despite a menu that feels like fine dining. Part of how it is able to accomplish this is by doing away with traditional table service. Customers order food and pay at the register at the counter. Though the dishes are delivered to the table, there’s no waiter or waitress checking in. And other than the local beer on tap or the daily wine-by-the-glass options, the drinks are self-serve from either the cooler or the soda fountain. There’s also a bus bin by the door.
Despite this fast-casual approach, Artisan Eatery’s menu is decidedly upscale for dinner, a feel that trickles down to lunch and breakfast as well. My friend and I began our night out with the pear salad ($8), made from Anjous, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and pickled onions with a honey balsamic dressing, and the soup of the day ($6), a rich, creamy tomato bisque. Both dishes offered complex flavors that showed thoughtful craftsmanship, from the pairing of the salty gorgonzola with the sweet and vinegary dressing to the freshness of the pulverized tomatoes in the bisque.
This was equally true of our main courses, the Artisan burger ($14) for my companion and the hanger steak frites ($25) for me. The burger, made with American wagyu beef and served on a brioche bun with tomato compote, applewood-smoked bacon, arugula, caramelized onions and Gruyère cheese, was no run-of-the-mill patty. Each bite felt like a culinary event.
Homemade confections greet customers from the counter.
The hanger steak ($25) arrived sliced thin with a trio of sauces—garlic aioli, pesto and romesco—as well as a basket of Parmesan truffle fries. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium with a smoked, salty sear that complemented the beef. It should have been no surprise that Artisan handled the steak well. After all, steak frites is classic bistro food, and what is the bistro if not the French precursor to the diner?
At the end of our meal, I asked the young woman behind the register about the eatery’s dessert options. There were plenty, including the homemade cakes on the counter. We opted for a slice of one of those—the banana cake ($6)—and to my delight it tasted like the very best banana pudding with moist vanilla cake layered between cream cheese frosting, chunks of banana and Nilla wafers pressed to the outside. Once again, the eatery had taken a classic and elevated it to fine-dining fare.
Though the restaurant’s approach can take some getting used to—especially for those who enjoy the white-tablecloth dining experience—I’d argue that upscale food in a cool, casual atmosphere like this one makes for an equally memorable night.
8951 Daniels Parkway, Fort Myers, 239-887-4844, artisaneatery.com. Open every day, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wheelchair-accessible. No reservations.