“The building was actually part of the first school on Fort Myers Beach back in the 1930s,” Russo said, noting that the structure was originally located over on Sterling Street. “In the ‘40s, they moved the building on tree trunks to this location. They renamed it the Playmore Lounge, and it was the very first building on Fort Myers Beach to offer entertainment for the people there. It was the first place where people went to dance and enjoy music”
The building went through many iterations since those days, serving as numerous restaurants, lounges and clubs over the years. As the newest owner, though, Russo wanted to restore some of the history that was hidden beneath the many additions. He pointed out the floor and parts of the ceiling in Sunset Beach are restored versions of the original architecture from back in the ‘30s, and along the walls hangs pictures of old Florida.
Potentially topping this history is the view, which may be the best on the beach. There isn’t a seat in the restaurant that is out of sight of the beach and gulf beyond the Tiki Bar, with the Beach’s Pier framing the view. Living up to its name, the view of the Beach’s famous sunsets is spectacular.
Of course, no matter how much history or atmosphere is evident in a restaurant, it’s only as good as the food it offers. Sunset Beach excels in this area as well, with a menu loaded with choices that offer new twists on old Florida favorites.
Russo explained that that cooking has his passion all his life, and it has translated into numerous successful restaurants Fort Myers Beach: Junkanoos, Fresh Catch Bistro, and now Sunset.
Much like his dishes, this success comes from having the right ingredients in place. These include hard work and having a great staff that has passion for both cooking and service. In addition to those, Russo has one secret.
“Fresh seafood, local ingredients,” Russo said. “It’s as simple as that.”Alfredo Russo on the patio
For my own eating experience, I had the edamame pesto grouper, featuring freshly caught black grouper. Topped with a mango-papaya salsa and served on top of mashed potatoes, the fluffy nature of which perfectly complimented the light, flakey fish. Finished off with balsamic vinaigrette, truffle oil, and some perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts, the entire dish was a triumph.
Substantial without ever betraying the wonderfully delicate texture of the center act, compliments go out to chef Mishell, whose passion for cooking is evident in all aspects of the dish, and may even rival his boss Alfredo’s. It combines a cornucopia of flavors, from the sweet fruit to the tang of the vinaigrette, but nothing ever takes attention away from the grouper itself, which is an incredible balancing act.
The menu also includes more traditional fare, equally well done. The grouper sandwich is exquisite, served fried, grilled, blackened, or broiled, and makes for perfect lunch fare. Options ranging from Prime Rib to Chicken to BBQ ribs are also available, as is all kinds of fresh seafood, from Scallops to shrimp to lobster tail.
In addition to the great food, Sunset Beach hosts live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays from 10pm to 2am, and salsa, merengue, bachata, and reggaeton dancing on Sundays starting at 10pm. Wednesdays, their Tiki Bar offers half price drinks to service industry workers from 10pm to 2am, and Thursday is Ladies Night from 10pm to Midnight, with women offered free wells, domestics and house wines.
The Tiki Bar also offers Happy Hour to everyone each weekday, from 3 to 5pm.
For more information on Sunset Beach Tropical Grill, located at 1028 Estero Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach, visit their website at sunsetbeachtropicalgrill.com, or call them at 239-463-1028.
By Trent Townsend