Wednesday, January 27, 2016
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Amid clouds of dust and hills of rubble, Amy Abernathy showed off the logo for her forthcoming restaurant.
“It’s The Fish & Vine,” she said, tracing the abstract outline of the fish-meets-wineglass image with her finger.
“I’ve been talking about doing this for three years, and in all that time I never considered opening anywhere but here.”
"Here" is Bridge Plaza, the 73,000-square-foot shopping center near the corner of
McGregor Boulevard and College Parkway in south Fort Myers.
If some restaurant spaces are cursed, then this plaza just might be the
Holy Grail for Lee County chefs.
Home to eight unique food and dining concepts — from Greek fare, to upscale Italian, to a chef-driven diner — Bridge Plaza’s restaurants have more than 70 years of operation under their combined belts.
That’s not counting nearby Lazy Flamingo, open since 2011, which sits on property owned by a different management group.
“That particular plaza has a lot of things going right for it,” said commercial real estate broker
Steve Cunningham, a partner with LandQwest Commercial in Fort Myers.
“It’s the perfect storm of factors.”
Let’s start with parking.
County codes call for 14 parking spots per every 1,000 square feet of restaurant space, according to Cunningham. Such restrictions make it difficult to fit more than one or two restaurants into most strip centers. But Bridge Plaza, which was built in 1978 when land in south Fort Myers wasn't at such a premium, has 345 parking spots, more than enough for current and future tenants.
Then there’s the ease of access, the proximity to wealthy residential neighborhoods, the sheer variety of restaurants, and, of course, the restaurateurs themselves, all of whom seem to welcome and promote the places around them.
“I hand out
Crave’s menus to customers looking for a good breakfast,” said Craig Komatz, owner of Cibo.
“The thing is, the restaurants that are in here are good. They’re all truly good places to dine. We all have different styles, but we’re all great at what we do.”
Open since 1991, Nomiki’s Plakka is, as Komatz called it, “the granddaddy of us all.” Owner Dimitri Neskes can’t remember a time when Nomiki’s didn’t operate in Bridge Plaza. That's because he was 6 months old when it opened.
That wasn’t exactly the plan.
Mark Aurelia, the plaza’s property manager, said there was never a goal of attracting restaurants to the space. But as one after another succeeded, more and more restaurateurs wanted in.
“It’s a testament to the restaurant owners themselves,” Aurelia said. “They’ve stood the test of time, and with a solid menu and service, people will come.”
Abernathy’s sure hoping so.
The Fish & Vine is scheduled for a late-February or early-March debut. Chef Kyle Conway, formerly of Barnhill’s Seafood on
Matlacha, will run the kitchen. The 75-seat space will feature a seafood and gourmet wine market up front, with an expansive, full-liquor bar and an upscale, seafood-driven menu.
“We’re going to be all about fresh seafood, small plates to share, boutique wines,” Abernathy said.
When asked if she believes the plaza is lucky or blessed, she didn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely,” she said. “This is the only place I want to be.”
Connect with this reporter: @ATometich (Twitter)
WHERE RESTAURANTS THRIVE
A look at the markets and restaurants that have made Bridge Plaza at 12901 McGregor Blvd., south Fort Myers, a dining destination.
• Nomiki's Plakka
Open since: 1991
More: 433-5659 or facebook.com/nomikisplakka
Cuisine: Upscale Italian
Open since: 2004
More: 454-3700 or cibofortmyers.com
• Crave Restaurant
Cuisine: American fare with a chef's touch
Open since: 2007
More: 466-4663 or cravemenu.com
• European Food Market
Style: Polish and Eastern European goods and groceries for sale
Open since: 2007
• Pizza Fusion
Cuisine: American-style pizza chain with a healthy variety of toppings and crusts
Open since: 2009
More: 337-7979 or pizzafusion.com
• Caffe Toscano
Cuisine: Family-run Southern Italian with a focus on fine, imported ingredients
Open since: 2013
More: 415-8466 or caffetoscanofl.com
• Crave Market
Cuisine: Sister operation to Crave, offering sandwiches, soups, prepared salads and more
Open since: 2014
More: 466-4663 or cravemenu.com
• The Fish & Vine
Cuisine: Upscale seafood and classic French-Mediterranean fare with a fish market and boutique wines
When: Coming in late February
More: Find it on Facebook
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