After months of anticipation and just in time for the fifth annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival, the Caribbean Pearl (1661 Estero Blvd.) has finally reached perfection and ready for the public's eyes (and mouths), officially opening Friday, Oct. 8.
Set up as a total time warp of our neighboring tropics to the south, the Caribbean Pearl boasts a modern and relaxed feeling of the islands, from the hand-built stone fountain to the frond-thatched tiki bar, exotic greenery and ornately hand-painted murals (created by our very own Jeff "J.D." Burdge).
But, The Pearl doesn't just boast a look and feel of the tropics the entire atmosphere, from its appearance to its menu is engulfed with an exotic twist of the Caribbean islands.
The Caribbean Pearl officially opens Friday, Oct. 8. Photo by MELISSA SCHNEIDER.
Executive chef Jasen Post built the new establishment's menu completely from scratch, down to the most delicate of details, and is proud to offer nothing but fresh and from-scratch dishes to restaurant guests.
"Our cuisine is 'Floribbean' Island fare no preservatives, no MSG, everything fresh and made from scratch in our kitchen," Jasen said. "We literally ship in fresh herbs, spices and more from the Caribbean islands, offering authentic island dishes."
Jasen said he loves keeping the seafood fresh from our local distributers, but since the recent oil spill disaster and clean-up, the chef has been bringing in fresh catches from the Caribbean, just to be safe.
"We really like to stay local as often as possible, but at this time, with the recent oil spill clean-up, we are shipping in more very-fresh-caught seafood from the Caribbean," he said.
Along with the rest of the fabulously authentic island dishes Chef Jasen and his kitchen staff prepare including Sous Chef Kenny Benson is the establishment's signature Grouper Caribe entre.
"The Grouper Caribe is certainly our signature dish," Chef Jasen, a 19-year Floridian chef, said. "It consists of fresh banana and panko-encrusted Gulf grouper, pan seared and flambed with Crme de Banana, topped with frizzled sweet potato, served over island rice and Veg du Jour."
Along with his signature dishes, he is sure to boast the prices that follow close behind.
"We are very competitive in our prices," he said. "You can enjoy a succulent filet mignon for just $25, down to our Andalusian signature appetizer for just $7."
Perfectly complementing the exotically tropical feel and taste of the restaurant, Caribbean Pearl owner and general manager James Hoffman is eager to also offer soft, live island music to diners throughout the week.
"We will have some light calypso entertainers perform, as well as some steel drums and other island music on a regular basis," he said.
Sitting down with front-house manager Ashley Florenzano, she makes sure to explain just how versatile and universal the all-new Caribbean Pearl is.
"You can be as casual as walking up in a wet bathing suit and enjoying a fresh sandwich in our beautiful, outdoor dining area during the day, to as formal as coming in and enjoying a fabulous, sit-down Caribbean gourmet meal in the evening," she said. "I think we're going to have our own niche here on the beach offering a full package. Everything is clean, natural and fresh from the atmosphere to the menu, we cater to everyone."
Ashley, who has been in the dining and hospitality business since her teens and deemed as a real people person, is eager to be the front-house manager, chatting with guests of the establishment and making sure everyone is happy and enjoying their visit.
"I really pride myself in customer service, and I really like connecting with our guests," she said.
The staff is also proud to offer guests party and event planning within the restaurant. With an additional room full of great murals and classy island decor, it's the perfect place for a birthday party, anniversary celebration, office meeting and beyond.
"Fort Myers Beach has some great bars, but what we want to do here at the Caribbean Pearl is to not just be another bar," Chef Jason said. "We want to be known for our food, our family-friendly atmosphere and the perfect place for couples, singles, the young, the older folks, you name it. This is the place that everyone can enjoy."
The Pearl's bar
The Caribbean Pearl boasts two fab Caribbean menus food and drink. Our very own local bartender extraordinaire Chris "EPP" Epperson is proud to be the head mixologist of the all-new establishment, "pouring" his heart and soul into hand-building the tropically detailed cocktail menu.
"I wrote the entire bar menu, creating drinks that work well with the Caribbean theme," he said. "We have lots of rum drinks, our margaritas are fabulous, and my mojito well, you won't find a better one around guaranteed!"
EPP, who has tended bars all over the country, from Las Vegas to Southwest Florida and everywhere in between, says he has taken all of his knowledge and expertise in mixology, and has proudly poured it into leading the Caribbean Pearl's bar.
"I take my bartending very seriously I don't just see this as a job," he said. "All of my personal effort and devotion really shows in my drinks."
Along with a ton of phenomenal specialty drinks, including the Bahamian Boardwalk Breezer, the Coral Reef, the Tidal Wave, a Cast Away Pirate, Goombay Bohemian Punch, the Big Kahuna and several others, EPP and his bar staff says The Pearl's martini list is to-die-for.
"We've got some of the best martinis around, including the World Famous Caribbean Pearl martini," he said. "Come in and try one you won't be disappointed."
If not into the mixed-drink scene, don't worry. There are 10 great draft beers on tap, domestic and premium, as well as plenty of bottles to choose from, and a fine collection of wines that complement Chef Jasen's Caribbean island cuisine.
EPP is eager to point out that food and drink specials will be offered on a daily basis, so you can come in and enjoy a different special every day.
Hours to the all-new Caribbean Pearl are 11 a.m. to close every day, serving lunch and dinner. Closing time may range between seasons, but average time is about 9 p.m. Again, food and drink specials are offered daily, indoor and outdoor dining is available, and reservations are offered, especially for larger parties.
For more information on the all new island establishment, stop by or call 233-8228.