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El Patio Restaurant, Fort Myers

Dec. 6, 2012
El Patio
El Patio Restaurant in Fort Myers / Special to
O'Donnell, Cory

El Patio Restaurant

4444 Cleveland Ave., Fort Myers

Food: ★★★☆
Atmosphere: ★★★☆
Service: ☆☆½☆

• Price: $$
• Hours:
• Call: 278-3303
• Noise level: Low to moderate most nights
• Etc.: Beer and wine only with a good variety of Chilean and Peruvian reds, private dining areas available.


• Papa a la huancaina, $5
• Tamales, $4.50
• Avocado stuffed with chicken and vegetables, $5
• Mashed potatoes stuffed with seafood and mayonnaise, $7
• Aguadito de pollo, large, $7

• Ceviche mixto, $12
• Chicharron de pescado, $13
• Lomo saltado, $9
• Sauteed spaghetti with shrimp, $13
• Half roasted chicken with fries and salad, $8


Long before ceviche was a household term here, there was El Patio.

The Peruvian restaurant opened in 2005 in the back of a plaza at the northwest corner of the Colonial Boulevard-Cleveland Avenue intersection.

A blue awning and dark windows conceal El Patio’s many charms, charms that have gotten ever more charming in recent months as the restaurant remodeled. It added a tastefully appointed wine room; on the floor large, umber-colored tiles are outlined by small, glassy turquoise ones.

The changes seem to reflect El Patio’s increasing competition. Since 2005, Peruvian restaurants have popped up in Cape Coral and Naples. The much-lauded Peruvian-Argentinean restaurant El Gaucho Inca set up shop just a few short miles east of El Patio last year.

Can there possibly be room for two South American restaurants in a town where people still wait 45 minutes at Olive Garden?

When the food’s as consistently good as it is at El Patio, I believe there is.

At El Patio meals start with bowls of canchita, Peruvian popcorn that pops inside the sturdy, nut-like shell. The result is crunchy and airy, salty and addictive. It’s the kind of snack that pairs well with a cold Cusquena lager and the mindless company of really good friends.

Room should be saved for the tamales, though, made here the traditional way as thick rectangles of hearty corn dough into which bits of roast pork, boiled egg and black olive are hidden like delicious gems.

You’ll want space for the Peruvian chicken soup known as aguadito de pollo, as well, the vibrant green broth owing its color and deep, grassy flavor to pureed cilantro. It tastes like summer crashing into winter, like Jewish grandmother meets the girl from Ipanema — in the most delicious sense of the term.

But it’s seafood dishes that provide El Patio’s greatest pleasures.

Ceviches of fish, shrimp, squid and scallops hit you with punches of lime and kicks of chili. It’s a delicious assault on your taste buds, the blows cushioned by the cool, tender seafood.

Chicharron de pescado is similarly delightful, chunks of deep-fried fish playing well against a bed of pickled onions and peppers.

There is the African-influenced tacu tacu, patties of rice and beans sautéed till the edges are crisp, and then topped with strips of beef maybe, or with more seafood, this time served in a creamy broth. And there is roasted chicken, a Peruvian staple, kept juicy and tender by the able hands in El Patio’s kitchen.

What the restaurant has in authenticity it sometimes loses in translation. An attempt to order aji de gallina, chicken stew in a nutty cheese sauce, ended with a plate of delicious lomo saltado (stir-fried beef) paired with french fries and rice topped with a rubbery, over-hard egg.

And where service can be efficient and friendly some nights, you may be left searching for your waiter and the bill and a water refill others.

Translational issues arose again with dessert. I thought I’d ordered flan but was served some sort of cake layered with thin, gooey sheets of caramel. I’m still not sure what it was, I just know – like most everything else at El Patio – I want more of it.

Jean Le Boeuf is the nom de plume of a local food lover who dines at The News-Press’ expense. Send email to; or @jeanleboeuf (Twitter).

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