Chuck's Last Stop opened last year on Fort Myers Beach. / Special to The News-Press
The volcano spring rolls at Chuck's Last Stop on Fort Myers Beach. / The News-Press file photo
CHUCK’S LAST STOP
2301 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach
• Food: ★★★½
• Price: $$$-$$$$
• Hours: 11 a.m. to close (9-10ish) daily
• Call: 233-8400
• Noise level: Loud but conversational at capacity
• Etc.: Beer and wine only with concise list of wines, most available by the glass; limited outdoor seating; ample parking in lot just south of the plaza
SAMPLE OF THE MENU
• Shrimp cocktail, $9
• St. Louis ribs, $8.75
• Volcano rolls, $9.25
• Alex’s Salad, $8.50
• Smoked fish spread, market
• Five-pepper chicken pasta, $14.75
• Fish tacos, $13
• Atlantic salmon, $16
• Oyster po’boy, $13.50
• Rib-eye, $24.50
One table over a woman in a swimsuit and a cover-up asked about the shrimp.
“My mother likes them very plain. No seasoning,” she told the waitress adamantly. “Will that be a problem?”
On the other side three generations of a Minnesota family – four of them sporting Golden Gophers gear – laughed over oyster po’boys, burgers and cups of gumbo.
This is dinner at Chuck’s Last Stop, a Fort Myers Beach restaurant where beachgoers of all stripes mingle over well-made, fairly priced dishes, the likes of which have become harder and harder to find on the island.
Chuck’s opened a year ago in a plain strip mall across from the Neptune Inn, less than a mile south of the Matanzas Pass Bridge on Estero Boulevard. The restaurant is the Last Stop for owner Chuck Bryan, a traveling businessman who used a lifetime of restaurant experiences to shape his namesake eatery.
Chuck’s philosophy: Make it fresh and price it well.
Here you’ll find an ahi salad topped with seared yellowfin, avocado and strips of mango. Smoked fish dip hints of Fort Myers Beach’s history, the creamy spread topped with capers and diced tomato, and served with warmed triangles of pita bread.
Shreds of fresh blue crab and oozy cream cheese are tucked into egg roll wrappers with a lashing of hot sauce, then deep-fried till crunchy and addictive. There is chowder, brimming with hunks of clam.
It’s not what you’d expect from a place called Chuck’s. But Bryan would have it no other way.
He’s the tall guy with the dark-rimmed glasses balancing at the end of his nose. The one lingering at the kitchen window, making sure every dish is done just so; the one hustling food to the tables and checking on diners when his servers are busy.
Which, on a breezy Saturday night, is often.
Service at Chuck’s fluctuates between over-the-top-friendly-and-on-top-of-everything (at slower times), to over-the-top-friendly-but-in-a-rush come the 6:30 dinner surge. As a local I feel obligated to forgive an empty water glass when the waitress just spent 15 minutes explaining the difference between ahi and albacore tunas to a couple from Missouri.
I’m even more forgiving when my rib-eye is cooked as ordered and slathered in garlic butter to velvety effect. And when fish tacos overflow with meaty strips of mahi, crisp cabbage and a mango-papaya salsa. And when Atlantic salmon is crusted in herbs and drizzled in Key lime beurre blanc.
By 8:30 p.m. Chuck’s dining room has emptied, the sunburned shoulders and floppy hats having retreated to their hotels to recharge.
This isn’t their Last Stop, after all. It’s ours. Get to the beach and enjoy it.
Jean Le Boeuf is the nom de plume of a local food lover who dines at The News-Press’ expense. Contact email@example.com; facebook.com/JeanLeBoeufSWFL or @jeanleboeuf (Twitter).