IF YOU GO
Shula’s Bar & Grill
Where: Main terminal at Southwest Florida International Airport, 11000 Terminal Access Road, Fort Myers
Prices: Breakfast entrees $8.50-$10: All-day starters $7-14; sandwiches and entrees $9-$32.
Information: 239-229-4683 or visit www.donshula.com.
Wave bye-bye to so-so airport food at Southwest Florida International Airport. We recently sat down to a meal at the newly opened Shula’s Bar & Grill that would be worth extending your time before, after, or when meeting a flight.
The second airport-concept stepchild to former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula’s steakhouse kingdom, it replaces Chili’s Too in the main pre-security terminal area. It is one of several changes in the way airport passengers and guests eat at RSW, thanks to upgrades the airport’s concession management, HMSHost, has been making.
“As part of HMSHost’s upgrades to its 16 locations at RSW airport, we wanted to add more local flavor,” said Anne Duffy, HMSHost media director, in an email. “With the success of Shula’s Restaurant Group in South Florida, we decided it was a natural fit.”
Jose Tequileria, which opened in October 2011, serves drinks and Mexican dishes also in the pre-security area. When I stopped by this week, the bar was in the process of redoing its food menu and offering only free chips and guacamole.
Two Great American Bagel storefronts opened in December on concourses B and C. At the same time, Palm City Market on Concourse D morphed from cafeteria-style service to sit-down waited service only, dropping its take-out availability.
Shula’s has picked up the to-go slack. For eat-in diners, there’s seating inside the wood-paneled dining room and away from airport bustle or on a patio-style area, where diners can watch the drama of airport foot traffic. The restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Omelets and cinnamon-vanilla French toast ($9) kick off the day. The main menu stays in play for lunch and dinner with an emphasis on martinis, burgers, and steaks. It also lists nine appetizers, perfect for those on a tight travel schedule. We tried the blue cheese chips ($8) – crispy thin kettle fries topped with creamy, thick blue cheese dressing and bacon. And simply divine.
Other quickies or starters range from blackened tenderloin tips with béarnaise and barbecue sauce ($14) to sweet chili chicken bites ($9). Seafood is well-represented: a BBQ shrimp appetizer ($14), Asian tuna salad ($16), tuna “burger” ($12), and grilled, blackened, or pan-seared Atlantic salmon ($22).
The Shula Burger ($11) tops the list of creative ground meat variations. This one is classic with options to add cheese, caramelized onions, double-cut peppered bacon, or red onion jam. The Wine Country Burger ($13) layers on roasted peppers and tomatoes, goat cheese, and balsamic greens.
We sampled from the sandwich and seafood selections with the tuna burger and a flat-iron steak to represent the entrée and meat contingencies. The tuna was a thick, quality filet seared to preference on a whole wheat bun – nice touch; the slaw side scored properly creamy and crunchy.
The Shula Cut ($32) steak is clearly signature as a 6-ounce filet mignon or 12-ounce New York strip. But we were looking for something zingier and found it in the zesty red pepper chimichurri that topped the flat-iron steak. Asparagus came with, grilled to perfection and nicely accented with a sweet balsamic reduction. The fat French fries weighed in the lowest of all we tried, a tad on the greasy side.
Cocktails and wine, the lists as long as the food menu, dabble in vintages both familiar and not-so-much, mojito martinis, margaritas, and an intriguing Hennessy Martini Sangria ($12).
Our efficient and personable server insisted we try the key lime pie, which we found custard-y and justly tart with a buttery graham cracker crust. In the end, I couldn’t remember a better meal at an airport in this country or any other.