In one humble south Fort Myers plaza, our critic stumbled on two restaurants, Citron Bistro and Salvatore’s Pizza, each delicious in its own ways.
As I sat in the parking lot, staring at this aging south Fort Myers strip plaza with its low roof and piecemeal signage, I tried to think if I’d ever been in it.
I’ve seen it. I’ve driven past this southwest corner of Cypress Lake Drive and Winkler Road plenty. I’ve wondered about the Elbow Room, the bar at the plaza’s far end. I’ve figured it’s probably not the sort of place where restaurant critics with pseudonymous French bylines gather (which makes me think the real me could quite like it).
I’ve popped into the Grab N Go at the plaza’s other end once or twice, for bottles of water/packs of gum/salty snacks/whatever other cravings hit while running errands around town.
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But had I ever been in the middle? And how had not one but two restaurants popped up in this quiet strip without my knowledge? What kind of pseudonymously French critic am I? Mon dieu.
I’ve overlooked this little plaza. Not that it’s cared. It’s grown into something wholly unique, offering breakfast, lunch, dinner (and late-night drinks at the Elbow Room); offering diner classics, New York-style pizzas and even a smattering of Indian and South Asian fare. All from two restaurants.
Here’s a look.
The Citron Bistro
I’ve heard of Greek diners. I’ve been to Italian-ish diners and plenty of all-American ones. Why not an Indian-infused diner? Why not The Citron Bistro?
This breakfast-lunch joint opened in February and, I can only presume, has had a heckuva debut year. If so, you wouldn’t know by the staff, who smiled warmly (with their eyes, from behind their masks) on my two visits for takeout, and who hustled to get my orders together with grace and efficiency.
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Those who are comfortable dining in have a charming and colorful space to do so, with simple, well-spaced tables and an overhead chandelier dripping with baubles. Those who want to dine out, while dining in, have a couple of outdoor tables overlooking this parking lot and the back side of a bank.
However you choose to eat, Citron Bistro’s food will be wonderful — and huge. Its pork brisket Benedict is thick wedges of tender, slow-roasted pork layered atop challa bread then crowned with perfectly wobbly poached eggs and a Hollandaise sauce smooth as silk. It feels like five pounds of food, and yet it’s dangerously easy to finish.
Citron’s waffles are equally dangerous, fluffy and lithe with a delicate chew. Go for the bananas-foster version and you get a buttery caramel sauce, plus the health benefits of bananas. Win-win.
Citron’s lunch menu offers Cobb and Caesar salads, Reuben sandwiches and platters of house-made chicken salad flecked with dried cranberries. All fine. For something far more than fine, check out Citron’s chicken tikka masala. It crafts a South Indian version of this dish that’s less heavy, less creamy, yet all-around delicious. It also offers a vegetable curry strewn with cauliflower, peppers, peas and carrots, and a take on fried rice infused with kimchi and sesame chicken.
These dishes nod to the roots of owners Chef Jay Vijayan and his fiancee Arzoo Vala. Vijayan came up through The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott resorts. Like their restaurant, the couple are Indian-American. And I can’t wait to see how their young bistro grows.
The Citron Bistro is at 8711 Cypress Lake Drive No. 2, south Fort Myers; 239-689-8972; thecitronbistro.com.
Salvatore’s New York Pizza
When I opened my box of Salvatore’s, drool pooled in the corners of my mouth.
I know a good takeout pizza when I see one.
It’s the sheen of the cheese, the unevenness of the crust, the way the pizza cutter leaves indented grooves between the slices. It’s about toppings that are ample but not overwhelming; pepperoni that creates shallow pools of orange grease, fresh vegetables that are sliced thin so they cook properly.
Salvatore’s had it all.
For 25-some years, this place has been a local favorite. It was off nearby College Parkway for ages, then it moved to Cape Coral, and, in October 2018, it moved back to south Fort Myers into this strip plaza. The latest Salvatore’s is takeout only. The family who runs it stands behind Plexiglas dividers, pulling their masterful pies from the massive, brick-floor pizza oven that is the restaurant’s centerpiece.
Salvatore’s crafts delicious calzones and good hoagies, too. Skip the salads (mine looked like a box of uncooked pizza toppings) and skip the pastas (this isn’t Salvatore’s New York Salads & Pastas) and focus your calories on that pizza. It’s worth every single one.
Salvatore’s New York Pizza is (also) at 8711 Cypress Lake Drive, south Fort Myers; 239-288-5367; fortmyerspizzeria.com.
Jean Le Boeuf is the pseudonym used by a local food lover who dines at restaurants anonymously and without warning, with meals paid for by The News-Press. Email JLB at [email protected]; follow the critic at facebook.com/jeanleboeufswfl or @JeanLeBoeuf on Twitter and Instagram.