Yabo Rocks Summerlin Road - Fort Myers

Yabo in Fort Myers

I remember when the original Yabo location opened on Mcgregor Blvd in Fort Myers several years ago and the buzz started to build among foodies all over SWFL about Ryan Kida’s tiny dark restaurant with the rock-n-roll atmosphere and delectable food.

Here was a restaurant unlike anything else in the area. Big city vibe hidden within a palm-treed strip mall -- pleasing sophisticated palates with cuisine from a cramped, but magically-endowed, little kitchen.

When I heard they were shuttering the original location and moving to bigger digs on Summerlin Road, I was conflicted. The secret had gotten out, and Yabo had simply outgrown its legendary venue - but restaurant expansions generally don’t end well.

How the hell were they going to transfer the genuine Yabo experience to a new building? It seemed like a tall order.

Yet, somehow, they’ve managed to do it.

Everything’s almost the same - just on a bigger scale.

A new plaza - just bigger. A new parking lot - just bigger.

Yabo in Fort Myers

Another misleading exterior leading to another - bigger and blacker - interior.

Yabo in Fort Myers

There’s a bigger stage for live music.

Yabo in Fort Myers

There’s a bigger bar.

Yabo in Fort Myers

There’s a different energy in the room - a byproduct of bigger crowds - and a lot more service staff. But the new Yabo is just as otherworldly (for SWFL, at least) as the old one was -- still a “different” destination full of odd eye-candy - and a great place to engage in alcohol-fueled conversations with new acquaintances and old friends.

Most important - the menu, ingredients and prices haven’t changed much at all. All of the reliable favorites you’ve come to love are still available, along with a few new additions.

The “so-light-they’re-practically-filled-with-helium” gnocchi are just as good as they ever were - and still available in the same addictive flavors. Gorgonzola cream. Bolognese. Tomato Basil. Arrabiata.

Yabo in Fort Myers

The Caesar Salad is still a classic -- composed of fresh, ice-cold romaine, crispy croutons, a comfort-food dressing and shaved cheese.

Yabo in Fort Myers

Bec’s Bags are beautiful -- delicate pouches of white truffle and cheese sauteed with roasted garlic, cherry tomato and olive oil, garnished with fresh parmesan.

Yabo in Fort Myers

And the Lasagna Bolognese Yabo is righteously famous for hasn’t changed one lick. I only wish there was some way of making a digital photo do this baked pasta the justice it deserves -- this dish should be required eating in Southwest Florida.

Yabo in Fort Myers

The dessert options are primarily outsourced to Norman Love - one of the other local names that can be counted on for flavor excellence. There are also some fun gelato and sorbet choices.

Yabo in Fort Myers

Like seeing a cool band claw their way from local gigs to headlining national tours...I’ll always have fond memories and a little painful nostalgia over Yabo’s long-gone good old days - but I’m thrilled to see that success has lifted Kida and team to greater heights and they’ve managed to retain almost all of what attracted me to their tiny dark restaurant in the first place.

For directions, a full menu and more - visit the Yabo website!

-- writing and photography by Eric Taubert

Join Eric Taubert on Twitter: @erictaubert

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