Fort Myers - Cheeseburger In Paradise

Cheeseburger in Paradise - Fort Myers

I want to admit my bias upfront on this review...I Love Cheeseburger in Paradise.

In my line of work, there are lots of restaurants and not enough time to try them all.  So, it's rare that I make multiple and/or consecutive visits to the same establishment.  But I've got a soft spot for Cheeseburger in Paradise.  I keep going back and it keeps getting better.


Cheeseburger in Paradise - Fort Myers - Restaurant Review

First things first...this is a casual place.  It's not foie gras and caviar, it's beer and burgers.  I try to write the majority of my reviews for average diners.  I like to point out lunch spots and places people can get a good meal at without breaking the bank.  Americans like corporate restaurants.  Americans like hamburgers.  Cheeseburger in Paradise is a restaurant for average American diners.  Get a quick bite and run, or spend the afternoon enjoying tropical drinks and live music.  Bring the kids.  For just a few bucks more than a trip to McDonalds, you could have a fun family night out in a colorful and relaxing atmosphere...and the food is great.

Second things second...Cheeseburger in Paradise is owned by Outback Steakhouse (OSI Restaurant Partners) under a license which pays trop-rock father-figure Jimmy Buffet 4.5 percent of restaurant sales.  Earlier this year, OSI put its Cheeseburger in Paradise holdings up for sale.  In a recent statement to the press, an OSI representative stated:

OSI Restaurant Partners, the Tampa-based owner of the Outback Steakhouse chain, which sold most of its stake in the Lee Roy Selmon’s barbecue chain last year, is looking to sell two more brands: Cheeseburger in Paradise, and Roy’s. “Our growth priorities in the future will be focused on our larger concepts: Outback … Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s.  We are evaluating strategies for ultimately exiting the smaller concepts but are under no set timetable."

So if you've got a few extra bucks hanging around, and you'd like to buy a restaurant chain, have at it.

And now for the review...

I pulled into Market Square (on Daniels Parkway and US 41) and found an excellent parking spot in the crowded lot shared by Cheeseburger in Paradise and Lee Roy Selmon's.

Some stereo speakers on the outside of the building were thrumming with Neil Young music.  A set of three open garage doors face the parking lot, transforming Cheeseburger In Paradise into an open air eatery.  I could see smiling people sitting inside, colorful drinks in front of them, tapping their hands to the feel-good music being played over the restaurant's sound system.  My lunch-guest and I passed by the bright, chalk-written, drink and lunch specials on the board outside and headed to the host stand.

Enthusiastic greetings were offered from the two males manning the podium, and we were seated in a comfortable booth (per my request) almost immediately.

Some of the Booths

Fort Myers, Florida may be warm and tropical...but the inside of Cheeseburger in Paradise transports you to the islands.  It's like being inside a beach resort theme park.  The walls are bathed in glorious sunset and and shoreline themes painted by a local artist.  Island decor and nautical sports paraphernalia are scattered throughout the restaurant.  Bright Caribbean colors complement an assortment of textures including weathered woods, tin roofs, thatch, eucalyptus poles, bamboo and reed board.  The tabletops are all covered with aerial pictures of tropical islands.  The bar top is covered with postcards and pieces of paper with Jimmy Buffett lyrics scrawled across them.  Overhead are flat-screen televisions showing sports.  Above the tiki-styled bar is a beer barrel with a digital readout of the current beer temperature (which fluctuated between 31 and 32 degrees during my visit).  Industrial-sized frozen drink machines rotate their practically neon concoctions.  And on busy nights the bartenders throw pitchers of beer and bottles of liquor across the entire length of the bar a la Tom Cruise in Cocktail.  On Fridays and Saturdays Cheeseburger in Paradise features live musical entertainment from 9pm to 1am.

The Cheeseburger in Paradise Bar

Within a few moments, our waiter arrived to inform us he'd be our "Islander" for the evening and to ask if it was our first visit to the "Island".  Yeah, it's a little corny, but this is how corporate restaurants make their wait-staff talk nowadays.

After our "Islander's" introductory spiel, my companion ordered the Red Sangria.  I went for their signature, and award winning, Cheeseburger in Paradise Cocktail.

Minutes later our cocktails arrived.  Both were served in huge margarita glasses with straws.

The Red Sangria was delicious, crafted from a unique recipe of dry Spanish red wine, fresh squeezed citrus, Korbel Brandy, Monin Gourmet Spice Berry, Sprite and cinnamon.  We both agreed it was the best Sangria either of us had tasted in recent memory.


The Cheeseburger in Paradise Cocktail was comprised of frozen layers of
of Parrot Bay Rum Pina Colada, Myers's Rum Runner, Margaritaville Margarita, and Strawberry Daiquiri, prepared with fruit and juices and splashed with Blue Curacao.  It was inventively garnished with a mini candy cheeseburger and an orange slice/pineapple frond sailboat.  The drink itself is one of those ridiculously sweet, cruiseboat-type drinks that go down fast and hit hard and unexpectedly because you can't taste the liquor.  Did I mention they also make this drink in a two-person size?

Our dinner orders were taken somewhere along the way, and the entrees arrived before long.

My companion got the Jerk Chicken Wrap.  It was fried Jerk chicken strips, lettuce, salsa, chopped bacon, red pepper aioli sauce, red onions,  and Cheddar and Jack cheeses all wrapped in a tomato basil tortilla.  The melding of flavors at work within this wrap are incredible.  The kick of the jerk chicken strips is cooled by the lettuce and aioli, while the red onions add another flavor dimension accentuated by the texture of the crispy bacon and melted cheese.

Jerk Chicken Wrap

For my order, I took the El Cubano... ham, salami, pork, Swiss cheese, mayo, mustard and pickles on traditional Cuban bread, then pressed until golden-brown.  You might not expect it from a corporate chain, but this sandwich is arguably one of the best and most authentic Cuban sandwiches to be had in this area which should have lots more of them.  A pleasant surprise, indeed.  Real, tender, moist, pulled pork.  Crisp slices of sour pickle.  Crusty Cuban bread with mayo and mustard meeting the swiss cheese in an unforgettable union.  Just excellent.  Period.

El Cubano

Both sandwiches were served with addictively seasoned french fries...salt, brown sugar, something else I couldn't place.  Yum.

I know what you're thinking.  You went to a place called Cheeseburger in Paradise and didn't get a cheeseburger? Suffice it to say, I've had the cheeseburger before.  Actually I've had several of their over 10 varieties of burgers, and they were all excellent.  My favorite among them was the Blue Cheese Blast Burger with lightly melted Danish Blue Cheese, fried onions, lettuce and Asian mayo.  My only gripe about the burgers is that, somewhere along the line this chain switched its primary tabletop condiment from Heinz 57 steak sauce to regular old ketchup.

Jimmy said it best, "I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes...". Bring back the 57.  (editor's note: The Fort Myers location never featured Heinz 57 as a tabletop condiment, although several other locations in the chain once did and stopped.)

Much creative thought and testing has clearly gone into the writing of the menu at this establishment.  It's not just cheeseburgers.  There's chicken satay, shrimp, fish tacos, crab cakes, ribs, a variety of salads and soups...even steak.  They also have a children's menu and a gluten free menu.  Are you a vegetarian?  You can also substitute a turkey or vegetable burger for any of their beef burgers at no extra cost.  This restaurant has all the bases covered.  Everything I've tried there has been excellent.  The prices are ridiculously reasonable.  And they play tons of cool music while you eat.  I can't think of any reason you shouldn't go.

As such, I enthusiastically RECOMMEND Cheeseburger in Paradise.

Visit the Cheeseburger in Paradise website!

-- writing and photography by R. D. Lang

R.D. Lang is the nom de plume of a regular joe who dines on his own dime.

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