If you’re going to name a restaurant after one of the great inventors of the 20th century, it behooves you to be a bit inventive yourself. In downtown Fort Myers, the owners of The Firestone have outdone themselves, from concept to cuisine.
Granted, these are the same people behind other themed restaurants that reflect local history, including The Edison and Ford’s Garage. They also own Los Cabos Cantina & Tequila Bar. Each establishment’s concept is unique and has been thoughtfully and thoroughly developed. That must be why The Firestone has been gaining traction ever since it opened on Bay Street in December 2012.
For those who aren’t sure which Firestone is the restaurant’s namesake, the décor drives it home (hint: it’s Harvey). Its industrial theme certainly lends itself to the exposed brick walls and warehouse dimensions of the four-story building, previously occupied by Harold’s on Bay and Peter’s La Cuisine before that. There are nods to Firestone’s revolutionary invention in every direction, including tractor tire chandeliers and a towering portrait of the inventor himself, framed by an oversized, name-brand tire. Most notably, an overhead conveyor belt continuously moves tires around the bi-level dining area, much like an old-fashioned factory assembly line.
The Firestone is actually three entities in one, which could account for some of its success. Where previous occupants have fallen short, The Firestone takes full advantage of the multi-level facility and its outstanding views of the river and now, the river basin. There’s the ground-floor Grille Room opening on to Bay Street and The Loft, which overlooks the main dining room. The Martini Bar has taken over the old Brick Bar space on the third floor and on the rooftop, there’s the Sky Bar.
Although each has a distinctive personality and patronage, each level complements the others, which helps attract customers ranging from 20-somethings to retirees. Combined with Firestone’s ongoing promotions and special events, there always seems to be something fun going on at The Firestone, day and night.
But first, the food. Besides offering one of the area’s most creative and unusual backdrops for dining, Firestone’s menu is equally innovative. There are actually several menus, all served under the direction of Executive Chef Marbin Avilez, who is quite an inventor himself. Known for his imaginative seafood dishes, sauces and taste combinations, Avilez has been a star wherever he’s worked, including the Registry Resort in Naples, Harold’s on Bay (The Firestone building’s previous occupant) and Bayfront Bistro on Fort Myers Beach.
With Avilez in the driver’s seat at Firestone’s kitchen, diners can expect made-to-order meals vs. assembly-line cuisine. They won’t be disappointed. From its appetizers and tapas to its entrees and desserts, the restaurant’s various menus are as well designed as its thematic interior.
In addition to lunch and dinner menus, there is also a late lunch menu for ’tween diners (served from 4 – 5 p.m.), as well as Sky Bar’s regular and late-night menus (available from 11 p.m. until close). Both include a list of martinis and signature drinks, wine (by the bottle or glass), champagne, beer and bottle club selections, as well as appetizers and desserts. Before 11 p.m., the menu also includes flatbreads and the Iceburg Wedge.
Those who come strictly to dine in the Grille Room will have some tough choices to make: Waygu Beef Ravioli in a truffle tomato demi cream sauce or Grilled Lamb Tenderloin with peach veal jus? Gulf Coast Grouper, pan seared and topped with passion fruit beurre blanc, or the Paella made with fresh Gulf shrimp, mussels, chopped clams and scallops?
Most entrees are served with a vegetable melange and/or rice or mashed potatoes. Note: These aren’t just any mashed potatoes — they’re of the gourmet variety and include honey wasabi, truffle or garlic, mashed or whipped. Prices range from $18.95 to around $30.
The Firestone also caters to those seeking a substantial starter or small meal, with lighter fare that includes soups, salads, flatbreads and small plates. To keep things interesting, the soups and flatbreads each feature a daily selection.
There’s a large selection of appetizers and tapas, which are served from lunch through late night. They’re an excellent way to sample some of the restaurant’s most popular entrees — the Waygu Beef Ravioli and Grilled Lamb Kabob, for example — without committing to a full meal. Starting at $6.95, they’re also less expensive, although each packs the same taste-filled punch as their full-sized counterparts.
While most people wouldn’t consider broccoli an appetizer (unless it was served as part of a vegetable platter), Firestone’s Wood Grilled Broccoli is an exception. Chef Marbin drizzles his with a creamy concoction of Rogue Smokey bleu cheese sauce and brown sugar and then tops it with light, crunchy rice crisps. What a great way to consume your recommended daily serving of veggies!
Those who choose cheesecake or the Firestone Lava Cake over broccoli can work off the calories dancing in the Sky Bar, which opens every day at 4 p.m., or in the Martini Bar, open only on weekends during the off-season. Essentially every night of the week, there’s an on-site promotion or special event that includes one or more of the following: live entertainment, DJs and dancing, discounted or complimentary drinks and appetizers, or a contest of some sort.
While the second-floor Loft is well suited for semi-private celebrations, The Martini Bar can also be reserved for private and semi-private gatherings, such as a small buffet dinner or cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The Martini and Sky Bars also provide a late-night bottle service for patrons who make VIP Party Reservations. With a two-bottle minimum purchase, guests may reserve a section of the bar for as many as 20 of their best friends. The concept has proven so popular that Saturday night parties are nearly sold out through September.
The Firestone also hosts High Noon Sky Bar parties every Saturday and Sunday. The party starts at noon and includes endless mimosas, $5 Bloody Marys and live entertainment. The first Tuesday of each month is Nurse’s Night Out for Lee County nurses, with dinner specials and complimentary cocktails from 7-9 p.m. There’s also a daily Happy Hour ($3 drinks from 4-7 p.m.), a weekly Ladies Night on Wednesday (ladies drink free from 9-11 p.m.) and a monthly charitable event, to name a few.
With so much going on, what sounds like a three-ring circus could easily become a zoo. But thanks to a professional staff and excellent management, that’s not the case. As a result, The Firestone is one of downtown’s most lively and uncommon places for friends to eat, drink and be merry.
(The Firestone is at 2224 Bay Street in downtown Fort Myers. Open daily at 11:45 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bars close at 1:30 a.m. Call-ahead seating and take-out available. Phone: 334-3473. Website: firestonefl.com)