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New look at Charley’s Boat House Grill & Wine Bar

By Staff | Nov 20, 2019

Charley's Boat House Grill and Wine Bar Kitchen Manager Tim Henkel (left) stands at the new wine bar with Director of Wine and Restaurant Manager David Paci, who is holding a bottle of Jordan wine. NATHAN MAYBERG

After 45 years in town, a Fort Myers Beach institution has added a wine bar and a lot more as part of extensive renovations including a new name as Charley’s Boat House Grill & Wine Bar.

Following a 10-week hiatus, the restaurant has opened back up for business in time for the beach season. Returning customers will find a new lobby, wine bar and wall with 140 different bottle brands to chose from, a new mural and numerous additions to its classic menu. Behind the scenes, the cooks will be working in a brand new kitchen.

Another new offering will be lunch. Beginning Dec. 9, the restaurant will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The hours will be 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. until then.

The updates are part of a large investment from the restaurant’s owners, the Colorado Southern Corporation, whose families have owned the business since the 1970s. They also own the Outrigger Beach Resort across the street. The boat house itself is 54 years old.

“We had to rebuild the structure,” said General Manager Jeanne Bigos said.

“The front door to the back door was gutted,” kitchen manager Tim Henkel said.

While the prime rib is the most popular dish on the menu, new additions include sea bass, shrimp cargot, chocolate volcano cake, beef carpaccio, Cajun shrimp and chicken pasta.

What hasn’t changed is their salad bar. The owners didn’t want to mess with success.

“Charley’s has always been known for their 55-item salad bar,” Bigos said. That familiarity keeps folks returning year after year with each generation remembering old staples like the blue jello, she said.

“That’s what makes Charlie’s Charlies. If you took that away, we would be just another restaurant,” said restaurant manager David Paci.

The owners took great efforts to make their new business more visually appealing. Bigos said that while customers have always loved the food, there was a feeling that “the ambience was short.”

That will be hard for dining guests to say now, particularly when you sit at the wine bar which features a cambria quartz counter. For those who have been away a couple years, one section of the dining room also underwent an upgrade to repair damage done from Hurricane Irma. While the restaurant doesn’t have a beach view, it does sit on the water and diners can enjoy views of the mangroves.

The company’s resort customers supply steady income but they ultimately count on the patronage of the local community and have been getting calls from loyal customers wanting to know when they will reopen.

“The support of the locals is going to be huge,” Paci said.

Charley’s Boat House is at 6241 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach.