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The Doghouse in the penthouse

TripAdvisor names Fort Myers Beach eatery ninth-best “Quick Bites” restaurant in nation

By Nathan Mayberg - Editor | Jul 29, 2021

For The Doghouse on Fort Myers Beach, where Cuban sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers and Mahi tacos are served quickly on the busy pedestrian section of Estero Boulevard downtown, its reputation just received an international boost.

TripAdvisor just named The Doghouse the ninth-best “Quick Bites” restaurant in the nation as part of the website’s 2021 Best of the Best Restaurant Awards.

Right behind Bleeker Street Pizza and NY Suprema Pizza in New York City, In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles and Blaze Pizza in Orlando in the rankings is The Doghouse – which has been at its location on Fort Myers Beach for the past six years under the ownership of Adam Clark and Jason Unger.

Unger called the recognition “incredible.”

The Doghouse finished ahead of places like the Steak Shack and Island Taco in Hawaii.

“We’ve been here six years. We’re doing well. The feedback we’re getting from our repeat customers never gets old,” Unger said.

Unger said the restaurant’s Cuban sandwiches are its most popular selections, as well as the half-pound Angus beef hamburger. Other items include the reuben sandwich, Italian sausage, Philly steak and cheese, salads, chicken fingers, fries, island jerk chicken and a giant pretzel.

Unger said the menu has been branching out. They are looking to add more seafood items after having stopped carrying lobster rolls due to the rising costs.

There is also a breakfast menu offering eggs, bacon, croissants, English muffins, home fries and a sausage skillet with kielbasa, peppers, onions, mushrooms and eggs.

Unger’s job is a labor of love and sweat, literally. The outdoors setup of the restaurant makes him lose between 20-30 pounds in season. “I put it back on in the off-season,” he said. “It’s extremely hot.”

The Doghouse breakfast menu

With five fans going, Unger’s chili, tzatziki sauce, and homemade coleslaw are all made from scratch. He has help from three other workers, including his son Jayden. He said he could use more help.

Unger hasn’t had a chance to bring out his food truck due to the busy summer season. “We are busier than we should be,” for this time of year, he said.

A Detroit native who “couldn’t stand the weather anymore,” Unger has been working in the restaurant business for 26 years. He rents the space from Silver Sands. It’s undergone a number of transformations over the years, but has been standing on Estero Boulevard for decades. Behind it is a cottage.

“Not many people can do what we do, work the hours we work in extreme heat. I love what I do. I love the people,” Unger said.

The awards were announced last week by TripAdvisor, which is considered the go-to website for reviews of restaurants. According to its website, it is the world’s largest travel guidance platform, reaching hundreds of millions of people each month. There are more than 887 million reviews and opinions of nearly 8 million businesses, including restaurants and hotels in 22 languages.

The Doghouse co-owner Jason Unger and his son Jayden at the Estero Boulevard restaurant on Fort Myers Beach. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg

According to TripAdvisor, the 2021 Best of the Best Restaurants Awards are calculated based on the quality and quantity of traveler reviews and ratings for restaurants on Tripadvisor collected for each award subcategory, as well as an additional editorial process.

The Doghouse is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1207 Estero Boulevard.

The Doghouse co-owner Jason Unger and his son Jayden at the Estero Boulevard restaurant on Fort Myers Beach. / Photo by Nathan Mayberg