Monday, March 5, 2012


It was one of the most profitable Outback Steakhouses in the country, until it burned down, ten days short of a year ago. With a much needed, face-life, the Outback Steakhouse in Fort Myers reopens for business today.

This particular Outback is the first one in the nation, built with the company's new, more modern design. The decor of many existing restaurants has been remodeled, but this is the first built from the ground up. As in any first, there is a learning curve. Managers say there are definitely things that will not be repeated, so this restaurant is one-of-a-kind. It has more style both inside and out than the Outback of old. The interior is more intimate with more color, artwork and a spacious bar. There is ample outdoor dining and cozy waiting area.

I was part of a small media group invited to tour the new building before today's opening. Of course we were also treated to a generous sampling of the new, seasonal specials along with some old favorites. I have a new appreciation for Outback after meeting Tracy; the crouton queen. She has been taste testing every batch of croutons that comes out of the kitchen. The day we were there, seven trays were discarded because they did not meet Tracy's perfect combination of toast, garlic and butter. Tracy doesn't stop at croutons, she consistently tastes other items for quality control.

The Outback is offering more items cooked over wood fire for a less seasoned, more natural flavor. The wood is inspected every half hour to ensure consistent heat.

Outback has some new seasonal items and combos like the Filet and Lobster ($14.99 for a 6oz filet). The Lobster was tender and flavorful. The Heart of Gold Mahi ($15.49) was cooked over an open flame with  a fantastic combination of artichoke, sun dried tomatoes, olives and lemon butter. For health conscious dinners, the 500 calorie Chicken on the Barbie was juicy, with a tangy BBQ sauce.

As far as appetizers go, the Bloomin' Onion is always worth the splurge, but we also tried the Chicken Artichoke Flatbread ($4.99); a great bargain. I love a flatbread that really is FLAT and crisp so I can taste the toppings without a mouthful of dough.

The bar menu includes a new Forbidden Fruit Martini made with Agave, Absolute Orient Apple and a kick of ginger, served with a shaker so you can fill at will. The Blackberry Sangria was a bit sweet for me but the Sauza Gold Coast Margarita was a great balance of sweet and sour. The wine feature now is the Alamos Malbec.

The Outback is celebrating it's return to Fort Myers today by giving back. 50% of the sales will be donated to the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida. Bon Appetite!

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