You can’t miss Nervous Nellie’s as you come over the big bridge and head into Fort Myers Beach. The huge restaurant sporting an assortment of bright colors, big outdoor patio and dockside parking, has been a favorite for so many locals and tourists to visit, and hang out at, over the years.
The Lemmer family is a family of local restaurateurs. They’ve operated Cantina Laredo in the Bell Tower shops since 2004. In 2013 they were approached to purchase Nervous Nellies on Fort Myers Beach. One year later it was theirs as they took ownership in December of 2014. .
We spoke to Managing Partner Tyler Lemmer about the history of the restaurant, the menu and why it’s one of the favorite places to visit on Fort Myers Beach.
BTRN: Tell us a little bit about the history of the restaurant.
Tyler: We have a few things we tell all of our guests. One is that there is a nervous pelican out there named Nellie that we feed daily by laying out fish scraps then go back inside because he or she is very nervous.
I believe the name came from the original owner Rob who is from Maine. It’s a common term used up there. So common in fact that there’s a place called Nervous Nellie’s jams and jellies. We receive a lot of phone calls here from people looking for them.
BTRN: Was the restaurant designed like this when you took it over?
Tyler: We have done a lot of work on the restaurant as far as painting. It has always been the bright crayola box of crayons look which is what I tell everyone to look for as they come over the bridge. You can’t miss it. We’ve updated some things inside. We recently re-did the mural in the bar to make it more Ft. Myers Beach Florida style. It had more of New England style to it previously. We continue to make the restaurant more appealing visually.
BTRN: Is your whole family involved in the business?
Tyler: My older sister is an accountant for the restaurant and our other businesses. My father is semi-retired and my little sister is a professional bodybuilder.
BTRN: Tell us about the restaurant?
Tyler: We’re open 365 days a year from 11AM-10PM and we’re located at 1131 first street. We offer free dockage for all of our guests. We have a beautiful view of the back bay and sky bridge. On our second floor is Ugly’s waterside bar, where everyone gets prettier. It has a different name but same menu, happy hour specials and amazing view.
We have a lot of indoor and outdoor seating. We can accommodate big parties inside in the cool AC. We host a lot of weddings, meetings and other group gatherings. We’re able to seat well over 500 people when we’re at full capacity. The majority of our seating is on our outside patio but we still have about 230 seats inside.
This is a large restaurant and during season when we’re very busy there may be a 45 minute wait. When we’re doing it well the food can take 20-30 minutes to come out. With this view to enjoy and our amazing drinks, people love to sit back, relax and enjoy the fabulous views. We work really hard to get food out for the kids quickly. They’ve usually just come off the beach hungry and sunburned.
We offer live music during season 7 days a week and off season every night we’re doing live music from 5-9 on the Tiki stage on the patio. We employ in season about 110 and off season 60-75.
BTRN: Tell us about some of your signature dishes.
Tyler: We have a lobster grilled cheese we just put on the menu about a year ago. It’s likely our most popular sandwich. We also offer a seafood pasta dish. We make everything from scratch, in house, including the Alfredo sauce. All of our seafood is delivered fresh and we get deliveries 6 times a week sometimes 7. We have a purveyor from Naples that delivers on Sunday as well. Our barbeque, in my opinion, is one of the best on the beach which is my personal favorite. It’s a huge 3 lb rack of ribs that fall off the bone tender. We just purchased our second smoker and we’re smoking all of our pulled pork which goes in our barbeque sandwiches and nachos. We’re hoping to purchase an even larger one to smoke all of our ribs. The aroma alone, which can be detected all the way down to the beach, will draw people in.
Our signature drink called the Nervous Nellie includes 5 different kinds of rum, pineapple and orange juice. You can get it in the regular size or what we call our photo op size which is a 60 oz glass. Big enough to take a dip in.
We run happy hour Monday through Friday 3-5 where we have our $5 frozen drink special. We have a variety of frozen drinks including rum runners, margaritas and strawberry daiquiris, Pina coladas and a Miami Vice which is half strawberry daiquiri and half Pina Colada and is very popular. We also have $7 drink specials every day. On tap we have Nervous Nellies house lager brewed out of Rhode Island, Fort Myers Brewery high five and Gateway Gold in addition to a full bar.
BTRN: How has business been?
Tyler: We’ve been blessed with great business since we re-opened from the shut down even with the social distancing and capacity requirements set to 50% inside. We’ve been lucky to continue to operate with little to no loss of employees.
BTRN: Do you offer take out and dockside service?
Tyler: We do and during COVID the majority of our to go business was on boats. They would pull up and we would have the server run the food out. They would hang at the dock to eat, we’d bring them drinks as they need them and then take care of the trash. We continue to offer dockside take out as opposed to curbside which a lot of restaurants offer. We don’t do any delivery service on the beach but we do offer typical take out.
BTRN: What else would you like people to know?
Tyler: We’re a locally owned business. We cook everything from scratch making our food second to none. We also have one of the biggest menus on the beach and offer many gluten free and vegetarian options. We try to accommodate any dietary restrictions.