River City Grill has been in Punta Gorda for eleven years. It is centrally located with easy parking either on the street or in the free parking garage directly behind it. (There's also a rear entry to the restaurant.)
The menu is traditional American with steaks, seafood, some Italian dishes, etc. One dish is "Maddonini", a wonderful Italian dish named after the ancestors of Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon. (He is a frequent diner there during Spring Training.)
The steaks are excellent, high quality and delicious. There are some pork dishes, a terrific beef pot roast (the most popular dish on the menu) and several styles and types of fish dishes. The salmon is fresh, cold-water and tasty. It's also available in a filo dough creation. The grouper comes in a variety of ways, all very good. The scallops are large, juicy and just great. There are a few Portuguese-inspired dishes inspired by the owner's grandmother. The owner is a classically-trained chef with a great reputation. He is passionate about food and passionate about making sure his diners have a great experience. (Ask for Doug when you go in, and if he's there, you will see what that means.)
The service at River City is absolutely the best around. The vast majority of servers and bartenders have been there almost since the restaurant opened. That says a lot. They are professionals, prompt and accommodating.
The bar scene is busy early (mostly older customers), and comes alive with a somewhat younger crowd a bit later. They have a good, broad and deep wine list. While there are some very fine wines available, there are many excellent wines for reasonable prices.
The lunches are very popular and include several dinner dishes on a smaller scale as well as an outstanding burger.
River City is THE first place I recommend in the area because it is so consistently good. The chef has been there since opening day and he is remarkable. He personally selects the fresh vegetables (at a local farm), and they are always good, crisp and tasty.
Punta Gorda has several casual dining places that are worthwhile (like the Celtic Ray or The Ice House). There are some mid-range restaurants that are terrific (like The Oyster Bar at Fisherman's Village). And there are some other very fine restaurants in the area that, like River City, are flat-out superb (like Santhino's less than a mile away, Amimoto's a bit further away, or the wonderful JD's Bistro about four miles north). You will be well-treated and pleased at any of these, but RCG still is number one.
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