Lao, Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino — A guide to Southeast Asian food in Southwest Florida

The cuisines of Southeast Asia are complex and well worth exploring at these Lao, Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino restaurants in Fort Myers and Naples.

Annabelle Tometich
Fort Myers News-Press

That there's a full month dedicated to Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage feels, as a person of Asian American/Pacific Islander heritage, complicated. As these celebratory months often do.  

One's heritage doesn't expire. For better and complicated-er, it's with us at all times and should be celebrated and honored all year long. Trying to contain the world's largest continent to 31 days is impossible. Even if it's merely a list of my favorite Asian/Pacific Island restaurants in Southwest Florida. So, I'm breaking this list into multiple lists, starting this week with the cuisines of Southeast Asia. 

This is, to be clear, not a comprehensive guidebook. Think of it more like a few dozen Southeast Asian starting points, places where you can get a taste of what makes these countries so wonderful, and of the heritage so many Asian Americans are working to preserve through food.  

Thai food in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral and Southwest Florida

9 Thai-Sushi, Estero: While the menu encompasses a wide range of Asian offerings, 9 doesn't slouch with its Thai fare. Look for khao soi, duck-noodle soup, as well as all the Thai classics. (9thai-sushi.com)

Chef Bon Poompana of Bangkok Thai in Fort Myers.

Bangkok Thai, Fort Myers: One of the only purely Thai restaurants in Fort Myers, chef-owner Bon Poompana makes this little place feel effortless and deliciously elegant. (eatatbangkok.com)

Binto Thai, Bonita Springs: Fast-casual Thai that's delicious, too? That's Binto. (bintothai.com)

From January:Eats of the Tiger: Celebrate Lunar New Year — with food

Also:Hello from JLB: Fort Myers shines on Food Network (eh, sort of)

Captain Hook's Sushi/Pho/Thai, Cape Coral: This place has a funny name and an encyclopedic menu, but Thai food is where it excels. (captainhookssushi.com)

Em-On's Thai Cafe, Naples: One of Naples' oldest Thai restaurants, Em-On's has been a go-to for noodles, curries and tom kha kai since 1996. (emonthaicafefl.smiledining.com)

Tom Kha soup from Komoon Thai Sushi & Ceviche, Bonita Springs.

Komoon Thai Sushi & Ceviche, Bonita Springs and Naples: Komoon's Peruvian and Thai owners blend their cultures at their restaurant, teaming ceviches and lomo saltado with pad Thai and satay. (komoonthai.com)

Marikami Thai & Sushi, Lehigh Acres: Offering build-your-own curries and noodle dishes, the 2-year-old Marikami has been a refreshing change of pace for Lehigh, where it's tucked into the Publix-anchored Crossroads Shopping Center at the corner of Lee Boulevard and State Road 82. (marikami.com)

Mojo Thai & Sushi Bar, North Naples: From larb and papaya salad to tom yum and curries, Mojo offers a diverse taste of Thailand with classic mango sticky rice for dessert. (mojothaisushi.com)

Muji Thai Country & Sushi, Bonita Springs: What once was a tiki sports bar has become a Thai fusion restaurant serving crispy duck, pad see ew and so much more. (mujithaicountryandsushi.com)

Co-founder Joe Sunthi at Mojo Thai & Sushi Bar Restaurant in North Naples

Ninja Thai & Sushi, south Fort Myers: Ninja packs sly yet hard-hitting flavors into everything from its nam tok to its whole-fried snapper curry. (ninjathaiandsushibar.com)

Orange Pepper Thai & Sushi, south Fort Myers: Orange Pepper took over the longtime home of Thai Gardens on College Parkway in 2021, continuing the space's Thai traditions. (orangepepperfortmyers.com)

Pu Thai, North Fort Myers: Also opened in 2021, Pu Thai replaced Phensri Thai on Hancock Bridge Parkway. Pu Thai is home to the "Eggplant Lover," one of the best dishes I ate in 2021. (puthairestaurant.com)

Review:Thai Gardens is now Orange Pepper, but the memories continue — JLB

And:Pu Thai, Em-On's show Thai food is going strong in SWFL — JLB

The "Eggplant Lover" from Pu Thai features soft hunks of roasted eggplant tossed with ground chicken in a complex sauce.

Rock'n Sushi, Gateway: While this menu leans heavily toward sushi and Japanese entrees, its noodle dishes and Thai-style salads can't be overlooked. (rocknsushigateway.com

Siam Hut, Cape Coral: Open since 1984, this is the area's oldest Thai restaurant. And I'm willing to argue it's still the best. (capecoralsiamhut.com)

Siam Thai, Naples: Mee krob, nam sod, pad woonsen, this Ninth Street South restaurant offers an array of Thai favorites — all done well. (siamthaihousenaples.com)

Sushi-Thai of Naples and Sushi Thai Too, Bonita Springs, and Naples: This popular local chain just keeps growing, launching a new North Naples outpost in April. (sushithaitoo.com)

Siam basil from Siam Thai & Sushi Naples.

Thai Nawa Cuisine, Cape Coral: This cozy spot isn't fancy, just affordable and delicious. (thainawa.com)

Thai Sushi By KJ, Marco Island: A convenient go-to for Marco Islanders, KJ's parking lot fills quickly so plan ahead. (thaisushibykj.com)

Thai Thai Sushi Boat and Thai Thai Sushi Bowl, Naples: Whole-fried snapper and curries finished with lobster, grouper and miso sea bass set Thai Thai apart. (thaithaius.menufy.com)

Thai Udon Cafe, Estero and Naples: These chic restaurants are home to fantastic papaya salads, soulful curries and so much more. (thaiudoncafe.com)

Thai Thai Sushi Bowl opened in March 2018 in Collier Boulevard Shoppes, formerly Naples Outlet Center, on Collier Boulevard south of U.S. 41 East.

Vietnamese food in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral and Southwest Florida

Banh Mi & Tea, Fort Myers: This cute and quick little spot off Dani Drive offers a delicious range of boba and milk teas, as well as some of the best banh mi in town. (facebook.com/banhmiteafl)

Eurasia Restaurant, Naples: A little bit Italian and a little bit Vietnamese, Eurasia offers everything from the roasted quail dish known as chim cut, to pho, rice plates, and Fettucine Alfredo. (eurasiaofnaples.com)

A vermicelli bowl with egg rolls and grilled pork from Island Pho & Grill on Matlacha.

Island Pho & Grill, Matlacha: Take your pho out back, and you can lounge on the swing while soaking in waterfront views of Matlacha Pass. (islandphogrill.com)

Lemongrass Vietnamese Bistro: With milky matcha teas and cool noodle bowls, the cozy Lemongrass feels like a home away from home. (lemongrass-vietnamese-bistro.business.site)

Noodle Saigon, Naples: Open since 2006, Noodle Saigon was one of Collier's first Vietnamese restaurants. And it remains a personal favorite. (noodlesaigon.com)

Pho 99, Fort Myers: This is one of my favorite spots for bun bo hue and some of the heartiest, heftiest vermicelli bowls around. (facebook.com/pho99fortmyers)

Pho Bamboo, Fort Myers: Home to one of the most diverse boba-tea menus and fantastic and hearty Vietnamese fare, including good banh mi. (facebook.com/phobamboo9

A massive bowl of spicy, rich bun bo hue (pronounced boon bo 'way) from Pho 99 in Fort Myers.

Pho Bowl, Cape Coral and south Fort Myers: On my visits to the Pho Bowl on Metro Parkway in south Fort Myers, I've been the only non-Vietnamese person onsite. The massive bowls of pho garnished with culantro and purplish Thai basil are excellent. The restaurant opened a second location in Cape Coral in December.  (facebook.com/phobowlfortmyers and phobowlcapecoralcapecoral.com)

Pho Fresh, south Fort Myers: Seekers of vegan pho needn't look any further. Pho Fresh's is the best and most nuanced I've ever had. Its non-vegan pho and the rest of its lengthy Vietnamese menu aren't bad either. (pho-fresh.business.site)

Pho Thanh Binh, Cape Coral: Sleek and new, Pho Thanh Binh's bánh xèo, a crispy, savory pancake filled with verdant herbs, makes my mouth water just thinking about it. (phothanhbinhfl.com)

A bowl of pho and a crispy bánh xèo from Pho Thanh Binh in Cape Coral.

Saigon to Paris Cafe, Naples: New and darkly inviting, this French-Vietnamese spot nails everything from macarons and croissants to roasted duck and banh mi. (saigontopariscafe.com)

Saigon Paris Bistro, south Fort Myers: Unrelated to the Naples cafe above, this much-older Saigon Paris has been impressing diners with its array of European and Vietnamese dishes for decades. (saigonparisbistro.com)

Viet Village, south Fort Myers: This is one of the few places where you can find traditional clay-pot rice, along with shaking beef, lemongrass-infused noodle soups and so much more. (facebook.com/vietvillage18)

Cambodian, Laotian and Filipino food in Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral and Southwest Florida

Eat Sarap, Bonita Springs: Tucked into a stall at Flamingo Island Flea Market (meaning it's only open Friday to Sunday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.), Eat Sarap's owner Tess Herbst makes some of the best Filipino food I've had aside from my own (and my mom's, of course). Her hard work and wide-ranging menu — pancit, lumpia, adobo, lechon, puto, halo halo — draw fans from Sarasota to Miami and the East Coast. (facebook.com/eatsarapbonitasprings)

Tess Herbst is the owner of Eat Sarap, a Filipino restaurant, is located inside Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita Springs.

Lan Xang, Fort Myers: While the restaurant offers Thai, Vietnamese and even some Chinese dishes, its Laotian and Cambodian flavors may be its strongest: the sin savanh, the sticky rice, the pad Lao and Lao salad. It's a taste of Asia that you won't find anywhere else locally. (lanxang.business.site)

Manila Bistro food truck: Lechon kawali, arroz caldo, tinola, pancit bihon, this little truck turns out some serious Filipino flavors. Check its Facebook page for upcoming stops at area breweries and events. 

Annabelle Tometich writes about food and restaurants for The News-Press and Naples Daily News. Connect with this reporter: atometich@news-press.com; @atometich (Twitter); @abellewrites (Instagram)

Sinigang is a Filipino pork stew served at Eat Sarap, a Filipino restaurant, located inside Flamingo Island Flea Market in Bonita Springs.