At Buckingham Farms east of Fort Myers, you’ll find a quaint, destination-worthy restaurant inspired by the 85-some acres of surrounding farmland.
Much of Southwest Florida’s destination dining involves beaches and waterfront views. However, there are also tasty inland journeys, such as Buckingham Farms, where farm-to-table dining is more than a concept; it’s a reality.
Located in the rural Buckingham community, about 15 miles east of downtown Fort Myers, the nearly 85-acre farm is awash in shaded oaks, native vegetation, rows of hydroponic gardens as well as traditionally farmed produce, along with chickens, cows and a giant African spurred tortoise named Booger.
The main attraction, though, is a charming farm store and restaurant.
The clapboard and metal store has bins of produce and shelves full of provisions on the left, with tables for dining on the right.
Seating is open, in more ways than one. It’s first-come-first-serve and much of it is outdoors, though tables can be reserved for parties of six or more. Indoor tables have been appropriately distanced and capacity reduced.
“Other than fewer tables, COVID has not changed how we manage,” general manager Anna Edmonson says.
“We’ve always been particular about cleanliness.”
Buckingham Farms also requires its employees to wear face masks.
Food orders are taken at the cash register by the door, in exchange for a pager. When it buzzes, diners collect their orders from a window in the back where there’s a view of the sleek kitchen manned by chefs in traditional coats. It’s country cuisine made classic.
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Breakfast is big at Buckingham Farms, in popularity and size. Take for instance the Country Boy Breakfast: a split buttermilk biscuit topped with sausage patties, sausage gravy and two fried eggs, and served with a side of hash browns or fruit.
“Our biscuits and gravy, hands down, is the best,” Edmonson says. “The biscuits are huge and melt in your mouth. The gravy is thick and creamy with a nice touch of spice.”
The menu also boasts a variety of breakfast wraps, sandwiches and flat breads. Eggs Benedict come in traditional form as well as Florentine-style, with bacon-Parmesan spinach. The eggs are courtesy of 300 chickens that roost on the farm.
Eggs aside, the most popular breakfast item is a massive cinnamon roll that makes a cameo only on Saturdays.
“We place bets every week on how fast it will sell out,” Edmonson says, laughing.
It can be as few as 40 minutes. Regulars know to call ahead and reserve theirs.
At 11 a.m. the kitchen switches over to lunch, giving the farm’s vegetables a bigger stage on which to shine. Salads brim with seasonal field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and the likes. While most come from the farm, not everything grows year-round. Produce is sourced from other providers.
Sandwiches include the vegetarian friendly Garden Harvest, Reubens available three ways, pulled pork, and Cuban. But the Barnyard Chicken is the farm’s signature. A boneless breast is coated in a bourbon-molasses glaze that soaks into the grilled brioche bun on which it’s served. It’s topped with smoked Gouda, applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, lettuce and tomato.
It’s common to see diners rotate this plate several times, looking for the most strategic place to take that first bite.
Crab cakes come on salads, in BLTs, and as a main course with a signature vegetable medley of onions, peppers, zucchini and corn salsa.
“Our crab cakes are made fresh every day. They’re creamy, chunky and have no fillers,” Edmonson says.
Buckingham Farm’s is closed for dinner, save for Friday nights when four specials are offered for takeout only. Prime rib, the most popular, appears every other week. The meat is rubbed in a garlic-herb mixture, then slow roasted. Specials are posted online every Saturday, so customers can order in advance.
As one might hope for from a country eatery, the farm’s desserts and baked goods are of the caliber that have regulars making special trips to retrieve. Buckingham’s bakers are passionate about their sweets, according to Edmonson, and it shows in the daily specials: chocolate candies, cookies, cookie sandwiches and muffins larger than most diners’ fists.
Key lime and peanut butter pies are staples, but when apple is available, “It’s a treat,” Edmonson says.
A unique craft-soda machine, complete with old-fashioned lever handles, keeps guests hydrated. Besides classic cola and root beer, flavors include citrus hibiscus orange, lemon berry acai, agave vanilla cream, pineapple cream and more. Mix at will to create a custom flavor profile.
Beer and wine are also served. A mimosa bar pops up on Saturdays in season.
While some guests come specifically to shop, it’s the ones who come to dine that often leave with the most bags. Along with produce and prepared goods, Buckingham’s store offers local honey and items unique to a farm setting.
“I buy as much local and from Florida as possible, but I also love the quality of Amish goods and have a lot here,” including churned butter, says Edmonson.
Besides dining and shopping, guests can wander the property, photograph the vintage red tractor and lean lazily on the wooden fence surrounding the tortoise corral; home to Booger. The 20-year-old reptile got its name from a group of elementary school students.
The farm offers tours and features a rustic event pavilion with twinkling lights and draped white fabric that’s popular for weddings.
Family owned, Bucking Farms welcomes children and pets. It’s a place where you can linger after lunch and walk off that wedge of peanut butter pie afdessert. It’s a classic “Sunday drive” dining destination — any day of the week.
If you go — Buckingham Farms
Address: 12931 Orange River Blvd., east Fort Myers
Hours: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays to Thursdays and Saturdays, 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Fridays, closed Sundays and Mondays
Also: The restaurant has an outpost inside LaBelle Brewing Co. in LaBelle