In Cape Coral, two sisters and their mother-in-law give a family touch to the sports bar

The power of girls is alive and well in Draft of the first round at Cap de Corail.

Owned and operated by sisters Michelle and Kelley Ramage and their stepmother, Judy Ramage, First Round is anything but a regular sports bar.

“We wanted it to be casual but still stylish,” Judy said.

The wings are not served in baskets, they are plated. The dining room tables have comfy captain chairs, colorful glass pendant lights hang from the ceiling, and sports memorabilia from the walls.

“We intentionally created a place that has the comforts of a sports bar but is best known for being a restaurant,” said Michelle, “with more upscale cuisine and specialties.”

Off the Eaten Path: First Round Draft in Cape Coral, a restaurant run by two sisters and their mother-in-law.

The Ramage sisters grew up with an entrepreneur father, David, who owned several hotel businesses in Florida and Arizona. Michelle worked at a sports bar in Arizona. When his father visited him, he was inspired to create something similar to Cape Coral.

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In 2008, David bought the restaurant on the corner of Del Prado Boulevard and SE 12th Terrace, and Michelle left Arizona to help. Kelley has also moved to Cape Town, and although the three women now make business decisions together, Kelley oversees day-to-day operations.

Together with their chef, the trio created a menu with classic comfort food dishes and daily specials that always feature a fish dish. One of Kelley’s favorites is black and tan salmon. It’s pan-fried with blackened seasoning and finished with honey frosting for what she calls a “sweet and spicy” finish.

Daily fresh fish specialty.  Off the Eaten Path: First Round Draft in Cape Coral, a restaurant run by two sisters and their mother-in-law.

Daily fresh fish specialty. Off the Eaten Path: First Round Draft in Cape Coral, a restaurant run by two sisters and their mother-in-law.

Boom boom shrimp offer a similar mouth feel: the shrimp are lightly breaded and mixed with a sauce that she says is “sweet, spicy and creamy”.

The wings of the First Round Draft are bare and not breaded. Out of the fryer, they can be grilled on the grill on request. Michelle says this second step is burning in the sauce.

Ladies estimate that 80% of their tables start with an order of homemade spiral-cut chips. They are sprinkled with homemade seasonings and served with a Cajun ranch dip.

The meats are roasted daily and the sauces and soups are also homemade.

“Our soup maker comes from Massachusetts and makes great clam chowder on Fridays,” Kelley said. Lumberjack soup is a weekend favorite, comparable to a tomato-based goulash.

The Ramage women spring from their Ruben, claiming it’s “messy”, “tasty” and “the best you’ll find in Cape Town”. The sauerkraut is stacked on top of a half pound of corned beef, drizzled with a thousand island dressing and topped with Swiss cheese. Turkey can replace beef, and the restaurant sometimes offers Reuben specialties with grouper as protein.

The Ruben of the first round draft at Cape Coral.

The Ruben of the first round draft at Cape Coral.

The entrees cover a lot of culinary ground, including flat iron steak, pressure fried chicken, chicken Parmigiana, burritos, liver, and onions.

“You like it or you don’t like it,” Michelle said of the latter. “You don’t find it on a lot of restaurant menus and people come here just for that.”

Dessert options include seasonal cheesecakes and a 6-inch-tall three-layer chocolate cake that Judy says “oh and ah people.”

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Unique to First Round Draft is the large covered aft deck on the shores of the Cape’s Honolulu Canal.

“We’re one of the only restaurants in Middle Cape with boat access,” Michelle said. The ride to the First Round wharf is unbridged from the Caloosahatchee at kilometer 58.

The bridge is pet-friendly and allows for the observation of large iguanas as they crawl from the shade of the mangroves to sunbathe, sometimes testing their mettle by venturing out onto the bridge.

“They’re like dogs sometimes,” Kelley said with a laugh. “We have to tell people not to feed them. “

They have a terrace overlooking a canal.  Off the Eaten Path: First Round Draft in Cape Coral, a restaurant run by two sisters and their mother-in-law.

They have a terrace overlooking a canal. Off the Eaten Path: First Round Draft in Cape Coral, a restaurant run by two sisters and their mother-in-law.

First Round Draft has 32 HDTVs, each plugged into different sporting events.

Family is important to these women, and it extends beyond the name Ramage. They also see customers as family, and it seems a lot of their regulars feel the same way.

In 2011, the restaurant caught fire and had to be emptied. Customers showed up and rolled up their sleeves to help with cleanup and repairs so the first round could reopen. In 2017, they also helped put up the windows before Hurricane Irma.

“Our customers are the best,” Kelley said. “They are loyal and they are the reason we exist.”

“What we have is a ‘Cheer’s Bar’ where everyone knows each other,” Judy said. “And we offer one of the best value for money in Cape Town.”

“This is a great neighborhood place, known for our food and the best service,” Kelley said. “You just can’t beat our service. That’s why we’ve been here for so long.

Draft of the first round

Address: 1217 boul. Del Prado, Cape Coral

By the sea: Terminal 58 West from Caloosahatchee to the Honolulu Canal

Hours: 11 am-9pm Monday to Thursday, 11 am-10am Friday and Saturday

Call: 239-673-9010

the Web: frdcape.com

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Cape Coral restaurants: the First Round Draft has a family touch


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