Whether you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner recommendations, Sanibel and Captiva Islands have plenty of fresh and delicious choices. In spite of the relatively small size of the area, abundant seafood and the perfect climate for fruits and vegetables make this a paradise for health-conscious travelers. During a recent trip, I sampled 15 restaurants and cafes on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Keep reading below to learn more about them.
1. Gramma Dot's Seaside Saloon at the Sanibel Marina
The setting at Gramma Dot’s, surrounded by beautiful boats and yachts, creates the perfect ambiance for great seafood. Several dishes on the menu have won Taste of the Islands Awards, such as Coconut Curried Lobster Salad, Sea Side Spinach Salad, Coconut Shrimp, and Fried Oysters. I tried the crab meatballs, coconut shrimp, and fried oysters. My husband had the Grouper Sandwich, and we shared a slice of The Captains Key Lime Pie. There is ample indoor and outdoor seating.
2. Island Cow: serves much more than beef
Island Cow describes itself as being open “eight days a week from 8 am to 8 pmish,” meaning Island Cow serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In addition, you’ll find live music, games, and three resident iguanas named Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato.
The menu is vast. I chose a Caesar Salad with Fried Oysters, and my husband ordered the Cowrazy Kabobs with steak, scallops, and shrimp. We were pleasantly surprised when complimentary sweet corn muffins were brought to our table to start our meal.
3. Blue Giraffe at Periwinkle Place
Blue Giraffe is tucked among beautiful shops in Sanibel Island’s Periwinkle Place. With its quirky name, you’ll be surprised to find that the menu has Mexican-inspired dishes. Salads, burgers, and sandwiches appear alongside tacos, fajitas, burritos, and “Juan in a Million Enchiladas.” My husband and I shared “Just in Queso” (tortilla chips with queso and roasted salsa). He ordered a grilled grouper sandwich, and I had a Cuban sandwich with a side of Mexican Street Corn (the corn is amazing).
4. Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille: inspired by a novelist
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille was the natural outgrowth of a series of novels by Randy Wayne White whose main character is Doc Ford.The Sanibel version of Doc Ford’s is the original one. It is large with two vast dining rooms and plenty of outdoor seating. I ordered the Banana Leaf Snapper. The fish is expertly steamed inside banana leaf wrappings and is served with black beans, rice, and a pesto created with cilantro, lime and roasted peppers. Seafood headlines the menu, but you will also find ribeyes, ribs, chicken, and pork.
5. The Fish House
The Fish House is very casual and family friendly with its economical kids’ menu. As the name implies, fish is prominent on the menu with preparation options such as broiled, crunchy, grilled, blackened, or Jamaican jerk. I chose the broiled combo of shrimp, scallops, and grouper and was very happy with my choice.
6. Matzaluna: an Italian departure from seafood
Inside Matzaluna, the music hints at Italy, and the air is filled with the aroma of garlic. A loaf of fresh bread arrives at your table to set the tone, along with a dish of olive oil, parmesan cheese and herbs. I ordered the Matzaluna Pizza (a wood-fired concoction of sweet sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and pomodoro), and my husband chose Chicken Marsala. Matzaluna is a great choice for those looking to take a break from seafood.
7. The Bubble Room: fun and food on Captiva
Christmas decorations, toys, and movie stars provide the quirky theme and decorations at The Bubble Room on Captiva. The menu features fun items such as Marilyn Mignon, Duck Ellington, Mahi Brando, and the like. For dinner, each entree comes with a serving of Bubble Bread and a Sticky Bun. An eye-popping dessert tray is presented near the end of your meal with a minimum of eight cakes and a couple of pies.
8. Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant: for elegance and a storied history
Lunch, dinner, and special holiday menus are prepared at Thistle Lodge where American inventors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford once dined, but I recommend visiting for Sunday brunch. The crisp, white linens and gleaming tableware create a lovely ambiance for a relaxing occasion. My husband and I sampled the Belgian Waffle and the Crab Cake Benedict, and both were wonderful. Reservations are recommended.
9. Tipsy Turtle Restaurant & Bar: for all-day dining
Tipsy Turtle Restaurant & Bar meets the dining wishes of Sanibel residents and visitors from early in the morning until late at night. The menu offers a large selection of reasonably priced starters, salads, sandwiches, fried baskets, pasta dishes, and meats, along with six different fish choices pan-seared or blackened. My husband and I chose the Scallop Catch and the Shrimp Catch, each with two sides.
10. George & Wendy's Seafood Grille
A round of fresh-baked bread served with olive oil, homemade pesto, and grated parmesan cheese begins a meal at George & Wendy’s Seafood Grille. The menu is surprisingly diverse with much to satisfy non-seafood lovers and seafood lovers alike. My husband and I enjoyed the Crab Duo and Have-it-your-way Grouper with sides of black beans and rice and fresh vegetables. All the dishes were very good.
11. Mudbugs: for a taste of New Orleans
You’ll think you’re in New Orleans during Mardi Gras when you walk into Mudbugs. My husband and I took advantage of the Happy Hour prices offered from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. for raw oysters at 1 USD each and then tried the Red Beans & Rice and the Shrimp Platter. The seasonings and preparations were superb, and the service was wonderful.
12. RC Otter's Island Eats: for laid-back dining on Captiva
RC Otter’s Island Eats at 11506 Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva Island is painted with island greens and blues and has a relaxed vibe that suits the Captiva scene perfectly. It is open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and I highly recommend that you dine outdoors if the weather is cooperative. My husband and I ordered their signature Black Beans & Rice, Seafood Combo Platter, and a slice of Key Lime Pie - everything tasted great.
13. Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market: where you can dine in or cook at home
At Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market, they will gladly prepare your meal for you or sell you fresh seafood to take back to your condo or home to prepare yourself. We sampled some of the fresh Gulf oysters and loved them. For our entree, we chose a surf and turf combo. The fish and the steak were both well-cooked and seasoned nicely.
Timbers has a vegetarian menu, a selection of gluten-free items, a kids’ menu, and the culinary staff is careful about nut and dairy allergies.
14. Over Easy Cafe: in a bike-friendly location
Over Easy Cafe has an easygoing, neighborhood feeling. It is located at the corner of Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle Way, where paved bike trails make it easily accessible. Over Easy Cafe opens at 7:00 a.m. every day and serves breakfast and lunch before closing at 3:00 p.m. The Pancakes and Egg Platter was delicious as was the Bacon, Tomato, and Cheese Omelet with Grits and Wheat Berry Toast.
15. Lighthouse Cafe: for a great breakfast
Lighthouse Cafe on Periwinkle Way claims to serve the “World’s Best Breakfast,” and I certainly cannot disagree. The French Toast and fresh-squeezed orange juice were particularly good, and my husband’s Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes were equally delicious. Coffee refills were frequent, and the coffee made you want to sit and stay awhile. Lighthouse Cafe has been in business since 1987 and shows no signs of slowing down.
Abundant choices for suiting every taste on Sanibel Island
You would have to stay a month or more to sample all of the restaurants on Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Seafood lovers will be exceedingly happy, but all taste preferences can find a place to be satisfied. In addition, there are ice cream shops such as Joey’s Custard and the Sanibel Farmers Market that runs every Sunday from October through May where hungry residents and visitors can find culinary delights. Sanibel and Captiva are amazing places to visit, and I highly recommend that you plan a trip soon and arrive hungry.
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