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Sanibel/Captiva Good Eats?

We'll be in Sanibel for a couple nights over Memorial Day Weekend. What's the best food on the islands? The guidebook recommends Mad Hatter--do you Hounds agree? We want to do one "splurge" meal; otherwise we'd like to just enjoy the local flavor and vibe of the place. Suggestions, please?

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  1. I have no idea whether it still exists, but Timmy's Nook on Captiva had a grand Key Lime pie.

    1. I am just one of a handful of people that can say they grew up on "The Island" as we call it!! I have some great recommendations that will keep you craving long after your vaca is over. A must for an any evening meal is Lazy Flamingo, two locations, one right as you get onto the island, on the right side of Periwinkel, and the original location at Blind Pass, that's where Sanibel and Captiva connect. Both are the best wings, caesar salad, burgers, grouper sandwiches, and cold beer you could ask for! Also if you are daring, ask for the POT, its overflowing with shrimp, clams, mussels, and all sorts of stuff! Mad Hatter is nice, but try Mucky Duck for the splurge, fun, good food, and the best sunset on the planet! For the best breakfast you have to hit the Sanibel Cafe at least once. A finer diner with amazing food! But for every special occasion I had growing up, we always went to McT's! It doesn't seem like much from the outside, but its the best food, dressy casual, and I still am missing their Mud Pie! Seafood, steaks, and of course everything Shrimp! Enjoy and have a bite for me!

      3 Replies
      1. re: scottinotown

        Wow, Scott, thanks for the great recs! I've read other good things about Mucky Duck. We will definitely try as many of your suggestions as we can and report back!

        1. re: laurie


          My husband & I just returned from a week on Sanibel. I'd have to say that our two best meals were at Traders and Thistle Lodge. The latter was our splurge on the last night. Lovely location, sunset, piano music in the background. Food was superb. Then again, you can't really go wrong with any of the fresh fish dishes.

          Traders had a real "Tommy Bahama" vibe. From the bread basket, to the last bite of trout stuffed with blue crab - delicious! My husband had the grilled scallops and gave them a thumbs up, too.

          We also loved Cheeburger Cheeburger for lunch, which had the best onion rings I've ever tasted. Fantastic diner-style burger place.

          We went to McTs and I have to ask, is there more than one? We went to McT's Shrimp House and it was one of the worst meals I've ever had! We were nearly hysterical with laughter by the time we left because it was so terrible. Maybe we didn't order the right thing? But they do shrimp, right? So, I got garlic shrimp, and they were so briny I nearly gagged. Even the salad was pathetic!

          Timbers was good, too. Really fresh fish. Had the blackened halibut. The portions are so big though, that you could easily split a main.

          The best breakfast was the Lighthouse Cafe. The french toast was fantastic. This place was packed and clearly a local favourite.

          Oh, and Gramma Dot's in the marina - we had grouper & chips. It was the first thing we did when we arrived. Fantastic. We tried to go back again, but they close at 8pm. Don't miss it.

          Our whole trip was wonderful. Enjoy your time there. Report back!

          1. re: cinda

            Great report, Cinda--thanks. We'll definitely try to check out Traders and Thistle Lodge. That trout with blue crab is calling my name. . . .

      2. Do not miss the Lighthouse Cafe for breakfast. They have a web site.

        1. The new edition (June) of Food & Wine has a nice article on Sanibel. They recommended the Mucky Duck and Amy's Over Easy Cafe for casual comfort food.

          1. We just took a vacation to Captiva recently. We loved the Mucky Duck so much that we ate there once and got take out once (we have a young son, so were not into going out one night). Very, very good and a fantastic sunset. I must say that their burger was a top 5 burger of all time for me.

            1. Sadly, Timmy's Nook is gone. Always dark and dingy and uber-casual, Timmy's had grouper to die for. Regretful sigh. It has been replaced by The Green Flash - totally a tourist spot. The Mucky Duck is still good and the views are unbeatable, but the Lazy Flamingo is not so hot. I happened to be there on Mother's Day and the grouper tasted at the least too old, at the worst, slightly questionable to eat. Again, sad. The grouper there used to be great. Definitely the Thistle Lodge for a special meal.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Mothership

                It's a real shame Timmy's Nook went out of business. On the bright side, The Mucky Duck is still great, and my aunt still has Timmy's Key Lime Pie recipe!

                1. re: davisready

                  Tim's Nook has been gone for at least 12 years, maybe longer. When was the last time you were at the Mucky Duck?

                  1. re: LilMsFoodie

                    I can't believe it's been that long already! I went to the Mucky Duck about 4 years ago. My sister was there this past April and she said it was still good.

                    1. re: davisready

                      I would love a copy of that key lime pie recipe as well, ive never eaten at timmys nook, but if the recipe is anywhere near mucky ducks then id love it.

                      1. re: BURGERMAN007

                        you do see this post is over 2 years old, right?

                  2. re: davisready

                    Great key lime pie. But if she has the recipe for the coconut cream pie from Hickory BarBQ, I'd jump for joy and beg for a copy...

                    1. re: davisready

                      I just took my family to Capitva after 30 years from my last visit there. My best memories of Capitva are of dinners with my family at Timmy's Nook and their Key Lime Pie. I was so sad to see it was now gone and did some searching and came across your post. Any chance you'd share the recipe for the pie? I'd love to make it for my family.

                  3. Well, I must say that we didn't have a chance to try any of these recs during our short trip, but we DID chance upon a great restaurant I want to share--Doc Ford's Sanibel, on Sanibel Captiva Road and Rabbit, just a short ways down the road from the wildlife preserve. We stopped in this sports bar for a beer, and I immediately noticed that they sell a type of hot sauce I'd tried in Dallas several years ago and hadn't been able to find since. Encouraged, we took a look at the menu and were impressed with an eclectic menu that in addition to typical wings and burgers fare had several innovative-looking entrees that can best be described as international Floribbean fusion. We went back for dinner and were not disappointed. My husband had one of the day's specials, a whole fried snapper that was perfection, infused with a zesty ginger-soy-lime sauce. I enjoyed shrimp wrapped in proscuittio and grilled with Texas BBQ sauce (yes, it tasted like real Texas 'Q. The chef, I was told, hails from Dallas). Another dish I wanted to try (but wasn't able to make it back to do so) was a snapper cooked in a banana leaf with ancho chiles and masa harina. A lot a of entrees, in fact, were inspired by cooking styles of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. On our next trip to the islands we plan to make Doc Ford's our first gastronomic stop.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: laurie

                      We enjoyed Doc Ford's when we were in the area last year. In addition to the food, the place has a nice selection of beers, wines & rums.

                      FYI...the name of the place comes from the chief character in the novels of Randy Wayne Wright, who's a co-owner of the place. He was a Sanibel fishing guide before he starting writing (& selling) novels.

                      1. re: cavandre

                        I was just at the "new" Sweet Melissa's on Sanibel's Periwinkel , and it's great!

                        I could spend 10" looking at the lush garden out front. I saw a dozen lepidoptera species in just a few minutes. Inside, it's simply elegant, and the food and service are very, very good. All prices are at/under $29, and portions are very large. Best thing-there's half portions of main courses, and they are STILL big! Gaye Levine must be happy with this, looking down from above, she passed away 2 years ago.

                        Sweet Melissa's, and more expensive Thistle Lodge are my current favorites on Sanibel Island for nicer dining, with Sunset Grill just a hair behind. I've not heard as much positives about pricey Mad Hatter, so I've stayed away. At low to mid range prices, I like Doc Ford's Sanibel (not the Fort Myers beach one), and the Island Cow for "bring the kids" fun and good food.

                        I'll have my review in a few weeks, I'm behind on so much, and ahead only on my weight gain. I am waiting for Doctor Faux-Canard to post bail, to finish liposuction on my right side. He couldn't find his medical license-he can be so absent minded. He masterfully combined the Hoover and my grand mom's turket baster to shape my left side. . Bet your plastic surgeon doesn't make house calls!

                    2. On Captiva there's a restaurant called the Sunshine Cafe. Excellent. The seafood is fresh and well-prepared, and the wine list is solid. Go there for an early dinner (make reservations), then stop by the Bubble Room for a piece of orange crunch cake.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bagofwater

                        This is an old thread, but I'll second the Bubble Room's orange crunch cake anyway.

                        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

                          The Bubble Room is an interesting venue. Maybe good for cake but I would skip the mains. My last time there the grouper smelled and tasted of ammonia and was sent back and the replacement was no better. The service was lousy and it was crowded and expensive.