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Any Standouts in Sanibel Island?

Are there any must eats in Sanibel Island, or are most places tourist traps with mediocre food?

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  1. Not truly outstanding - Traders on Periwinkle

    1. There used to be a place called The Bubble Room. That was IT for food on Sanibel.

      2 Replies
      1. re: VAfoodie

        The Bubble Room is on Captiva Island

        1. re: MothaTucker

          Ugh, Bubble Room was so bad! We went to Captiva last year and heard it raved about. The kitsch was cute and we got some good pix - the food was overpriced and mediocre at best. We thoroughly enjoyed the Mucky Duck twice. Once for dinner with awesome sunsets on the beach (and drinks and music) and once for takeout (our son was 10 mo old). Burgers were great. Didn't get to Sanibel at all...

      2. On a recent trip to Sanibel we chanced upon Doc Ford's, which is on the road from Sanibel to Captiva. We really just stopped in for a beer--it looked like a pure sports bar from the road--but were so intrigued by the menu that we had some appetizers and later returned for dinner. We weren't disappointed. The chef puts together some really innovative dishes with elements of the cuisine of Mexico (particularly the Yucatan), the Caribbean, Texas, South America, and other locales. The other food we had in the area was pretty mediocre, but I do recommend you try Doc Ford's for lunch or dinner.

        1. Bubble Room is on Captiva, the adjacent barrier island. lots of grotesque desserts. kids love it.

          It is possible to have good meals on Sanibel.

          Thistle Lodge is a lovely victorian home on the Gulf in the midst of a resort that serves very good food with nice wine flights or good wines by the bottle.

          We love the seafood dive at the end on Sanibel before you cross to Captiva: The Lazy Flamingo. This old place has wonderful oysters and good fish. Island ambiance.

          I like Doc Fords as well. I like the fish tacos.

          Red Fish/Blue Fish is excellent. Probably the best on the island at this time. Lots of tapas style plates.

          The bar at the Jacaranda is a fun place to go in the evening. There is also a nice piano bar and singer at Dolce Vita.

          Up on Captiva, avoid the dismal Bubble Room and try the Key Lime Bistro instead. LMF

          1. We enjoyed a few meals at a place called La Dolce Vita on Perwinkle before the hurricanes, haven't been back since. The food was pretty good, not great, nice bar and wine lsit, music..all-in-all a fun evening in a place with few restaurants.

            3 Replies
            1. re: eescuder

              Bubble Room was abysmal. I was there a few weeks ago. It made TGI Friday's look--and taste-- like Ducasse. Great for kids and dessert, yes. Lazy Flamingo has the BEST hot wings I've ever had....for those who like heat, Lazy Flamingo's where it's at. Jacaranda is good for late night, too. haven't tried La Dolce Vita, but have heard great things.

              1. re: LesleyEats

                Bubble Room is fine. Okay diner type food and a very interesting decor. Very over the top, kids will like it.

                1. re: LesleyEats

                  I have to agree your Bubble Room assessment. Yuck and it's not cheap. I occasionally have a conference in Captiva and have yet found a decent restaurant in the area so this thread is providing me with a few hopefuls

              2. I've always enjoyed Traders Restaurant and Store. The restaurant is in the middle of a Pier 1 type store and it's enjoyable to browse between courses.
                I dined once at The Timbers a couple years ago and had a fine seafood meal.

                1. The only must eat place that we have always enjoyed is the Lighthouse Cafe on Sanibel. Good breakfast. They have a web site to check out menu.

                  1. My family and I ate at the Mermaid Kitchen. I wasn't expecting much, but we were all pleasantly surprised. We shared a large Oriental Salad (excellent) and a large bowl of clam chowder - probably the best I've had. Service was lacking - but it was the slow season and there was only one waitress for the whole place. And they do make divine desserts. I will definitely be back here. Also - very intriguing decor.

                    1. How sad about Bubble Room. Back in the early 80's it was so amazing. We used to go up to Captiva and stay there frequently just so we could go back there (we're from south Florida). The food was perfect and they had that crazy cake with the whipped cream and almond slivers. I hate to hear that some place is still in business and awful. :( :(

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: OysterHo

                        We used to own a home on Sanibel and I personally love Schnapper's Hots. I used to go so often that I got to know the owners and now I usually get a discount whenever I go! I usually alternate between the wings, the fish and chips, and the polish (which is great with piccallili relish) and I always get fries which are fantastic. They also have pretty good pizza. I also like R.C. Otter's and the Key Lime Bistro on Captiva, both of which have outdoor seating and usually live music, and the Lighthouse Cafe for breakfast. I used to love the Hungry Heron but haven't been there in a while because I think its gone downhill. They still have huge portions and a huge menu.

                      2. I second the favorable comments on Doc Ford's. A fair amount of the food is unusual, although they have an assortment of old standards. The general type of food is South American/Central American/Carribean/Floridian. The place advertises itself as a "rum bar," and, in fact, you can sample all sorts of exotic rums. It is casual and looks like it is only a sports bar, but there is more there than meets the eye (from the outside). The chef has some respectable cooking credentials. This is certainly not haute cuisine, but some of it is food that you can't find anywhere else. The place is not noisy (or, at least, has not been when I have been there during the lunch hour). Incidentally, one of the partners there is Randy Wayne White, the outdoorsman and suspense writer. The place is named after his fictional hero, Doc Ford.

                        1. Been to Sanibel lots of times and the favorites we return to are Doc Fords. Buy some hot sauce to take home. The Lighthouse has awesome breakfast and crunchy fried grouper for lunch, but don't forget Gramma Dots, some of their lunch specials are great. The place is tiny, so sometimes you have to wait and stand around staring at the huge yachts in the basin.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: gailBE

                            I second the vote for the hot sauce--especially the green sauce. Coincidentally, we'd chanced upon a bottle of the Amazon green sauce in Dallas back in the '90s, which we loved. I'd searched for it on the Web at the time and couldn't find it. Then, this past spring, we wander into Doc Ford's for a beer and there's the sauce! We picked up several bottles, needless to say. . . .

                            1. re: laurie

                              We used to go to the Mad Hatter on Captiva and have had several memorable dinners there. It's been a couple of years since we've been back though. Does anyone know if it's still around & if it's still good?

                              1. re: mish

                                Have been going to sanibel for years. Loved Mad Hatter for a time...they got full of themselves plus prices outrageous as the level of quality and accommadation went down hill. It was sold and still in the same "thumbs down" mode.

                              2. re: laurie

                                you can also get the hot sauce at Randy Wayne White's web site. Co-owner and author of the fabulous Doc Ford series of books.

                            2. We are in Sanibel and went to the Mad hatter after we walked out of the Bubble Room. We went and waited to eat at the Bubble Room just for the children and they wanted to leave. The bubble room was dusty, dirty and the food on the menu uninspiring. We left and when to the Mad Hatter. It was FANTASTIC!!!!! I had one of the special dishes of the evening which was the sea bass in a delicate white sauce on a bed of creamy garlic risotto. My husband had the shrimp, loved it and my son had the grouper(great!) and my daughter and her best friend had the sushi and the caesar salad and the sea cake. All of which were stand outs. This is not your grouper sandwich or wing place, but if you want a dining experience that would make your taste buds sing this is your place. Not to say that if this chef decided to make a grouper sandwich or wings you better believe it would be the best you have ever tasted.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: gourmetatheart

                                So glad to hear it's still good! We went there the night we got engaged so it really has a special memory for us. We'll be back in Sanibel thanksgiving week and we'll definitely have to head back there. thanks for the update.

                              2. On our trips to Sanibel we have always enjoyed McT's, and Jacaranda. Coming from the midwest when we get to a coast all we eat is fresh shellfish, and fish, and these spots did the trick.

                                1. Traders for good food, atmosphere, nice people and good live music some nights (our favourite resto on Sanibel). Mad Hatter on captiva is good. the Grouper sandwich at lazy Flamingo on Sanibel is very good. Light House cafe is a good breakfast spot. I think there is a good breakfast spot at Blind Pass. I am forgetting the name. The best comfort/junk fare on the island is Schnappers Hots. Burgers fries & shakes to die for. And if you eat too much I really mean to die for, quite literally.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: SpellMan

                                    I second the vote for Schnappers Hots for yummy, cheap junk food. Wow, their dogs are good!

                                  2. We go over to Sanibel and Captiva all the time. On Sanibel for breakfast or lunch, we really like the Island Cow, it is quirky casual and they have (while not exciting) and extensive menu. We also really enjoy Red Fish Blue Fish, although I am sad to say that the owner passed away and I have not been there since.

                                    We also enjoyed Ellington's, it was an accidental find and we are glad that we found it. Lovely music, beautiful presentation and fantastic service!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: SarahChef

                                      Just wanted to add my review of Doc Ford's, where we ate lunch yesterday. The "Shake and Shuck Shrimp" were the largest, tastiest shrimp I have ever had, and since I've lived in Florida for 22 years, that means something. They are served with the lime juice-South American seasoning-oil they're marinated in, along with hot crusty Cuban bread, and every bite is heaven! I went there because I'm a Randy Wayne White fan, but now I'm an even bigger fan of the restaurant. Oh, and the fish tacos were fantastic, too!

                                    2. love the Madhatter on Captiva....it has new owners and they are wonderful....I believe the past 2 years or so....on Sanibel, the Mermaid Room has great food and wonderful desserts, Lazy Flamingo is up there also but more of a bar type menu.