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Need a little chowhound help - am going down to Sanibel next month

Am just headed down to get a little sun and some temperatures above 30 degrees and decent meals down there would be a bonus.

I did a search on the boards and there doesn't seem to be much new info... Everyone mentions Doc's, the Bubble Room, Sweet Melissa's (is it even there anymore?) and McT's but they all seem to be pretty bad for food.

Am going with at least one picky eater (no onions, plain grilled chicken, no sauce... ) and one adventerous eater - (escargot, good wines)

Am looking for some Fl shrimp and \ or stone crabs, any happy hours with good drinks, good burgers or just a nice place that uses local ingredients.

Any help would be appreciated! Thanks.

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  1. Wow... didn't realize it was so bad down there that there would be no answers! Am crossing Fl off my list for future vacations..lol!

    8 Replies
    1. re: Trufflebaby

      Sweet Melissa's is still there. There are some good places, but restaurants seem to come and go with alarming regularity. Some of the longer term restaurants are tourist joints and the food isn't necessarily very good. I think McT's for instance is horrible, but lots love it. Lots of the locals avoid restaurants on the barrier islands during season. Why drive hours when the best weather for the beach is actually May?

      My picks: Old Captiva House at Tween Waters, Lazy Flamingo at CapSan village (oyster dive bar), Thistle Lodge at Casa Ybel (gorgeous setting and pretty good food and wine list), Island Cow (always packed night and day), Lighthouse for breakfast. Mucky Duck for sunset drinks and bar chow.

      -----
      Mucky Duck
      Andy Rosse Ln SW, Captiva, FL 33924

      Old Captiva House
      15951 Captiva Dr SW, Captiva, FL 33924

      Lazy Flamingo
      6520 Pine Ave Ste C, Sanibel, FL 33957

      Sweet Melissa's Cafe
      1625 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33597

      1. re: LilMsFoodie

        I'm just happy to go somewhere that doesn't have 5' of snow so Florida is looking pretty good right about now. Thanks for recommendations! Thistle Lodge looks gorgeous. Can't wait to try these places out!

        1. re: Trufflebaby

          I heard Mc T's changed hands over the summer, haven't been by to check. I was not impressed

          For breakfast try the Island Cow. Simple good sized portions, kids love it
          For a good upscale dinner and romance LMF is right on, go to Thistle Lodge. You may even become part of a wedding party-it's a romantic destination spot.

          Mad Hatter is said to be overpriced for the quality I've not been there.

          Doc's on Sanibel is a decent spot for simple foods, The food and service at their Fort Myers Beach spot leaves a bit to be desired.

          Ellington's is the place to go for jazz after dinner elsewhere. The locals know that one! Their food is mediocre and overpriced to cover the cover cost for the live music.

          For Stone crab claws, call around.
          I get mine in Naples at fishmongers for 1/2 the price and eat them at home with mustard sauce cold beer or a crisp Sauvignon blanc-heavenly! They are cooked on the boats and chilled, then brought to restaurants.

          1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

            Can't wait! My mouth is watering just thinking about the stone crab claws.. Thanks for the tip on Ellington's -sounds like fun and I love listening to live jazz.

      2. re: Trufflebaby

        No offense but most of the tourists come from the midwest and they seem to demand a chain resto. It seems hard for a place down here to stay in biz, mainly because the tourists will only go to chains because they demand what they have up north and the deal is that a chain will give them what they want. We locals, on the other hand, try to frequent our local places. Now, it's 80 here and I'll be in my pool in the morning.

        1. re: Floridagirl

          Hi Florida Girl!

          Don't worry, I don't take offense easily.... chain restaurants have their place and are not all bad, but what's the point of traveling if you don't try something you can't get at home ?! Thank god for chowhound and all the great recommendations I've gotten here over the years

          And we're a balmy 35 degrees up here in Boston.... not quite pool weather but almost... maybe if it goes up another 5 degrees or so ..... :-)

          1. re: Floridagirl

            I agree, but there are no chains on Sanibel or Captiva unless you want to count Sandy Stillwell's two Sunshine Seafood locations and the Lazy Flamingo's 3 soon to be 4 locations in SW Fl.

            One third rate meal at some local restaurant is enough to send most tourists to the nearest Bonefish Grill or Carrabbas. I really can't blame them, but on Sanibel and Captiva, there are laws prohibiting national chains (just like the laws they have prohibiting stop lights and building over 3 stories) and so the independent character is kept.

            -----
            Lazy Flamingo
            6520 Pine Ave Ste C, Sanibel, FL 33957

            1. re: Floridagirl

              Hey Floridagirl,
              You have any recs for Sarasota or Tampa? I'm down here for work from NYC and am avoiding chain restaurants at all costs! I'm very interested in local spots and can travel a bit while I'm here too. I'm especially interested in places that use some Florida ingredients. Thanks!
              JeremyEG
              HomeCookLocavore.com

          2. Best food I've ever had on Sanibel/Captiva was at The Mad Hatter. Redfish Blufish (which morphed into Sweet Melissa's, I believe) was outstanding as well. I also usually enjoy the Lighthouse Cafe for breakfast and, even though it's getting rather frayed, I usually always return to The Bubble Room for nostalgic reasons...even if it's mostly for the dessert and Bubble Bread. I don't think the food is anything to get excited about at The Mucky Duck, either...but it's another Island institution that tends to draw me back in. I've had a couple of okay meals at The Green Flash as well as at McT's (with expectations set low). They both offer pretty straightforward fare with something for everyone.

            I always stay at 'Tween Waters Inn, but I think Old Captiva House is overrated and refuse to pay their prices after trying it twice for dinner and being underwhelmed.

            You really don't go to Sanibel for the food, though. ;)

            -----
            Mad Hatter Restaurant
            6460 Sanibel Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957

            Mucky Duck
            Andy Rosse Ln SW, Captiva, FL 33924

            Old Captiva House
            15951 Captiva Dr SW, Captiva, FL 33924

            Green Flash
            15183 Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924

            Sweet Melissa's Cafe
            1625 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33597

            The Bubble Room Restaurant
            15001 Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924

            2 Replies
            1. re: sweet_polly

              Just came back from a very disappointing meal at the Green Flash. We got off to a bad start when they couldn't even make us some mojitos; then the MaiTais were very weak and watery. Even ignoring that the waitress got something significant wrong at every point in the meal from the cocktails onward, there were problems with the food. The blackened Mahi Mahi wasn't significantly blackened, even though we'd asked for it extra spicy, and it was rather rubbery. The Key Lime pie (claimed to be home made) was smothered in whipped cream, possibly to disguise its origin in the freezer, and tasted of very little, especially lime. My appetizer was unexceptional too -- BBQ shrimp with bacon (claimed to be a local specialty) was shrimp wrapped in bacon, grilled, and smothered in ketchup... rather greasy and way too sweet (I:"m not kidding about the ketchup BTW). However the conch chowder was quite good, and my BIL really liked the Oysters Rockefeller. The place was really crowded, but all in all a very average minus experience.

              The Sunshine Seafood Cafe was quite good, although a bit pricy. Again, insufficient blackening for my friend on the salmon, but my pecan encrusted tripletail (the special) was excellent, and the KLP very good. $50 each for 2 courses plus wine plus 1 dessert shared by 4. Would go back though, which is more than I can say for the GF...

              Consensus seems to be Doc Ford's here is reliable -- will probably try that tomorrow, our last night here. My brother in law was commenting that our best meal of the week was at Sweet Tomatoes, the salad buffet chain -- sad but true.

              -----
              Green Flash
              15183 Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924

              1. re: buffytvs

                Another vote for Doc Ford's...good drinks & apps.

            2. Finally had a decent meal here... our last night! Forget the seafood, which has been uniformly average at best. We had excellent Mexican at the Cantina Captiva, along with $6 margaritas. Not gourmet fare, but a solid recommendation. Great service too.

              -----
              Cantina Captiva
              14970 Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924

              1. Just got home yesterday after a long weekend and it's so pretty down there, can't wait to go back! Weather was perfect, but am very suprised how little beachfront bars and dining there is

                Thanks to Chowhound we were able to have some pretty decent meals. I wasn't able to sell the picky eater in our group on Thistle Lodge- we had to go to Pinchers Crab shack as a compromise ( stone crab there was good but service not so much - had to wait almost an hour for our order and this was sitting at the bar) and vacation is about making compromises.... I can't dictate where we go all the time, right ?? (although I did try ...lol)

                We did get to the Lazy Flamingo for lunch ( great fried grouper sandwiches) Island Cow for breakfast, Mucky Duck for drinks and view and the Timbers for an all crab dinner ( stone crab appetizer, crab cake appetizer and a cup of their crab bisque)

                Am very glad I live up here.. Stone crab is an expensive addiction ( $15 for 2 claws) but it is so very good

                Thanks again for all your help! ;-)

                -----
                Mucky Duck
                Andy Rosse Ln SW, Captiva, FL 33924

                Lazy Flamingo
                6520 Pine Ave Ste C, Sanibel, FL 33957

                1. i love the timbers restaurant. its a giant plantation house with a great bar. but the seafood.. wow. caught that morning, menu changes depending on catch. they are rather accomodating. the decor isn't over the top but the food is awesome.
                  i hated the green flash, was enticed by the full parking lot. but was super disappointed with the food. the parking lot was full because of the view and the full liquor bar.
                  key lime bistro is rather nice. and the sunshine cafe is wonderful. the chef comes out to make sure that your order is as you requested. they expect substitutions and are pleased when you order as written. go to the bubble room for dessert and only dessert, the food stinks.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: eaterjen

                    We had the worst meal of our stay at Key Lime Bistro; "Tempura Shrimp" tasted like they had been wrapped in pizza dough & a baked fish that was so dried out that it was sent back. If you go to other sources, it seems this kitchen has some good nights & then some really bad ones...their prices are a little too steep to run that type of gamble.

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                    Key Lime Cafe
                    211 Colorado Ave, Stuart, FL 34994

                  2. Only good food we had on Sanibel last year was at SanCap Lazy Flamingo and also very good breakfast at Lighthouse. Otherwise, go to Farmer's market and cook .

                    -----
                    Lazy Flamingo
                    6520 Pine Ave Ste C, Sanibel, FL 33957

                    1. This thread has been of use to me because my fiance and I are planning a trip to the area to research possible wedding locations (we are looking into west-coast Florida, sunset on the beach type spots) this weekend. I am making a short list of places to eat based off Chow Hounds' recommendations on this and other threads.

                      My question to the community here who may live in the area or are very familiar with it is, are there good places to take a wedding party of 24-36 people for an after-wedding dinner (think low-key reception without a "chicken dance" DJ) and drinks?

                      Any help would be greatly appreciated. :-)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: grendelsoft

                        if you like french fries you must get a cup of these at schnappers on sanibel island, great hot dogs, italian sausage and pizza too, informal indoor outdoor seating or to go and inexpensive