Sanibel Island is linked to the rest of Florida via a three-mile-long causeway that runs from Fort Myers into the Gulf of Mexico. The rolling surf may be seen on one side of the causeway, while the softer waters of San Carlos Bay can be seen on the other.
Finally, you come across a world that is part animal refuge, half shelling destination, and part holiday heaven, particularly with the abundance of outstanding Sanibel Island eateries. Several people arrive and fall in love with it so much that they decide to live there permanently or for at least part of the year.
Sanibel residents are dedicated to getting outside and being healthy, as proven by over 25 miles of paved bike paths and multiple establishments renting bikes, trikes, and surreys of all kinds. Sanibel restaurants include fresh vegetables and fish served in a variety of ways, thanks to the ample sunlight, Gulf seafood, and warm environment.
This makes the islands ideal for individuals who wish to take a vacation from their hectic schedules without forsaking fitness and a healthy diet. Here is a spot that entices you to go outside, even if you generally spend your days in an office.
Sanibel’s history may be traced back to the Calusa Tribes 2500 years ago, and it is stated that Ponce de Leon discovered it while searching for the Fountain of Youth. While Florida became a state in 1845, it wasn’t until after the Civil War that Sanibel was deemed a secure place for migrants to live. The intriguing narrative, replete with pirates and their exploits, is told at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village.
Although though the island is physically in the South, you won’t hear many Southern accents when shopping or dining on Sanibel Island. Instead, residents from the Northeast and Midwest seem to have found the island’s charms and are keeping them to themselves.
Sanibel will appeal to birdwatchers and shell collectors, but it will also appeal to foodies. On this little island, the variety of cuisines available is amazing. These are a dozen Sanibel Island eateries I recommend you try if you come.
As an added bonus, if you elect to cross the bridge at Blind Pass into Captiva Island, Sanibel’s much smaller sister island, you’ll discover two eateries I suggest. These eateries on Captiva Island are definitely worth the short travel from Sanibel Island.
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- 1 The Top 13 Restaurants on Sanibel Island
- 1.1 Granny Dots Beach Bar
- 1.2 The Cow on the Island
- 1.3 Giraffe in Blue
- 1.4 Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Restaurant
- 1.5 Restaurant Fish House
- 1.6 Matzaluna
- 1.7 Coastal Restaurant at Thistle Lodge
- 1.8 Back Bar & Tipsy Turtle Restaurant
- 1.9 Sanibel Seafood Grille by George and Wendy
- 1.10 Cajun Kitchen Mudbugs
- 1.11 Timbers Fish Market & Restaurant
- 1.12 Café Over Easy
- 1.13 Café Lighthouse
- 2 Captiva Island’s Finest Restaurants
The Top 13 Restaurants on Sanibel Island
Granny Dots Beach Bar
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-8138634 N. Yachtsman Drive
You would assume you’re going to a caf offering southern comfort dishes with a name like Gramma Dots, but you’d be completely incorrect. Grandmother Dot was a real person, although she was not from the South. Her life’s passion was the sea, and the food reflects that. There will be no casseroles or cornbread here.
The location, which includes water, colorful boats, elegant ships, and a big outdoor eating space, makes this an appealing and popular destination for both island tourists and full-time inhabitants. The hosts, waiters, and kitchen personnel converse with the customers in a nice manner, and their efficiency is impressive.
Gramma Dots’ fried oysters, coconut shrimp, and lobster salad have all earned Taste of the Islands Awards, and the key lime pie is sure to top anyone’s Top Five list.
Crab meatballs, fried oysters, and grilled grouper sandwiches are all favorites of mine. Everything that was fried was lightly battered and tasted extremely fresh. Our first of thirteen eateries is one of the finest on Sanibel Island.
The Cow on the Island
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-06062163 Periwinkle Way
A manatee is a marine creature that is also known as a sea cow, yet the bovine allusions and related décor are everywhere in this area. The surprisingly big menu is heavy on seafood, but they also offer fantastic burgers in a joyful atmosphere. Do you see what I mean? The delicious corn muffins supplied with your meal are a fantastic precursor and pleasant surprise.
Every day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., The Island Cow provides breakfast, lunch, and supper, and with so many options, even the pickiest eater will find something to please. Live music is often played, and cornhole games are available.
To the enjoyment of younger customers, the resident iguanas called Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato watch over the scene from their huge cage. It’s a brightly decorated establishment with plenty of seats both inside and out.
When you travel along Periwinkle Drive, you can’t miss it. Whatever your meal, this is one of the top Sanibel Island restaurants and one of the nicest places to dine on Sanibel Island.
Giraffe in Blue
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-25252075 Periwinkle Way #14,
Blue Giraffe is nestled amid Periwinkle Place’s lovely boutiques and gorgeous landscape. With a name like that for a restaurant, the menu could contain almost anything.
But, in this instance, the focus is on Mexican tastes and likes. Salads, sandwiches, and burgers abound, but there are also enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, and burritos.
The Mexican street corn given as a side dish is arguably the greatest I’ve ever had, and the Cuban sandwich is equally excellent.
From 7:00 a.m. until noon, the Blue Giraffe provides a complete breakfast menu along with acceptable adult beverages such as mimosas, Bloody Marys, and screwdrivers, as well as a variety of juices, teas, fountain drinks, coffee, or milk. Blue Giraffe is an excellent spot to stop, relax, and eat before or after you begin shopping.
There is a second facility on Par View Drive in Beachview Estates. You can’t top the flare of this jewel among all Sanibel Island eateries for Mexican meals.
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Restaurant
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-83112500 Island Inn Road
Sanibel Flats was Randy Wayne White’s debut book. The literary achievement resulted in a 26-book series starring a guy called Doc Ford. While describing the locations for the events in his works, White relied on his firsthand knowledge of Sanibel and Captiva.
Doc Fords Rum Bar & Grille grew organically from the books. White resides on Sanibel Island and owns this restaurant as well as three others with the same name in Captiva, St. Petersburg, and Ft. Myers.
Doc Ford’s Sanibel version was the first. The spacious parking area and structure are immediately across the street from Baileys General Store. Since Doc Fords is readily accessible from the paved paths, many people like to ride their bikes there. Seating for up to 175 people is available despite the lower capacity, although it is still recommended to come early or make reservations in advance. It is really well-liked.
Seafood features on the menu in all categories, but there are also steaks, ribs, pork tenderloin, burgers, pulled pork, and cheesesteak sandwiches.
Inside, you may buy Doc Ford souvenirs and Randy Wayne White books, and I strongly suggest that you select one of the novels for your beach reading while on the island. Don’t be shocked if you find White sitting at the bar at a restaurant on Sanibel or Captiva from time to time.
This is one of the Sanibel Island eateries recommended by Doc.
Restaurant Fish House
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-77701523 Periwinkle Way
In 1994, the first Fish House debuted in Bonita Springs, Florida. Since 2012, the Sanibel Island site has been open. Fish House is quite proud of its several Taste of the Islands Awards. Among them are Best Seafood, Best Sanibel Island Restaurants, Best Appetizer, Best Happy Hours, and Best Dessert.
The ambience is relaxed and family-friendly, and the enticing pricing on the children’s menu satisfy many guests.
It is also a good idea to provide fish options other than fried or grilled. Discriminating foodies may also choose crispy, charred, grilled, or Jamaican jerk-style fish at The Fish House.
With a starting of a dozen raw oysters and a combination plate of shrimp, scallops, and grouper, you get a lot of ocean tastes in one meal. If you want some of the greatest seafood in Sanibel, go to the Fish House; it is unquestionably one of the top Sanibel island restaurants.
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-19981200 Periwinkle Way
Matzaluna’s exterior colors match those of the Italian flag. Inside, the music alludes about piazza strolls in Italy, and the air is filled with the perfume of garlic blended with basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
At the start of your dinner, a round of fresh bread is brought, along with a dish of olive oil, freshly grated parmesan cheese, and herbs. In the vast, open room, the black and white checkered tiling and red and black chairs make a beautiful, modern aesthetic.
Sanibel’s sole wood-fired pizza oven is located in Matzaluna. I got to try the Matzaluna Pizza and the Chicken Marsala. Both were excellent and provided a great break from seafood for the evening.
Sal Velez is the chef, and he has already won the Food Network’s Iron Chef competition. He is considerate to gluten-free diners and provides them with several alternatives. Matzaluna has been in business for over 26 years and has earned a well-deserved reputation.
Weekly specialties include a different pizza flavor and a piece of limoncello cake or sea salt caramel cheesecake. Discounted pricing during the evening happy hour (4:30-6:00 p.m.) entice many guests to this wonderful establishment.
I liked the imaginative logo with the astronaut on the moon eating pasta. The meal is really out of this world. Matzaluna is a Sanibel Island restaurant that serves some of the greatest pizza and Italian cuisine on the island.
Coastal Restaurant at Thistle Lodge
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-31452255 West Gulf Drive
Clean white linens, glistening crystal, polished silver, and mellow jazz signal that you’ve entered one of Sanibel Island’s most elegant restaurants, whether for a special occasion or a leisurely lunch.
Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant, located on the grounds of Casa Ybel Resort, serves breakfast, lunch, and supper, as well as an exceptional wine selection and carefully planned holiday dishes served by Chef Omar Clarke.
While Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were alive, they liked floating to Thistle Lodge for supper from their residences in neighboring Fort Myers, Florida. The view of the Gulf is breathtaking, and the service is outstanding.
Salads and sandwiches are available for lunch, while pasta, steak, chicken, lamb, and seafood are available for supper. Brunch menu items include Belgian waffles, Crab Cake Benedict, Scallops & Risotto, and Steak & Eggs. Reservations are highly advised.
Try this beachside restaurant for terrific cuisine and a fantastic environment for gourmet dining on Sanibel Island.
Back Bar & Tipsy Turtle Restaurant
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-17711223 Periwinkle Way
Tipsy Turtle is another Sanibel restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and supper to locals and guests, opening at 7:00 a.m. every day and remaining open until 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday.
The breakfast menu is somewhat short, but it covers all of the anticipated basics, including pancakes, waffles, French toast, breakfast sandwiches, omelets, cereals, muffins, and eggs.
Guests may order 13 appetizers, four salads, 14 sandwiches, smoked meats, pasta dishes, and baskets for lunch or supper. I really like the variety of fish mentioned under Tipsys Catch, which were either pan-seared or blackened and served with two sides. Tipsy Turtle’s pricing looked to be somewhat lower than those of other comparable Sanibel island eateries.
The property’s Back Bar has live music on a regular basis and is pet-friendly. The inside walls are peach, blue, and lime green in color. A quirky gift store is located next to the registration desk, and I saw charming sliding barn doors leading to another eating room.
The service was excellent. Go no farther for a typical American restaurant in the midst of all Sanibel Island eateries.
Sanibel Seafood Grille by George and Wendy
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 395-12632499 Periwinkle Way
George, the owner, is from Buffalo, New York. Wendy is a native of Chicago. They arrived to Sanibel Island as single adults, and their subsequent marriage has resulted in a fresh gastronomic delight for their guests. Georges Buffalo influence can be seen throughout the cuisine.
Wendy is also a co-owner of Tarpon Bay Outfitters, a prime destination for renting boats and kayaks as well as organizing fishing and wildlife trips.
As I arrived, live music was playing in the bar area, and many people were enjoying the outside, pet-friendly patio. The lovely artworks with an island theme that line the inside walls were created by local Sanibel artists and are for sale.
House-baked bread comes at your table hot and fresh, accompanied with oil, handmade pesto, and grated Parmesan cheese. I saw numerous interesting and extremely appealing menu items, including Black and White Sesame Encrusted Ahi Tuna, Lobster Napoleon, Mussels Pernod, Pina Colada Snapper, and Grouper Francaise, that will entice me to return.
I ordered the Crab Duo and Grouper with sides of black beans and rice and fresh veggies for this occasion. My selections were great, and I can’t wait to return. As you would think, seafood is plentiful and great on Sanibel Island, and this is one of those Sanibel island restaurants that is no exception.
Cajun Kitchen Mudbugs
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-22211473 Periwinkle Way
Mudbugs is an abbreviation for crawfish, which are popular in New Orleans and Cajun cuisine. The décor is Mardi Gras-inspired, and delicacies like Boudin Ball, Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo, Red Beans and Rice, Muffaletta, Etouffee, and Jambalaya reinforce the notion that New Orleans has invaded Sanibel Island.
I took advantage of the Happy Hour discounts (3:00-6:00 p.m.) for raw oysters at $1 apiece and would have happily eaten many dozen, but I wanted to leave space for other meals. The ingredients and good preparations provide amazing taste layers, and the excellent service matched the meal presented to my table.
Every night, live music is performed, adding to the joyous atmosphere. Po Boys, pasta meals, and platters served grilled, blackened, or fried are offered, but Mudbugs goes above and above by cooking what YOU catch.
You hook it, we cook it, according to the menu. Just make sure it’s new, clean, and ready to go. Entrees include duck, beef, and lamb dishes, among others. If your taste buds are screaming for Cajun or Creole cuisine, stop by this hidden treasure among Sanibel Island eateries.
Timbers Fish Market & Restaurant
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 395-2722703 Tarpon Bay Road
You’ll probably notice the enormous painted fish that grace the building’s exterior first. Timbers Restaurant is on the second story, although there is an elevator for people who are unable to take the steps.
Timbers aims to fulfill all of your seafood requirements, whether you want to purchase fresh fish to take back to your condo and cook yourself or have it prepared for you.
Timbers specializes on oysters from several areas, and the menu enables you to order them from the Gulf, Prince Edward Island, Connecticut, or British Columbia. Each has a distinct taste and amount of saltiness.
The diversity of fish will wow you as well. The most common species are grouper, mahi-mahi, and red snapper, but you may also find amberjack, black drum, triggerfish, tilefish, and wahoo on occasion.
Steaks are just a minor part of the menu, but the seafood options are extensive. Sushi and sashimi are also served. Timbers caters to vegetarians as well as those who want gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free options.
Dinner is served seven evenings a week at the restaurant. Another of the top Sanibel island restaurants to dine at, Timbers offers the best in seafood.
Café Over Easy
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-2625630 Tarpon Bay Road
Over Easy Caf’s decor, with its colorful rooster paintings on the walls, evokes a French caf feel. It’s easy to understand why it’s so popular for breakfast, brunch, and lunch, with both indoor and outdoor dining and a superb position at the intersection of Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle Drive.
It is only open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., so plan your visit accordingly. Breakfast products are accessible at all times, however lunch options are only available from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Over Easy Caf serves a variety of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and wraps for lunch. Scramblers, skillets, omelets, pancakes, and French toast are typical breakfast items.
This is a great site to ride your bike, have a delicious supper in a pleasant setting, and then spend the rest of the day hunting for shells on the beach or birding at Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
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Liza is the owner, and she is serving with the rest of her crew. Her mother is in charge of the lovely decor. This is one of the greatest Sanibel Island restaurants for families, as well as one of the top Sanibel Island breakfast options.
Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 472-0303362 Periwinkle Way
Pictures of lighthouses, not simply Sanibels lighthouse, but lighthouses from all around the nation, adorn the walls of Lighthouse Caf. This is clearly a favorite among the locals, yet they are also kind and inviting to visitors. If you have to wait for a table, there are stores on both sides of the cafe with interesting goods to look at.
I had heard about the outstanding ratings for the French Toast and fresh-squeezed orange juice before I came. I’m happy to say that they both lived up to the anticipation.
I also tried the Blueberry Whole Wheat Pancakes, which had a nice serving of blueberry topping on top.
The Sanibel Lighthouse is not visible from the cafe, although it is just a short drive away. The establishment was buzzing when I came but supported by competent waiters and a well-trained cooking crew. Pay attention to the blackboard announcing daily specials, especially the housemade sweets.
The Lighthouse now offers breakfast and lunch, but they want to increase its evening hours and options shortly. Something to look forward to from one of the top places to dine on Sanibel Island.
Now for some more Captiva Island recommendations. Captiva is about a fifteen-mile trip from Sanibel, depending on your starting position. Although Captiva Island restaurants are not as numerous and diverse as Sanibel Island restaurants, the island still offers a diverse range of meals and places. We suggest making a quick journey to two of the greatest Captiva Island eateries, which are mentioned below.
Captiva Island’s Finest Restaurants
The Restaurant Bubble Room
Captiva, FL 33924 (239) 472-555815001 Captiva Drive
The Bubble Room Restaurant, which has been in its current location since 1979, is an excellent incentive to cross the short bridge into Captiva Island. With its spectacular bubble lights, the Bubble Room Restaurant promises to enjoy Christmas all year.
Servers wear Scout uniforms and eccentric headgear, and the décor includes toys popular in the 1930s and 1940s, such as an electric train that travels across all three levels of the restaurant.
The cuisine is themed on movies, movie actors, and great songs from the Big Band period, featuring dishes including Grouper Cooper, Pastablanca, Prime Rib Weissmuller, Three Musketeers, and Charlie Chaplin Chops.
During dinner hours, each entree comes with a dish of Bubble Bread and a Sticky Bun, which may be bought at the bakery to take home if you have any leftovers. The dessert plate served at the conclusion of your dinner is certainly something you’ll want to conserve some calories for.
The servings are enormous and easily shared. The most popular is orange crunch cake, although other options include red velvet cake, chocolate cake, Christmas cake, cheesecake, rum cake, tropical breeze cake, a French chocolate torte, key lime pie, or buttercrunch ice cream pie.
The vibrant exterior colors and welcoming painted bubbles on the surrounding fence will help you readily identify the site near McCarthys Marina. Try this vintage Captiva Island eatery for a taste of the past.
Eating at RC Otters Island
Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva Island, FL 33924 (239) 395-1142
Dine outside if the weather permits while visiting RC Otters Island Meals on your Captiva Island restaurant quest. The waitresses are dressed casually in shorts and t-shirts. This site is simple to see hippies from the 1970s enjoying.
There is even a sign directing them to the side entrance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Beware of pickpockets and loose women are two more signs with sarcastic but wise counsel.
The vivid blue and green outside paint makes it simple to locate, and the live music will entice you in. RC Otters is open everyday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and is clearly a local and guest favorite. Captiva has a special feeling that is distinct from Sanibels; you’ll have to experience it for yourself to understand, but this cafe fits that style nicely.
The blackened grouper, bronzed shrimp, and scallops I ordered were delicious, and they came with tropical coleslaw and fresh veggies. I propose black beans and rice as a side dish. It’s a classic side dish with chopped onions, shredded cheese, and sour cream that I thought was outstanding.
Raw bar clams, oysters, and shrimp may be ordered shucked and refrigerated or steamed and hot. The Key Lime Pie at RC Otters also made my list of the Best Five on the islands in my view.
Pat McCune is a fantastic guitarist and vocalist who performs multiple evenings each week. I hope you get to eat there when he’s performing. He composed most of the music he performs. It’s a real pleasure, and another another incentive to go to this Captiva Island eatery.
Sanibel Island is about 12 miles long and 3 miles broad at its widest point, but Captiva is only around 2 square miles. This little geographical region, on the other hand, is a veritable paradise for locals, travelers, and a plethora of species. The fact that there are so many wonderful restaurants on this short piece of land makes it even more astounding.
More restaurants and cafés on Sanibel Island and Captiva Island that I have yet to visit, but I feel the ones I have included are the must-try options. When you come, I hope you have a lovely time shelling, bird watching, and, most importantly, eating.
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