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Seaside Views and Ocean Flavors - Where to Eat in Sanibel

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Southern Florida’s cuisine is known for its strong Caribbean, Latin American, and Asian influences; its specific flavor profile leans on fresh local seafood and the state’s heavy citrus production. While other cuisines such as Italian and Mexican are available in Sanibel and Captiva, uniquely Floridian dishes - and the Caribbean fusion type known as Floribbean - are clearly the most prevalent on island menus.

Typical dishes

 

Local catches play a prominent role in many Sanibel restaurants. The majority of island eateries are dominated by seafood dishes, such as grouper, flounder, Gulf shrimp, and seasonal Florida stone crab and lobster.

Periwinkle Way East

 

Running from the Sanibel Lighthouse and through the center of the island, Periwinkle Way is home to many of the island’s restaurants and shops. The Sanibel Fish House, an informal spot decorated in pastel colors and bare wood floors, offers specials like broiled grouper Parmesan and sides such as organic grits. If you're after the freshest meal, they’ll even prepare a fish you’ve caught yourself. Wood-fired pizzas, pastas, and traditional Italian baked dishes entice diners at Matzaluna. Beyond weekly deals on wine, the black-and-white-tiled trattoria carries an impressive craft beer selection, including Point Ybel, brewed in nearby Fort Myers.

 

  • Sanibel Fish House, 1523 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel 33957; Tel: +1 239 472 7770; Website: Sanibel Fish House
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  • Matzaluna, 1200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel 33957; Tel: +1 239 472 1998; Website: Matzaluna

 

Periwinkle Way West

 

Farther along Periwinkle Way, near the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, The Island Cow serves food all day from an extensive - and not particularly beef-heavy - menu. The open architecture features a porch and patio for dining alfresco on dishes like blackened scallops or fried catfish. To sample from more than 60 craft beers and Florida fusion dishes with a Mexican base, check out Fresh Taqueria. The sustainably minded eatery sources its vegetables locally. The menu features innovative tacos such as Seminole black angus, smoked pork with jalapeño slaw, and vegetarian varieties like butternut squash and kale.

 

  • The Island Cow, 2163 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel 33957; Tel: +1 239 472 0606; Website: The Island Cow
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  • Fresh Taqueria, 2411 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel 33957; Tel: +1 239 579 0114; Website: Fresh Taqueria

 

Gulf Drive

 

On the island's southern Gulf Coast, many restaurants stand alongside resorts, making the most of prime ocean views. Mediterranean cuisine shares the stage with breathtaking sunsets and occasional live jazz at Traditions on the Beach. In addition to dishes like spicy lobster arrabiata and brandied veal with chanterelle mushrooms, guests can sample ceviche, jumbo crab, and fresh oysters from the raw bar. Also located right on the beach, Thistle Lodge curates an eclectic and highbrow menu. Appetizers such as ahi tuna trio, garlic and herb escargot, and seared ostrich tenderloin set the tone for a memorable dining experience.

 

  • Traditions on the Beach, 3111 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel 33957; Tel: +1 239 472 4559; Website: Traditions on the Beach
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  • Thistle Lodge, 2255 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel 33597; Tel: +1 239 472 9200; Website: Thistle Lodge

 

Captiva

 

Over on Captiva, some island restaurants reflect the ultra-rich incomes of its residents, with chic eateries presenting sophisticated fare. Captiva House serves what it terms “New Florida” cuisine from its understated yet romantic dining room at the Tween Waters Inn. The menu reflects a decidedly fine-dining approach despite the dress-down beach atmosphere. You can sample dishes such as rosemary- and gouda-stuffed veal chops, or the pesto cream filo dough snapper. To the north, facing Pine Island Sound, The Green Flash offers an impressive selection of seafood including bronzed mahi mahi, grilled Florida lobster tail, and broiled tiger prawn.

 

  • The Green Flash, 15183 Captiva Drive, Captiva 33924; Tel: +1 239 472 3337; Website: The Green Flash
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  • Captiva House, 15951 Captiva Drive Captiva 33924; Tel: +1 239 472 5161; Website: Captiva House