Looking for the best restaurants in Sanibel Island? You have come to the right place.
Sanibel Island, Florida is known for its impeccable beaches and the tropical/island atmosphere where both locals and tourists gather for a relaxing getaway or to just sit down and enjoy a meal in paradise. If there’s one thing that I learned in my years of travel, its that you’re just eating at different places around the world. Traveling to Italy?
You must try their Focaccia. Backpacking through Germany? Maybe sit down and have a plate of Currywurst. The point is, unique restaurants will always be available no matter where you wind up. That being said, lets jump right into the list of the top 14 restaurants you MUST try while visiting Sanibel Island, Florida.
12 Best Restaurants in Sanibel Island You Must Try!
1. Blue Giraffe Restaurant
I feel its necessary for me to begin this list with my personal favorite – The Blue Giraffe. From the atmosphere to the flavor of their dishes, this restaurant has been a fan-favorite while visiting this beautiful island.
The Blue Giraffe is an indoor/outdoor facility with a tropical oasis vibe. What makes this restaurant so great, is the accommodating staff regarding potential food allergies, vegan options, vegetarian options, etc… On top of their attentive staff, they also have a very impressive Happy hour!
2. Thistle Lodge Beachfront
If you’re looking to have a less casual dining experience while also embracing the island breeze, you must try the Thistle Lodge. Although it’s a little on the expensive side, your money will go far here for sure. Unlike most high-end restaurants, each meal is designed to leave your stomach satisfied with a little room for dessert. The menu is categorized into land, sea, salads, soups, and appetizers.
When I first experienced Thistle Lodge, I ordered the Filet and Gulf Grouper. This meal comes with an 8oz mouth-watering filet mignon and a 4oz piece of Florida gulf grouper that just flakes apart at the touch of your fork. Thistle Lodge Beachfront also has a wide variety of wines which can be paired beautifully with their light but filling meals.
You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to know which wine pairs with what meal. The wait staff is always more than willing to take their time and find the perfect glass. Aside from the delicious food, wine, and desserts, you’ll be sure to enjoy the breathtaking view of the beaches from your table no matter where you’re positioned in the restaurant.
3. The Mad Hatter
Keeping the trend going of high-end restaurants in the area, you have got to head over to the Mad Hatter Restaurant. This establishment will give you an experience that you’re likely never going to forget. To me, décor in a restaurant really sets the tone for the experience you’re going to have while dining and I must say, this restaurant adds a whimsical and fun element.
Located on the west part of the island, you’ll get to witness a beautiful sunset while sitting down for dinner. Although there is not an outdoor seating option, the windows are large enough to enjoy the view no matter where you’re seated.
Getting into the food, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with how your meal is plated. Along with their whimsical décor, the art carries on into their dishes.
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4. Sunset Grill
Looking for a more casual dining experience? Head on over to the Sunset Grill where good vibes meets great food. With the zesty and lime approach, you’ll truly start to absorb the island/beach surroundings.
The Sunset Grill may look like one of those “hole-in-the- wall” restaurants on the exterior, but that shouldn’t be a deterrent simply because the dishes themselves will prove any negative thoughts wrong with one bite.
5. Tipsy Turtle Restaurant & Bar
Although most of the restaurants on this list serves seafood, the Tipsy Turtle Restaurant & Bar has some of the best tasting seafood dishes around.
Whether you’re into fried, grilled, baked, or seared, the Tipsy Turtle does all of those perfectly. From my experience, cooking fish can be rather delicate and difficult as you run the risk of over-cooking. Making the fish dry and truly unpleasant.
However, this is not anything you would need to worry about while visiting the Tipsy Turtle. Aside from their delectable food, the views of the surrounding area including the beach and palm trees can be overwhelming in the most positive aspect. You may just sit in awe while sitting down with family or friends throughout the evening.
6. Lighthouse Café
Looking for more of a Mom and Pop type restaurant? You need to check out the Lighthouse Café.
More traditional foods are used here such as; burgers, salads, chicken recipes, fried fish, etc…
Unlike the other restaurants listed where the décor, views, and atmosphere add to the consumer experience, with the Lighthouse Café it’s all about the cuisine and the many separate flavors coming together that will capture your attention.
7. MudBugs Cajun Kitchen
Now if you’re looking for a bit of spice and rich Cajun flavor, make your way over to MudBugs Cajun Kitchen. This restaurant will be sure to light your tastebuds on fire.
Every dish they serve is bursting with flavor and there’s no way that you’ll leave disappointed. When I visited this Mardi gras style establishment, I had the pleasure of starting my experience with a plate of gator tail. This dish packed quite a punch with it’s Cajun seasoning and sweet notes from the remoulade sauce. I then followed that appetizer with their famous Jambalaya.
One bite from this dish and you’ll feel as if you’re right there on Bourbon Street in Louisiana. That is where the Creole flavors thrive, is in a good old bowl of Jambalaya. This two-story Restaurant may actually leave you speechless and overall impressed with both the delicious food and the atmosphere.
They offer indoor/outdoor seating along with the option of setting up at the bar. The interesting facet about this restaurant is that it’s a mix between an island oasis and a Louisiana kitchen that you must experience at least once.
8. Lazy Flamingo
When you think of a laid-back environment with exquisite cuisine, the name ‘Lazy Flamingo’ should spark some sort of interest. With this curiosity, comes a great fascination with the culture and aura that this restaurant exudes.
The Lazy Flamingo is a favorite spot for most of the locals in the area and has a great interest for tourists as well simply because of their menu options including their heavily sought-after fish tacos. This particular restaurant seems to capture the area of Sanibel Island quite beautifully in its décor and island theme as it’s carried from the initial sight of the building through to the way the dishes are plated.
9. Cips Place Restaurant
Another casual, yet local favorite restaurant would be Cips Place. This establishment embodies the island and tropical vibe with their unique dining area and view. Rather than sitting at a table by the window and seeing the beaches or the blue waters of the Gulf, you’re met with the sight of lush Florida bushes and manicured palm trees.
Of course, restaurants want to be known for so much more than their location. They want to be known for the food that they create and the way they treat their customers.
10. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille
Doc Ford’s has been one of the most visited sports bars on the island and it isn’t hard to see why. Once you walk through the front doors, you’re greeted with friendly hospitality from the host/hostess and the sight of a clean and organized establishment.
Visual first impressions are extremely important when visiting a restaurant for many reasons and it’s imperative to know that Doc Ford’s has a fun twist to their décor. Although it’s a regular sports bar, it’s decorated as if it were a seafood restaurant.
In this case, both of those aspects are true. Among the standard sports bar staples such as; cheeseburgers, fries, wings, etc… They also serve delectable fish that just falls apart with the touch of the fork. To top it all off, the drink menu will leave you speechless with the many different options from wine to beer, to cocktails in a mason jar. This place is bound to impress you from every angle!
11. Cielo Restaurant
Are you in the mood for something new and exciting? Cielo has been credited with having adventurous cuisine that allows you to experiment with an array of foods on your plate.
Voted the best seafood at the 35th annual, this place will be sure to impress you with their savory flavors and spices. The head chef’s have also been credited with adding creative elements to their dishes and plating techniques.
12. Traders Restaurant on Sanibel
When it comes to an enhanced dining experience, you’ll probably be looking for gourmet meals and a cool hangout spot.
Traders Restaurant on Sanibel provides a large deck space for sipping a cocktail and talking with friends and family while waiting for a table or for the rest of your party to arrive. The drink menu is impressive and lengthy with an almost overwhelming number of options. By choosing this restaurant, you’re also choosing the atmosphere. One of the best places where locals eat on the island.
In summary, Sanibel Island is full of life with a plethora of options when it comes to dining and entertainment. With the lush greenery of the palm trees and the warm yellow sands on the beach, it’s truly a beautiful island and needs to be experienced at least once in life.
While you’re there, enjoy some delicious food from the local restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for something light and fresh or meaty and filling, you will discover that it’s not difficult finding the perfect dinner spot for you and your family.