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There’s something special about Sanibel Island. You feel it as soon as you cross the Causeway. It’s a magical place for people who want to slow down and experience a truly tropical vacation. One of our favorite things about Sanibel Island is the food. Restaurants here have a remarkable amount of character and a refreshing atmosphere—not to mention the mouthwatering fare. Here is your guide to the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel Island. Grab your favorite dinner partners and let’s get started!

In no particular order, we narrowed the list down to 13 of the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel Island:

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  1. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille
  2. Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar and Sea Breeze Cafe at Sundial Beach Resort & Spa
  3. Sweet Melissa’s Café
  4. Cip’s Place
  5. The Mad Hatter
  6. Sunset Grill
  7. Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant
  8. Il Cielo
  9. Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market
  10. Traders Restaurant on Sanibel
  11. The Sandbar
  12. The Jac
  13. George and Wendy’s Sanibel Seafood Grille

Best Dinner Restaurants on Sanibel

best dinner restaurants on sanibel

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille is known for Caribbean fare and it’s a staple on Sanibel. When you go here you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t try the Yucatan shrimp. Their rum selection is also outstanding. There are two dining rooms and an outdoor patio, which is perfect for those breezy, not-very-humid days.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • If you want to try a delicious rum cocktail or tropical fare, this is the spot to do it. Everything on the menu is great, and reviewers praised a variety of meals. You should have no problem finding something you like at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille. Besides, the atmosphere alone is enough to put you in a good mood and let your worries slip away.

What to Order:

  • The Yucatan shrimp is the perfect blend of Caribbean and key lime-flavored goodness and the sauce has just the right amount of spice. Reviewers on Yelp also praised Doc Ford’s lobster rolls and paella.  

Visit Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille at 2500 Island Inn Road, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

Sea Breeze Cafe

If you’re craving a meal on the water, you’ll love Sea Breeze Cafe on Sanibel Island. Located at the island’s Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, Sea Breeze Cafe is a refreshing stop for dinner. Just a few feet from the water’s edge, Sea Breeze serves up a diverse menu featuring wild-caught seafood, fresh salads and great sandwiches. Happy hour is from 4-6 p.m. and offers great specials on drinks and appetizers, while Margarita Monday promises sweet fun, frozen or on the rocks. Enjoy the lavish indoor dining room or choose to dine al fresco just feet from the Gulf of Mexico.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • Waterfront dining and breathtaking Gulf views are part of what makes Sea Breeze Cafe a great spot for locals and visitors alike. In fact, the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau dubbed Sea Breeze Café one of the 3 must-see waterfront restaurants on Sanibel Island. Take in the beautiful vistas only Sanibel Island can offer while enjoying phenomenal food and great service.

What to Order:

  • We love the fresh mahi shrimp tacos, alligator gumbo and jerk chicken quesadilla.

Visit Sea Breeze Cafe at 1451 Middle Gulf Drive Sanibel, Florida, 33957. It’s located in the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa.

Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

If you’re staying on the island and you’re craving sushi or hibachi, you absolutely have to stop by Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar at the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. Yelp reviewers praised the staff and chefs for friendly service and delicious food. Meals are artfully prepared right in front of you with fresh ingredients and lots of love. There is Japanese art and décor throughout and the fare here is always fresh and delicious.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • Whether you’re craving a quick sushi roll or a full-blown hibachi meal, you can satisfy your taste buds at Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar. This is the perfect choice for a romantic date night dinner or a special meal with friends and family. There’s also a Grab N Go option if you’re looking for a quick meal and you’re short on time.

What to Order:

  • The hibachi is a must-try. Reviewers praised Chef Ryan for his thoughtful entertainment and cooking. Reviewers also praised the Kani-Su salad, Rainbow Roll and Shima Roll. The salmon sashimi is also very popular.

Visit Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar at 1451 Middle Gulf Drive, Sanibel, Florida, 33957. It’s located in the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa.

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Sweet Melissa’s Café

Sweet Melissa’s Café is one of the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel Island. The food is artfully-prepared and ingredients come from local sources, which include Captain Jerry’s Seafood on Sanibel, Happy Foods in Fort Myers, Blue Star Seafood Co. in Fort Myers, Oakes Farms in Naples and Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm in North Fort Myers. If you like seemingly odd flavor combinations that turn out delicious do yourself a favor and stop by Sweet Melissa’s Café. You can either dine inside in the inviting open floor plan, which allows a glimpse into the kitchen. Or you can dine al fresco on the screened patio.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • If you love a good meal and you like trying interesting flavor combinations, that’s reason alone to visit Sweet Melissa’s Café. Often regarded as one of the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel Island, Florida, you’ll soon see why after you take your first bite. The local sources are refreshing touches because each meal just tastes that much better.

What to Order:

  • Local reviewers praised the citrus-cured hamachi served with an avocado puree and polenta croutons. They also enjoyed the carbonara. Melissa’s fish stew is an island staple and a must-try menu item.

Visit Sweet Melissa’s Café at 1625 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

Cip’s Place

This is a true family-friendly restaurant and many will say one of the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel. The atmosphere is cozy, inviting and the food offered is the icing on the cake. Cip’s Place is named after the building’s owner, Jimmy Cipriani. The longtime islander always made time for good conversation, great food and good company. Cip’s Place is the type of place he would be proud of and where he would want to get a bite to eat. Cip’s Place also contains a piece of Sanibel Island history as the bar is modeled after one of the island’s original ferries, Islander.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • The portions are hearty, the prices are reasonable and almost everything is made from scratch. If those aren’t good enough reasons to dine here, we don’t know what are! It’s an ideal locale to visit after a relaxing day at the beach. And there’s nothing better than ending a day with a good meal.

What to Order:

  • A food reviewer for the local newspaper, (Fort Myers) The News-Press, loves the wings because they’re marinated in buttermilk, which keeps them juicy. The whiskey-pecan pie is said to be straight-up delicious. The reviewer also praised the pork chops marinated in a ginger-tamari sauce.

Visit Cip’s Place at 2055 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter restaurant on Sanibel is a favorite among Sanibel and Captiva Island residents. It was recently voted one of the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel Island by The News-Press. Its eclectic menu evolves with the season and meals are always freshly prepared from scratch. This is a great spot for a romantic date night, or special dinner with friends and family as it’s one of the few Sanibel Island restaurants on the water. The Alice in Wonderland theme also gives the Mad Hatter a refreshing and different aesthetic. Mad Hatter quotes adorn the walls and trinkets and paintings from the book can be seen all over the establishment.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • The Mad Hatter has it all. How could you not want to visit this beautifully eclectic restaurant? It has some of the best sunset views around. And the food? Did we mention the food? The Mad Hatter was named the No. 1 restaurant on Sanibel out of 11 mouthwatering choices, and it’s easy to see why.

What to Order:

  • You can’t go wrong with anything on this menu. Reviewers on Yelp praised the bouillabaisse, phyllo shrimp, and the lamb, which comes with a walnut and cherry pesto crust, rosemary port wine demi-glace and Yukon gold potato gratin.

Visit The Mad Hatter at 6467 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

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Sunset Grill

This is a prime location for sunset watching, hence the name. The menu is limited, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bad review of the food. Reviewers also praised the Sunset Grill’s customer service. This restaurant gets a 10 out of 10.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • Who doesn’t want to enjoy mouthwatering fare and great service with the backdrop of a gorgeous sunset? Many reviewers mentioned repeat visits, so you know it has to be good. The prices are reasonable, the food is excellent and the Sunset Grill has a nice wine selection.

What to Order:

  • One reviewer praised the coffee and pecan pork tenderloin as the best dish he ever had. Others enjoyed the warm turkey brie sandwich. Another insisted on trying the key lime pie.

Visit Sunset Grill at 6536 Pine Avenue, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant

  • This is the oldest restaurant on the island and one of the few Sanibel Island restaurants on the water. Its interior is tastefully decorated with Old Florida décor and the cuisine is a blend of delicious European, Floridian and Asian flavors. The Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant is also steeped in history. In the past, it has welcomed the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • The seafood is fresh and the vegetables, herbs and fruit are custom-grown. How cool is that? You’re also treated to Gulf views, which only add to the restaurant’s already picturesque ambiance. The building is also a former mansion that was eventually converted into the Thistle Lodge restaurant. It really is a glimpse into what Old Florida used to be like. And the food is wonderful. It’s no wonder many consider the Thistle Lodge one of the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel Island.

What to Order:

  • Shrimp and crab cocktail is always a good choice, but when it’s accompanied with pineapple mango salsa, it’s even harder to resist. The crab cakes have a Floridian twist to them, too. They come with a citrus beurre blanc and red pepper remoulade. Yelp reviewers also praised the crème brulee and lobster bisque.

Visit the Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant at 2255 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

Il Cielo

  • Il Cielo means “the sky,” and the sky’s the limit for this Sanibel Island favorite. Il Cielo offers diners imaginative American cuisine mixed with specials inspired by international meals. The dining room is intimate, classy, dark and quiet. Il Cielo is perfect for a romantic dinner or small family gathering. There’s a reason it has a reputation of being a place people visit for special occasions.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • For one, a local newspaper reviewer said every dish in this restaurant is excellent. If that’s not a reason to visit, I don’t know what is. If you like white tablecloths, outstanding meals and a live pianist, this is the place for you.

What to Order:

  • Everything is made with love here. The ravioli is handmade and stuffed with lobster or local vegetables. The calamari paired with a sweet chili aioli with cashews and a mango coulis is incredible. The cocktails are also creative and well worth a try.

Visit Il Cielo at 1244 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

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Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market

Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market was named for its beautiful ceiling and wooden beams. It’s known for its fun atmosphere and fresh seafood. There’s also a retail fish market in the lobby. If you like oysters, Timbers has one of the largest oyster selections around.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • If you have a craving for fresh seafood, especially fish or oysters, you definitely have to visit Timbers. After you’re treated to a fantastic meal you can visit the market and purchase something to make for lunch or dinner the next day!

What to Order:

  • Any type of seafood you order here is sure to be fresh and delicious. Yelp reviewers highly praised the red snapper, Chilean sea bass and crunchy grouper.

Visit Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market at 703 Tarpon Bay Road, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

Traders on Sanibel

Traders restaurant has a unique rustic atmosphere that blends well with Sanibel’s island style. Traders is a great place to go for a date night or just to hang out with friends and family. They specialize in seafood, but have other options, too.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • Visit Traders restaurant on Sanibel if you like a fun, casual atmosphere, great service and a creative take on fresh seafood.

What to Order:

  • Reviewers praised the shrimp and grits and shellfish pasta. They also had great things to say about the roasted red pepper crab bisque.

Visit Traders restaurant on Sanibel at 1551 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

The Sandbar

A six-year-staple on the island, The Sandbar is known for its mouthwatering steaks and fresh seafood. The Sandbar on Sanibel is a favorite among locals and island visitors alike. During season, a reservation is a must but you won’t be disappointed. It’s seafood done right without any frills. For example, scallops are pan seared with garlic butter and they’re not done any other way. If you’re a seafood lover, this is the place for you.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • In a local news article, managing partner, Brian Silveira, said he only serves USDA Prime steak and Kurobuta pork. He or a member of his team drives to Fort Myers Beach daily for fresh fish. A lot of love goes into the food at The Sandbar, and it shows. The atmosphere is also clean, inviting and relaxing.

What to Order:

  • Reviewers on TripAdvisor praised the clam chowder, salmon and grouper. However, the star of the show is the scallops. There’s nothing better than expertly-cooked scallops in a simple garlic butter sauce.

Visit The Sandbar at 2761 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

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The Jac Sanibel Island Bar & Grille

The Jac is known for serving local ingredients and artfully prepared food and drinks. If you like the farm-to-table concept, you should definitely check out this place! It used to be called The Jacaranda, and now it’s under new ownership. The interior is airy and light with nice touches including barn-style doors and small jars of succulents throughout.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • Who doesn’t like knowing where their food comes from? The Jac features homemade pasta, locally grown produce, freshly baked bread and handcrafted desserts. The chef also puts a lot of soul into his cooking. Phillipe Schroeder makes the baguettes for sandwiches from scratch and rolls all of the restaurant’s pastries by hand. He takes risks, too, and they pay off.

What to Order:

  • You have to try the cauliflower steak served with golden raisins and soy-mustard vinaigrette. It’s different and eclectic in the best way possible. The gnocchi is also wonderful. It’s served with a dish of pan-seared mahi and shaved Brussels sprouts.

Visit The Jac at 1223 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

George and Wendy’s Seafood Grille

A longtime island favorite, George and Wendy’s has live music almost every night and for the night owls, there’s a late night menu. You can enjoy your meal in the main dining room, sports bar/lounge, dine al fresco on the garden patio, or dine in the back room. The patio is pet-friendly if you want to bring Fido. There are weekly specials Monday through Friday, too.

Why Plan a Visit:

  • Loved by locals and tourists alike, the food here is delicious. They also offer an extensive gluten-free menu. Whether you want to enjoy a casual dinner or one of the signature cocktails, everyone has a good time at George and Wendy’s.

What to Order:

  • Yelp reviewers loved the tuna nachos to start and the coconut shrimp and grouper taco entrees. There are also 20 beers on tap and reviewers praised George and Wendy’s cocktails, especially the mojito.

Visit George and Wendy’s Seafood Grille at 2499 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, Florida, 33957.

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Royal Shell Vacation Rentals near the Best Dinner Restaurants on Sanibel

Since Sanibel is a smaller island, you’re a quick car ride or short bike ride away from all of these island favorites. Sanibel is known as a foodie destination and now you know all the best dinner restaurants on Sanibel Island, so you can make lasting memories and eat like a king or queen. Check out our vacation rentals on Sanibel Island and let us know if you see something you’re interested in. We can’t wait to welcome you to the shelling capital of the world and see what you think of our award-winning restaurants!

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