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8 Romantic Restaurants on Sanibel Island You’ll Fall in Love With 

Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
February 11, 2020

A romantic getaway on Sanibel Island isn’t complete without dining at one of the island’s romantic restaurants. There’s no shortage of options to choose from on the island which makes your biggest decision picking the perfect one for you and your partner. While there’s ultimately no bad choice among the selections below, it’s worthwhile to see what each restaurant offers.

Romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island offer everything from standard American fare to authentic Italian cuisine to island exclusive tropical dishes. In addition to the selection of mouth-watering food, each restaurant also offers a unique atmosphere for you and your loved one to enjoy.

Listed below are 8 of our favorite romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island. We’ll let you know what you can expect in terms of food and atmosphere at each one so you can choose the best one to complete the perfect date night.  

Sanibel Island International Restaurants

Despite its small size, Sanibel Island has got a choice of delicious international cuisine restaurants. First of all, it is fair to mention that the abundance of seafood makes up for a large range of recipes. It’s not uncommon to come across Mediterranean- or Asian-inspired dishes that celebrate fresh fish, shellfish, and other mollusks that can be found directly in the Gulf of Mexico. As such, visitors are likely to come across eclectic menus that marry local recipes with overseas specialties for a delightful explosion of flavor on the taste buds. 

The international gems of restoration on the island have dedicated themselves to bringing out flavors from all types of cuisines. From traditional authentic Italian to Caribbean inspired dishes, Sanibel Island restaurants offer something for everyone.

1. Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen

Can there be anything more authentic and inviting than the taste of Italian cuisine? You’ll feel right at home when you walk into Matzaluna, the only restaurant on the island that bakes its pizzas in a wood-fired oven. Nowhere else will your pizza have that genuinely comforting homemade taste. Matzaluna restaurant celebrates traditional Italian cooking and invites its patrons to relax and enjoy a moment of togetherness in their casual and friendly atmosphere. A romantic dinner doesn’t need to be any more complicated than a fresh bowl of pasta or a crispy pizza. 

Despite its simplicity, however, the restaurant has a lot to offer: 

  • Specials that change every week.
  • The house specialty, Vitello Marsala, veal tenderloins and mushrooms in a rich marsala sauce is a treat.
  • The famous chef’s creation, Scallop Verona, combines gloriously fresh seafood with an Italian twist.
  • The homemade classic Parmesan cream sauce makes every pasta dish a flavorsome journey.
  • Plant-based, gluten-free, and vegan options for all types of eaters to enjoy.
  • A selection of craft beers to accompany your meal. 

If anything, Matzaluna restaurant is proof that simple food is all a romantic meal needs. 

2. Il TesoroIl Tesoro

Travelers who love delicate, Italian-inspired cuisine have made Il Tesoro their number one destination on the island. The restaurant is often the first choice for romantic occasions such as an anniversary or even an engagement proposal. The casual but elegant style makes it the ideal place for visitors who want fine food without the hassle of formal clothes. Using only the best of organic ingredients and fresh seafood, Il Tesoro has a great selection of risotto, creamy pasta, and vegetable dishes that will transport you to the heart of Italy. It’s a popular place, though, so it’s best to book your table ahead

Also worth mentioning, the brunch menu has an amazing Nutella-stuffed croissant that is an absolute favorite among visitors and locals. After all, who says romantic meals need to wait until the evening? With Il Tesoro, you can start the day with a casual brunch that makes the moment together a little more magical. 

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Romantic Restaurants on Sanibel Island with American Fare

To the question, can simple local food and romantic setting work together, the answer on Sanibel island is a loud and resounding yes. Indeed, those American cuisine restaurants have designed menus that glorify the authentic flavors of the island without losing any of the magical touches of the place. There is a genuine feel-good atmosphere that hugs visitors in its tight embrace, and it’s hard not to feel welcome and at ease when you sit at your table. Unpretentious and delicious, that’s the promise made by these restaurants with an unmistakable American feel. Proud of their flavors and bold in their decisions, they might be just what you need to recharge your batteries and hold each other’s hand. 

If you listen to the staff and let the menu speak, you might even go on an inspiring journey. Built to celebrate ingredients from the sea and the land, each other of these restaurants tell a unique story. Be prepared to be both moved and entertained during your visit. 

3.Normandie

At first sight, Normandie appears like a simple seaside café, but don’t be fooled by its decor. Indeed, its welcoming atmosphere instantly invites you in and makes you feel welcome. Behind an unassuming presence, Normandie is a restaurant that brings people together. The menu uses the best produce to create bright and creative meals day after day. 

If you are planning a visit, these are the things you don’t want to miss at Normandie: 

  1. Holiday specials, including Valentine’s Day, that will wow your partner.
  2. The mimosa cocktail on their breakfast menu is the perfect way to toast to your relationship. 
  3. The simple but delicious Sunset Menu served between 5 pm and 6 pm ticks all the right boxes and lets you enjoy the changing colors of a pre-sunset sky.
  4. Famous lobster bisque

Perhaps its romantic ambiance is helped by the location of the café. Normandie sits at the heart of West Wind Inn, a resort that targets romantic getaways and acts as a wedding venue. 

4.Mad Hatter Restaurant

The Mad Hatter Restaurant is a hidden gem that overlooks part of Blind Pass Beach. Many diners admit they found the place by chance, but they all return for a little more of its delicious eclectic menu and fantastic view. Here, you can bathe in the local island vibes while enjoying new American cuisine. What makes the place truly exceptional for a night out with your partner is the chance to watch the sunset as you eat! However, a word of warning, booking is a must if you want a table on busy evenings! 

When the weather allows, their outdoor dining area is the perfect peaceful spot to relax. You’ll never want to leave this delicious restaurant! Chef Kurt Jarvis has built a creative menu that follows the seasons, which means that you’re likely to eat something different each time you visit. It’s a good idea to check their Facebook page for announcements as they sometimes introduce a tasting menu for special occasions. You’ve got all the qualities of fine dining without the hassle of a sophisticated venue. In fact, what makes the experience even more memorable is its soothing and relaxed atmosphere. The Mad Hatter is a restaurant that makes you forget about everyday worries so that you can reconnect with that special someone. 

5.Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and GrilleDoc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille is a unique place on Sanibel Island. Nicknamed the ‘home of the island mojito’, Doc Ford’s story is a story of dreams and fiction. Indeed, this little paradise of Caribbean food is named after a fictional character, Doc Ford, created by local author Randy Wayne White. With over 20 novels depicting the marine biologist, Randy Wayne White was enchanted by the idea of creating with his business partners a rum bar that is inspired by the eclectic travels and interests of his character. After all, because Doc Ford loves spices and exotic tastes, the rum bar and grill was the most natural idea. The food is just as delicious as you’d imagine, and it has a distinctive Caribbean vibe to it. 

For visitors, it’s a place that reconnects them with nature and the joy of exploration. While it might not be the first venue that comes to mind for a romantic meal, you’ll soon fall in love with the warm welcome and the dreams that make Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille so special. Even though it’s further inland than some restaurants on this list, beautiful views of blue skies can be seen.

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Romantic Sanibel Island Restaurants with a View

Sanibel Islands is renowned for its breathtaking sunset scenery. If you’re planning to spend some time on the island, you need to book a table in a restaurant with an Instagram-worthy view of the sun, the beach, and the sea. Unlike the romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island we’ve mentioned above, these have made the scenery an integral part of the dining experience. 

If you are looking for a venue to propose to your long-term partner or to renew your vows, it makes no doubt that these restaurants will be on top of your list. Does it mean they are reserved for special occasions only? Of course not, they also are the perfect place to watch the sun sets on the horizon in relaxing surroundings. You will not get a better view anywhere on the island, so what’s stopping you from booking a table? 

6.Thistle Lodge Restaurant

Located inside the historic retreat Casa Ybel resort, the Thistle Lodge Restaurant is the child of a love story. Indeed, the retreat was built in the mid-1880s by Rev. George Barnes, who planned it as a quiet holiday cottage. Casa Ybel has welcomed famous guests since its opening, including Henry Ford and Thomas Edison! Additionally, its unique location has made Casa Ybel the first beach resort on the island and a top destination for a unique dining experience. 

The Thistle Lodge was built as a wedding gift by the Reverend for his daughter when she married one of the resort guests. Since then, it has become an award-winning restaurant with an unbeatable serene ambiance. 

The things you don’t want to miss at the Thistle Lodge: 

  • Swaying palms and the waves breaking along the coastline creating the perfect backdrop for a romantic meal.
  • Patio dining seating to make the most of your experience
  • Exec. Chef John Wolff’s menu is both subtly artistic and packs a flavorsome wow factor. 
  • Availability to book a private dining room for you and your partner for a truly intimate dining experience.

Needless to say, it’s a popular spot for engagement photos!  

7.Traditions on the Beach

Undeniably one of the best restaurants on the island, Traditions on the Beach was the first dining room opening on Sanibel Island in 1895. Award-winning Chef Aziz has concocted a delicious menu that marries contemporary dishes and island flair to perfection. You can enjoy fantastic tapas, prepared with local seafood and fresh ingredients, in a laid-back atmosphere by the beach. 

It is a favorite for wedding dinners, engagement meals, and romantic anniversary celebrations on the island. It’s easy to understand why: The love for high standards of cuisine and convivial island traditions makes it a unique restaurant. 

When you're finished with your meal here, you and your loved one can go shelling on Tarpon Bay beach. Many locals and visitors consider it one of the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island.

8.Coconuts

Coconuts is the bar and grille venue at Casa Ybel Resort. Most guests who book a table at the Thistle Lodge enjoy one of their famous frozen cocktails at Coconuts before their meal. You can find a scrumptious selection of appetizers and snacks to accompany your cocktails, but the strong selling point of Coconuts is its setting. 

The beachfront bar that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and maintains a temperature-controlled pool is precisely what holiday bars should be about. You will find fresh smoothies if you prefer an alcohol-free drink, but residents strongly recommend giving their classic Sanibel Iced tea cocktail with vodka and peach puree a go. You are bound to love it; it’s said to make the sunset look a little brighter! 

Book a Romantic Sanibel Island Vacation with Royal Shell

With so much choice, it’s impossible not to make Sanibel island your next holiday destination. The many romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island are a must-see for visitors who want to recharge their batteries, away from the buzz of the city. From bold American fare meals to authentic Italian cuisine with a seafood twist, it’s a paradise for the taste buds! 

We, at Royal Shell, offer a wide choice of vacation rentals on Sanibel Island that are the perfect piece to a romantic getaway. Surprise your partner with a charming cottage rental on Sanibel Island. If you're looking for an even more unforgettable romantic getaway, take a look at our Sanibel Island villa rentals. No matter what type of property you choose, you'll be more than satisfied with the world-class experience that only Royal Shell can offer.

Check availability for our properties now or contact one of our vacation rental specialists.

Need to check availability of a perfect Sanibel vacation rental?
Take a minute to complete a short form and submit it to us so we can check the availability of the property you desire.
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