Sanibel has plenty of restaurants of all food types so that you don't need to leave the island to find what you want. When we're on the island for two week visits we find we don't need to repeat restaurants. Our family has a bunch of favorites which we will highlight below.
Due to City code preventing chain restaurants, almost all of the restaurants are locally inspired, owned and operated, so you won't be bored with the same chain restaurants you have back home
All restaurants are casual dress. Shorts, T-shirts and flip flops pass at the family restaurants, and the nicer restaurants are just slightly dressier, though some people also will dress up nicer.
Reservations or call ahead during holiday periods and in the winter season is recommended.
Local foods: Grouper, Gulf Shrimp, Key Lime Pie
Watch for "sunset" or "early bird" of "Happy hour" specials
Some restaurants close for a period around September for vacations and repairs, so if you are visiting then it is best to call to make sure a restaurant is open.
Grandma Dots Seaside Saloon - in the middle of the Sanibel Marina, the restaurant is a screened porch on the docks
Island Cow - eclectic decor, outdoor seating, huge menu. They start you off with muffin appetizers on the table, of all varieties!
Matzaluna - excellent all around island dinners
Dante's Coal Fired Pizza - best pizza on the island, actually worth going for
Sanibel Grill - great sports bar - the owner has been collecting selfies with sports celebrities, politicians, and actors for years and they line the walls.
Lazy Flamingo - Huge trough of iced beers, very casual, two locations on Sanibel
George & Wendy's Sanibel Seafood Grill - Decent food, close to the condo, and the only place with live entertainment late in the evening (but it's Sanibel so it's all done by midnight!)
MudBugs Cajun Kitchen - New Orleans dishes and decor, live singer some night
Cheeburger Cheeburger - this is the original one that started the chain
The Sandbar - probably our favorite of the nicer restaurants, it's also one of the closest being just a mile up West Gulf Drive.
Traders - One of he other top restaurants for us
Traders2 - an offshoot of Traders, with a different menu
Sweet Melissa's - Chef Melissa Talmadge is well known for her dishes
Il Tesoro Restaurante - a small elegant Italian restaurant
Traditions on the Beach - one of the few restaurants with Gulf views, this is located at the historic Island Inn.
Pinocchio's Ice Cream - You don't want to miss this. Try the "Sanibel Krunch", "Dirty Sand Dollar" and other locally inspired flavors. Closes at 10pm.