We were recently featured in Fort Myers' News-Press!
Off the Eaten Path: Sanibel Café is a cozy spot transformed
By Annabelle Tometich
Back when the Sanibel Café was known as the Pancake and Omelette House, Richard McCurry washed dishes in the diner’s small kitchen.
Today he owns the place.
“The dishwashing equipment has vastly improved,” McCurry laughed. “The whole place really, everything’s very different now.”
McCurry, a Sanibel native since 1979, bought the 35-year-old island restaurant with his friend and business partner Ken Loewit in 2006. The two were longtime regulars who saw an opportunity in the cozy, 72-seat space tucked into the corner of the Tahitian Gardens Specialty Shops on Periwinkle Way.
In the seven years since McCurry and Loewit took over, the Café has morphed into much more than just pancakes and omelets. McCurry hired chef Jerry Hodgkins to freshen up the decades-old menu with his eclectic take on sandwiches, soups, Benedicts, quiche and more – all of it made from scratch.
And they mean scratch-scratch.
From the sausage gravy topping the hand-cut biscuits to the dressings and sauces topping the salads and wraps, Hodgkins and his team of cooks take their food seriously. They even make the fruit jams to be used on toast in the mornings and in sandwiches like the Rusty Pelican – a quirky combo of turkey, havarti, bacon, coleslaw and that homemade jam on a grilled croissant – come lunch.
“It’s not what you expect for a place like this,” Hodgkins said, “but people see and taste the difference. That’s why they come back.”
They come back four and five days a week in some cases. McCurry said it’s not uncommon for tourists to stop in every morning during their vacations. He credits his staff’s friendly service and the Café’s low prices which, by Sanibel standards, are, “incredible, especially for what you’re getting.”
Just this month the restaurant reopened for dinner, a meal it will only serve through Easter. Dinner at the Sanibel Café means Southern fried chicken, hand-pattied crab cakes and New York strip steaks Hodgkins ages in house then sells for $18.99, half of what other Periwinkle restaurants charge.
“We want people to feel welcome here,” McCurry said. “We want them to feel comfortable, like a big dinner party where you’re not stuck cooking.”
Here are some of the things you might overhear while dining with us!
We visited Sanibel during July 2008. Stopped into the Sanibel Cafe for breakfast after a recommendation by a couple of local Islanders. The atmosphere was tropical, clean & relaxed, food was excellent (sausage & cheese omelet with all the fixins for the wife & "The Real Islander" for me...sauteed gator tail! (Hey I was living dangerously & it was GREAT), the waitresses were friendly, efficient (and attractive :-) ) Both of the owners were there at the time & each came over to our table to check on us. They were very interested in making sure that we were happy & we were impressed enough with the overall experience to go back for lunch, where we were pleasantly surprised to find that our breakfast visit was no fluke. The Rusty Pelican (a grilled turkey delight) and a South of the Border Chicken Sandwich truly fit the bill. We stayed in the Sanibel/Ft.Myers area for a week & we ate at least one meal at this restaurant every day. For sure, we would make it a point to go back there anytime we're in that part of Florida. -JC from Ohio
Excellent, friendly waitstaff. The place is well lit and clean. The food is excellent quality in generous portions, as well as being the best bargain on the island. This is a much better place to eat than the highly overrated places on Captiva my family went druing our vacation. Go during breakfast and try the breakfast quesadilla. -Carolyn, KY
Just got back from a wonderful dinner at the Sanibel Cafe! My wife had a pork tenderloin sandwich. The tenderloin was at least twice as big as the bun! I had the pot roast special. I understand that they are famous for the pot roast. It was definitely better than any pot roast my mother ever made, and she was a fine cook! Real comfort food. The servers were very efficient and so friendly. It almost felt we were part of their family. Prices were reasonable. Definitely a good dining experience. I would definitely recommend you try it! -Robert, IL
The Sanibel restaurant "Sanibel Cafe" was the place to be early this morning to keep warm! Packed with locals and tourists, like Jamie and Mike, wondering what to do next on this cold Sanibel morning. There's no better way than to start off your day at Sanibel Restaurant, Sanibel Cafe. -Sanibel Captiva Daily
Fantastic food, and fantastic service. Our server, Katie, was hospitable, friendly, and had great advice on the menu! The food was wonderful (Rusty Pelican minus slaw for me was AMAZINGLY good), and our experience was lovely. Highly recommended. -Daniel, IA
When we walked into this unassuming little cafe hidden in the corner of shopping center and saw senior citizens at every table, chatting with the waitress like old friends I felt pretty sure we had made a good decision. The service was friendly and comfortable, and the food was great. I had a veggie omelet stuffed with fresh, well cooked, but not overcooked veggies and cheese. The potatoes were crispy and perfectly browned. The french toast looked amazing....would definitely want to check it out if I make a return trip. As far as prices go on Sanibel, this place is an awesome value. Definitely our cheapest and possibly best meal there. -Deborah, MA