No visit to Sanibel or Captiva  would be complete without a meal at the
Bubble Room (15001 Captiva Dr., 239/472-5558, lunch 11 a.m.–3 p.m. daily, dinner 4:30–10 p.m. daily, main courses from $10), perhaps not so much for the food, which is decent but unlikely to win an award for innovation any time soon, but for the sheer insanity of the decor. Imagine decades’ worth of movie memorabilia, vintage toys, pop culture effluvia, and various kitsch from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s jammed into a restaurant where the servers are dressed as youth scouts, and you’re halfway there.
The Bubble Room is definitely quirky and has played on that reputation for years, but what makes the environment so much fun is the sense that all that crazy clutter is there by accident and not by design; it doesn’t feel like a corporate-designed bit of weirdness, it’s just weird.
As for the food? Dishes like the “Duck Ellington,” the “Cluck Gable,” and the “Salmon Davis Jr.” are more fun to order than they are to eat, but they’re still decent. By far the best thing on the menu is the “bubble bread,” a decadently sweet sticky bun concoction that is perhaps the best finish-your-vegetables bribe ever invented.
The Mad Hatter (6460 Sanibel Captiva Rd., 239/472-0033, 5–10 p.m. Tues.–Sun., main courses from $18) serves a selection of upscale platters—seared duck breast, truffle-encrusted scallops, foie gras—in an appropriately luxe environment. Grab a window seat for marvelous sunset views.
Although it’s located within the South Seas Island Resort, Holy Smoke…Heavenly Barbecue (5400 Plantation Rd., 239/472-7501, 11 a.m.–10 p.m. daily, main courses from $8) still serves up some decent barbecue. While you might not expect much in terms of authenticity from a resort barbecue joint, there is something of an advantage to Holy Smoke’s people-pleasing approach: They serve up a wide variety of barbecue styles. They don’t do any of them particularly well, but they do a decent enough job with the Memphis-style ribs, Texas brisket, and Carolina pulled pork.