Monday, April 30, 2012

U.S. Adventures: Cabbage Key- Cabbage Key, FL

So our family loves Captiva Island, Florida.  I never thought I would be a person who repeats places several times, but we all love Captiva and have been going there ever since we first moved back to Indy nearly 6 years ago now.  I have to say the one downside of the place is the food on the island isn’t that great, although we keep managing to find certain things and certain places we like.  It is frustrating how many restaurants in Florida are actually not using fresh seafood though.

Anyway, every trip I have said I wanted to go out to Cabbage Key to try the restaurant just because the idea of a somewhat remote island with just a couple of buildings on it, including the restaurant, just seemed intriguing.  Supposedly, this is the restaurant that inspired the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” by Jimmy Buffet.  Not that I am much of a Jimmy Buffet fan, but any restaurant that has a song written about it always interests me.  And they do have a picture on him on the wall, and a dollar bill that he signed (along with about 70,000 other bills people have signed) so I guess it is legit that he has actually been there anyway.

So the other thing that made me happy about this idea was the boat ride to get there. Nothing makes me happier (almost) than being on a boat.  It took about an hour to get out there and we saw probably a dozen dolphins along the way including this pod that escorted us for awhile on our way home. So the place looked really cute pulling in, but this is in no way a quiet kind of place.   The place has a ton of character and charm, but it is in no way a secret or anything remotely close to it.  They are ready for the big regularly scheduled boat loads of people to land and they are happy (and quite efficient) to take your order.  There are several rooms in the place, and they are all different (wood paneled bar room, white washed front porch and dark dining room in the back that is literally covered in taped up dollar bills).  They are all interesting, but I liked our seats on the front porch the best because you could see the water and it just felt beachy.  If I were there when it was dark, I think the back room might be kind of fun—but during the day, this famously known room’s view is mainly focused on the bills on the walls and ceiling more so than the outside scenery.

So as wrong as it normally would seem to me to order a cheeseburger in such a place, it seemed to be a requirement here right?  So we ordered our burger ($9.50) and a plate of stone crab claws and some drinks.  The cheeseburger was decent.  You know, they probably serve about 1000 of them a day (the table of 5 next to us ordered 5) and they certainly have their technique down pat.  They cook them medium which is more than I would request if asked, but the burger was still pretty juicy.  You have a choice of cole slaw or potato salad alongside and we go the potato salad.  It seemed homemade but was really bland—we pretty much ignored it even after I tried to doctor it up with everything on the table.
The stone crab claws were good—they are a Florida thing, and they were in season and a decent size.  My only pet peeve about them is because the shells are so hard, they are tough to crack.  But we managed with only a few minor injuries (hubby managed to cut his tongue on one of the shells).  They were served with drawn butter and a mustard sauce, but for me, the butter is the way to go with crab. Simple bite of sweet crab with a little butter.  They aren’t my favorite of the varieties of crab, but really, I haven’t met a crab I didn’t like (although Dungeness will always be my crab sweetheart—so easy to get at the meat!).

Ok, we were on vacation, and had a couple of drinks in us, so naturally we had to try the caramel turtle fudge ice cream cake as well ($5.95).  It was definitely huge that is for sure, and the coldness of it hit the spot on the very warm day.  It was tasty, even though it tasted a lot of the vanilla ice cream part. We only had a few minutes after we ate to wander around the island, and there isn’t a lot to do—we did climb the water tower and have a look around, and wandered on a few of the paths.  You can stay here as well, but it would be a little remote for me, even with the cute restaurant.

So this is a place where the food won’t blow you away, but the location, well, it is pretty darn cool for a meal.  It’s a place where you really feel like you are on vacation when you are eating there, and you can relax and enjoy the view.  Just be prepared for the crowds.

Cabbage Key
Intracoastal Water Maker 60
Pineland, FL 33945
Cabbage Key on Urbanspoon


  1. The Hurricane a few years back tore the place up pretty well, so the main attraction, i.e. the trail through the island is just all torn up and trashy. The restaurant is typical island hoke, and one is lucky not to get poisoned with the fare. I'm glad you and Hubby survived, or did you?
    Mike Griffin, Indianapolis

  2. Much like Myrtle Beach, where I have a condo and thus spend a good deal of the year....some local fish in the restaurants....and the seafood place people flock to ?? Red Lobster always full.

    Ruths Chris is on a wait...while the much less expensive and excellent Waterscapes (chef buys fish every morning from the boats) across the parking lot is half full.

    That, regrettably, is the market.