This past off-season I had the pleasure of getting out of town and heading to the sandy beaches of Captiva Island and Manasota Key, Fla. The sun was warm, the shells were covering the beach, the water was crystal blue, and the seafood was amazing. My first stop was Manasota Key, a strip of beaches and mansions surrounded by the Gulf and Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway. Between surfing the small waves, boating and shelling, I indulged in copious amounts of seafood.
If you go to Manasota Key, the Placida Grill is worth the 10-minute drive off the key. The family-owned restaurant is decorated beautifully with Go-Pro photos of the Florida lifestyle covering the walls. All the seafood is caught fresh that day, and the menu is always changing to make use of the freshest ingredients. Most items on the menu are made from scratch, and the beer and wine list showcase local brews and wines. Placida Grill was opened by a dynamic brother and sister team, Susan and Scott Gordon, with Susan manning the kitchen and Scott at the bar. If you go, try and grab the table in the bar to check out all of the great photography on the walls and to get a chance to chat with Scott about his Florida adventures.
The next adventure on my Florida Gulf tour was to Sannibel and Captiva Island. It’s about an hour drive south of Manasota Key and absolutely beautiful. My dad is a huge fan of author Randy Wayne White and encouraged me to visit Doc Ford’s, a restaurant started by White based off of his best selling novel, Doc Ford. Doc Ford’s is an upscale sports bar featuring gourmet finger foods, fresh seafood, local brews, and a relaxed island vibe. There are three Doc Ford locations: Captiva, Sannibel, and Fort Meyers. They are known for their Yucatan shrimp and lime panko crusted fish sandwich. If you go to the Captiva location, make sure to request a patio table, indulge in a local rum punch, and ask your server to tell you their favorite Doc Ford story.
The last day of my off-season adventure was to a Nokomis Groves in Venice. The citrus stand not only offers a wide selection of fresh oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes but homemade sherbert and ice cream. I couldn’t resist a homemade orange sherbert and vanilla ice cream twist. They offer unique flavors including a lime sherbert and chocolate twist which is a local favorite. It was the perfect ending to a great off-season vacation.