Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille on Captiva Island has sister locations on Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island. All three owe their name to the lead character in 25 popular novels by Randy Wayne White. Even more, they owe their success to fabulous fresh seafood, Caribbean Rim flavors, creative rum drinks and waterfront locations.
Location: 5400 South Seas Plantation Road, Captiva, Florida; 2500 Island Inn Road, Sanibel, Florida; 708 Fishermans Wharf, Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
Menu: Seafood is prominently featured in each section of the menu, except for the desserts. But, non-seafood lovers will be happy to see Doc’s Beach Bread, Bayamo Black Bean Dip, Chicken Fingers and Caribbean Jack Tostados among the appetizers, Spinach/Artichoke and Margarita flatbreads, a wide selection of fresh fruit and veggie salads and ribs, steak, chicken and pork dishes among the entrees.
Notable seafood options include a broth of steamed mussels, a Shrimp Scampi flatbread, a calamari salad, Seafood Paella and Banana Leaf Snapper. The Dinkins Bay Raw Bar offers Shrimp Ceviche, Raw Oysters, and Steamed Shrimp. Dinkins Bay refers to the fictional setting where many Doc Ford plots take place.
There are very few fried items on the menu with the exception of fish fingers, chicken fingers, fried calamari and chicken wings.
All of the desserts are homemade and have such tantalizing descriptions as Double Decker Brownie, Key Lime Pie, Drunken Parrot Carrot Cake and Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding.
As you might expect, there are three pages in the menu devoted to premium rums which can be added to rum-based cocktails and mojitos, but this is a rum bar that defies the typical stereotype. At Doc Ford’s Rum Bar, the food is outstanding and not just bar snacks and finger foods.
A line of Doc Ford’s Sauces are incorporated into the dishes, and bottles are placed at each table to be added as liberally as desired by each diner. They are Mango Sauce, Chipotle Sauce, Habanero Sauce, Mojo Rojo Sauce and Green Flash Pepper Sauce.
Thoughts: A quote from The New York Times Magazine mentioned on the restaurant’s website is perfect for the vibe of Doc Ford’s: “For the sun-kissed and sun-desirous alike, a vacation on a plate.” Yes, this is an island vacation kind of place with a menu to back it up. The table placements encourage gatherings with friends as well as intimate conversations.
Doc Ford first appeared as a character in Randy Wayne White’s novel Sanibel Flats in 1990. The first Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille location opened in 2003. Currently, there are now 25 novels with Doc Ford as the main character. It seems that the popularity of the novels has gone hand in hand with the growth of the restaurants.
Even though Randy Wayne White considers himself to be something of a silent partner with Marty and Brenda Harrity and Mark Marinello in the restaurant business, he can often be found at one of the three locations, writing in a quiet corner or chatting with locals and visitors. White’s novels have reached best-seller status, and he is very generous with the income. The restaurants donate heavily to the Lee County Children’s Oncology Hospital, and all profits from the line of Doc Ford’s imported hot sauces are donated to support sanitation efforts and garbage pickup in a couple of villages in Colombia.
A full calendar of live music performances is maintained for every night except Monday, and gift shops sell Doc Ford t-shirts, tarpon hats, silipints, mojito jars, coffee mugs and a nice collection of Randy Wayne White novels.
A meal at Doc Ford’s has become a must-do while visiting Captiva Island, Sanibel Island or Fort Myers Beach.
Price Range: Appetizers are $7.95 to $12.95 with gluten-free flatbreads costing $2.00 more. Soups and salads are $4.95 to $14.95. Raw bar items range from $8.95 for the ceviche to a pound of steamed shrimp for $28.95. Sandwiches are $9.95 to $18.95. Entrees are $19.95 to $26.95, and kids’ menu choices are $6.95 each.
Connie's book "Telling It On The Mountain: 52 Days in the Life of an Unlikely Missionary" was published in 2016 and is available on Amazon.In addition to her blog, www.theregoesconnie.com, she is a regular contributor to The Yums,Trip101.com, MilesGeek.com, Epicurean-Traveler.com, ShortWeeks-LongWeekends.com and other print and online travel publications.