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Captiva Island: A Compact Mass of Crazy Color
The first time I drove by the Bubble Room on Captiva Island, I knew I would have to try it. The bold colors and outrageously eccentric exterior of this restaurant can’t be missed from the highway, and immediately piques your interest. In fact, the quirky conglomerate of outdoor decorations scream for your attention. I mean, how often do you see year-round Christmas decorations mixed with vintage vehicles, rainbow-colored bridges and awnings, antique soda signs from yesteryear, gnomes guarding the gate, and Bo-Bo’s gorilla cage all mixed together in perfect harmony? (And our brains were trained to believe those tiny old men with a beard and pointed hat only existed in children’s stories!)
Hubby and I were vacationing at one of our favorite destinations, sensational Sanibel Island, and had decided to take the scenic drive up to Captiva Island, a teeny-tiny sliver of land nestled between Florida’s southwest coast and the Gulf of Mexico. It didn’t take long to realize this whole island has a slightly off-kilter feel. [Maybe magical is a better word.] Although very close neighbors, Captiva has a very different atmosphere than Sanibel…actually, different from most other Florida towns — somewhat amusingly unconventional really. The Bubble Room was not the only bizarre-looking structure on Captiva. Much of Captiva was like one of those crazy colorful cupcakes you see at toddler birthday parties. The island is definitely one of those highly “instagrammable” spots in America! Captiva Island can thank the Bubble Room for all that crazy color, as it was one of the first structures to introduce the bright and cheerful colors now widely used on the island.
The Bubble Room on Captiva Island — A Totally Unique Restaurant Experience
The Bubble Room is located at 15001 Captiva Drive, Captiva Island, Florida, and is an island institution since 1979. When restaurants stick around for four decades, you know they’re doing something right! The Bubble Room has received the prestigious Trip Advisor “Certificate of Excellence” designation, and has been featured on The Food Network’s “Craziest Restaurants in America.” The Bubble Room restaurant also appears in some of those “Best Of” lists, like “The Best of Weird Florida” and “Trippy Stuff.” When your name is associated with adjectives like crazy and weird and trippy, you know the restaurant is going to be a delicious holiday from the ordinary! At the Bubble Room, lunch is served from 11:30-3:00, and dinner from 4:30-9:00, seven days a week.
Lunch at the Bubble Room
Hubby and I made it just in time to have a late lunch at the Bubble Room. Since we were combining lunch and dinner, we wanted something substantial. We were pleased to see the menu included a nice variety of luncheon entrees, in addition to soup, salad, and sandwich choices. The appetizers sounded awesome as well, but we wanted to save room for their specialty, the homemade cakes.
Some of the original menu items from 1979 are still offered, like the Socra Cheese, Bubble Bread, Carolina Moons, Tarzan, Eddie Fisherman, and some of the delicious oversized desserts.
I had the “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” entree — a fillet of fresh salmon, grilled and brushed with a blend of honey, soy, and pineapple. It was served with Caribbean rice and black beans. Hubby had the “Jumpin’ Jive” entree — a grilled fresh fillet of grouper, topped with a spicy tropical fruit salsa and served with Caribbean rice and black beans. The quality of both seafood entrees were outstanding, and tasted as if the fish had just come off the boat.
At the end of our meal, our “bubble scout” (servers wear scout uniforms) presented the much anticipated dessert tray. Oh my goodness! Even if you must get a to-go container, these decadent sweet treats are not to be missed. With ten different dessert selections, it was hard choosing just two. I decided on the famous and hugely popular Orange Crunch Cake, and hubby had the Tropical Breeze Cake. Be forewarned: the cakes are humongous! Plenty big enough for sharing, but I recommend each person getting their own and taking the leftovers home. Since we were there for lunch, unfortunately we didn’t get to sample the Bubble Room’s popular Bubble Bread and Cinnamon Buns that are brought right out to the table during dinner hours. I hear they are to-die-for — reason enough for a return visit!
TIP: I know you’re going to want the Orange Crunch Cake recipe, so I searched online for a copycat recipe. Here’s a great one from Genius Kitchen website that gets rave reviews. This link will take you right to the Bubble Room Orange Crunch Cake recipe. I loved this cake, but apparently I’m not alone, as it has developed quite a cult following. Don’t you love it when you can get your favorite restaurant recipes at home?
|Dolphin Cruise from The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay – $37.49
The Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay is offering cruises aboard a 72-foot, 130-passenger catamaran, officially named Bay Spirit II. The Aquarium has partnered with the Tampa Port Authority in order to bring this important project to life. Also included is admission to the Florida Aquarium.
The Bubble Room’s Quirky Decor
The decor inside the Bubble Room is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I don’t normally dine where Christmas, nostalgia, antiques, and Hollywood are all rolled into one — a unique vibe, to say the least. There are tons of cool memorabilia throughout, in multiple rooms on three floors, including on the ceilings. In fact, there isn’t a square foot in the Bubble Room that doesn’t have some kind of vintage decor. There are Hollywood movie posters, bubble lights, planes, moving trains, antique toys from the 30s & 40s, clowns, and the iconic Christmas displays. They even have an original Christmas scene from Macy’s Department Store. Being in the Bubble Room is kind of like taking a trip down memory lane. Even the tables in the restaurant are shadow box style with nostalgic items to view while eating. The background music consists of old tunes composed in the 20s, 30s, & 40s. In its early years, the Bubble Room was popular with many visiting stars of cinema, hence the introduction of Hollywood posters with some of our idols from the big screen.
The Bubble Room Gift Emporium
Another cool thing about the Bubble Room is the on-site Gift Emporium. It’s worth a peek either before or after your meal. You can pick up a Bubble Room T-shirt, coffee mug, can koozie, etched beer glass, Bubble Room playing cards, Christmas ornaments, and of coarse those infamous bubble lights from yesteryear! In addition to the Bubble Room-themed gifts, they have some inexpensive jewelry. I picked up two nice bracelets, both under $10. If you visited the restaurant and missed the opportunity to get a special momento, you can order from the Bubble Room Emporium’s online store here.
The Bubble Room — An Iconic Captiva Island Landmark
I highly recommend a visit to the Bubble Room if you’re passing through the beaches of Fort Myers, Sanibel, or Captiva. You gotta go at least once. No, there isn’t a water view at the Bubble Room, but there is plenty to look at while you dine. If you find yourself in need of some Christmas cheer, head out to this colorful restaurant that celebrates the holiday season 365 days a year. Yeah, it’s a little over-the-top with the kitschy decor, but the weirdness is matched with indulgent eats like creative fresh seafood and steak entrees, mouth-watering appetizers, garlic and cheese smothered Bubble Bread, and massive slices of cake.
Your southwest Gulf Coast Florida vacation isn’t complete without visiting this treasure trove of nostalgia with a serving of fantastic food and fun on the side!
TIP: Interested in other fun things to do while visiting the beaches of Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, or Captiva? Check out this popular article on FloridaFunAndFork: “Sanibel Island Things To Do And Recommended Day Trips!”
***Have a suggestion for another fun and fantastic eatery on the islands of Florida’s Southwest Gulf Coast? Our readers would love to hear about it! Please leave a reply in the “comment” box below!