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See what’s new and fresh at the Mermaid Kitchen

By Staff | Dec 3, 2008

Sanibel residents, visitors and returning “snowbirds” who have not yet had the chance to dine at the newly re-opened Mermaid Kitchen are in for a shocking — but happy — surprise.

Although the establishment retains the quirky, island-style charm for which it had become famous, cosmetic changes will be evident to returning patrons in the restaurant’s outdoor seating area and garden — where Jenny Edgar has overseen a redecoration and replanting.

A fresh coat of paint and gleaming floors, furniture and fixtures beckon diners indoors, where the famous “Katie’s Wall of Fame” mural, depicting important Sanibel and Captiva residents, watches over patrons as they dine. Also remaining is the famous Mermaid bar with its 43,700 pennies embedded in resin, and Sanibel Ferry overhang.

Large mermaid and other nautically-themed sculptures grace the walls and ceiling of the brightly painted dining room, and a 400-gallon fish tank offers one more thing to entertain the youngest of diners.

“Children love it here,” said Edgar as she pointed out the abundance of

Sanibel-related artifacts and decorations that peer out from every corner.

The real changes, however, have taken place beyond the confines of the dining room, bar and patio seating areas, because it is in the kitchen where Executive Head Chef Michael Colter now works his culinary magic.

“There was a lot of cleaning and scrubbing to be done,” said Edgar, who also serves as the restaurant’s host, welcoming newly arriving patrons with a warm smile and lovely British accent that every American seems to adore.

The all-new menu offers a fresh and “stunning dining experience, at reasonable prices — with superb quality produce, a very warm welcome and great service.” And not to worry — the fabulous cakes for which the Mermaid Kitchen has become famous will continue to be offered promised Edgar.

Chef Michael has created a menu that offers healthy and delicious choices for diners who have a hard time finding good food at reasonable prices while they are on vacation, or simply looking for a night off from cooking.

“We use only the freshest produce, freshest fish, and everything is home-made,” noted Edgar, who is particularly proud of the Mermaid’s salad offerings. “We use only the freshest produce and ingredients like lobster, fish and chicken in our salads — anything anyone could possibly want. No wilted lettuce on a plate here.”

The extensive selection of salads includes Chilled Poached Seafoods with Bay Scallops, Shrimp and Lump Crab; Day Boat Catch on a Caesar or Field Greens; and Coldwater Lobster Citron; as well as classics like Caesar with Shrimp, Chicken or Grouper, or Classic Cobb. All dressings are made fresh on the premises every day.

“Our Key Lime Vinaigrette is simply the best,” said Edgar, as a smiling server echoed her agreement.

The Mermaid Kitchen is one of the few places on Sanibel with an extensive outdoor seating area, said Edgar, adding that a number of cosmetic changes have been implemented in that area. For lunch patrons, the area features a nice view of the garden fountain and the freshly planted landscaping. At night, lights twinkle on the garden pathways and railings, while electric lanterns cast a romantic glow over the patio.

“It’s really beautiful here at night,” added Edgar.

The dinner menu offers something for every taste and budget, and daily “creations” and specials offer even more fresh choices for discerning diners. Starters include selections such as Sanibel Steamers, prepared with locally farm-raised Little Neck Clams; Ponzu Marinated Chicken Satay, Neptune’s Mussels and Marinated Peel and Eat Jumbo Shrimp. Pine Island Blue Crab Bisque is Chef Michael’s house specialty — and his Daily Creation Soup is always a palate-pleasing satisfier, said Edgar.

Entrees, all served with a House Salad, Seasonal Vegetables and Chef Michael’s Choice of rice or starch, feature Day Boat Catch selections prepared Blackened, Grilled or Fried, as well as Pasta dishes featuring

Littleneck Clam Saute or King Neptune Mussels. Other seafood specialties include Panko Crusted Mahi Mahi, Dry Tortugas Pink Prawns and Atlantic Salmon Au Poivre. Beef selections include a 14-oz. Center-Cut New York Strip, as well as a Kobe Beef Burger, an 8 oz. Center-Cut Filet Mignon and an Herb-Crusted 14 oz. Karobota Pork Chop. Poultry dishes include a Sweet Chili Glazed Half Duckling and Grilled Chicken Balsamico.

Jenny and Andrew Edgar, who are from England and Scotland, respectively, say they fell in love with Sanibel while vacationing here, and have decided to make this their home.

“We found this little gem of a restaurant, and we’ve given it the polish it deserves,” said Edgar, who admits that it is the gleaming kitchen and cleanliness of which she is most proud. “We’ve met some wonderful people from all over the world, and now just need to get the word out to everyone else that we’re open.”

Edgar also said that she is encouraged by those diners who have found their way into the newly-opened Mermaid Kitchen.

“There was one family that found us on the last days of their holiday,” Edgar recalled, “and they said it was the best meal they’d had. They actually returned the next day, which was their last day, saying they wish they’d found us sooner. They asked us to go to where they live and open a restaurant there in Madison, Wisconsin!”

The Mermaid Kitchen is located at 2055 Periwinkle Way in the Forever Green Center. The restaurant has a full liquor license and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch, and from 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner, with a light menu available between 3 and 5 p.m. Dinner hours will be extended to 10 p.m. during the tourist season. For more information, call 472-1242.