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Keylime Bistro celebrates 20 years with jewelry giveaway

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Jun 15, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Keylime Bistro owner Sandy Stilwell Youngquist and Tina Garrett, who won the restaurant's 20th anniversary giveaway contest.

The Keylime Bistro recently marked two decades on Captiva with a special giveaway contest.

On June 3, owner Sandy Stilwell Youngquist celebrated the 20th anniversary of her award-winning restaurant by announcing the winner of a 2-carat emerald and diamond ring. Lee County resident Tina Garrett, who was on hand for the live giveaway drawing, was shocked to discover that she had won.

“I am so thrilled to have won this precious prize,” Garrett said, adding with disbelief that she never wins anything. “Sandy is very generous. I believe this ring is the gift that will keep on giving.”

Garrett is the co-founder of the South West Florida Horse Rescue, an area charity that focuses on nurturing rescued equines back to health, training them and, ultimately, finding them forever homes.

Youngquist explained that she was happily surprised when Garrett, a former delivery driver who served the islands, won. She added that Garrett herself could use the ring to help raise monies for her charity.

PHOTO PROVIDED Winner Tina Garrett opens the box containing her new ring.

“Tina and her organization do a lot for the local community, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that she is the winner,” Youngquist said. “Clearly, she is a winner in so many ways.”

The giveaway contest drew more than 10,000 entries.

“Which was pretty amazing, I thought,” she said.

Youngquist explained that she organized the giveaway to show appreciation for the community’s support of the restaurant over the past 20 years, adding that emerald is the stone for 20 years.

“I thought I would give back,” she said.

PHOTO PROVIDED Owner Sandy Stilwell Youngquist held a drawing for a 2-carat emerald and diamond ring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Keylime Bistro.

A big crowd attended the drawing and announcement.

“It was nice,” Youngquist said. “There were many people who had been longtime customers.”

The restaurant also offered $20 entries all week as part of the anniversary promotion.

When Youngquist bought the Captiva Island Inn in 1999, the land purchase came with an attached restaurant. Known as the Paris Tropical Grill at the time, it was being leased by another owner.

In 2001, Youngquist bought out the lease when the eatery’s operators put it up for sale.

PHOTO PROVIDED

She had had a successful history in the hotel industry, but she had never owned and operated a restaurant, despite having studied food and beverage management at Cornell University. The Keylime Bistro would be her first attempt — and she had a backup plan to rent out the space if it failed.

“I said, ‘I’ll give myself a year to give it a try,'” Youngquist said.

But she never had to rely on her backup plan.

After about two months of fast-tracked minor renovations, Youngquist opened the restaurant with bright bold colors — like the key lime pie that people think of when they think of Florida. Offering live local music from the start, she and her team crafted a menu that provided something for everyone.

“We wanted it to be just a fun casual place to go,” Youngquist said.

PHOTO PROVIDED

“We employ entertainment 365 days a year for lunch and dinner,” she added.

Youngquist explained that both the original and today’s menus — surprisingly similar — are eclectic and feature breakfast, lunch and dinner. Family- and budget-friendly options are also available on both.

“We wanted to have a little bit of everything,” she said.

“It was hugely successful right from the get-go,” Youngquist added.

Later after the opening, she got into collecting and offering a wide assortment of wines.

“It goes hand-in-hand with caring about food,” the wine lover and current board president for the SWFL Children’s Charities, which organizers the annual SWFL Wine & Food Fest, said.

In 2006, the Keylime Bistro received its first wine-related award — an Award of Excellence from the Wine Spectator’s annual Restaurant Awards. It continued to earn the recognition for multiple years.

The restaurant has been featured in a variety of magazines, including Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Southern Living. It has been recognized for the best key lime pie, best food, best outdoor dining and more over the years and been named a winner at Taste of the Islands, Taste of the Town and such.

“It’s been very rewarding,” Youngquist said.

She has navigated the restaurant through disasters, including the BP oil spill, hurricanes, red tide, economic downturns and now a pandemic, with the help of her staff. Through the eatery, Youngquist has been able to give back to the community and charities, from hosting events to being a sponsor.

“It wouldn’t be anything without our team, our staff, and how well we work together,” she said of the Keylime Bistro and its long success. “And the goal of having people just having a great time.”

For more information, visit https://captivaislandinn.com/ or call 239-395-4000.

The Keylime Bistro is at 11509 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva.