Now that season is over, locals are chomping to get back to their favorite locales like Sanibel’s Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market
From beaches to bars, and restaurants to relaxation spots, it’s time to reclaim our favorite spots.
On Sanibel, past the popular places along Periwinkle Way, sits a restaurant with an island history that goes back almost 40 years. The atmosphere at The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market feels like a local hang-out and the interior has a space for everyone, for whatever they desire.
Near the entrance, a glass cold case offers the daily catch. It’s tucked next to the oyster bar; the day’s offerings listed on a chalkboard. And then there’s the 180 seat dining room.
Wood floors, wood booths and wood bead board pay tribute to the original restaurant’s location on Rabbit Road, named The Timbers for the wood beams and ceiling. Nautical decorations may seem a bit cliché, but when you feast your eyes on the framed collections of oysters adorning the restaurants’ walls, it all makes sense.
Matt Asen, one of four partners in the Prawnbroker Restaurant Group, is the head oysterfarian, a title he’s picked up on his world travels.
“I started just collecting the big shells, the little shells,” Matt explains. “Then I started collecting them all.” In the last two years, his collection has grown from 400 to 600 shells, and he knows the story behind every one.
Matt’s stories and his larger-than-life personality are part of the energy that brings people to The Timbers. Photos of Matt with celebrities, dignitaries and sports superstars line the entry and the hallway to the Sanibel Grill, a sports bar attached to The Timbers. Matt has a story for every photo, and some of those pictured have been guests at The Timbers or visit the restaurant regularly. One of the most requested tables in the dining room is The Swami’s Den, named for ESPN anchor and sportscaster Chris Berman, who comes in twice a year with a party of eight.
Island history and celebrity spotting may bring people in the door, but the food is why guests return year after year. Chef Teh Peng works hand in hand with Matt. “I have crazy ideas, and he makes it look good,” Matt says. The two have travel ed to parts of Asia and draw on Teh’s Malaysian heritage to inspire new menu items, like the Singapore street noodles that debuted this year.
One of Teh’s signature dishes is the cioppino. Fresh fish and seafood swim in a saffron broth with pappardelle noodles. Not only is the dish beautiful, and popular with diners, but it’s also an excellent example of how the restaurant and fish market work seamlessly together.
Which brings us back to the oyster bar.
It’s one of many spaces in the dining room that fosters conversation, bringing people together over oysters, or fried whole snapper or even the stories of their last visits as they return to the island restaurant again.
“People feel at home here,” Matt says.
Which is just what you’re looking for when it’s time to break out the sundress, the shorts and the sandals and officially enjoy the off-season.
— The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market is located at 703 Tarpon Bay Road on Sanibel. Hours are 5-9 p.m. daily. For more information, call 395-2722