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“Good Food but service lacking”

Sweet Melissa's Cafe
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Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $10 - $40
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Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine, Special occasions, Business meetings, Romantic
Dining options: Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast, Late Night, Reservations
Dining style: Fine Dining
Cross street: Casa Ybel
Description: We are a chef driven restaurant emphasizing fresh, seasonal farm-to-table ingredients. A casual atmosphere featuring deluxe dining, outdoor screened garden lanai seating, live music, children's menu available and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for 2017 and counting...
Reviewed January 16, 2009

We sought out Sweet Melissa's as it was rated number 1 on TA. While we found the food to be delicious and creative, the service was very disappointing. The female server lacked warmth and had little or no expressions the whole evening. This is a "tapas" style restaurant and if one wanted to you could spend $50-60 per person easily. We were not too excited about working with a non-enthusiastic person. We had to ask for bottled water, local stuff if not filtered is terrible. Also had to ask for silverware at each course as they removed it each time. We would have enjoyed the kitchen table more as I watched the chefs interact real well with those that did. Training and high expectations that match your offerings is everything. Food 4.5, ambiance 3, service 2.

6  Thank gshaftner
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
MarlanaGM, Server/GM at Sweet Melissa's Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded January 25, 2009

Just wanted to say thank you for taking out the time to leave us your comments. I'm surprised and sorry to hear your server didn't meet your or our expectations! We pride ourselves on not only our chef and her amazing food but on our high quality of service! So again I'm sorry and will be sure to do everything I can to make sure we don't have any future negative comments about the service. I hope we haven't lost you as a customer and I would love to serve you in the future!
~Marlana

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1,193 - 1,197 of 1,261 reviews

Reviewed January 15, 2009

I dined at Sweet Melissa's last weekend. I've read wonderful reviews about this restaurant and have even referred this place to others. But unfortunately, I was ultimately disappointed.

First, the servers (2) were dressed in casual clothing. I swear they were wearing something similar to jumpsuit sweatshirts with hoods. No aprons. Each table was covered with white sheet paper and a weathered box of Trival Pursuit - maybe to take your attention away from the lack of ambiance. The server approached us with a quick, casual greeting and informed us of the chef specials. Additionally, we were told the menu was set up in a 'First Course, Second Course and Third Course theme.' She recommended a dish from each to be satisfied - for they were smaller portions than normal.

Okay. Whatever. On with the wine. I can disregard my initial disappointment with a good bottle of wine. Nope! Either you can choose a house swill for $30 or spend $90-150 on a bottle. The wine selection is limited, folks! You get one or the other - there is no middle of the road here. I didn't want cheap wine, nor did I feel like chucking out $100 either.You can perceive this as frugal - but I see perceive it as common. Give us more options here; this is absurd.

And so... the three of us ordered something different from each course, so we could sample a bite of everything. We ordered the grilled caesar salad, hearts of palm salad and the cheese plate. *Note* When I inquired about the cheeses on the cheese plate, the server said she was unsure of the cheeses that evening and said she would return with more information. She returned a few minutes later with the cheeses scribbled on a piece of scrap paper and placed it on the table and walked away. Awesome.

Next, for our second course, we ordered two scallop appetizers over corn and black-eyed pea salsa and a meat stuffed ravioli of some kind. The scallop dishes were tasty, with a nice presentation. However, the mystery beef stuffed ravioli tasted like pot roast in ravioli and lacked in flavor and quality.

Lastly, we ordered the Pork Belly, Grouper and Hanger steak for our entrees. Can't say I remember much because I was not impressed with ANY of them. What I CAN remember is the steak and grouper were WELL over-done. When addressed by our server after we finished what we could, my friend informed the server of our over-cooked entrees. The server quicky apologized and offered a complimentary dessert. We kindly accepted and chose the deep-fried banana dessert accompanied with a side of flavored ice cream. When presented, we were given three espresso spoons to eat with. Are you kidding me? Three adults, with three baby spoons? I took three bites and got so frustrated that I gave up. Why didn't I ask the server for a fork? Because I shouldn't have to.

Needless to say, it was okay. I really am puzzled about the dramatized hype here. I, sadly, was dissappointed. This just didn't fulfill ANY of my expectations. I suggest the Mad Hatter restaurant if you like casual/fine dining like me. Atleast I know it's worth the money - and the experience.

Best of luck though...

5  Thank srhogan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
MarlanaGM, Server/GM at Sweet Melissa's Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded January 25, 2009

I appreciate you taking time to leave us some feedback. I'm sorry to see it didn't meet your expectations. Melissa and I have worked very hard on trying to develop a unique dining experience in a casual atmosphere. You have made some good points that we will look into. Such as in our new location our servers will be in uniforms and our wine list we be expanded to accommodate every price range. If your willing to give us another chance we would love to have you back and maybe we can change your mind about dining with us! Just as an added note we like giving the little spoons with our little desserts because usually we get a laugh or a how cute..but we are always happy to give you a larger spoon or fork upon request! Thanks again for your comments and hopefully we will see you again in the future!
~Marlana

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Reviewed January 6, 2009

There was a time, not too long ago, when I would have a hard time naming the best restaurant on Sanibel/Captiva - there would have been at least half a dozen that were equally distinguished in their excellence. Now - the SYSCO trucks simply roll down Periwinkle and unload their prepackaged swill to almost every restaurant on the islands.

Sweet Melissa's is one of a handful of restaurants on the islands that strive to be something more. For me - it is a chef's willingness to be creative with flavors and textures that attracts me and makes me want to come back. Melissa's does this... sometimes more successfully than others - but that is exactly the reason to enjoy and savor restaurants like Melissa's. It isn't the pre-packaged sameness you get everywhere else.

They offer small plates - which encourages experimentation and sharing. The menu is thoughtfully created, the ingredients certainly are fresh and the dishes are prepared and presented with great care. Service is very professional, friendly, and well-prepared to answer questions about the menu - and most importantly - is willing to admit when they don't know something about a dish and to get the answer from the chef.

I agree with some other comments about the wine list. In general, wine here is treated as far too "precious". Wine should be accessible and affordable. Given the small plates format of the restaurant - it would be delightful if wine pairings were suggested and offered in smaller glasses to accompany each dish - and then priced as "flights". And given the flavors in some of the dishes - I recommend looking a little more broadly at your wine selections. Perhaps even adding some sake's to the menu.

4  Thank Datablade
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
MarlanaGM, Server/Manager at Sweet Melissa's Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded January 8, 2009

This by far has to be the best review I've read. You guys really put some thought and effort in to it and I have to say well said. Melissa and I are so pleased to hear you loved it. We strive very hard to be unique and different and bring something new to the table. To get a review of this magnitude means we are doing something right! Thank you so much for taking the time! We do offer half and full glass pairings and also wine flights by suggestion but I will make it a point to add it to the menu to make it more noticeable. Thanks again and we look forward to seeing you in our new location in Feb.
~Marlana

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Reviewed January 6, 2009

My wife and I ate here in the last week of December and we enjoyed every moment of our experience at this wonderful, creative restaurant. In addition the service was fabulous.

We loved the portion sizes of the various courses. It allowed us to taste several dishes. We split the caesar salad (which was delicious and unlike any caesar salad we've had). We also had one appetizer each and each had a main entree. The entrees are smaller than regular entree courses at other restaurants (and the price reflects the smaller portion).

Each dish was delicious and so well prepared and presented. I felt this was not only the best meal I had in Sanibel, but the most interesting and best dinner I had in all of 2008.

If you want a magnificent dining experience in Sanibel, make sure to visit this restaurant.

2  Thank DJK81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
MarlanaGM, Server/Manager at Sweet Melissa's Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded January 8, 2009

What can I say but Thank you and we appreciate your review and your business! Your review makes us smile. Our long days and hard work are all worth it when we get feedback like this! Thanks again and we look forward to your soon return.
~Marlana

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Reviewed January 3, 2009

We dined at Sweet Melissa's Cafe on New Year's Eve and had an excellent meal. We did have to wait a little bit for our table, but the food made it worth the wait. We tried 6 things from the menu and shared - all were good and well executed. The serving staff were friendly and helpful, even when we had a discussion about the wine measure.

We do agree with a previous reviewer about the wine - it was $13+ for a glass of what was generally average stuff. The glasses are pretty hefty so it also looked like we were only getting half a measure - we ended up getting a bottle to find out whether it would make 4 glasses (it did).

2  Thank Rlucraft
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
MarlanaGM, Server/Manager at Sweet Melissa's Cafe, responded to this reviewResponded January 8, 2009

Thank you for your comments we appreciate you taking the time. Sorry about your wait it gets a little crazy around here with such a small seating area. But glad to hear you enjoyed the food. I've commented on the wine before in a previous review and have found that our prices are reasonable after comparison to other restaurants. Thanks again for your review and we look forward to your business in the future.
~Marlana

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