• Heriloom Tomato Watermelon Salad
  • Korean BBQ Marinated Grilled Octopus
  • Saffron Fettuccine

Sweet Melissa's Cafe

About us

Experience the award-winning Sweet Melissa’s Cafe, Sanibel Island. Serving lunch and dinner, this is a culinary journey of epic proportions! Explore a creative menu with a wide array of different tastes, textures, and eclectic ingredients.

Founder of Sweet Melissa's Cafe
Gretchen Valade

In the mid 1980's Gretchen and her husband, Bob, were invited by friends to visit Sanibel Island, it was love at first sight. At that time, they owned property along the Caloosahatchee River which they planned to build on. They sold that and instead bought a home in the Nutmeg Condominiums on Sanibel. In the mid 90's they built a beautiful new home on the island overlooking the Gulf.
Gretchen became friends with the owners of a restaurant on Captiva called "Red Fish Blue Fish". In 2004 Hurricane Charley hit Captiva and local restaurants experienced a loss of business as a result. Gretchen bought half ownership in the restaurant and moved it to a new location on Sanibel. She eventually ended up the sole owner and relocated for a second time to the Periwinkle Way location and renamed it "Sweet Melissa's Café".

Along the way Gretchen was introduced to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation. She was impressed with their commitment to protect the beauty of the island she so admired. Over the years she made donations to the organization to help them with their mission.
Gretchen resides in Grosse Pointe, Michigan where she has several other businesses that keep her busy when she isn't enjoying herself on Sanibel, her home away from home.

Sweet Melissa's is doing it's part "Keeping it Local" by using suppliers on and close to Sanibel Island.

12 Seasons Farm:
A small family farm specializing in citrus, strawberries, fruiting vegetables, sunflowers, heirloom and artisan tomatoes. Come visit them at 'The Captiva Farmer's Market' on Tuesdays, from 8-noon, or at the 'Promenade Farmers Market' on Saturdays from 8-noon.

Anson Mills:
Handmade mill goods from organic heirloom grains. Seedsmen of the 19th century bred for flavor—not for transport, not for visual appeal, not for shelf life, not even for disease resistance. Agriculturists of the period sought to impose the maximal beneficial effect of terroir on their ingredients. By doing these things as well, Anson Mills will continue to reintroduce the diverse and flavorful foodways of the Carolina Rice Kitchen.

Blue Star Seafood:
Blue Star Seafood was founded by Brian Schwemmer in Aug. of 1992. We started this company with the vision to sell only the finest quality seafood. In 2002, we incorporated a new division of Fresh Local Fish and since then, Blue Star Seafood has made a name to provide only the highest grade of fish.

Captain Jerry's Seafood:
Captain Jerry's Seafood a division of Oakes Farms, is a wholesale distributor specializing in fresh seafood products from the Gulf and around the world. We have been servicing Southwest Florida with the finest seafood available since the mid 1970's and are extremely proud to be the choice of many of the areas finest chefs, distributors and retail markets. Our staff has well over 75 years of experience in the local seafood industry, ranging from product procurement and commercial fishing, to retail sales and restaurant management.

East Fork Creek:
East Fork Creek Gardens is an innovative produce farm in South Fort Myers, that mostly focuses on growing lettuce. We proudly are the southernmost commercial aquaponic farm in the United States.

Oakes Farm:
Oakes Farms is a direct link between the farmer and the chef. We achieve this with our Food Service and Distribution division, which prepares and delivers fresh and tasteful food products to thousands of families through its partners every day. Oakes Farms provides the tools entrepreneurs in the food service industry need to stay a step ahead of the competition. Our wholesale client base benefits from the Seed to Table.

Sanibel Lime-Elo Sorbet
The Sanibel Lime-elo sorbet, which resulted from a happy accident when former high school teacher Steve Maxwell discovered a new fruit-the Sanibel Lime-elo. The taste? Described as tangy or sweet-and-sour.

Executive Chef, Owner &
Operator of Sweet Melissa's Cafe
Melissa Donahue
Executive Chef Melissa Donahue resume is impressive, with training at Manhattan's French Culinary Institute followed by the kitchens of some of the most respected restaurants in the United States including Union Cafe in New York City, Commander's Palace in New Orleans and John Besh's August, also in New Orleans.
Originally planning to pursue a law degree, Donahue changed career paths after her first child was born and she realized she would rather spend her time in the kitchen instead of a courtroom.
Hurricane Katrina blew Chef Melissa out of New Orleans, landing her on Sanibel Island and correlating nicely with a job offer from the former Redfish Blufish restaurant. In 2009 the restaurant was renamed and opened as Sweet Melissa's Cafe. With her culinary and management talents consistently praised, Chef Donahue has received high praises from every major publication in Southwest Florida, with recipes featured in multiple local travel and restaurant guides.

At the 2010 Sanibel Island Taste of the Island, she was awarded first place for Best Appetizer. 2011 saw her selected as the "Best Chef for a Chef" Vintner Dinner in the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. The popular on-line dining reservation website, Open Table, recognizes the restaurant with Diners' Choice Awards, including Best Food, Best Overall and Best Service.

In 2017 Sweet Melissa's Café was recognized by USA Today as a top 10 restaurant in South Florida. With a menu and true talent that keeps diners begging for more, Sweet Melissa's Cafe and Chef Melissa Donahue are "Creatively Out Of The Ordinary".