It’s more than just a place to eat. No trip to the islands are complete without a stop by Doc Ford’s, just ask the locals.
For more than 13 years, I was a light-tackle fishing guide just down the road at Tarpon Bay Marina. I did more than 3,000 charters; spent 300 days a year boating these waters. When my clients chose not to keep what they’d caught, I’d load the fish in my pickup, drive down to where the original Doc Ford's used to be on Rabbit Road, and ask the chef if he was in a buying mood.
I love the symmetry of that; I helped provide seafood here way back in the 1970’s, and now, because I’ve joined this excellent team of restaurateurs and staff, I have the opportunity to play a small role in providing fresh fish here once again.
So welcome to Doc Ford’s.
Just as my novels are inspired by these islands, my days on the water, and the people I came to know, the spirit of this fine sports bar was inspired by the marine biologist who is the main character of those novels.
Doc Ford is the baseball-loving, tropical adventurer who - not so surprisingly - has spent a lot of time in the same far flung countries that I wrote about when I was monthly columnist for places such as Cuba, Cambodia, South Africa, Australia, Vietnam, Borneo, and all over South and Central America. It was while traveling for Outside and other magazines I came to know and love the superb cuisine of the rural tropics.
I loved the sauces, the spices, and the passion that went into the food preparation. We hope that spirit is part of Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar and Grille, too. But the real hearts, heads and souls behind this establishment, though, aren’t fictional. They are real people; people savvy enough to envision a whole new concept in bars. “A rum bar? What’s a rum bar?” We were asked.
They are people creative enough to embrace an entirely different kind of sports bar concept. “You’re gonna have gourmet finger foods? Sports bars don’t serve great food,” we were told. Well, ours do.
So credit Marty and Brenda Harrity, and Mark Marinello, for having the vision, and then finding the energy, taste and chutzpah to make that vision reality.
Being with them reminds me of my old marina family, back when I was a fishing guide at Tarpon Bay. They’re quirky and fun and gifted. They’ve made it work, and I’m proud to have played a small part.