A New Face on an Old Favorite: Mainstay Replaces Barnacles on North CaptivaNov 23, 2020 05:00PM ● By CAPT. BRIAN HOLAWAY
A little of the old, a little bit of the new—I have said before and I’ll say it again, “The beauty of the islands is that they are always changing.” In this case, it’s an iconic restaurant formerly known as Barnacles, now called Mainstay North Captiva.
Change on the barrier islands usually comes at a slow pace (or never), and most islanders prefer it this way. The recent change of ownership from Barnacles to Mainstay, however, is a welcome one for the island, as well as for boaters who have been visiting the North Captiva restaurant for decades.
One of three restaurants on North Captiva, Mainstay has instituted a few changes to the menu and the look of the waterside restaurant. The biggest improvement and a favorite change for islanders is the addition of a full liquor bar (called Barnacles Bar in deference to its predecessor). In all the years past Barnacles served only beer and wine, so the full bar is welcome news. Patrons can now enjoy a Captiva Breeze, Mainstay Mule or the Caribbean favorite, the Painkiller.
The new menu features beef and pork that is smoked and prepared on the island, says Tom Capallo, Mainstay manager. Brisket tacos with verde sauce is one of the menu favorites, along with the fish tacos. Conch fritters are a tasty appetizer.
Other improvements to the legendary restaurant is a round chickee by the water providing more shade and tables. Upstairs, patrons can find sundry items that islanders and visitors alike will appreciate, including ice cream, milk, aspirin, bloody Mary mix, assorted cheeses, fresh dips and Mainsail logo items such as t-shirts and hats.
If you are looking for a fun lunch adventure on the barrier islands, half the fun is getting there. Travel by boat, kayak, paddleboard or airplane (North Captiva has a private grass landing strip) to Mainstay and stay awhile. It can be a hard place to leave once you settle in.
IF YOU GO BY BOAT
Traveling in the Intracoastal Waterway coming from north or south: Turn west (270 degrees on a compass) at marker 48 toward the island until you reach the channel markers leading you into Safety Harbor around the historic fish house, heading toward Mainstay Restaurant. Be aware of no-wake zones and slow speeds for manatee protection.
Coming from the Gulf of Mexico through Captiva Pass: Once inside Pine Island Sound, head south toward the channel markers leading you around the historic fish house into Safety Harbor toward the restaurant.
Capt. Brian Holaway is a Florida master naturalist and has been a Southwest Florida shelling and eco-tour guide since 1995. His boat charters visit the islands of Pine Island Sound, including Cayo Costa State Park, Cabbage Key, Pine Island and North Captiva.