Mud Bugs Cajun Kitchen

A New Orleans-style Revival

One of Benchmark’s more dramatic, commercial renovations can be seen at Mud Bugs Cajun Kitchen on Sanibel. The building was originally constructed in the mid-20th century as Café Orleans—a quaint, two-story restaurant with French-style architecture that complemented its Provencal cuisine. The restaurant changed hands over the years, eventually falling into disrepair until most recently purchased by a local restaurateur with an ambitious vision for renovating and reviving the once-neglected structure. Thus, the concept for Mud Bugs Cajun Kitchen was born--a destination restaurant offering diners a colorful, contemporary New Orleans-style ambience with authentic Cajun cuisine unlike any that Sanibel had seen before.

Before
After
Before
After

Under the leadership of architect Raymond Fenton, the design team for Mud Bugs envisioned an eclectic space that referenced New Orleans’ rich, multicultural heritage. The challenge posed to Benchmark General Contractors was to build a new structure entirely within the footprint of the existing building. In order to accomplish this feat, a steel “endoskeleton” was erected, giving the architect and designers an industrial canvas to work with from there. The design team selected elements definitive of the French Quarter, including exposed brick and scrolling, ironwork railings. In the vibrant, festive spirit of Mardi Gras, a vast array of custom finishes were selected to adorn virtually every surface within the space. The result is a dazzlingly festooned interior and exterior that successfully blends the jovial diversity of the old port city with a contemporary island-casual atmosphere .

Zuccari Palace, Rome, Italy (left) and MudBugs Cajun Kitchen, Sanibel, Florida (right)

One of the immediately striking features of Mud Bugs Cajun Kitchen is its dramatic doorway. The project’s lead architect, Raymond Fenton, envisioned an elaborate entrance that would be both iconic and “descriptive” of the experience that patrons could expect inside. Staying true to the vision of referencing various cultures and periods, the design team looked to well-known European entryways for inspiration. Fenton and the team eventually decided on a modern reinterpretation of the world-famous Zuccari Palace (also known as the Monster Palace) from Rome, Italy. Fenton simplified the original, hand-carved Baroque design into a digital format that could be recreated by a local concrete artist. The results are truly stunning and the perfect visual preview for the fiery Cajun cuisine that patrons will enjoy within.

Many of MudBugs’ decorative elements are also custom designs by local artist Eugenia Thompson-Colter. Her creative hand can be seen in the bottle-fed, mosaic fountain adjacent to the main entrance and custom stained-glass compositions inside that include a saxophone-playing frog prince, a guitar-strumming alligator jester and a crawfish trumpeter, adorned with a chef’s hat and bib.

A Chihuly-style chandelier is MudBugs’ crowning embellishment, illuminating a pulpit-style bandstand balcony where live music is played on the regular. Visitors will also enjoy other custom, decorative details in the restaurant’s unique Cajun-island style, including oyster shell chandeliers over the raw bar sinks and seashell and sea glass-embedded concrete countertops.

For more information on MudBugs Cajun Kitchen, visit the restaurants website at: www.mudbugssanibel.com

MudBugs is located at: 1471 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957

Reservations can be made by phone at: (239) 472-2221