When we were driving out to the “Ding” Darling Nature Refuge on Sanibel Island we passed a cute restaurant decorated in the best of Florida pastels and with a very inviting front porch. The best sign: Although we were there during a low-season Saturday, the place was packed. We immediately decided that we would return to investigate The Island Cow at lunch time.
The menu here can only be described as enormous with everything from meat loaf to Po’ boys to BBQ. Seafood is represented in pretty much every form from stuffed to grilled to deep fried to raw but there are also lots of other options like burgers and pasta (not that I can see why you’d want something other than seafood).
I’d recommend skipping the basket of muffins they put on your table in favor of one of the appetizers. We chose the fried clams, which were plump and delicious, from the many fried offering including oysters, shrimp, pickles (yes you read that right), and alligator tail. If fried food doesn’t sound good to you, I think you have a problem, I mean, you’ll also find smoked fish dip, potato skins stuffed with crab stuffing, and shrimp cocktail. And soup. And salad…
For my main meal, I went for the special of the day, a combination plate of shrimp and fried grouper tacos. The shrimp and fish were prepared perfectly and those beans were a great savory side:
Tommy chose the “Fish’in Rules” – pick a fish from one of three groups:
Then choose how you want it prepared (which is basically however you want from broild to barbequed), and then pick sides like cheese grits or hush puppies or both. Here you see him with his mountain of fried catfish:
There’s a fun vibe to the whole place, with its kitschy cow decorations, funny signs, claims that the food is “udderly great”, and ceiling fans shaped like palm fronds.
Matt’s favorite was the floor at front desk where a quarter has cleverly been embedded into the floor under the mat. Perfectly designed for a joke-playing dad.
They serve three meals a day at The Island Cow and I’d like to return for breakfast – there’s a smaller selection, but what’s there looks terrific, especially the grits and andouille sausage and the blueberry granola pancakes.
You’ll find The Island Cow right in the middle of Sanibel on Periwinkle Way. Be prepared to wait out front a bit, especially during high season. Actually, I wouldn’t consider it waiting so much as building up your strength for what awaits you, which is a powerful helping of food. Maybe you’ll do better than I did and will find it in yourself to ask for the dessert menu.
Many thanks to the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau for covering most of the costs of our trip to Sanibel.