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Traders and the Island Cow

By John and Gloria Streeter

Slow, but quite hot weeks prompted an urge to see the Sanibel-Captiva area of Florida on the Gulf Coast. Having been nearby several times, we finally decided to try some of the local island restaurants. This is the area where last year’s hurricane Charley cut across on its way inland. Some very interesting stories are there to be heard and a lot of evidence from the massive storm damage remains.

To get to the island you must pony-up six bucks, toll charge, to cross the causeway. It’s the only way to enter or exit for that matter. The island is small by most standards and the best way to get about is by bicycle. There are lots of bike rentals available and Sanibel Island has 26 miles of bike paths. To clear the island of contractors in the evening, local police actually direct traffic off the island.

More than sixty-five eateries cover the length of the island. We learned interesting bits of information from one of the locals; there are literally no fast food joints. It seems the Islands have enacted an ordinance which prohibits restaurant chains from operating here. Just a few locations were grand-fathered in, a Dairy Queen opened in 1971 and a Subway. Otherwise, the island is barren of fast-food. Oh, oh…. Where would we get our Starbuck’s?

The locals indicated the only place to serve Starbuck’s was the Island Cow. This fact made the Island Cow our instant choice for breakfast. From the exterior it looks like a very rustic nursery, painted in all manners of wild colors befitting Mrs. Anderson’s kindergarten class. Kind of a flashback to the early 70’s if you’re old enough to remember. The entire interior is decorated in cow motif and artwork. They serve a wide array of foods, but mostly American dishes. The serving staff is wonderfully upbeat and thorough and they all can draw a great Starbuck’s mocha grande. They were attentive throughout our meal.

The menu would make any big-city restaurant proud. They have the largest selection of foods we noted in our stay and the menu is just fun to read. We selected two items from the “Cowa Bunga Breakfast.” As is our habit we inspected the silverware and found it to be quite clean.

I ordered the steak and eggs, which consisted of a six-ounce Delmonico steak, scrambled eggs, cow spuds, grits, and lots of fresh fruit. Glo ordered the loaded seafood omelet because the way the menu described the dish, it just sounded good. As soon as we had ordered, another server brought four freshly baked muffins served with flavored butter. I liked the blueberry ones best. The rest of the food was served within seven minutes.

The Delmonico was served as ordered, pink in the middle. This was not the usual, breakfast steak. At a full six ounces, and three-quarters of an inch thick, it could have been a dinner steak at most eating places. Cow spuds (never had them before) were a cross between a steak potato and a very large hash brown. Cut from new red potatoes and sprinkled with a light brown mixture of onion and other seasoning salts, they were cooked perfectly and served hot.

The plate, which was the largest breakfast plate I’ve seen (in the shape of a fish by-the-way; guess they couldn’t locate any cow plates), was lots of fruit; Strawberries, pineapple, and melons. I gave the grits to Glo.

Glo’s omelet was also perfectly cooked. When she cut it open, you could actually see the plump shrimp, scallops, and crabmeat. The cheese-based sauce was delicious and complemented the seafood. The omelet included the red potatoes, and lots of fruit. She actually ate the grits!

Both of the meals were scrumptious.

The Island Cow should be a visitor stop. The prices are fair for the quality and quantity of food served in a range of $4 – $10. It’s a large restaurant, clean and roomy. There is outside seating and all areas are accessible. Dress is casual. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Island Cow
2163 Periwinkle Way
Sanibel Island, FL
Phone: 259-472-0606
Beer as well as Starbucks is available.
Reservations are not necessary.

After roasting on one of the local golf courses, we obtained the real “skinny” from other local golfers while recovering in the club house at the Beachview Golf and Tennis Club. They said try it, you’ll like it…. seems we’ve heard this line before but convinced, we decided to try dinner at Traders.

Traders is a restaurant and more. Attached is a nice sized gift shop, and a neat bar area. The bar serving a wide variety of mixed drinks, wine and beer opens at about 11am until 9:30pm. The restaurant opens for lunch, closes and then reopens for dinner at 5pm.

We were seated at opening time, and noted the cleanliness of the dining areas. All of the wait staff are dressed neatly and look spotless. The silverware was clean and showed no signs of a dishwasher residue (an official Streeter dining check off) The interior is spacious and reminded us of a large old tobacco warehouse. The menu is limited, but provides for adequate dinner selections.

Glo and I started off with a house special, a potato leek soup. It was served hot with a creamy texture, full of finely cut potatoes and leek, and seasoned appropriately for our tastes.

For our main course, Glo had the New York Strip and I ordered the baby back ribs. The meal was ready for dining just as we finished the soup. Glo’s steak was 12 ounces of aged beef cooked to her exact liking, medium rare and prepared in a sweet onion and mushroom ragout with a Cabernet reduction. Mashed red potatoes and fresh broccoli was the starch and veggie.

My full rack of baby back ribs were cooked to perfection. The meat was tender and tasty. There was no evidence of burnt meat or stringy pieces which usually accompany this meat choice. Accompanied by potatoes au gratin and broccoli, the real treat for us both was eating my potatoes au gratin. The Chef, Michael Patnode, knows how to cook au gratin. The serving was ample and held its shape. How he managed to slice and bind the potatoes and then have them served steaming hot and completely cooked throughout was amazing.

The only problem we encountered was the fresh broccoli was overcooked to the point of turning gray on the tips. Broccoli shouldn’t be gray in color and I’m thinking steamed not char broiled. We each sampled a bit, and then returned to the au gratin.

At the finish, we were too full for dessert. The portions served are far larger than most restaurants provide. Except for the minor veggie snag, the food, dining experience, table service, and atmosphere was great.

The staff was excellent, and nicely spent time with us providing a good deal of island information.

For dinners on Sanibel Island the cost was within reason, $55 – $75 per couple. The restaurant is fully accessible. Dress is casual.

1551 Periwinkle Way,
Sanibel Island, FL
Phone: 239-472-7242
Full bar
Reservations are recommended for dinner.

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