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Times of the Islands Magazine

The Island Cow: a Family-type Place That Just Keeps Growing

Jan 26, 2018 10:31AM ● By Kevin

Photo courtesy of The Island Cow on Facebook.

Resting on four acres of Sanibel Island land, The Island Cow operates out of a steel-frame shack built in 1951, and that's just one of many quirky things about this 17-year-old island staple.

"It certainly has its own flavor," said owner Brian Podlasek. "We travel around, go to strange places, and want to remember. So, we bring it back!"

Podlasek owns the spot with his wife, Elke. As you peruse the popular breakfast spot, which was named one of the top five breakfast places in all of Florida by Southern Living, you'll quickly begin to notice its interesting decor.

An old pair of skis? Podlasek will screw them to the ceiling. His neighbor's daughter's bright pink snowboard? He screwed that to the back door by the waiting area.

"It started to become what my workshop and garage looks like," he said, also noting his affinity for Bigfoot. "Don't ask me why." Even the shack's website is filled with puns.

"From our signature homemade muffins and large menu, to our a-moo-sing decor and indoor/outdoor dining concept, you’ll clearly see why we are continuously voted the Island’s best Lunch and Family Dining experience on the island for 10 years and counting," the website says.

Why "The Island Cow?" A tribute to his father. "My dad always had a family home up in Wisconsin so we've got a thing with cows. i like cows. we ride horses and stuff out there. Wisconsin cow thing, they're peaceful."

The shack was built by the Kirkpatrick family, which arrived via aircraft and brought all sorts of stuff in, like cars and boats. People and families used to live on the property, itself, prior to the Cow's existence. The back end is used for playing games and children's activities.

Podlasek describes his restaurant as a "family/whatever type of place." As for the food, the menu keeps growing, mostly on what people want. Patrons are encouraged to create their own dishes, which Chef "Big Juan" will cook up. Folks can even bring in their own fish for him to cook.

"If it stays in the top 10 out of 300 items then it stays on the menu. so come up with something!" Podlasek said. "My neighbor, Kim, came up with an omelet, wanting something low fat, and we made up an omelet for her."

The best day of the year for The Cow is Christmas, Podlasek reported. In just one day, 1,600 people come to eat. "Waiting is half the fun," Podlasek said, noting that guests typically grab a drink and play a round of cornhole.

Outside of that, business is pretty steady. Podlasek joked, "It's the most money you can make with your clothes on." He added that it's a fun work environment and a silly business. "You have to be crazy to get into it." To date, they've served more than 5 million customers in 17 years.

All in all, there are 62 employees at The Cow, some of which are second-generation crew members. Half, Podlasek said, have been with the establishment for at least 10 years.

"You got to have the right flow and the right people to make it work," he said. "We've got some great managers, people."

The Island Cow is located at 2163 Periwinkle Way. For more information, visit the website, call 239-472-0606, or Like them on Facebook.