Island Cafe delivers class
As the 11-year owner of the long-serving Island Café on Marco, Bill Baumler describes his whole career as having been “interwoven with the hospitality business.”
Around 30 years ago, he was with the Marriott resort as director of sales, specializing in promoting conventions. He followed that in the early 90s as a banquet manager with the Olde Marco Inn, and the next fortuitous move was acquiring the café from restaurateurs Denis and Lisa Meurgue.
“It originally had a French background, but I changed that a bit. I brought in some (ideas) from fine dining restaurants in New Orleans,” Baumler says, “so there was also a bit of Creole too. We always have Jambalaya, for example, and I credit chefs Fred Braun and Dennis Friedhoff for the way they do the rice, andouille sausage and seafood stock.”
Naturally, the restaurant also offers “universal” favorites such as rack of lamb roasted with herbs and paired with scalloped potatoes and spinach, and indeed seafood such as seared sea scallops with pappardelle pasta, wild mushroom ragout, goat cheese and truffle oil, for example.
The chefs conjured up the lamb for the Sun Times’ ongoing restaurant series, and also added escargot with garlic lemon butter and puff pastry; salads that included spinach with roasted pears, caramel pecans, goat cheese and pancetta bacon; and also twin filet mignon with port wine sauce and béarnaise sauce.
Early bird specials are a little different at the restaurant, too. Diners choose an entrée from the main menu, and are also served up soup, salad and a dessert at no extra cost.
The restaurant is tucked away at 918 N. Collier Blvd. in a small plaza between the Coldwell Banker and Berkshire Hathaway realty buildings, and has neighbors like Wake Up Marco and an old-style barber shop.
It has an intimate atmosphere and a convivial vibe with attentive servers, and judging by this particular evening, a kitchen team who clearly enjoy the creative side of doing what they do best.
In fact, another Chef – Jimmy Ketchum – perhaps sums it up: “It’s a good little restaurant,” he says. “I like working here. I’ve tried the bigger ones, but I prefer this.”
On the cover: The rack of lamb is roasted with herbs and served with scalloped potato and sauteed spinach.
If you go:
What: Island Café
Where: 918 N. Collier Blvd. between Coldwell Banker and Berkshire Hathaway realty buildings
Food: Upscale, with the motto ‘creative and classic.’
Bar: Beer and wine
Hours; 5 p.m. onward, seven nights a week in season