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Fried-oysters tostadas, an appetizer from Slate's in Cape Coral, are drizzled in a habanero-tinged sauce.
Fried-oysters tostadas, an appetizer from Slate's in Cape Coral, are drizzled in a habanero-tinged sauce. / Special to news-press.com
Nancy and Allan Cotter are the chefs and owners of Slate's in Cape Coral. / news-press.com file photo

Slate’s

4820 Candia St., Cape Coral

Food: ★★★½
Atmosphere: ★★★☆
Service: ★★★☆

Price: $$$-$$$$
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 5-9:30 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday
Call: 540-6800
Noise level: Loud but mostly tolerable at capacity
Etc.: Outdoor seating, full bar, Sunday jazz brunch with live music, reservations encouraged
Web: slatescapecoral.com

SAMPLE OF THE MENU

Appetizers
• Red beans and rice, $6
• Fried-oyster tostadas, $12
• Maine lobster on a stick, market price

Entrees
• Crawfish etouffee, $15
• Braised pork shoulder with dirty rice, $20
• Seafood Alfredo, $26

More

Amid the congestion of Cape Coral Parkway, Slate’s is a whisper.

Here at the corner of Candia and Lafayette streets, surrounded by a glass shop and antique dealers, Slate’s announces itself, just barely, with a simple gray sign. The small font at the bottom reads: Casual Fine Dining with a Cajun Twist.

This 2-month-old restaurant unfolds like a parlor trick, revealing a space with warmth in spades. Dining tables are topped in butcher paper and crisp linens; the yellow walls are as cozy as Slate’s strip-mall exterior is mundane.

A horseshoe bar dominates the entryway, serving vodka martinis speckled with grated ginger and fresh lime, and lowballs of brandy-milk punch made from almond milk and a vanilla syrup crafted in house. The frothy top is sprinkled with nutmeg. It tastes of New Orleans and of winter; you’re in Cape Coral and it’s 83 degrees out.

In the dining rooms miniature chalkboards mark reserved tables, though at 7 p.m. on a recent Saturday few seats here were empty.

Despite its whispery nature word of Slate’s has spread quickly. Mardi Gras is around the corner, but the Cajun-Creole dishes of Louisiana are rare in our area, especially those as ably made as they are here.

Credit goes to chef-owners Nancy and Allan Cotter. The couple moved to Cape Coral in 2010 after 16 years operating the award-winning Blue Moon Restaurant & Jazz Club in St. Croix.

The Cotters don’t shy away from heat.

Their gumbo flickers with spice, just enough to cut the soup’s deep, murky richness. And their etouffee explodes with it, each bite of curled-up crawfish and peppers sending tingles of exquisite pain to whatever region of the brain makes your under-eyes sweat.

I hear you can order things mild, but where’s the fun in that?

The fun in an appetizer of fried-oyster tostadas is immediate. The oysters are served atop house-made tortilla chips, like crisply golden lumps; each nook and cranny drinking in the green habanero sauce drizzled over top.

For traditionalists there are thick steaks served with creamy potatoes and carrots slicked in a maple glaze. And there are boneless short ribs slow cooked to wobbly perfection and accompanied by grits cakes fried to a luscious crunch.

At lunch po’ boys are filled with giant commas of fried shrimp, and mayonnaise laced with lump crab meat. The bread is glossier and denser than what you’d find in the Big Easy, but what the sandwich lacks in authenticity it makes up for in deliciousness.

There is bread pudding made from chocolate-chip croissants for dessert. Or bananas Foster made the time-honored way: with booze and flames and a dollop of melting ice cream.

Fat Tuesday will be followed by Lent next week, a time of penance and self-denial. I’m not Catholic. But if I were I’d be calling Slate’s immediately.

Jean Le Boeuf is the nom de plume of a local food lover who dines at The News-Press’ expense. Contact jleboeuf@news-press.com; facebook.com/JeanLeBoeufSWFL or @jeanleboeuf (Twitter).

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