WORDS: Kara Chalmers
PICTURES: Whitney Patton
Bob Slicker realized his dream of owning a restaurant when he opened Slicker’s Eatery in February in Cortez. Slicker’s vision for his place, which he and his daughter Molly Slicker formulated together, was specific: to focus on kindness, goodness, and intentionality.
For running a restaurant, that vision translates to taking care of people. He offers employees health insurance and does fundraisers for local charities. He and his team treat customers with kindness by making time to speak to each one every night and offering them high-quality, all-natural ingredients and healthy dishes and portions.
“Fresh, fast, sharable plates” is how Slicker describes the menu. He’s proud he doesn’t have fryers and doesn’t use frozen food.
“First thing, I took the fryers out,” Slicker said of the restaurant. “My walk-in cooler freezer has paper towels in it.”
Finally, Slicker’s vision means being sustainable: using locally sourced seafood, ice cream, and baked goods, and decorating with thrift store finds, plants, and Bob and Molly Slicker’s own books (authored by Steve Martin, Lucille Ball, Yoko Ono, and Anne Lamott, to name a few).
After spending decades in the food industry, Slicker said he got tired of seeing food being thrown out. To combat this, he intentionally serves small portions. It turns out that if customers are still hungry, they just order another of the menu’s “Small Plates” or a dessert. They often do not, but instead leave the restaurant feeling satisfied but not stuffed, Slicker said.
For example, two of the small plates – the Whipped Goat Cheese Bruschetta and the Seared Ahi Tuna Crostini – both require French baguette slices. When Operations Manager Barry Smith realized that preparing the two dishes correctly resulted in a lot of wasted bread, he developed a recipe for a new dessert that would use the leftover bread. The dessert – Nancy’s bourbon-glazed Bread Pudding – named after Smith’s mother, Nancy Copeman, has since become one of the restaurant’s most popular.
On June 1, Slicker’s celebrated “National Say Something Nice Day.” The restaurant gave a few lucky patrons a free “Encouragemint,” which is one of Slicker’s signature craft cocktails. It’s made with Bombay Sapphire gin, orgeat syrup, lemon juice, orange bitters, and mint leaves. This drink is always given to customers along with a compliment from the server.
“Cortez deserves a restaurant like this,” Slicker said.
Kindness, Goodness, and Intentionality
On November 23, 2020, Slicker was between jobs after working as General Manager at the Swordfish Grill & Tiki Bar in Cortez for ten years. Prior to that, he had managed other local restaurants and had owned and operated D Coy Ducks in Holmes Beach. In that time, Slicker, who is today 58, had developed a reputation as an affable, fun, and positive member of the community. “I think I’m a funny guy, so I get to make people smile,” he said.
Also, Slicker was well-known locally for his personal generosity and his involvement in several Bradenton-area charities. “If there was a charity event happening, I was there,” Slicker said. “I’m that guy that just says “yes.”
The night of November 23, at an Anna Maria Island Rotary Club event at the Beach House in Bradenton Beach, the club named Slicker its “Businessperson of the Year.” Slicker was honored but surprised since he technically did not have a job at the time. After the event, he went online and googled “restaurants for sale near me.” Up popped a property he knew well (and later found out was posted for sale mere minutes before he pressed the search button). Slicker already knew the property’s owner, so he called him first thing in the morning. Before long, Slicker was a restaurant owner.
“It’s very rewarding to see this dream of his come true,” said Molly Slicker, 28, of her father. She added that for years, she had watched him make other people’s restaurants successful.
“He dreamed, he saved, he worked,” said Molly, who works as Slicker’s Eatery’s creative director. “He wants to make the world a brighter, kinder place.”
A Dream Come True
On January 1, Slicker took ownership of the restaurant, which is located at 12012 Cortez Rd. W. and which previously housed Pigout BBQ and Southern Soul Food. For six weeks, Slicker and his team, made up of Molly, Smith, Slicker’s bar manager Max Schumacher, and other friends and family, worked 10-hour days, gutting, cleaning, painting and furnishing. Molly’s fiancée Richard Parry drove down every weekend from his and Molly’s home in Orlando to help.
At night, some of them would work on creating (and testing) the 15 craft cocktails that are now on Slicker’s menu. Schumacher, whom Slicker calls a “shaman” (and he calls the bartenders “spirit guides”), makes from scratch all the “elixirs” used in the craft cocktails.
During those six weeks of prepping the restaurant for opening, Molly secretly compiled photos that would ultimately grace the restaurant’s walls. Each photo means something special to one of the team members, whether it is a photo of Slicker with his bike with a two-year-old Molly strapped into a bicycle seat or a photo of kitchen staffer Chris Ferrero’s favorite view of the mountains, shot from his aunt’s porch in upstate New York. Molly stayed late one night decorating so that the rest of the employees would be surprised the next day.
“I was sitting over there, drying my eyes,” Slicker said, describing that morning.
The restaurant’s soft opening on Feb. 10 and 11 was also a fundraiser for the Bradenton-based Blessing Bags Project, which provides large Ziploc bags filled with travel-size sunscreen, personal hygiene products, and hand sanitizers to homeless people. Customer’s paid $30 to get in and The Louis & Gloria Flanzer Philanthropic Trust matched each donation.
It meant the restaurant was able to donate nearly $11,000 to Blessing Bags before it even technically opened its doors. Slicker hopes to open Slicker’s Eatery franchises eventually, and whenever a new restaurant opens, it will hold a soft opening that benefits a local charity, he said.
Slicker’s Eatery opened to the public on February 12, and there is indoor and shaded outdoor seating. The restaurant takes reservations, even for the stools at the bar. Call them at (941) 251-9428 or visit slickerseatery.com.
Kurt Clennan, Slicker’s nephew, is the restaurant’s executive chef. He lives in Modesto, CA, and has created more than 30 menus in the course of his career. In January, Clennan flew here and spent 15 weeks training the local chefs in preparing Slicker’s menu items. Since opening, the menu has been so well-liked that there have been very few changes, such as the additions of the Shrimp and Octopus Ceviche and a catch of the day.
“It’s kind of all over the place,” said Operations Manager Barry Smith of the menu, noting the Cuban and Asian offerings among other globally inspired dishes. “It’s intentional, though. It’s meant to touch different corners of the globe.”
The most popular entrée is the Shrimp Gambitto, which is pan-seared shrimp, grilled tomato, fresh mozzarella, shaved parmesan, fresh basil, and spaghetti, tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. The dish can be prepared vegetarian-style, with vegetables instead of shrimp, or gluten-free, with vegetables instead of pasta.
Another signature entrée is the Bánh mì, which is smoked pork belly, white bean pâté, pickled root vegetables, cilantro, and jalapeno on a crusty Vietnamese baguette. It is served with Cortezian potato salad.
The menu also offers specialty sandwiches, a flatbread of the day, a petite filet, and a spicy tuna poke bowl. The Cuban dishes Arroz Congrí, Mojo Pork, and the Arroz Congrí con Pollo feature Cuban black beans and rice and mojo-marinated chicken breast or pork, and they’re served with fruit salsa, onion, cilantro, and orange.
One of the most popular of the small plates is the Spicy Octopus – tenderized, marinated, and grilled octopus, with olives, capers, and a slightly spicy, yet sweet, herb vinaigrette.
There are numerous gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options on the menu. One example of all three is the Grilled Portobello Mushroom, which is marinated with roasted garlic and fresh herbs, grilled and topped with a balsamic reduction. Besides the bread pudding mentioned above, desserts include the Chai Latte Crème Brûlée with Strawberries, the Key Lime Pudding Cake with Almond and Fruit, and a Chocolate Fondue Plate.