With a bit of a cold snap lingering in the area on Wednesday, chef Tom Wogatske was in the kitchen at Kostas Family Restaurant cooking up a 20-gallon batch of chili.
It was business at usual at the 100-seat restaurant at 1631 Eighth Ave. W., which closed in December and reopened on Feb. 11 under new ownership.
New owner Linda Erwin previously owned the business with a partner from May 2013 until February 2017, and needed encouragement from her family to get back into the game.
Sons Justin, Phillip and Joshua Erwin pitched in to help with remodeling, freshening up the business and filling some of the staffing needs.
You get the feeling that despite the hours and hard work, the personable Linda Erwin loves what she is doing.
“It’s fun,” she said. “This is a community restaurant with a regular clientele. Palmetto has always been that way. It is a beautiful community where people have grown up and stayed here or who are moving back.”
The Kostas location is a bit of a Palmetto eatery tradition. Previously, Kojak’s Palmetto Ribhouse, Clock Restaurant and Hubba Hubba Drive-in were located there.
Erwin, a native of Jamestown, New York, is a 32-year veteran of the restaurant business. She got her start working at the lunch counter at Rick’s Drug Store on Anna Maria Island, where guests could get a cup of coffee for 9 cents.
She has brought all that experience and input from her family to revamp the menu and offer daily specials.
A kids menu includes an item suggested by Erwin’s grandchildren: Baya’s fish fingers for $5.50.
Other family influences are sprinkled throughout the menu, including “Dad’s Bologna Sandwich,” a thick slice of bologna, onion and American cheese on grilled sourdough bread.
The menu has 11 main categories, starting with appetizers such as homemade soups, flaming cheese and a new offering, Linda’s Caprese Salad. Appetizers start at $5.95.
Lite side offerings start at $9.50, while hot platters, including open-face roast beef, fried shrimp platters and chicken bacon ranch tots, start at $8.25. Burgers and sandwiches start at $7.95.
The menu also includes Italian hoagies and pasta dinners such as pasta marinara, spaghetti and meatballs and eggplant parmesan.
Comfort dinners — liver and onions, smothered chopped steak, Greek salmon and more — start at $10.95.
“We have a little bit of everything on there, trying to get everyone’s palate pleased,” Erwin said.
Kostas Family Restaurant offers sit-down dining and take-out. Erwin bakes her own pies. Coconut cream and peanut butter are especially popular.
The restaurant has a staff of about 20, including chef Wogatske, who said he has been cooking for more than 40 years.
“He makes all the sauces, all our soups. I wouldn’t be here without him,” Erwin said.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed on Sunday.
For more information, call 941-479-4914 or visit the Kostas Family Restaurant Facebook page.