On my third and final night on Shelter Island, I stopped in at the highly rated Commander Cody’s on Smith Street. When I was first doing research on places to dine on the island, I found that it was rated fourth overall on Trip Advisor, behind the lovely Marie Eiffel Market and the expensive, but wildly popular 18 Bay and Vine Street Cafe.
So, in a race to catch the sunset on the beach on our last night, we headed to Commander Cody’s knowing it would be a much quicker meal.
It’s really no wonder that the restaurant garners a four star review on Google, a 4.5 star rating on Trip Advisor, a four star rating on Yelp, and a 4.7 star rating on Facebook.
What is surprising is that Commander Cody’s remains remarkably humble on all counts. The menu is simple and the top reads, “seafood, BBQ ribs, fried chicken.”
So, patrons can choose from items like fried or broiled fish by the pound, with options like tilapia, shrimp, flounder, and sea scallops. The restaurant also serves fresh lobster (they actually have a live lobster tank), crab, clams, salmon, oysters, swordfish, and calamari.
My cohort and I went in with the intention of having a third lobster roll of the weekend, as well as some of Commander Cody’s famous skillet fried chicken. We ordered a lobster roll (over five bucks cheaper than everywhere else!) and a four-piece skillet fried chicken.
The lobster roll was enormous and extremely fresh and delicious. It came with a side of nicely seasoned French fries. The chicken was just downright some of the best fried chicken I’ve had. It was crispy, but not overpoweringly so. The meat was juicy and came right off of the bone. Plus, it came with doughy cornbread and more French fries.
Commander Cody’s is a BYO establishment, which is pretty great because it makes for an all around inexpensive meal. We brought our own bottle of wine and managed to spend less than $40 on dinner—a welcome change of pace from the dollars we dropped the two nights prior.
Look, Commander Cody’s is a no frills kind of place. Don’t come here if you’re expecting fine dining and attentive service. It doesn’t work like that here.
We read a lot about the place before showing up, so we knew to call in our order about 30 minutes before we wanted to eat, especially on a weekend. When we got there, we found that our food was ready and we were greeted by a somewhat abrasive woman who was simultaneously barking orders at the few people she had helping her in the open kitchen. We paid and took our food out past the few tables lined up inside and sat at the long picnic tables set up in a small area in the back of the restaurant adjacent to the parking lot.
Outside, a few groups were eating, while another was waiting for their food. As it turns out, the woman behind the counter doesn’t always have help in the kitchen, but because she did on this particular night, she came out to take orders and check in on everyone. I guess that means we got special treatment, but it wouldn’t have mattered to me either way. The food is just too damn good to care about being waited on here.
Commander Cody’s, run by Jim Hayward, is a Shelter Island staple. It’s the perfect spot for locals, and an ideal way for visitors to get a real sense of the down to earth vibes found here.