a.k.a., How I ate my way across Key West in 4 days.
01.07.2011 - 05.07.2011
Good morning, Key West.
What to do today?
Everyone says, "Don't go to Key West for the beach." They aren't kidding.
Key West beaches are nothing to write home about. Most of them are man made, with sand shipped in from the Bahamas, and if you have a fondness for Caribbean beaches, Key West beaches will just make you depressed. My advice is go have another drink and buy a beach postcard. That's all the beach you need.
We did, however, have a beach need that had to be satisfied, so we decided to drive to Big Pine Key and visit Bahia Honda State Park, reported to be one of the best beaches in the Keys. It wasn't that far and we needed a sunshine break, so away we went.
First stop was at Sandy's Café for café con leche and breakfast sandwiches for the road.
I was happy to see that Sandy's was open 24 hours a day. Sometimes you just need a grilled pork chop at midnight.
We ordered up and waited. The café con leche was hot and delicious, made with lots of sugar, just the way I like it. Local patrons lined up to place their orders, read the paper, and shoot the morning breeze. This guy was my favorite. I think he was looking for the drive-through.
With a hot bacon and cheese sandwich on Cuban bread in hand, we were on our way.
It took about an hour to drive to Bahia Honda and we made it in time for the 9:30 am snorkel trip to Looe Key. Excited, we all checked in, got our snorkel gear, and sat by the boat to wait.
We sat listening to an excruciatingly long and boring and long spiel about snorkel and boat safety, how to wear your vest, how to signal "ok," blah, blah, blah by Captain PT, and were forced to listen to one too many bad jokes in the process. After all of that pre-snorkel torture, the boat barely even got going before the engine died.
No snorkel for you.
You mean I listened to those bad boat jokes for NOTHING? Sigh.
The upside was that we had more time on the beach. We headed over to Sandspur Beach and soaked in the waves until we pruned. Then we soaked in the sun until we fried. It was glorious.
We decided to head out just as some ominous clouds began to roll in.
On the way back to Key West, we decided why not stop at Hogfish Grill? It was right on the way.
After 19 turns and passing 4 mobile home parks, 3 stray dogs, and a boat junk yard, there it was. I can see why folks say it's out of the way. It's not far from the main highway, but as you drive back to it, you keep thinking, "It CAN'T be back here. We must have made a wrong turn. Or 7 wrong turns."
What a great place. With a big thatched roof, tropical plants, and walls that opened to the water, Hogfish Grill welcomed us in. The food? Well, that was great too. We shared some Key West pinks. Oh my. Were those good.
While I was still licking the Old Bay from my fingers, the waitress brought us hogfish and scallops and a lobster BLT with fried green tomatoes. Fantastic.
The rest of the afternoon was spent back in our super fabulous pool.
Before we knew it..it was happy hour! Where to go? Where to go? Should we go back to Half Shell for more voodoo juice? What about Kelly's for wings and margaritas? Alonzo's for the half price menu? Schooner Wharf for live music? So many happy hours. So little time.
We ended up at Turtle Kraal because Matt wanted 50 cent oysters but I wanted to try a new place. Turtle Kraal seems to have 50 cent oysters all day long. Matt got his oyster fix and I ordered up a bucket of bones.
Now, we have some darn good BBQ ribs here in Tennessee...and I know a good BBQ rib. Those Turtle Kraal ribs were good enough to make you slap your momma, your sister, AND your dog. Served up with 6 different sauces, it was BBQ heaven.
There was live music and before I knew it, I was singing along with BBQ sauce smeared from ear to ear.
With our food fix in, we did a little strolling and shopping. I wanted to buy this dress.
Matt wanted to buy the mannequin.
Trying to pretend we hadn't nearly eaten ourselves into a coma already, we headed to the Flaming Buoy Filet Co. for a proper dinner.
Small and intimate, with a great wine list and a divine dinner selection, we both opted for the filet. Usually, when I order a filet at an upscale restaurant, I get a dainty (small) piece of meat with side of vegetables that's usually so miniscule and decorative that you aren't sure if it's an accompaniment or if it's a garnish. If you are lucky, the entire tiny affair has some sort of fancy drizzle running around it.
This is what showed up.
THIS, my friends, was a meal. A nice sized filet, cooked perfectly rare, with a generous pile of mashed potatoes, an ear of grilled corn on the cob, sliced carrots, and a corn muffin with a surprise broccoli floret cooked into the center.
This is eating Vicki-Style.
We waddled our way back down Duval Street and made a few stops.the Bull and Whistle (watch out for the Garden of Eden is all I have to say.....that's just not right......just.....not.....right.....no one needs to see a 70 year old man in his birthday suit with black hiking sandals......just not right.....)..the Flying Monkey for a Mojo (made with PGA so it packs more than a punch, it pretty much hits you with a sledgehammer......), and found ourselves heading to the Green Parrot.
I had even worn my Green Parrot skirt in honor of the occasion. Okay, not really, but what a coincidence, right?
The previous night at Bobalou's, our waiter had told us that there would be a great band at the Green Parrot.
Now, I realize that the Key West Public Works Department has an obligation to put up street signs, but a poorly placed DO NOT ENTER sign in front of a bar door messes with a person who has just finished off a Flying Monkey Mojo. They really should think about that before they place their signs all willy nilly all over the place.
Once I was convinced that sign didn't mean me, we stepped inside. The place was hopping. Body to body, it was standing room only. We wiggled and wriggled and writhed our way to the back corner and couldn't believe we found empty seats.
I knew that DO NOT ENTER sign didn't mean anything. I knew it.
Just as I thought it couldn't get any better..I realized we were sitting next to a popcorn machine.
Oh happy day.
Who doesn't love a bar with a popcorn machine?????
The Green Parrot was a little different than the other bars we'd been in. It was a little less shiny, a little less touristy, and there was no fancy cocktail menu with drink names like "Sunshine in Paradise" or "Pretty Purple Parrot." This place was more PBR-in-a-can than Pina-Colada and the staff looked more likely to bet you a beer they could beat you at darts than ask if you wanted a $30 souvenir photograph taken. It was hot, loud, sweaty, and dark with a giant parachute hanging from the ceiling draped with green lights.
I liked it.
The Bobalu's waiter hadn't lied and the band, a salsa band, was great. The drinks were strong and the popcorn was hot and fresh. The crowd was noisy and fun.
What a great night.