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Eat. Drink. Bicycle.

A Sun Drenched Key West Amuse Bouche.

amuse-bouche(uh-MYUZ-boosh) noun. This is a tidbit, often tiny, served as a free extra to keep you happy while you are waiting.

Winter had only recently arrived, but the joy of the holidays had come and gone, taking with it brightly wrapped packages and twinkling lights, the freshly baked cookies and endless cups of cocoa, and the mistletoe hanging from the chandelier.

Despite it having barely begun, I found myself waiting for winter to end.

I felt like a used up bit of forgotten tinsel that had lost its shine and is hanging limply from the edge of the sofa, waiting to be swept out with the dust bunnies.

I needed a pick-me-up.

A weekend in Key West sounded like a perfect tiny tidbit to keep me happy while I was waiting.

How can you only go to Key West for a weekend, you ask? I am still asking myself that very question.

Two days in Key West is like being given a glass of Dom Perignon White Gold Jeroboam and only being allowed a sip. It’s like holding an oversized triple chocolate cupcake with dark fudge frosting and being told you can only lick off the sprinkles. It’s like being given just the strap of a limited edition Louis Vuitton bag. It’s like a 20 second full body massage.

Fabulous, but not nearly enough.

However, much like Shelby Eatenton Latcherie in Steel Magnolias…… I’d rather have a weekend of wonderful than a winter full of nothing special.


We arrived in Key West on a Friday afternoon and hit the ground running pedaling. I had been deprived of the opportunity to rent a bike on my virgin trip to Key West, some 6 months earlier, and I more than made up for it this time. My bike and I were inseparable.

Remember when you were a kid and you could spend all day on your bike, cruising from sunup until sundown, until you finally heard your mom calling for you in the dim light of sunset? You had nowhere to go but just rode for the sheer joy of it? Having a bike in Key West was a lot like that.

We had no agenda, no plans, and our days were nothing more than a carefree ride from one eatery to another with a little shopping thrown in for good measure.



We arrived too late for lunch but too early for dinner – thanks to a freak storm that filled our morning departure from TN with ice and snow. We filled the gap with getting our bikes, getting our groceries, and settling into our digs for the weekend: Casa Loca.

Wow! What an awesome house this was. Not only was it simply gorgeous, it was spacious, enjoyed a super location on Petronia, and had the most amazing courtyard pool.





Matt lives for raw oysters, and he had barely been able to contain his excitement since our wheels had touched the runway, so the first order of business for the evening was to hit one of the many happy hours that include $6/dozen oysters.


Our choice for the night was Turtle Kraal because they were having turtle races! How fun is that?


Okay, really, it’s not so much fun. It sounded much better after a few “happy hour cocktails” at the house than it was in reality. Turtles don’t race well. I've seen my grandmother run faster trying to get to the early bird at O'Charley's. For several minutes, they simply refused to move. Then, mine started going backwards as another turtle crawled over his back.

Regardless, it was an excuse to have another drink and to toast my backwards turtle!

Our friend’s turtle won so he was allowed to choose a key from the super fabulous and shiny key box. This key might or might not fit the equally fabulous treasure chest which contained $200. You can probably tell by his face which way it turned out.


All was not lost, however, because Matt had his 3 dozen oysters and the rest of us ate so many happy hour munchies, that dinner was out of the question. We had a bucket of bones (great BBQ ribs), smoked fish dip, conch fritters, peel n’ eat shrimp, and wings.


That was all fine and good, though. Travel day had taken its toll and we were all ready for nothing more exciting than a good nights sleep.


There are few things I enjoy more than a good sunrise, so when I found myself awake at 5:30 a.m. I decided to jump on my bike and ride down to White St. Pier and watch the sun come up over the ocean. Matt heard me stirring around and decided to join me.

Riding down the streets of Key West in the dim half-light of the early morning is a WONDERFUL experience. The city was still asleep with the exception of a few chickens, a handful of dogs stretching lazily on the front porches of colorful conch shacks, and a couple of regulars getting their morning caffeine fix at Sandy’s. The streets were quiet and the air was cool.


Once we made it to the pier, we found ourselves in the company of a few dogs, their owners, and the bird man.


He said he tries to come feed the birds every morning. I wonder how many times he’s been pooped on?


The sunrise was a moment of awesome beauty.


As we pedaled back to Petronia, we had to stop at Croissants de France, enticed by the smell of freshly baking pastries. The pastries were still warm as we bit into the delicate, flaky crust.



The guys wanted to do some “guy stuff” so the girls spent the morning riding our bikes with no real destination in mind. We ended up near Mallory Square where we had a little too much fun with the statues, saw a very stylish pelican, and bought some great handmade sandals for $12.





Shortly after noon, we got a text from the guys to meet them at Bayview Park. It was time for the Key West Seafood Festival. Put on by the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen’s Association, it was an explosion of seafood goodness. It was an absolutely gorgeous afternoon and the park was lined with tents serving up steaming crab claws, iced shrimp, spicy chowder, and lobster dripping with melted butter.




It was hard to know where to start. I settled on a lobster platter and a heaping of Key West Pinks.



All that was left was the carnage.


We spent the afternoon doing a whole lot of nothing and it was simply fantastic.




5:00 p.m. in Key West means only one thing to my husband: raw oysters for $6, so we headed out to Half Shell so that he could do his damage.


Three dozen raw oysters later ….we met up with the rest of the group just in time for a Mallory Square sunset.


This trip was all about casual and easy, so we grabbed dinner at Amigo’s. Nothing beats tater tots and tacos.




After leaving Amigo’s, we wandered into the Smallest Bar because I had heard that you could get a drink in a pineapple and everyone knows that drinks taste better when served in a pineapple. However, instead of a pineapple drink with a colorful umbrella, someone instead handed me a shot of tequila.


My memory is sketchy on the rest of the night, but I do recall a drag queen named Porsche serenading my husband and a guy wearing nothing but a strategically placed bandana.

The morning brought another great sunrise from White Street Pier enjoyed with a hot cup of Cuban coffee from Sandy’s.



After breakfast, we rode our bikes over to Ft. Zachary. The beach here was just beautiful and we simply wandered in the sunshine and enjoyed the simple pleasure of the sand beneath our feet and the sun on our faces.







Sometime around noon, we pedaled our way over to the Southernmost Café and enjoyed the bloody mary bar.



Our friends wanted to take their dogs to Dog Beach, so we pedaled that way. When they arrived at the beach, there were several large dogs in various stages of canine ecstasy, swimming in the ocean after tennis balls, catching Frisbees, or simply rolling on their huge, wet backs in the cool sand.


Our friends looked down at Pisa and Punkin’, their dainty little Italian Greyhounds, and then looked back at the massive, wet, writhing giants on the beach and decided maybe today wasn’t their day at the beach.


For heaven's sake, those other dogs would have thought they were chew toys.


Instead we headed up the stairs to Louie’s. They told us that dogs could eat at the bar, so to the bar we went!


The view was fantastic and the hangover burger was even better.



The afternoon was spent riding the streets of Key West.





I thought about calling about this cottage, but when they said "sell or trade," I was pretty sure they wouldn't take a slightly used husband and a bottle of hot sauce for it.


We kept it tame that evening and had a simple dinner at La Trattoria.


It was our last day, so I couldn’t miss the sunrise.



I did myself proud by opting to have a giant slice of key lime pie from Blue Heaven for breakfast. Oh yes, and a beignet from Croissants de France.




It was our last morning of bike riding bliss, so we made the most of it, pedaling the streets until at last, it was time to go.






Before heading to the airport, we stopped at Peanut Butter N’ What? for a quick bite. I love sandwiches. I love peanut butter. This place had my name written all over it.


I finally settled on a Fat Elvis: peanut butter, honey, bacon, banana, shredded coconut, and cream cheese grilled until it was a mass of ooey gooey perfection.


With a bottle of milk and a game of Connect Four, my bicycle sitting outside, I felt like I was nine all over again.


As I licked the dripping, warm peanut butter from my hands, Matt reminded me that it was time to go.

It hadn’t been an exciting trip. It hadn’t been a long trip. It hadn’t been an exotic trip.

It had been a wonderful 3 days with good friends, good food, and lots of rest.

And a bike.

Really......does it get any better than that?


Posted by vicki_h 12:28 Archived in USA Tagged island tropical keys key_west duval Comments (2)

Tackling the Conch Republic in 15,000 calories or less Day 1

a.k.a., How I ate my way across Key West in 4 days.

Key West is a little jewel of an island that sits at the very end of the chain of the Florida Keys. Connected to the mainland by US Highway 1, it is the southernmost point in the United States. The closest Wal-Mart is 126 miles away and happy hour begins at 7:00 a.m. at the Schooner Wharf Bar. Key West has more churches per capita than any other place in the country, which might have something to do with the fact that it also seems to have more bars per square foot. I guess you can commit your sins on Saturday night and redeem yourself on Sunday morning. It has six toed cats and more chickens than you can shake a stick at.


It is the very definition of laid back. Dotted with conch shacks and palm trees, it has the flavor and feel of the Caribbean without ever leaving home. It's like Spring Break for adults and I was lucky enough to spend a long weekend basking it it's sunny glow.

Day One:

We flew out of Knoxville early in the morning to avoid the summer thunderstorms that are all too common in July and to get a jump start on the day. As the sun came up over the Smoky Mountains, I dozed in my seat as Matt piloted us south.


Before I knew it, the keys stretched out before me......a dotted ribbon of green in a sea of turquoise. We were here!


We landed at the tiny Key West airport, grabbed a rental car, and were on our way.

First order of business was to check into our home away from home, an adorable cottage one block off Duval Street - near the center but closer to the quiet end. The location could not have been more perfect. The house couldn't have been more perfect either. The front structure was a 1 1/2 story open structure with a large den and kitchen. Glass doors stretched all the way across the back, opening onto a middle courtyard with a pool and hot tub. Behind the pool was a separate cottage that housed 2 bedrooms and the most beautiful bougainvillea.


We dumped our stuff and hit Duval Street. I guess Duval Street is the main drag of Key West, housing most of the bars, tourist shops, and restaurants. While there is a lot to be seen off Duval Street, this was our first visit to Key West and I am not ashamed to admit that as much as we kept saying we were going to spend some time elsewhere, we ended up strolling up and down Duval about 90% of the time. It was just so darn fun, we couldn't pull ourselves away.


The length of Duval is right at a mile. If it seems longer than that, it's probably because you've had one too many mojitos down on Mallory Square. If it also seems wobbly in addition to long, you probably should have passed on that third Grainorade from the Flying Monkey.

We headed toward the Southernmost Beach Café, a short stroll down Duval from the house, so that we could grab some lunch with a view of the beach. As we strolled, we noticed a lot of southernmost things. There was Southernmost Realty followed by Southernmost Guesthouse, the Southermost monument and the Southernmost House. I am pretty sure I even saw the southernmost crumpled soda can in the street.

Of course, we had to get the tourist shot of the monument. To not take this photo would be like leaving NYC without a shot of the Empire State Building or visiting Paris without a shot of the Eiffel Tower to send to Aunt Pearl in Idaho. I think it's technically a Key West exit requirement. They make you show them this photo at the airport before they let you out.

I read somewhere that originally there was just a sign, but people kept stealing it. I don't think they have to worry about anyone stealing this. I don't know, after a few Grainorades, I might try.


Within minutes we were at the Southernmost Beach Café, staring out at the waves, and I had a Sunkiss in my hand. This might be the tastiest, and prettiest, drink I have ever had.


A lunch of smoked fish dip, coconut shrimp, and a mango bbq pulled pork sandwich was brought to us by the perkiest, smiliest, chattiest Australian waitress that made me feel like I was being served by a 20 year old Bindi Irwin on high doses of Prozac.


Lunch was a long and lazy affair. By the time we got up, we instantly started moving about 50% slower than we had when we arrived. I think Island Time had set in through a combination of intense July heat, excess food, and sunkiss overload.


That did not, however, stop us from stopping at another bar on the short 4 block stroll back to the house. Seriously, it was so hot you really needed to stop every 3-4 blocks and get another drink to cool off. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.


A 4:30 start to the day, followed by a 5 hour flight, followed by drinks and food and Australian waitresses on happy drugs, led to nappy time. We went back to the house and enjoyed the pool and air conditioning for the afternoon. Aaaahhh.......that pool was heaven.


Matt is an oyster FREAK and he wanted to make sure he didn't miss the 50 cent happy hour oysters, so we eventually pried our pruned and waterlogged bodies out of the pool and headed to Half Shell Raw Bar.


Half Shell Raw Bar was the kind of seafood shack you see next to the boat docks in most Florida towns. Nothing fancy, more likely to have newspaper than tablecloths, usually with a row of Harleys and pick up trucks lined up out front and a row of boats lined up out back, more dive than restaurant with the smell of steamed shrimp and beer wafting through the open doors.


The happy hour oysters are only available at the bar, so we saddled up and Matt ordered 3 dozen. I ordered a bucket of voodoo juice and some more coconut shrimp and conch fritters. As he slurped and sucked, I read through the 9,765 license plates they had tacked up on the wall. If you have ever had a plate stolen, stop by here. Maybe you can find it.


Happy Hour was followed by a visit to Peppers Key West. Matt and I have a true love of hot sauce. We love all things spicy. The more it burns, the better it is. This place was to us what FAO Schwartz is to a kid on December 23rd. Hot sauces of every shape, size, color, and flavor lined a 4 sided bar and all were available for tasting.

We tasted. We burned. We cried. We enjoyed.


With a bag of newly acquired superhot treasures in hand and our tongues on fire, we headed to Mr. Mojito in Mallory Square to cool the burn and watch the sunset.


That's Mr. Mojito himself, right there. I have to insert a funny story here. When I told a friend I was heading to Key West, she told me about the time she stopped at Key West on a cruise. Mind you, my friend is a sweet, quiet girl who doesn't have a lot of cocktail experience. There is a nice bar here at home that specializes in "fancy mojitos." One of their house cocktails is made with X-Rated Fusion Liquor (you know, the fancy pink stuff in the cool bottle?). They call it an X-Rated Mojito. Not realizing this was a specialty cocktail particular to one bar in one city, my friend walked up to Mr. Mojito in Mallory Square and, it being the only mojito she had familiarity with, asked him to make her an X-Rated Mojito. She said that Mr. Mojito, paused, looked at her and said, "What do you want me to do honey, take my clothes off while I make it?"


The Mallory Square sunset celebration is a fun way to watch the sun go down. Crowds were light, so it wasn't the shoulder-to-shoulder sweat-fest that I had anticipated. There were several pockets of people watching various street performers - the fire jugglers, the crazy cat guy, or my favorite, the bad banjo player whose golden retriever wore boxer shorts and walked around taking tips in his mouth and depositing them into a bucket. (Yes, I gave that dog a dollar.how could I not?). I could hear salsa music from El Meson de Pepe and the smell of fried food mingled with the salt tinged air. It was one part carnival, one part Cuban street party, and one part magical sunset. It was 999 parts fun.


We enjoyed our first Key West Sunset.


It was our first day, and we wanted to see everything at once. That translated to visiting way more bars than was practical or advisable in one night. Yes, this was after a 32 oz voodoo bucket and a sunset mojito.

We drank our way through Hogsbreath Saloon, the Smallest Bar, and Sloppy Joe's. I only know this because I had photos of them on my camera the next morning. I really liked the Smallest Bar. It was like an elevator with liquor. And better music.


We ended up at Bobalu's where there was a live band and hot pizza. I am pretty sure that Bobalu's garbage pie at 1:00 a.m. is the 8th wonder of the world.


I think I went to bed after that. I'm not really sure. Duval Street leaves things a little fuzzy....

Posted by vicki_h 06:43 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical key_west florida_keys duval Comments (1)

Tackling the Conch Republic in 15,000 calories or less Day 2

a.k.a., How I ate my way across Key West in 4 days.

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.

Posted by vicki_h 06:43 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical key_west florida_keys duval Comments (0)

Tackling the Conch Republic in 15,000 calories or less Day 3

a.k.a., How I ate my way across Key West in 4 days.

Despite the late night, I was awake at 5:30 a.m. No one else was awake, and I didn't expect them to wake for a while, so I decided to take advantage of my early morning solitude.


I grabbed my little travel buddy, Zoey, and walked her down to White Street Pier. Zoey is a great traveller and she loved Key West. It was too hot to take her out unless it was very early in the morning, because she is old and fat, but she loved it all the same. She especially loved that I kept ordering things with bacon and kept bringing the excess bacon home to her.

On a side note, while Zoey loved Key West, she did not love her very special July 4th outfit. She said it made her butt look fat.


It was at this point that I really wished that our travel companions had agreed with me to rent bikes.

It was a looooong way to that pier.

Nevertheless, Zoey and I trucked on. She needed the exercise to work off all that bacon and I was enjoying the time alone. It was a still and quiet morning. Key West was still asleep and the streets were empty with the exception of about 6 people coming out of Denny's that I am pretty sure were still up from last night.

And the guy sleeping on the steps of the Rum Bar. I wasn't sure if he just hadn't made it very far after leaving the night before or if he was trying to get any early jump on the next day's drinking.


Not only was it a long way, but my walk stumbled me right into the middle of the unofficial Higgs Beach Hobo Camp. It's what I get for not paying attention and strolling around in my own little world 99% of the time. Before I knew it, Zoey and I were standing in the middle of about 30 homeless people in various stages of waking up in one of the beach pavilions.


It really wasn't that bad. Everyone was nice to me. Everyone was nice to Zoey. They all wanted to pet her and, the creepy factor totally lost on her, she genuinely seemed to enjoy all the attention.

One guy even tried to pick me up. Although, I'm not sure how that would have worked out. Where do you go on a date when you live under a picnic table?

We made it to the pier just as the sun was peeking it's way into the hazy sky.


Zoey and I were pretty hungry now, so we headed back to Croissants de France and drooled over the bakery counter.


I couldn't make up my mind, so I ended up with a Key Lime Beignet and a Coconut Crème Croissant.



Back at the house, it was almost 8:00 a.m. and everyone else was still asleep. I ate my pastries in glorious silence, but quickly, lest anyone stumble through wiping the sleep from their eyes and, god forbid, expect me to share. As I licked the last of the powdered sugar from my lips, I heard the others finally start to rouse.

I guess they can't hold their flying monkeys like I can.

We made it a lazy morning by the pool, finally heading out around noon. We did a little shopping as we made our way over toward Blue Heaven.


Yes. I chose the most popular, crowded, well known, crowded, talked about breakfast spot for Sunday Brunch, the most popular, crowded, well known, crowded breakfast day. Did I mention crowded?

I never said I was smart.


Sure, there was a wait, but they had a breezy garden bar, Grey Goose Bloody Marys, and a little lady channeling Minnie Pearl was putting on quite a show.


Besides, I wasn't hungry yet. I was still full of pastries.

Two bloody gooses later (bloody geese just doesn't sound right, now does it?), we were seated as Oksana-the-waitress-with-the-thick-Russian-accent-who-just-happened-to-be-a-University-of-TN-Knoxville-grad told us about the specials and the brunch rooster strutted back and forth behind our table.


I settled on shrimp and grits with the homemade banana bread. Matt dove headfirst into the strawberry and blueberry pancakes. I'm not sure who won the ordering contest. Both were simply divine.

And that wasn't the bloody goose talking.


Unaware that 2 drinks along with a giant pile of food could possibly leave me inebriated, I had to throw out the white flag after brunch and go doze off my buzz. I gave. Duval Street won. I was spinning! That bloody goose will sneak up on you. Watch that one.

Sneaky goose.

Appropriately de-goosed, we later did a little more shopping and strolling. We hit Flamingo Crossing for coconut and lime ice cream.


We said "hello" to the hot dogs.


We checked out some potential new rides.


Matt dragged me a way from the bicycle full of Chihuahuas so that I wouldn't be arrested for stealing. I was pretty sure I could fit all 4 Chihuahuas inside my purse but he wouldn't let me try.


I found beautiful handmade jewelry at Besame Mucho, quite literally the best smelling store in the universe. Matt talked me out of buying a $1000 friend for Zoey at Dogs on Duval. We found cool t-shirts for Matt at Graffitti. I drooled over $178 swimsuits at Aqua.


Before we knew it, it was time for a sunset sail. Typically, I hate things like this. I am not one for crowds, tourist attractions, or booze cruises. However, we were traveling with friends and pretty much planned this trip around their tastes and things we thought they would like. So, I lined up with 122 sweaty people in Key West tank tops and sun visors and boarded the Fury Catamaran. Yes, I know. I sound like a booze cruise snob, and I guess until last week, that's exactly what I was.

Who knew I had been turning my nose up at such a super fun time?

I owe every wife-beater wearing, flip flop flopping, booze cruise loving tourist an apology.



I loved the live band. I loved the never ending plastic glasses of cheap champagne. I loved waving at the folks on Mallory Square as we sailed by. I loved lining up at the edge of the boat with 122 other people to take a picture of the sunset.

Call me a convert. I had a great time.

It might have had something to do with the fact that there was a freakishly beautiful sunset that night.

Nope. These colors have not been digitally altered.


It was almost 9:00 by the time we got off the boat with the other 122 people and we were HUNGRY.

We made our way down to Amigo's for some frozen margaritas and square tacos.


Amigo's has cool bar seating facing the street, so there is live entertainment no matter when you go. Amigo's also has an extensive collection of unique hot sauces categorized by heat. I particularly liked how the hotter the sauce, the raunchier the name. A mild sauce, for example, would be Melinda's Mango. Isn't that sweet? A medium sauce? How about Rectal Rocket Fuel. A hot sauce? Why, that would be See Dick Burn or Bubba's Butt Blaster.


I ordered a frozen margarita and the waitress upsized me to the "Big Guy." I only got 2/3 of the way through that monster before I was toast. TOAST.

This was the first time in my life I was full on drunk twice in one day.

I am so ashamed.
(not really, but my mom is reading this)


The food at Amigo's was my husband's favorite of the trip. And he is the seafood fanatic of the family. Their shredded beef and slow roasted pork carnitas were pretty fine.


I think I managed to stumble my way back to the house. I have a vague memory of going to bed with my stomach on FIRE. But I liked the burn. Mmmmmm..Amigo's. I love you.

Posted by vicki_h 06:42 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical key_west florida_keys duval Comments (0)

Tackling the Conch Republic in 15,000 calories or less Day 4

a.k.a., How I ate my way across Key West in 4 days.

We woke to another beautiful day in Key West.


Breakfast was at Pepe's, which doesn't look like much from the outside.


The inside, however, is freakin' adorable. A rustic old interior with lots of artwork and polished wood opens to a great garden patio with a nice bar. The food is also pretty great. I wanted the french toast with blueberries, strawberries, and coconut, but my stomach was suffering from Rectal Rocketfuel Afterburn, so I took it easy.


Because our snorkel trip to Looe Key had been snatched from us so harshly, we decided to make a second attempt. Besides, I was now a superfan of the Fury Catamaran. How could I not go again?


We did an early morning snorkel trip that included 2 stops. We wanted to snorkel because we have done a great deal of snorkeling and diving throughout the Caribbean and we love it. We'd heard the snorkeling in the Keys was great. We didn't want to miss it.

I'll be frank. I don't want to discourage anyone that wants to snorkel in Key West, but I wish I had passed. It was okay, but on a scale of one to 10, I'd give it about a 3. Maybe we just went on a bad day. Maybe our boat went to a lousy location. Maybe I am just trying to compare it to some of the really phenomenal places I have seen.

But it was just....meh.


We'd passed by Bo's Fish Wagon on the way to the boat, so we stopped in for lunch on the way back.


I really liked Bo's. It's the kind of place that your mom wouldn't let you eat in when you were a kid because she was certain no one washed their hands. It's the kind of place you feel like you need a tetanus shot before entering and that seems impossibly held together by rope, old signs, and spit. The wine cooler is a large, gray, plastic garbage can and none of the tables or chairs match.


The food is good too and the portions are large. I had the Famous Fried Grouper Sandwich with hand cut fries.


I liked the atmosphere. I liked the décor. I liked the food. The only complaint I have is the price. Four of us ate here and we each got a sandwich, we split 2 orders of fries, and we each got a soda. It was $80. Even though the food was good, $80 is a big much for 4 sandwiches, 4 cokes, and 2 fries.

Oh well. Maybe Bo is saving up for a new wine cooler.


I grabbed a frozen chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick from Kermit's before heading back to the house because..well..because everyone told me I had to.


Yes, it was good, but I like plain old key lime pie on a plate better.

We enjoyed some downtime, nap time, and pool time and it was time to hit the streets again.

Just one block over from our house was the 801 Bourbon Bar. Yeah, I know it's a drag bar. That was obvious by the giant color "DRAG SHOW" sign on the door and the neon circus sign that stretched the entire length of the bar that said, "Dragasylum."


But it had a sand floor.

How could we not go in?


We each grabbed a vinyl bar stool depicting a different drag queen, toes in the sand, and the bartender sauntered over and asked what we'd like.


I asked him what the best thing they had was.

"You mean other than me?" he responded as he proceeded to pour us all a tall glass of frozen red something something with a heavy poured dark rum floater.


The drink. Not the bartender.


My only regret here was that I didn't make it for Sunday night Drag Queen Bingo.

There is always a next time, right?


We had dinner at Salute on the Beach. What a cute little place was this????


We sat out back, overlooking the beach. Brightly colored tables greeted us along with the incredible smells of garlic and sea breeze.

We all thought it was some of the best pasta we'd ever had. I spent 10 days in Italy and I don't remember anything tasting better.




They also had a key lime pie that was out of this world.


You didn't think I was going to leave Key West without a piece of pie, now did you?

We had to leave early the next morning, so we spent a relatively tame night enjoying the sunset, grabbing a cocktail or two along Duval Street, talking our friends out of buying a $595 hammock, and just enjoying our last night.


We woke early the next morning to head out. It seemed like we had just gotten here and it was already time to leave.

We had to head out early to beat the summer weather, but I didn't mind. As I looked down at Key West, an ever fading dot on the horizon, I knew I'd be back. There were too many things I missed: renting bikes, drag queen bingo, getting to see the crazy cat man at Mallory Square, salsa dancing at El Meson de Pepe, a meal at El Siboney, getting off Duval Street and seeing some of the other sites, sunset cocktails at Louie's Afterdeck, the french toast at Pepe's, seeing the Ernest Hemingway Home and catching a glimpse of a six toed cat, Schooner Wharf Bar for a 7 a.m. happy hour, the 6 p.m. turtle race at Turtle Kraals, or having some Cuban toast with my café con leche.


There were also things that I know I have to experience again: a cheap glass of champagne on a crowded catamaran while watching a fiery Key West sunset, Key West pink shrimp, an Amigo's square taco with shredded beef, more than one piece of key lime pie, a garbage pie at Bobalu's or spaghetti at Salute, and a sniff inside Besame Mucho.


Key West was unique. It was a place all its own. It's like someone took an island in the Caribbean and mixed it with a coastal Florida town; tossed in a little dash of Havana, Cuba; sprinkled it with some Bourbon Street; added a cup of sand, palm trees, and seawater; then dumped in some Tennessee Valley Fair, Ringling Brothers Circus, and Vaudeville; blended well, and poured it into a tall, frosty glass.


I think one day I'll take another sip.


Posted by vicki_h 06:41 Archived in USA Tagged beach island tropical key_west florida_keys duval Comments (1)

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