Let’s ignore the fact that it’s been more than a month since the wife and I returned from the Florida Keys. When I look at these pictures, I’m already back there.
We had a ton of great food during our time on the islands and as you might expect, most of it was happily swimming along less than 24 hours previous.
The Island Fish Company
Just down the street from our vacation rental was an awesome little place unimaginatively named the Island Fish Co. We were treated to a great little table on the water (bayside) and basked in the quintessential Keys meal.
I had one of the specials: freshly caught hogfish with tomato, asparagus and a tangy bechamel sauce (pictured above). Even more delicious was my wife’s fish-of-the-day choice: simply prepared grilled mako shark (to your right).
Both came with yellow rice and mixed veggies. Both were perfectly prepared. And both were so tasty that I forgot to mention our appetizer: crab cakes.
While I didn’t get a good picture of them, I can still remember every moist, flavorful morsel. You’d think I’d never had a good crab cake before. And I would probably admit you’re right.
I don’t count myself as a crab cake connoisseur, mostly because I’ve had some dry, tasteless cakes in my time. But this one appetizer saved the whole dish for me. I will be having crab cakes again, but only near a coast.
Southernmost Beach Cafe
A few days later, we found ourselves in the land of beach bums, wild roosters and drunk tourists: Key West.
Right next to the Southernmost House (where we met up with friends and lounged by the pool for a day – highly recommended), is the Southernmost Hotel. And part of the Southernmost Hotel is the Southernmost Beach Cafe.
There’s nothing like a fresh fish sandwich. And when you’re in the Keys in the spring and summer, there’s a good chance that the fish in the middle is mahi (a.k.a. mahi-mahi and dolphin).
The Cafe grilled the fish simply, slapped it down on a fresh bun slathered with a mayo-based pink spread, and added some perfectly crisp fries. You can’t get much better than that.
Among the ingredients in attendance were apples, grapes, croutons, a tangy vinaigrette and plenty of lightly fried mahi goodness. It was one of the few lunches where we were simultaneously satisfied by our own food and jealous of each other’s.
Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Restaurant and Brewery
Maybe it was post-sunset ennui or the less-than-diligent service. Or maybe it was just too difficult to follow the perfect lunch. Whatever this issue, Kelly’s Caribbean just didn’t strike the right chord.
One excuse I can’t use was the “dining room.” Set among beautiful flora and fauna, the outdoor garden dining area was an amazing way to eat al fresco.
We started with shrimp cocktail, mostly as an excuse to try the famously well-advertised Key West “pinks.” They certainly were enormous, but unfortunately, fairly tasteless. They were also too chewy, leaving my wife to deny her third shrimp. Not a great sign.
To combat fish fatigue, I went with jerk chicken (darkly photographed below). Although it came with a tasty mango chunk sauce, the dish was only decent. My wife also ordered a chicken dish, although I can’t remember a thing about it. Also not a great sign.
The food may have been forgettable, but the interminable wait for the check (after only one cup of coffee and one slice of key lime pie) was the stuff of legend. We beat a hasty exit shortly after finding the waitress gabbing it up on a cell phone near the kitchen.
We were done with Key West. And it, apparently, was done with us.