Last February I was watching the world stroll by the porch where we were hanging out and sipping beer in the sunshine. I have been thinking about how I wanted to write about the places that the Band Wives (and husbands) visited in Key West last winter, then I crunched the numbers and realized we frequented 22 different restaurants and bars! How to get this down to a manageable number…to make it an even dozen, I’ve decided to leave the Hemingway bars Sloppy Joe’s and Capt Tony’s for a separate read. So here are 12 of the most fun places, all located in sunny Key West!
We started at the Grand Vin Wine Bar, the wives lured in by the chalkboard sign out front that said, “Free Wine Tasting!” The guys and I scrounged a couple of beers from a cooler in the back while the wives lined the bar. We got our drinks and headed out to the porch and the sunshine. A photo op led us to meet Liz and Dave (on the left), there on Key West for a long weekend from Indiana. She heard someone yell, “Troublemaker!” (it could have been meant for any one of us} and then offered to take a pic. They joined us for a drink and we became fast friends, joining in when the partiers on a balcony across the street started a yelling war, in which of course we participated. When it was time to get some dinner, Liz and Dave recommended The Salty Angler. We were charmed by the fish tacos and live music. It didn’t take long for the dancing to start when we heard Warren Zevon’s Lawyers, Guns, and Money, one of Bridgette’s faves.
After dinner we scouted around Duval Street and happened upon Better Than Sex. We were full from dinner but there were a couple of tables available at this dessert bar (without any reservations, which is rare.) While most of my friends got something big and chocolately, I got an apple crisp dessert full of caramel that was amazing! Delicious desserts that we had no business trying to eat so soon after dinner, they could have been a wholemeal in themselves. The decor was also dark, rich, and decadent, with gorgeous drapes and tapestries, private booths and chairs you can sin
The next morning, the guys and I wandered up and down Duval Street to get an early morning cup of coffee. We walked past quite a few closed shops and bars and were about ready to give up when we got to a Starbuck’s. We were not going to jump on the corporate bandwagon, we wanted something local. We found a guy riding his bike and he looked like he belonged, so we asked and he told us about the Cuban Coffee Queen, which became our coffee spot for the rest of our visit. I tried real cuban coffee (but got a Gringo for Tonia)
It was time for brunch. Most of the restaurants had greeters standing outside trying to lure people in with the great drink specials (buy one get one free!!), but we settled on the place we had walked by the night before, The Ocean Grill and Bar. Strawberry margaritas and lobster omelets. With grits. Real ones. We were all so giddy with the sunshine and strawberry margaritas and the amazing food and the company.
One of the beautiful things about where we were staying was that really just about everywhere we wanted to go was within walking distance. We heard about a great bar called The Green Parrot, where the band playing later that night was doing a 5 pm sound check. We met up with two more friends from upstate NY who had arrived earlier that day and we set out to get our groove on. We ran into Liz and Dave again. They had told us about this place the night before and we were supposed to meet up with them, but after our Better Thank Sex, we were just too tired from all our traveling to meet up.
After listening to the jamming for a while, we conferred with our locals Carolyn and Joanie to figure out where we could go and eat, all 11 of us, without any reservations, and somehow we wound up in a parking lot of a bar where a food truck was parked. At Garbo’s Grill they serve Korean BBQ in an Airstream, and there was quite a line. It reminded me of the soup nazi bit from Seinfeld. You stepped up to the window, told them your order, paid, then stepped aside while someone put it together for you, then you got your drink from a cooler and tried to find a place to sit. Here’s a picture of the entire group of us, our friends Kathie and Larry arrived earlier that day, and our tour guides Joanie and Carolyn.
We did end up stealing someone’s table while they were off smoking, but they were good matured about it and let us stay. I secured the table while everyone went and ordered, then I got in line, where I chatted with the people behind me in the line, who had also been there the night before. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but with so many amazing places to eat, how could you go there twice? We definitely wanted more, so when we got home Bridgette replicated the recipe.
The next day we ferried out to the Dry Tortugas and we sunned and explored and snorkeled. We arrived back on Key West just in time for the sunset at Mallory Square with music and entertainers, and once again it was dinnertime and we were trying to find somewhere to eat with 9 people and no reservations. Fortunately for us, it was Superbowl Sunday. Even though we had plans at Carolyn’s bar for the game, we wanted to eat first and we found a Cuban restaurant right off Mallory Square that could seat us right away, El Meson de Pepe. There was an extensive menu but anyone who knows me can tell you I am not adventurous with my food choices, so I just got tacos, but I did try the Cuban beer. I was able to keep up with the game by sneaking into the bar.
Seriously, none of us follow football, so we forgot it was the big game that night. And although The Bottlecap is not usually a sports bar, Carolyn put on a great party and it was so much fun to watch there. I got there during the half time show and I am not embarrassed to admit that I love Lady Gaga. And not just because her name is Joanne (my middle name), but because she is absolutely amazing! And my 15 year old nephew said it best when he said that he had no idea she had so many hit songs! We missed the first half when Atlanta played their hearts out and amassed a giant lead, so imagine how surprised we were when the Pats caught up and then won in OT! Astounded! But still even more surprising was that we were watching the game outside in the open air in February!
Sunny Monday morning, another brunch choice to make, also known as where we wanted to have our first drink, lol. We ventured over to The Banana Cafe, a cute French Bistro, and headed up a windy narrow staircase. I had my first Bellini (mimosa with peach nectar). Breakfast was delicious and filling and fun and stoked us up for our walk to our tourist destinations for the day, including the Little White House and The Hemingway House, details of which will be another post entirely.
Our final meal altogether was down at the end of Duval Street, the Southernmost Beach Cafe. Once again there was an extensive menu and great drink options. I celebrated Hemingway by having a rum runner. Afterwards we walked on the beach and then headed out to the Southernmost Point, for more photo ops.
On the last day, I was leaving earlier than all the others because I was heading off to St Augustine to spend a couple of days with my aunt and uncle, so while everyone was packing and talking about lunch I needed an epic breakfast place. Joanie and Chad suggested the perfect place, Blue Heaven. So Chick and I and my coffee buddies John and Bryan headed off to meet Joanie and Chad for an experience. Trademark loose chickens running around, live music, outdoor seating and relaxed atmosphere…it was the perfect sendoff.
We packed so much into our 5 days and there is more to tell, so stay tuned as new chapters are being finalized. We really ARE so much fun!