by Doug Heyman - Key West, Florida
*Okay then. I have the best friends in the known universe here in Key West and, for the most part, I can take their advise on a wide variety of things where their individual expertise lies. My special friend and I eat out a lot and she loves spicy foods. I love them too but they tend to bight back later in the day if you catch my drift. I have the day off and want to do breakfast so I call her up expecting that we will go to Diner Shores, Dennis’ Pharmacy, Pepe’s, Camille’s or some place that we can have your typical traditional style American breakfast. I’m getting ready to turn onto South Street in the general direction of these fine establishments when the words “huevo rancheros” comes out from her mouth. That can only mean heading off “The Rock” (aka Key West) and crossing the Cow Key Channel Bridge to Chico’s Cantina on Stock Island for a Mexican breakfast. I’ve only attempting this feat once before in Massachusetts back in the late 70’s and had acid reflux for the next 2 days, but the meal was terrif! So it was this morning, but I had no warning and didn’t take my Zantac beforehand so the sweat you sense coming off my brow as I write this is the end result. I think we need to realize that countries other then the US have breakfast too and a sample of that fare every so often can be good for the spirit. If we had more ethnic restaurants in Key West I would encourage them to open say at 10 or 11 am for a late breakfast or early lunch so we could sample their specialties. I’d love to know what Poles, Russians, French, German and others eat before 12 noon every day. I work at two B&B’s here and my European guests seem to go for a granola cereal and multi-grain toast from the samplings of our daily continental breakfast buffet table. If anyone is a transplant to the US from another country and wants to share their favorite ethnic breakfast menu please let me know. I’d love to hear your take on the AM meal.
*I’m going to off the food track here for a minute though this subject does affect my eating habits. Key West is situated at the Southernmost point in the Continental U.S., and is famous for having one of the most beautiful 157 mile stretches of roadway views in the world to get here from the mainland. I hate driving on the mainland, especially Miami, but I never tire of getting there by car when the weather is nice and I can soak up the blue/green waters with the Atlantic Ocean to one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.
There are 2 times each year when I wish the State of Florida would just close the road altogether and that’s right after Daytona Bike Week and in September when the event known as “Poker Run” takes place. I love the motorcycle drivers and they are welcome to fly down, but close that road so they keep those God-awful noise machines (straight piped Harley Davidson’s) out of our small town. When these devilish machines hit the small streets of our island they scare babies, set off car alarms, wake people up from sleep and make stomachs turn upside down (the food angle here). I don’t eat all day at work as a rule, but especially when the cracking of engines permeate Duval Street, and when I take dinner I try to go off the island to Babalu’s at the 10 mile marker, No Name at the 28 mile marker or Sugarloaf Lodge at the 17 mile marker. Anywhere but Key West and this is my home. It’s time for the KWPD to start writing tickets like they are doing in South Beach, Miami and other cities to at least discourage the practice of revving engines that wake the dead. I couldn’t even hear the sermon at church this week for the din outside on Truman Avenue. We love you bikers, but keep the stomach churning machines at mile marker 157!
*I’m fixated with squid salad these days. I love the stuff and there are two places in town that make it so well I can’t decide who does it the best. I can’t place the decision squarely on price because the delicacy is just plain off the charts expensive, so I get it a little at a time though left to my own devices I could eat a pound of it in one sitting. The Mayor of our good city owns a grocery market called Fausto’s, of which there are two locations, on White Street and Fleming St., and I honestly enjoy shopping there. He’s got the places stocked with some of the best foods, deli specialties and meats I’ve seen even in fine stores up north, but in that little case in the back of the store lies that magnificent delight; the squid salad. It’s not as spicy as the competitor’s, and in fact, I’d say it’s sweeter, but what a combination of flavors. It might even make me vote for him again in the next election. Since it’s $11.00 a pound our good Mayor won’t have much to add to his war chest to reacquire his seat to head up the City Council! On the other side of the island at the old seaport stands the Waterfront Market. It has just the one location and boasts a juice bar and wharf view, but hop inside to the deli and order a sandwich and a slightly less expensive version of the squid salad and you won’t be disappointed. Just be aware that the peppers within will kick your butt if you’re not used to it. Take an acid reducer and go for it.
*We’d like to welcome our Spring Breakers to Key West this month, and we hope you enjoy the restaurants and entertainment. If you spend your parents’ money wisely you’ll drink less and use that money to sample our excellent restaurants and tip the servers generously. Yeah, right! I can wake up from my dream now. Mom and Dad pay for the hotel stay in advance and the young revelers use the traveler’s checks to consume alcohol directly from liquor stores (God forbid they should go into the bars and have to tip the bartender) until they run out of money. They eat at our finest fast food establishments like Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and the like and then somehow manage to get home or back to school. Ahh, but there’s something that has reappeared on the streets of the southernmost city that has been dormant for a while; the Key West police department, in collaboration with the city courthouse, has reopened its “Spring Breakers night court.” I’ve been informed that this was something that existed some time ago and is now reactivated. It was in the Key West Citizen paper today (3/11/05), so if you’re not of age to drink then be prepared to make an important choice when you stand before the judge at 2 am. Will you pay the $250.00 fine or don an orange Monroe County Detention Center shirt and clean our streets for the next 24 hours. Don’t try to compete with well-seasoned veteran consumers of adult beverages here in Key West because you’ll lose your shirt. This is a drinking man’s town and you don’t have a chance if you are a weekend warrior in the imbibing department. I’d rather you read this web site and research some of the wonderful places to eat, lay out on the beach or by the hotel pool, shop at some of the nicer stores and drink iced specialties from Planet Smoothie or virgin smoothies from the bar. I’m 50 years old and am not embarrassed to order virgin drinks when I’m not in the mood for alcohol. You’ll have a nicer time and you’ll come out of the experience with your dignity and self-respect still in tact. Come on down and have a good time. Just do it classy!
Live life to your potential and remember if you don’t have patience you’ll become one… a patient that is!
See you at dinner in Key West,
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