As the holidays approach at warp speed, we’re starting to hang icicles and colored lights in our palm trees and across our houses. Soon the Key West neighborhoods will look like a winter wonderland — without the snow!Since many of you may be heading this way during the festive season, this week I’d like to stimulate your appetites with a tour of some of my favorite Key West eateries
Mornings are always a treat with a variety of Keys twists on the breakfast experience — like the wide choice of Eggs Benedict served at Blue Heaven in the heart of Bahama Village. Choose from ham, vegetable, filet mignon, or their special lobster benedict. Add a slice of warm homemade banana bread, and you have a feast! Blue Heaven’s dining is outdoors with live music, wandering hens and “gypsy” roosters running around the courtyard. Their own Bloody Mary will kick-start your day.
If you’re longing for French cuisine, check out La Creperie just across the street from Blue Heaven. Serving savory and sweet crepes, this café will tantalize your senses with the aroma of strong French coffee, sizzling butter, and a mixture of accents from around the world. I find it hard to pass up their Croque Madame followed by a “Red Velvet” sweet crepe. Other favorite French cafés are Banana Café and Croissants de France, both located on Duval Street.
If I sleep in and feel “brunchie,” you’ll often find me at Harpoon Harry’s. This true 1950’s diner is located across from the Historic Seaport on Caroline Street, and owners Robert and Ron will greet you and offer you a “Bloody Harry.” In their diner you can try fish tacos, Blue Plate specials or half-pound burgers. You’ll dine with colorful local fishermen, politicians and pundits, drag queens and tourists.
If a quieter spot suits you better for brunch, try owner/chef Drew Wenzel’s Azur Restaurant. Azur offers al fresco lunch by a waterfall, or an intimate moment in their dining room surrounded by the works of local artists.
Around midday, stop by Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe on the corner of Elizabeth and Greene Streets. Pieman Kermit can be seen in the street offering a Key lime pie to the riders of our local trolleys as they make the turn beside his emporium. Kermit has been featured on the “Today Show” and the Food Network, decked out in his chef’s jacket and Key lime green chef’s hat. (For a real treat, try his frozen chocolate-dipped Key lime pie on a stick!)
Key lime pie guru Kermit Carpenter doesn't really throw pies at visitors -- or does he?
Time for dinner? Discover El Siboney for an authentic Cuban meal where fresh pork, seafood, and chicken are cooked with olive oil, garlic, and secret spices. In true Cuban fashion, the meals are accompanied by black beans, yellow rice, and fried plantains. If you favor fresh seafood Paella Valenciana, call in advance and bring a couple of friends — I don’t think I’ve ever seen as large a dish of paella served anywhere.
A hidden treasure and favorite of mine is the Flaming Buoy Filet Company. Owners Fred Isch and Scot Forste are outrageously entertaining and their dinners are over the top. Steak with blue cheese sauce, black grouper, and scallops wrapped in bacon will tickle your palate. Their lip-smacking lobster mac & cheese is beyond amazing.
When it’s time for dessert, stop in to Flamingo Crossing. For many years this ice cream parlor has churned flavors that include mango, Cuban coffee, guava and passion fruit gelatos. Try the guanabana (soursop) for an interestingly unique Key West flavor. The place offers front-row seats on a busy Duval Street corner, where you’ll suddenly find you have become a part of the colorful fabric that makes up our community. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Till next time … bon appetit!
Steve Smith can be found at KeysVoices.com.