Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Florida Keys for a Getaway

August 4th, 2008 · No Comments

Just another sunset

Just another Keys sunset

Last month I did a Keys getaway to decompress a little, after hearing that The Palm Beach Post would be cutting about 40 percent of its newsroom staff. It’s not my favorite spot to be in the dead of summer — it’s hot all year long, but in the summer, nearly unbearable.

We got off to a late start from West Palm; otherwise, we would have lunched at Robbie’s Marina (MM 77.5 on the Overseas Highway) —  a burger or fish sandwich is best bet here, then go feed the tarpons out back. It’s a trip, for flatlanders especially, so take your tourist family to see this. Instead, we ate at the Keys Fisheries in Marathon (home of the lobster Reuben). The quirky team at the order counter comes up with nutty themes each day to name each customer. You might be asked for your favorite TV show, or the name of a reef fish, or your favorite band. Careful what you choose, as the result is loudly broadcast over their speaker system to claim your order. If you’re a cook (or lousy fisherman), you can buy your catch of the day from their fish market.

My cousins had hauled in a boatload of yellowtail snapper the day before, so the chef at the tiki bar at the Hammocks Resort in Marathon grilled them for our dinner — perfectly. He added a salad and served slaw or fries as sides. For around $10 a person this was a great deal (Thanks, Mike and Keith!).

(Tip: Most restaurants in the Keys will be glad to cook your catch for you; you’ll pay for sides and maybe pay a nominal extra bit if you make them clean the fish. If you have a lot and want to share some with the kitchen staff, they might shave a few bucks off for your generosity.)

My cousins book annually at the Hammocks Resort (it’s part of the BlueGreen group of timeshares and the suites are reasonable at a timeshare price). Nice, helpful folks who know all the ins and outs of the Keys staff the place.

We did the de rigeur trip to Key West — even though we know better than to try to stay outdoors in that blazing July sun. We stopped in for AC and appetizers at Pepe’s on Caroline St. at the wharf; too bad we weren’t there for their great breakfasts. Best bloody Mary in the state! A delicious margarita, too (they squeeze all fresh juices for their drinks) and it’s off the Duval madness trek –another plus. My favorite part is their motto, printed on their mug I drink from daily: “A pretty good place for quite a long while.” It was founded in 1909.

On the trip home, we stopped at the Island Grill in Islamorada (MM85.5) for dinner. They’ve gone a bit more upscale than when we were there before, but it was still fine eating. The housemade chips appetizer with blue cheese and balsamic vinegar drizzle was primo. Live musician was a kick (they have entertainment nightly. We’ve had their fish tacos – best we know of in that area. (Though they’re not quite as good as the huge ones at the Tiki Waterfront Seagrill at the Riviera Beach Marina, in our humble opinion.)

We hate the drive home, since we always stay to see one last sunset. That puts us back in the driveway sometime around midnight.

Tags: Off Road

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