Recently, my girlfriend and I had been lucky enough to slip away for a week-long getaway to the Florida Keys, specifically Key West.
I’ll get to the food (I promise) but one quick warning, Key West’s airport is notorious for having one of the shortest airport runways. As our 737 had a bouncy landing (yes, bounced on the runway) and screeched to a halt, I am a believer. Just a little warning for the rest of you.
Like the overcompulsive Virgo that I am, I had done my research and pre-planned our happy hours, dinners, the “best of’s”, and other normal activities that didn’t involve eating. Of course, my list of restaurants outnumbered touristy activities.
I hit almost everything on my list. Towards the middle of the week, I was getting bored and idle with all the American fare, pink key west shrimp, and jerk chicken I’d see listed over and over on the menu. Through your typical vacation fare, a few dishes and restaurants stood out…
Santiago’s Bogeda- a sexy little tapas place tucked away from Duval street (think drunk vacationers stumbling down the streets with yardstick drinks clutched in their hand). My girlfriend and I ordered white sangria, spanakopita ($8), bruschetta ($7), and beef tenderloin topped with blue cheese butter ($13). We topped dinner with a flaky warm croissant bread pudding with custard ice cream and berries…perfection. The food was great and was a great escape from the redundant food offerings from other KW restaurants.
Better Than Sex- No, this isn’t a typo, it’s a legit KW restaurant. Actually, a dessert only restaurant. Ok, it’s a freaking tourist trap that I (willingly) gave in to, but, didn’t walk away disappointed. Better Than Sex is located in a dark little red building. When you walk in, you’re given a handheld flashlight and shown to your seat. The menu is read in the dark (see where the flashlight comes in use?) and the descriptions of the dessert are, well…sexual. You can’t help but smile (or silently chuckle) at the oversexualized descriptions of the dishes. My girl and I were surprised and eager to try their chocolate rimmed cocktails, this included beer. We were in heaven. My lady chose a blueberry wheat beer with a white chocolate rimmed glass and I ordered a vanilla stout with dark chocolate rim. Ugh, delicious. After a few sips, we both wondered why we hadn’t experienced this before. An idea that I’d be thrilled to see a Richmond bar or restaurant adopt. The desserts were good, not brilliant, but noteworthy. I went with the red velvet cheesecake or as this place put it, “Between My Red Velvet Sheets” cheesecake ($12.69). Red velvet sheets…ouch. My lady chose her tried and true dessert go-to, a brownie. Oh, but not any brownie, the “Jungle Fever” brownie ($11.69). I’ve got to reference the description of this one… “Smooth. Soft. Supple. A warm chocolate brownie body oozing a dark pudding. Rubbing up against cool white vanilla bean balls.” And scene.
Garbo’s Grill- I was overjoyed yet slightly pissed that we found this place on the last day of our vacation. Garbo’s Grill is a little food cart off Duval Street; still within the tourist-y area so you’re sure to get your kicks from people watching. Reading the short and simple menu was refreshing. I happily settled on the Korean BBQ tacos ($8) with marinated beef short rib, veggies (cabbage, scallion, carrots) and citrus soy dressing. It was flavorful and amazing, I’m still craving these now. My girlfriend went a little island-y and chose the mango, brie, and jerk chicken quesadillas ($9). It was out of this world. I was stunned that food this fresh and exceptional is cooked in a 3ft by 4 ft food cart. It’s brilliant and the people running this joint know just what they’re doing (and I might add, look good doing it). Right next to the cart is a local cool dude that cuts the tops off coconuts and sells them to thirsty passerbys. He’s one of those free spirit, humble island hipsters that forces thoughts of quitting your job, shipping your stuff to the island, and make your vacation spot a permanent home.
The last night we ventured out to the west part of the island to check out Sunset Celebration. It’s chalk full of vendors, carnival-like acts, homeless people, and tacky tourists all gathered together to watch the sun set. My lady and I were jonesing for a cocktail so we stopped at a fancy schmancy beverage cart (Westin Hotel owned, of course). I grabbed a mojito and my girlfriend settled on a Green Thing, A name that a 4th grader would call a booger, I know. I assure you it’s one of the best damn frozen drinks you’ll ever have. My mojito was amazing (the best I’ve had) but her Green Thing was the winner. It’s a handcrafted cocktail created in Key West and sold only at this Westin Resort. I did a little research when I returned home. I was surprised that sipping on this drink topped tons of “what to do when you’re in Key West” lists. How did I miss this? And how did we discover this on the last night? Well, at 8 bucks a pop, we’d be broke if we’d discovered these the first day.
To be a cool gal, I’ve found the recipe for the Green Thing. Check it out…
1 1/2 oz. Bacardi Limon
2 oz. KeKe Beach Liquer (I had to order mine online, boo)
Dash of Rose’s lime juice
2 oz. Kiwi Passion Fruit juice (still not sure where to get this)
Cup of ice
Pour ingredients in blender. You know what to do from here
So there it is, my Key West food exploration report. You may be asking, why is Richmond food blogger going talk about KW restaurants?
Number one: because I can.
Number two: Everyone deserves a vacation. The plane ticket to KW is cheap, it’s tropical and laid back, and it’s an island within the U.S. (no customs, baby).