Key West, FL – Part 1

April 20, 2012 by Angie

Key West Part 1: Restaurants and Bars

We went to Key West, FL this past weekend for our First Wedding Anniversary.  Happy Anniversary to us!

We had so much fun!  Neither of us have been to Key West since we were kids.  It’s a totally different experience when you’re of drinking age!  We did a lot of walking and sightseeing in this tropical paradise.  We also did a lot of eating and drinking.  Here’s a rundown of all the restaurants and bars we enjoyed (and didn’t) in Key West.

When we arrived in Key West we dropped our bags off at our hotel’s office and walked down Duval Street looking for a suitable place to enjoy a tropical drink.  We stopped at a restaurant called Grand with a nice, big porch.

Mmm, strawberry daiquiri and a glass of 12 year old Glenfiddich.

After that, we got some lunch at The Cafe on Southard Street.  This place is amazing!  It’s so good that we came back again on the last day of our trip.  It’s a mostly vegetarian place with very nice, knowledgeable staff.

The Cafe

We ordered the BBQ Un-Wing Dings both times.  So good!  The sauce is a spicy sweet Thai chili kind of BBQ sauce.  I will spend the rest of my life trying to recreate that.

BBQ Un-Wing Dings

On our first visit I got the falafel pita and Cute Husband got a mozzarella and pesto sandwich. The second time we split a house-made veggie burger with smoked gouda and sweet potato fries.  It’s in the top five veggie burgers I’ve ever eaten.  They even have wine and a good beer selection!  We can’t recommend this place enough.

Robbie enjoying a Harpoon Leviathan Imperial IPA on draft.

On our first night in town we did our own Off-Duval Crawl.  The first stop was Finnegan’s Wake.  Finnegan’s Wake is our favorite bar in Key West.  We drank and ate there three times. It’s a dimly-lit Irish bar and restaurant. It’s away from Duval Street so it seemed to attract more locals than tourists.  They have an awesome separate vegetarian menu.  On our first visit we ate the colcannonballs appetizer – awesome!  The second time we split a very cheesy eggplant dish – also awesome!  And on our last visit just before getting on the ferry to go back home we had the “supernatural” wrap with a side of soy sauce baked edamame. Everything was really tasty.  The drinks were good too.  The waitresses are very nice and know the menu well. They have a good jukebox which Robbie loaded up with weird songs prompting the owner to come chat with us.  He’s a good guy and even gave us the locals discount!

Our next stop was the Rum Barrel not far from Finnegan’s Wake.  It’s a pretty typical Florida place.  The building is newer and they have a nice rooftop bar.  There was a band playing covers (meh) on the quarter deck but we were already pretty drunk and happy to play Photo Hunt at the bar so the bad music didn’t bother us.

The next day when we were down by the docks to go on our snorkeling excursion (more about that in Key West Part 2) we stopped at Turtle Kraals.  It’s another typical Florida style restaurant/bar but boasts a nice oceanfront location, a full bar, and a good selection of beers on draft.  There weren’t many vegetarian food options there though.

Cool sign outside of Turtle Kraals

Sloppy Joe’s Bar and the attached Joe’s Tap Room are definitely worth a visit.  The main bar, Sloppy Joe’s, was a little on the crowded and crazy side for us.  There was someone playing piano in there every time we walked by and that combined with the crowd of people made it just too loud.  We each had one drink and were not treated very well by the bartender but the bar itself is neat.

Inside at Sloppy Joe’s

We stopped in next door at the affiliated Joe’s Tap Room twice.  It’s another Key West favorite for us.  The bartender was very friendly and pulled up a chair on the porch to chat with us on our second trip there.  Robbie was impressed with the beers on tap and I enjoyed their lovely (and quite strong) signature drink, the Sloppy Rita.

Sloppy Rita at Joe’s Tap Room

On our last day in town we visited the Green Parrot Bar.  It was near our hotel so we walked by many times but it was always packed and a little on the rowdy side.  On a Tuesday morning it was finally our speed.  It’s a cute, kitschy, older place.  The bartender was great and attentive. We had a good time talking with her.  We definitely recommend this bar when it’s slower.

Tasty drinks at the Green Parrot

And the last bar I’ll mention here is the Hard Rock Cafe.  We would normally skip the Hard Rock but this one is in a lovingly restored Old Florida mansion with a great front porch.  We each ordered a big fancy margarita and shared some nachos with pinto beans and guacamole on them.  The nachos and drinks were really good but this was by far the most expensive place we ate or drank at in Key West.  Only other downside is that we found the other tourists there to be demanding and annoying.  The porch really is lovely and we did enjoy having a look at the Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love memorabilia inside.

Margaritas at the Hard Rock Cafe

Continuing with restaurants, in the good but not amazing range was Bobalu’s.  Bobalu’s was pretty good.  It’s a pizza place with an outside bar.  We ordered our usual pizza: thin crust with spinach, garlic, fresh tomatoes, and an extra side of tomato sauce.  It was good except that the crust was pretty badly burnt.  It was probably a fluke and I would give them another try. Our waiter was a hilarious older guy and was very attentive.

Also a tad disappointing was Sugar Apple.  Sugar Apple is a health food store with a small deli/smoothie shop inside.  I had read a review that warned they only have four chairs so we ordered our food to go and ate it by the pool at our hotel.  They were knowledgeable about what was in their food and helped me to successfully placate my nut allergy but they still messed up my order.  I ordered a veggie sausage sub and got a container full of rice with tomato sauce and slices of fake sausage on top.  I don’t think tomato sauce and rice really go together so I was confused as to how I ended up with that.  The cook was rude bordering on angry when Robbie told her I ordered a sandwich and she didn’t remedy the situation.  On a positive note, Robbie ordered a fakin’ bacon BLT and he absolutely loved it.

The Sugar Apple is in a cute little building.

And now for the brutally honest segment.  Considering all the great restaurants available in Key West, we recommend that you avoid Angelina’s Pizza on Duval Street and Help Yourself on Fleming Street.  We went to Angelina’s late on Saturday night when we were krunk and most restaurants were closed.  The place was crowded which we took as a good sign. It wasn’t a good sign.  Their pizza is atrociously bad and it’s pretty difficult to mess up pizza.

The only other truly disappointing place we went to was Help Yourself.  It’s a little shack of a place with some health food store items in the back, a kitchen to the side, and a tiny counter to order your food or smoothies.  They have one small seating area in front similar to a waiting area you’d find outside an Outback Steakhouse or something which was occupied and just two stools near the counter where everyone was piling up their dirty plates.  We had to stand to eat our lunch 🙁  Also, there was no water for us to drink and only one fork remaining.

The staff was on the rude side and unsure of the ingredients in their food which is very scary for those of us who carry EpiPens.  We both ended up ordering the TLT wrap – that’s tempeh, lettuce, and tomato.  Robbie got his with spicy almond mayo and mine was without, as requested – phew!  I thought it was okay but nothing special.  Robbie hated his wrap and said the spicy mayo ruined it.  They did say they had just made some changes to their building so I hope that means they’re in flux and they’ll get it together soon.  In the meantime, we recommend going to The Cafe or Finnegan’s Wake instead.

Read about the rest of our trip here including our boat ride on the Key West Express, sightseeing, beach-going, and shopping.

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