For all the complaining I do about food and service I feel compelled to give credit when credit is due. I actually had a very commendable meal on the first day of my jaunt to Key West so I’m going to commend it right here on this blog.
Since I’m from Hawaii and I now live in another tourist beach town, Sarasota, and I tend to spend a lot of time in tourist beach towns, I’ve had much experience sussing out decent (affordable) grub in these places. Avoiding those restaurants which feel because they have a captive audience of money-wielding visitors headed for beach and sun and seafood, they need not try hard for quality.
I know well enough that in every tourist town there are restaurants gauging unwitting northerners. But there are locals working in these establishments and these locals like to eat out too. So the trick is to find the places which vy for the attention of the locals. I know these days with the Travel and Food channels and all, this is a great big Duh! But asking a pimply hotel attendant where the locals eat, and getting the excitable response,”The Olive Garden is across the street!” is not what I mean.
Fortunately I’ve spent enough time in Key West to know about the establishments on and off lower Duval and near famed Mallory Square. Wonderful places to drink, but food? Only if you’re drunk enough I suppose. Or if you’ve jumped off a cruise ship for a few hours, go for it. Me, I’m going to go prowling around south Duval.
“We’re looking for one of those holes in the walls,” I say to Hubby as we lock up our bikes and begin wandering the southernmost end of Duval. We see the Banana Cafe, more like a house converted to a restaurant, with the pleasurable sound of tinkling wine glasses emanating from their wooden balcony. The next best thing to a hole in the wall.
The wood-framed menu invites me in, oh yeah, Lobster Mac and Cheese, I could do that. (But I don’t) We’re led upstairs to the balcony and I can just tell you, since I didn’t take pictures of our food, and I’m not a professional restaurant critic (but I am a critic), for the duration of our light meal we were lost in that rare haze of GREAT FOOD WITH GREAT SERVICE:
The French onion soup really was French and tasted like lusciously caramelized onions, not salty beef base.
Our spinach and duck salads with pecans, cranberries and pickled red onions were tossed with a perfect citrus honey vinaigrette and Hubby and I yummed and hummed like cats over a feedbowl. And OMG a chilled plate, what a concept.
The youthful polite waiter was so perfectly attentive I wanted to adopt him. Or kiss him on the cheek.
We ate light that evening, and we were done drinking for the day, so our check didn’t break us. I imagine one could rack up a bill once wine and entrees are tallied up. But this place works at the details of dining, presentation and service so I trust compared to many places on the beaten track, it’s probably going to be worth it.