I’ve been working as a server in Key West for a few years now. One customer that stands out in my mind came in a couple of years ago for lunch. He and his wife were on a cruise and point blank asked me what the quickest item on the menu was. We offered a slow simmering Cuban style stew that could be out in just a couple of minutes. He said, “We’ll take two, two waters and the check.” He did manage to find enough time to explain that since they were on the cruise, they wanted to see as much as they could in the little time they were here.
I was talking with some of my fellow restaurant working friends that night over beers and we all agreed they were missing out on what Key West had to offer. Part of the joy of coming here is to be able to relax and enjoy the laid back atmosphere. I understand a cruise only offers a limited amount of time to see everything a tropical island vacation has to offer, but how much of it are you going to remember when you simply try to rush through it all?
A few nights ago, I was at work and this couple came in for dinner. They relaxed, took their time and we got talking about all the different Key West restaurants they had visited during their stay. That was when they told me about their first visit: it was the same couple! We laughed about it, and they admitted that the only thing they really remember from their first visit was realizing they needed to come back when they could really enjoy Key West.
My wife and I were looking over the holidays to plan a trip somewhere warm and tropical for March. We knew it was going to be another nasty winter and wanted to escape it for just a bit. Both of us wanted to visit someplace new, so we took the recommendation of friends and booked a trip for Key West, Florida.
We went in with pretty high expectations, and I have to say that not only were they met, most were exceeded, but none more than our experiences at the Key West restaurants. I guess we just figured that an island basically in the middle of the ocean that caters primarily to tourists would have serviceable predictable meals. Boy were we wrong! On multiple nights, we found ourselves having exceptional dining experiences. The menus were fresh and inventive, the seafood was some of the best I’d ever tasted, and the atmosphere, even in the nicest of restaurants, could be best described as “casual elegance.”
Just as surprising was the number of great meals we had at places that we’d least expect. Several times, we stopped in harbor side restaurants or little hole in the wall joints just to grab a quick bite to eat. Even in these places, it was evident that everyone took pride in what they were doing. Before the week was half over, we were already struggling, trying to decide if we should continue to visit new places or return to those that had already become our favorites. We settled for going to new places, but with promises to return to Key West as soon as we can.