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Key West: Savoring the local delights (very long)

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Key West: Savoring the local delights (very long)

HungryHoward | Mar 18, 2004 10:44 AM

It's often disappointing to leave a vacation site and head to the airport. Especially when you've had a great time and recognize that the weather back home is at least 55 degrees colder.

Such is what happened Tuesday. We left Key West, where we spent a few days on vacation, and flew back to Chicago. From 82 degrees and sun ... to 32 degrees and snow. Not a good equation.

Nonetheless, here's a recap of the local delights that we were able to enjoy. (And thanks to the recommendations on this board, the trip was especially chow-worthy....) As I've said to friends and colleagues: "I could probably survive on only oysters, fried grouper sandwiches, and pina coladas."

Alonzo's Oyster Bar
700 Front St. ; 305-294-5880
www.alonzosoysterbar.com
----------------------------
As tradition dictates, we made Alonzo's our first destination upon arriving Sunday night. We approached the hostess stand and accepted her quote of "45-minute wait" before proceeding to the bar. There, we ordered a couple beers and a plate of oysters featuring two of each variety served that evening. As soon as the oysters arrived, we were ushered off to our table, having waited only 15 minutes.

Each of the oysters was divine, and they should be at $2.00/piece. But this is expected at Alonzo's, which in my estimation serves KW's best cold-water oysters.

After enjoying the oysters, we proceeded to order too much food, as we usually do. Two cups of conch chowder, an order of conch fritters and a bowl of the fisherman's stew. The chowder and fritters were well prepared and worth recommending. Meanwhile, the fisherman's stew didn't cut it; on a bed of rice pilaf sits three Middleneck clams, four mussels, three small shrimp and a piece of 'local catch' fish all surrounded by a thin tomato broth. The dish wasn't horrible but just uninspiring to say the least.

Hog's Breath
400 Front St. ; 305-292-2032
www.hogsbreath.com
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Pina coladas at its finest...

Blue Heaven
729 Thomas St. ; 305-296-8666
www.blueheavenkw.com
----------------------------
Monday morning we walked along Whitehead and through the Bahamian Village until we arrived at Blue Heaven. Suffice it to say, it was perfect. Upon arriving, we waited a few minutes at the bar, enjoying our morning coffee and a copy of the Key West Citizen newspaper. (Favorite article from the issue referenced the college spring breaker who filed a police report that he lost his "pants, shirt, Nextel phone, black leather wallet and Visa card." Too bad...)

We were offered a table upstairs on the balcony and my wife, then experiencing hunger pains, accepted. While I would have preferred to eat outside in the main area alongside the roosters, such is what happens...

The three tables on the balcony overlook Thomas St. and the community's vibrant personality. Our server was very enthusiastic and provided his menu recommendations. It didn't take much thought before we ordered the daily specials, which arrived momentarily.

The omelette with shrimp, mushrooms and cheese was quite good. It came with a slice of banana bread, which seemed to be a little flavorless, though.

The lobster Benedict -- featuring Florida lobster served with poached eggs on English muffins with lime Hollandaise sauce -- was excellent. The sauce provided the perfect accompaniment to the lobster and eggs, and I wish I could have bottled it. The only issue is perhaps that one egg was a little overcooked, and the yolk didn't 'ooze' out as the norm.

Turtle Kraals
231 Margaret St. ; 305-294-2640
www.turtlekraals.com
----------------------------
A quick stop for a tasty pina colada. Too bad we didn't time our visit to coincide with Turtle Kraals' attractive happy hour offers, which run from 4-6 p.m.

BO's Fish Wagon
801 Caroline St. ; 305-294-9272
----------------------------
After a lengthy morning and some relaxing by the hotel pool, I was hungry for a late afternoon snack. Leaving my wife to soak in the sun at the hotel, I walked over to BO's Fish Wagon and fell into nirvana. I wish I could bottle this place! The fried grouper sandwich was perfect. Lightly breaded, topped with tomato and lettuce, this sandwich is one of the best I've recently enjoyed. Splash a little Crystal hot sauce on it and just garble it up! Also, the hand-cut french fries match up well against any foe, too, and hardly hide in the shadows of any accompanying sandwich/entree. I also brought back an order of conch fritters, and they were quite tasty, and better than those we previously enjoyed at Alonzo's.

Fury Catamarans
Docks at Hilton Resort ; 305-294-8899
www.furycat.com/sunset.htm
----------------------------
Yes, it's cheesy, but we took in a sunset cruise on one of the Fury Catamarans. It was almost a private cruise, as the 130+-capacity boat only had 18 people on board for this 'voyage.' The $35/head charge provided 2-hours on the water, a nice sunset, good service and all the Bud Light, Cokes, mediocre sparkling wine and white wine one could ever want.

BO's Fish Wagon
801 Caroline St. ; 305-294-9272
----------------------------
No, it didn't take much arm twisting for us to go back to BO's for dinner. We arrived near 8:30 p.m. and just under the bell as they close up at 9 p.m. My wife went with the recommended fried grouper sandwich (!) and, to mix things up, I sided with the fried oyster sandwich; we split a large order of fries. Again, quite amazing. While enjoying our meal, we notified them that a few bottles of Crystal were empty; with that the woman who took our order brought over two containers of homemade hot sauce -- one featuring a red pepper puree and one a jalapeno puree. Both made for good spreads, though the jalapeno had a definite leg up!

Blonde Giraffe
629 Duval Street
www.blondegiraffe.com
----------------------------
For a late night snack, we walked down to Blonde Giraffe to take in a slice of their award-winning key lime pie. Unfortunately, we didn't enjoy the pie, agreeing that the custard filling was too tart and that the 1/2 inch layer of meringue was unnecessary. For comparison purposes, in our book, nothing beats the key lime pies served up at Joe's Stone Crab.

Croissants de' France
816 Duval St. ; 305-294-2624
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When you have two breakfasts in KW, make sure that Blue Heaven is the first stop and that Croissants de' France (CdF) is the second. (We've enjoyed Pepe's on other occasions, but it just doesn't match up now...) CdF provides enjoyable outdoor ambience to match up with its fresh, delicious food and reasonably priced menu. Knowing that the portions are large, we ordered a ham and cheese croissant, a brioche with poached egg and spinach, and a side of bacon. All were superb.

Hog's Breath
400 Front St. ; 305-292-2032
www.hogsbreath.com
----------------------------
Pina coladas at its finest...


Five Brothers Grocery
930 Southard Street ; 305-296-2225
----------------------------
On the way out of town, we had to stop at Five Brothers for a bag of bollos, as recommended on this board! The half-dozen, made-to-order bollos were crisp, hot and greasy, just as expected! They were also the perfect bookend to our enjoyable visit to Key West.

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