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Key West/South Beach report (long)

Milt | Apr 15, 200202:36 PM

My wife and I just returned from a short trip to Key West and South Beach. Some thoughts from our trip have already been detailed on South and Florida message boards, but this is a more concise and more complete report on our trip.

My initial plan was to use Chowhound input exclusively. My wife, at first, thought that to be a ridiculous way to plan a vacation. After our first two meals, she was carefully reading the printouts that I had brought along. She also pointed out that Chowhound's base of experience would never grow unless some of us ventured our to restaurants not yet on Chowhound reports.

Our first meal, Sunday April 7th, was actually in Georgia. We had a wonderful meal at Tim's Country Cookin' in Griffin, Georgia. More info posted on the South board.

Monday lunch was at Bayside Grille, Key Largo MM 99.5 (Bayside). An earlier post praised the fish sandwich, so I order a grouper sandwich. It was superb. My wife had fried shrimp which she enjoyed. Beautiful view. Glad Chowhound report gave us the MM data. We probably would have missed the sign otherwise.

Monday evening was at Blue Heaven, Petronia and Thomas in Bahamian Village, Key West. Absolutely the best meal on the trip. We ordered Yellowtail snapper, grouper, and (thanks to a Chowhound post) Banana Heaven. Dont' arrive starving. This place is well known and it will take a little time to get a table. We arrived at 8:10pm (on a Monday) and had to wait 40 minutes for a table.

Tuesday lunch was at Mangrove Mama's MM20. I had a dolphin sandwich, my wife had a salad. All of the positive posts are correct. Great place.

We drove by a place Tuesday afternoon where I had an enjoyable meal last year. It is The Island, MM 54+ Bayside, in Marathon.

Tuesday evening in South Beach - Escopazzo, 1311 Washington Ave. We ordered two of the daily specials. Mine was a delicious pepper pasta with small chunks of bream. My wife had snapper. Pricey with small portions, in comparison with the other restaurants we tried. We stayed a block away, and noticed that they were never crowded (weeknights). The waiter spoke slowly and carefully, and was still difficult to understand.

Wednesday morning, Front Porch Cafe at the Penguin Hotel, 1400 block Ocean Drive. My wife ordered eggs (scrambled) ham, raisin pumpernickel toast, mixed fruit and decaf coffee. I ordered the granola banana pancakes and mixed fruit. Both were delicious, and more than we could eat.

Wednesday evening was our next meal. We spent the day at Everglades National Park walking off breakfast. We stopped at a Peruvian restaurant, Salmon y Salmon, 2907 NW 7th St and ordered ceviche mixto and fried rice with seafood. We were going to order a second entree, but the waitress told us that we had already ordered enough. We took her advice and still couldn't finish the entree. This was the second most enjoyable meal of the trip.

Later Wednesday evening, we walked along Thomas Road and tried Parmalat Gelateria. We second the several positive posts about their wonderful offerings.

Thursday morning, we visited a small Argentinian bakery which I had discovered the year before. The sign in the window at 941 Washington Ave. says Breadland Bakery & Cafe. The name on the menu/price list posted inside says Che Cafe & Bakery. Perhaps ownership has recently changed, and the name is about to. Regardless, the food was every bit as good as the year before. We ate here on Friday and Saturday morning, also. We had 4 pastries, 2 empanadas, 1 fresh orange juice and 1 cafe con leche for a total of $8.90.

Thursday lunch, Versailles, north side of Calle Ocho between 35th and 36th. I had one of the daily specials, yellow rice with pork for $4.95 and a mango shake. My wife had a white rice dish with chicken and shrimp in a white cheese sauce along with some very good plantains. I would agree with most of what has been posted about Versailles. Good food, reasonable prices, large quantities, quick service. We wanted to return to Versailles Bakery for a sandwich and pastry, but ran out of time. The bakery occupies the easternmost end of the property, and we were unaware of its existence. Everything at the bakery looked wonderful.

Thursday evening, Aura, Thomas Road north side. Choice based on menu and crowd. I had lamb kabobs with mixed vegetables and couscous. Very good and apparently very healthy. Probably my healthiest meal on the trip. My wife was not as pleased with her meal, and I have forgotten what it was. Sorry. One practice at Aura that I found very displeasing, was that they automatically added 17% gratuity to our check for a party of two. Worse yet, when the credit card bill arrived, that grand total was all shown on the top line, with a blank tip line - hoping that customers will add a second 17% to the check, I suppose.

Friday morning - Breadland again $10.75 spent.

Friday lunch at Cacique Corner, 100 W Flagler St. across from the two museums we had just visited. My wife had a Cuban sandwich, and I had shrimp stuffed plantains (mainly because it was a dish I had never heard of. Good simple Cuban food, reasonably priced, with impressive service. Our waitress was limited in her English, but took it on herself to ask questions of another waitress when she couldn't understand our questions or our answers.

Friday evening at Salmon y Salmon again. Not as impressive as on Wednesday evening, but another very good meal. Ceviche is their specialty, but we had already tried that.

Saturday morning - Breadland again $6.00 plus tax (for breakfast in South Beach!).

Thank you everyone. Without the input from numerous Chowhound participants, we would have had a much less enjoyable vacation.

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