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Thursday September 6, 2012

A frolic in the middle Keys

islamorada

Labor day weekend I spent a few days down in the middle keys with the family of a friend. There was some serious lounging, a lot of drinking, not a little fishing, and quite a bit of eating. While Key West holds on to its bohemian let-everything-hang-out party culture, this side of the Keys has a casually posh, almost Hamptons-style thing going on.

See the full article and 18 photos

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Wednesday August 1, 2012

Critical Miami Podcast, episode 3

critical miami podcast Steve and I talk about Key West, the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency, and the Great Southern Hotel.

You can subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or download the mp3. 33 minutes: short!

Episode Links

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Tuesday May 6, 2008

Pepe's

Pepe's

So, as I was pulling into Key West a few weeks ago, I called up our friend, and Key West authority, Squathole to figure out where to have a big post-100-mile dinner. “Pepe’s,” he says, “hold on, let me see if their address is printed on the bottle of hot sauce I bought there.” Well, it was, but whether through my bad hearing or S’s bad vision, I ended up with the wrong address: 506 Caroline, right off Duval. After looking for it, giving up, looking for someplace else to eat, not finding anything promising, I ended up finding Pepe’s up the street at 806 Caroline.

From first glance you can tell it’s going to be perfect: Pepe’s opened in 1909 and looks it. It looks a little shacky from the outside, but inside is surprisingly cozy, blending indoor and outdoor spaces with equal parts Key West shamble and fine dining. It looks empty from the outside but is actually packed — mostly with locals as it turns out, this being one of the places on the island they cherish.

Pepe's

The parrot guy holds court, and expounds on the joy and life-long commitment that is parrot ownership (tip: never buy a parrot at a pet store). The parrot doesn’t talk, but instead likes to imitate other animals. He does a pretty good pig. I made pals with seasoned locals Ollie, his wife, and the parrot guy, who could totally get babes if he tried.

So the food. Well, first beer: there is exactly one beer on tap. It’s Yuengling, and it’s $1 per glass, and it tastes absolutely perfect when it’s on tap and you’ve got no choice. (I strongly advocate the 1-beer concept to other restaurants, btw. It’s got charm, and so long as it’s a half-way decent beer it will make people happy.) I think I drank about 6 over the next couple of hours. The food is surprisingly gourmet. Pepe’s style fish comes with melted cheese, but I opted for the blackened. It came prefectly cooked, generously portioned, and with fancy presentation, vegetable, and mashed potato. The rule of thumb in the Keys seems to be that the seafood is fresher and better, but not really any cheaper, than Miami, and so it was. Apparently Pepe’s has a master pie baker, so leaving without pie is considered self-in-foot-shooting. There’s a daily pie special(!), Ollie ordered a slice to go, and I followed suit, which meant killer macadamia nut and chocolate chip pie for breakfast next morning. Need I say more?

Pepe’s Cafe
806 Caroline Street, Key West, Fl.
(305) 294-7192

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Tuesday March 25, 2008

A zip through the Florida Keys

keys

So, the plan was simple: bike down to the Keys over Thursday and Friday and back Saturday and Sunday. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get, but as the weather seemed to be agreeable I decided Friday afternoon to go all the way to Key West. Unfortunately the way back was marred by technical difficulties with the bike (part of the reason for doing this was just to work out these sorts of problems in preparation for the longer trip) resulting in total breakdown at MM(Mile Marker) 69, and rescue. So, here’s the long, heavily annotated slideshow.

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Wednesday August 29, 2007

Steve goes to Key West. Not a bad place to visit every few years, but I’m thinking more like Christmas time.

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Friday June 30, 2006

Alabama Jack's

Cardsound

Down in Florida City, on the way to the Keys, Card Sound Road splits off from US-1, providing an alternate route for one leg of the trip. Card Sound Road takes a straight two-lane shot through some classic Florida brush. There’s very little to see, and the lack of any particular place for a speed trap makes the posted speed limit a moot point for many drivers. The Village of Card Sound Road is a couple of shacks and houseboats clustered around the one little curve in the road. At the very end there is a toll bridge ($1) which officially takes you to the first of the keys and begins the stretch back towards US-1. Just before the toll sits Alabama Jack’s.

Cardsound

Built on stilts over the water channel next to the road (you can see water between the slats of the floor) with no air conditioning, Alabama Jack’s is an airy place. The menu is all about seafood beer, and various types of fries: everything a grown boy needs. (Respectively, I’m going to recommend the crab cakes, Key West Sunset Ale, and sweet-potato fries.)

Cardsound

Hell yes: the Cardsound Machine Band plays country music (with the occasionally obligatory Jimmy Buffet tune thrown in) Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If you’re expecting The Gambler, you’ll not be disappointed. The hours are a bit funky: the band quits at 5 pm, and I believe the whole place shuts down an hour or two after that. Odd for an open-air place that you’d think could do good business with folks coming back from the Keys late on a Sunday night, but there it is.

Cardsound

Just past the restaurant, the grand gateway to Monroe County. See the bridge in the background?

Cardsound

We climbed to the top; this is an idea of what you’re way into the middle of. Pure Florida loveliness.

Cardsound

On the way back to the car, the restaurant was empty except for a few bikers, the band having long packed up and left. And so it goes. I think I would have liked Key West more in the old days, before air conditioning. There’s something about resigning yourself to being hot and sweaty all the time that beats darting in and out of air conditioned little buildings that seems to be right for that place. Almost every restaurant and bar on the island has AC now, so maybe Alabama Jack’s is more Key West then Key West?

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