Should We Stay or Should We Go – Key West 7.3.21-7.10.21

We were in Key West just a couple of months prior but we were ready to go back. Our initial April trip was delayed until May (so we could be fully vaccinated before traveling on a plane again, etc.) As a result, it made the quickest amount of time between trips. However, for me it doesn’t matter if was a year ago, 2 months ago or even just a week ago, I am always excited to get back to my happy place.

Several days before our trip I noticed that there was a tropical disturbance forming in the Atlantic and thought to myself how could this be? I know it is technically hurricane season but normally I never see a storm form so early in the season that could possibly track towards Key West. 

As our vacation neared I saw that the tropical disturbance formed and was now named Tropical Storm Elsa. I thought to myself this is just terrific. What do we do? I kept reading reports and most of them indicated that the storm most likely would remain a tropical storm and not become a hurricane. And if it did, it would probably weaken again over Cuba. I know storms are very unpredictable but I figured at this point let’s just go and see what happens. 

Saturday, July 3rd – Returning to Key West

The day before our trip I was getting a bit anxious, besides the impending storm, I was having a hard time reconfirming our airport pick up with our usual car service. Luckily my husband recent worked on one of the driver’s cars so he got a hold of him and confirmed that he would pick us up at 6:30am. Our flight was scheduled for 9:30am so that was fine. 

I had my alarm set for 5:30am but didn’t need it. I woke up probably about 3 times before that throughout the night. I was so excited that we were returning again. When it was time to get up and ready, I made sure we had all our necessary ID’s, boarding passes, etc. Our driver was right on time at 6:30am. It was a bit of a rainy morning but it didn’t affect the drive at all.

We arrived at Newark-Liberty International Airport and it was insane. I knew that this was going to be the busiest travel weekend since the pandemic but was not prepared for it. We do have TSA Pre but even that had a line. It probably took us about a half hour to get through security. I couldn’t even imagine what the wait time was for the regular line, but it looked very very long.

By the time we got through security we still had about an hour to spare before it was time to board. Unfortunately where we were in the Terminal it wasn’t worth the extra walk to the United Club lounge. We did however, find this funky little bar and restaurant set up right in the center of the terminal. We sat down and had something drink. I noticed on the TVs they were talking about Elsa and how the projected path was still showing it headed right over Key West. I kept thinking to myself, it is a tropical storm it won’t be that bad.

Not before long it was time to walk to the end of the terminal to the lower level to our gate. It was a few minutes until we were going to board and I thought perfect, in no time we will be in the air. Then within a matter of minutes, one of the United ticket agents came on the intercom and announced that due to air traffic congestion in Florida our flight was going to be delayed until 10:30am. Really? I thought. My husband suggested that we could go back to the bar/restaurant where we were, so that’s what we did. It wound up being a good decision because we hadn’t had breakfast yet. 

I don’t know if a lot of airports are like this, but in the United Terminal all orders for drinks and food have to be through their iPads that they have set up. It was a little getting used to, but once you scan the QR code from your phone of your airline ticket it isn’t too difficult. Anyway we wound up ordering a couple of drinks and breakfast. I wasn’t sure where the food would come out from but somehow someone brought the food out from somewhere. $100 later we were done with breakfast and it was time to walk back to the gate. If we were delayed any longer who knows what the final tab would have been. Thankfully we started to board a little after 10am so the hour delay wasn’t too bad. Once we got on the runway we had to wait a while before take off, typical of Newark Airport since it is always so busy. 

Eventually we were in the air and the flight wasn’t too turbulent. It is about a 2 and 1/2 hour flight, give or take 10 minutes – so it doesn’t seem that long at all before you start to see the Keys below and the amazing colors of the water. We wound up approaching Key West in a different way, so I was able to get some great photos of the island.

Once we landed, as usual we were escorted on the tarmac into the airport. It was a hot and sunny day. We were one of the first to deplane so we got a taxi right away. I always love looking out the window along the way of Smather’s Beach. I kept thinking to myself we made it but what is going to happen with this storm?

Soon we turned on to Angela St. where the taxi dropped us off in front of our home away from home, the Gardens Hotel. Since our last stay a few months ago a few things changed. We didn’t have to spray our luggage or wear masks while checking in. Also they reinstated housekeeping once again, thank goodness. 

Our room was ready so we dropped off our luggage and unpacked. Of course we traded the socks and sneakers for flip flops. We wound up sitting down at the bar at the Gardens to have a nice cold beverage and decompress for a few minutes. Normally we get into Key West around 1pm but being that our flight was delayed it was a little after 2pm. I was getting a little antsy since our friend Zack Seemiller was playing at Rick’s only until 4pm that day so we finished our drinks and walked down Duval St. to Rick’s.

We walked in and found two seats at the bar. Zack immediately recognized us as usual.

His son Kai was also there. It was great to see them again. And of course I had to get my usual photo with Zack.

Once his set was over we were able to chat for a few minutes. He was playing later at the Smokin’ Tuna with Caffeine Carl so I told him we would try to make it.

A few weeks prior I made reservations at Cafe Marquesa. Usually we have dinner at Lola’s our first night, but I wanted to try something different. I knew it was a bit pricey but figured why not it is our first night in town and it is pretty close to the Gardens. I made the reservations for 6:00pm so we still had sometime before getting ready for dinner.

During our last visit my husband took a liking to this newer place called General Horseplay. As I mentioned in my previous trip report, the bar has a feel /vibe like you are in Brooklyn not Key West and the AC is wonderful. We walked in and ordered a couple of drinks called the Murricane. I normally would never touch bourbon, but these drinks are crafted so well you can’t tell what is in them except they taste really good. Since it was later in the afternoon the place was bustling.

We only stayed for one because we did have to make it to dinner. We walked back to the Gardens hotel to freshen up. On the way back we passed by the newly replaced Mile 0 sign. I have no idea why they made it the size it is now, perhaps deterring people from trying to steal it, but it just looked so odd.

Once we were all freshened up, we headed down Simonton St. to the restaurant. It is a quick walk from the Gardens. We walked in and there was only one other large table occupied.

The hostess sat us near the window. We did try dining here several years ago and were unimpressed. I heard that there was a new head chef and that the food was a lot better and indeed it was.

Our server was very accommodating and didn’t miss a step. For appetizers I ordered the fresh seared Ahi Tuna with watermelon and my husband had the oysters rockefeller. My appetizer was perfect for this time of year, tasty and refreshing. I tried one of my husband’s oysters and it was delicious. Then for dinner I decided to go with the crispy yellowtail snapper topped with a crabmeat salad and served with an avocado cream sauce. The combination was outstanding. My husband had the beef tenderloin and thoroughly enjoyed his dinner. We were too stuffed for dessert but really enjoyed our dining experience vs. the last one several years ago. When we received the bill it was a bit of a shock. Yes prices are listed on the menu, but once they are all added up it adds up! I would definitely recommend Cafe Marquesa, however just be forewarned that you will pay the price. It was worth it though.

You can see my review here:

Surprisingly I wasn’t too tired and convinced my husband to go to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Zack and Carl play. Plus it was a good excuse to walk off all that food. The sun was starting to set as we walked down Duval. It was a Saturday night so the streets were jamming.

We walked in and it was packed. I was able to stalk out two people getting ready to leave at the bar and waited for them to exit. Once they left we sat down. Erin and Big Ed were bartending so it was great to see them again. During the show I got in touch with one of Zack’s close friends Natalie. We got to know her from our past few trips and was looking forward to seeing her again. She met us at the bar and we were having a great time.

She mentioned how her boyfriend Ron who is in the band the Durtbag’s was playing next door at Dirty Harry’s. I figured we hadn’t been to that place in years so why not? We walked in and I felt like I was back in Panama City, FL during Spring Break. It was mobbed with people of the younger generation lets just say (I felt way too old). We found a couple of seats at the bar close to the stage. 

I wasn’t used to seeing such a loud band like that since my high school years. They were great though. We were having a lot of fun but it was getting super later. Normally we don’t stay out that late for our first night, but we did. We headed out and made it back to the Gardens. We then said goodbye to Natalie and would meet up later on during our trip. 

Video of the Durtbags

We called it a night after a long day. I think I remember the clock in the room saying 1:30?

Sunday, July 4th – Independence Day

I always love first waking up in the morning thinking I am at home, but then realizing I am not, I am in my happy place. We woke up to a beautiful day. I had a feeling that would happen since the old saying goes ‘the weather is always great before and after a storm’. 

Our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen. Then I thought why don’t we try Blue Heaven this time since it is before 9am.

My review of Cuban Coffee Queen

We walked down past Ramshead Southermost and as we got closer to Blue Heaven you could see all the people waiting. There were even people waiting to put their name down. We looked at each other and said let’s go to Moondog Cafe instead.

We walked in and sat at the bar. I don’t understand why more people don’t sit at the bar. It is nice and spacious, but I don’t mind – more room for us. For breakfast my husband ordered the egg tacos and I had the standard two eggs with bacon.

Breakfasts at the Moondog Cafe are always consistently good no matter what you order. 

After breakfast we walked back to the Gardens to relax for a bit before heading out for the day. When we were set to go we headed up towards the Bite to walk around.

We eventually reached the Galleon but noticed you could not enter the parking lot area but had to go around using the boardwalk. It was kind of strange but I think they are trying to avoid a lot of foot traffic of non-guests from entering the parking area. 

So we walked down and sat down. Ordered a couple of drinks and as usual took the view in.

Another friend of ours Dave was in town so I reached out to him to see if he would stop by.

After about a half hour we heard his familiar voice. He wasn’t around during our last trip, so it was nice to see him this time. We talked for a while and glanced over to watch Joey Chestnuts eat 76 hot dogs.

I still don’t know how the guy does it. We also ran into Phil who manages the Sunset Tiki Bar. It was nice to see him as well. 

It was time for us to make our next move so we said our goodbyes to Dave and Phil and headed towards the Retro Room. This is another great place if you are looking for an escape from the heat. The AC is always blasting in this place.

We stopped in and met out with Kai for a drink. He even brought Bullet to say hello. 

While we were hanging out we heard from another fan of Zack’s that we became friends with Wayne. We wanted to say hello before he was leaving Key West. Once we settled up the tab at the Retro Room we headed down to Jack Flat’s.

It wasn’t crowded at all so we sat at a couple of seats at the bar. My husband wound up getting a box so we could listen to the Yankee Game.

As a side note, a couple months before our trip I was able to get dinner reservations at Latitudes for the Tuesday Night we would be in Key West. However I kept reading reviews of how the food is okay but not worth the price. We have dined there several times in the past and thought maybe try Louie’s Backyard instead. We have eaten there as well, but it has been a long time since we had dinner there. In the end I wound cancelling Latitude’s and booked a reservation at Louie’s Backyard for outside.

While we were waiting for Wayne, my phone starting ringing. I saw that it was a 305 are code, so I knew it was a Florida call. I answered my phone and it was Louie’s Backyard. They said that they would be closed on Tuesday (since that was when TS Elsa was forecasted to hit). I figured that would happen. Disappointed I told them thank you and would like to make a reservation for when we return in October and they said they would start taking reservations in September. So I made that mental note for next time.

While we were watching the Yankee game, we saw Wayne and his son walk in. Wayne couldn’t stay long but it was also nice to see him again.

We were getting hungry so we headed back to the Garden’s to freshen up. It was a beautiful evening. I heard from several locals that there is this new place called Kaya Island Eats right in the location Cowboy Bills used to be and across from the restaurant Mangoes. It is really close to the Gardens and I suggested to my husband that we could try it for dinner.

Initially I was hoping to do the Key West Rotary Fireworks Picnic like we did a couple years ago at the Casa Marina Resort, but this time it was being held at a local park and I wasn’t sure what it exactly entailed, so I opted to pass on it this year.

We walked down Angela St. and crossed Duval. We walked in to Kaya and it immediately reminded me of a restaurant in St. John, USVIs called Longboard. It had the same similar vibe and you could sit at the counter/bar area like Longboard.

I was so excited to see on the menu – all these things to choose from that I like.

For appetizers my husband ordered the coconut shrimp and I had the tuna poke. I also ordered a mai tai to go along with it.

The food came out and it was fresh and delicious. I had to order the fish tacos and I was happy I did. There are several ways to choose how you want your fish cooked and I went with blackened. It paired really well with the mango salsa. My husband had a burger and he really enjoyed it as well. I would definitely recommend this place. It is reasonably priced, fresh ingredients and amazing food. 

My review here:

After our dinner we walked over to Mary Ellen’s for a nightcap. We stopped in our last trip, but never noticed the Christmas Tree hanging upside down on the ceiling. I was getting tired so we only stayed for one.

On the way back we stopped at the liquor store to get a few things for the room in case we were stuck there during Tropical Storm Elsa which was supposed start effecting Key West the following day.

We wound up relaxing on our porch and listened to the Fireworks. We could actually see them around the other side of the building at the Gardens, so we walked down Simonton a little ways to watch the finale of the fireworks. I was kind disappointed we didn’t get closer to watch them, but I didn’t feel like dealing with all the people. After the fireworks were over we retired for the evening. 

Monday, July 5th – Calm Before the Storm

We woke up to a beautiful day with blue skies. My husband spotted this cafe / boutique the other day and wanted to try it for coffee instead of Cuban Coffee Queen. Plus it was on the way to a breakfast place I always wanted to try called La Grignote.

We made the left hand turn down Duval St. and there it was Flamingo Cafe & Boutique. We walked in and the place was adorable. In the back part of the store is where you order coffee. They also had a selection of pastries on display. The front of the store is devoted to women’s apparel and accessories. 

The woman that was working asked us if we would like coffee and we both ordered a cup. We had to wait for her to brew it, but once she handed us the coffee it was worth the wait. It was very good.

We walked down past La Te Da, which was really crowded and down to La Grignote. I walked up the stairs and noticed a closed sign on the door. I didn’t realize they are closed on Mondays. Then I thought let’s go to Banana Cafe, which is right next door, but that had a long line of people waiting.

So we turned around and started walking back towards La Te Da. We walked in and there wasn’t really any place to sit unless you would sit towards the back of the place closer to the pool area but I didn’t want to sit that far back.

Then we both agreed to head to Bagatelle’s. When we walked up the stairs, I noticed all the tables were occupied. I was beginning to think we were never going to find a place to eat breakfast. However, my husband suggested we sit at the outside bar area.

It wound up being a great call because no one else was sitting there and it felt in a way like La Te Da. We couldn’t people watch, but there was a tv on so we could watch part of Live with Ryan and Kelly while we waiting for our breakfast.

Our breakfast as usual was very good at Bagatelle’s. I had the standard two eggs and bacon breakfast and my husband did too. Once we were done I wanted to go to the retail store at the Hogsbreath Saloon to get a few shirts and also one for my sister (who asked me to pick me up one).

I find that they probably have the best variety of shirts over any other bars/restaurants. When we walked out of the store, I noticed this building across the way that I never noticed it before saying it was for sale. I looked towards the top of the building and it was faded but said ‘The Bank of Key West’. It was pretty interesting.

After our shopping we walked back to the Gardens to drop off the shirts and to relax for a little bit before going back out for the day.

Once we were ready to go back out we walked down Simonton St.

Then I noticed that the skies were starting to have more cloud cover if you turned around to the south. We walked all the way down to the Bite and around back towards the Galleon. As we were walking, we noticed that the winds were starting to pick up. I thought to myself here it comes.

We walked in to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon and there were a few people sitting around. The bartender Ramsey told us that they were closing at 2pm for the day. While we were having a drink I noticed the manager Phil gathering all the tables and chairs around the bar area. He mentioned he wasn’t too concerned about the storm but he wanted to move everything back because of the potential winds – which makes sense since the bar is located right near the water. He also told us that he planned on reopening the following day around 3pm. 

After a couple of drinks we walked down to Captain Tony’s to see our friend Gabriel Wright play, but when we got there someone else was playing. I got in touch with him and he said he was playing 4:30-8pm. I thought perfect, we can go see Zack at Hogsbreath and then come back. 

Obviously then our next stop was Hogsbreath. We walked in and there were no seats available at the bar. We ordered a couple beers from the bartender Stephanie and while we were waiting I stalked out two people getting ready to leave at the end of the bar. As soon as they were getting up to leave I was able to grab the two seats before someone else did. 

I prefer the seats at the bar so you can watch whomever is playing. The other seats around the bar make it difficult. So we settled in for a bit to listen to Zack play. His son stopped by gain with their dog Bullet.

During his show he was referencing a couple of friends of his from Missouri and how the one guy is a bass master. My husband is familiar with the sports competition from watching it on tv and thought it was really cool that he was there. 

After Zack was done I mentioned to him about breakfast the following day if the weather wasn’t going to be so bad. So I thought fingers crossed it won’t be and we’ll be able to have breakfast.

Before we left I wanted to get a picture with the bartender Stephanie, who has been working there for years and she always takes care of us whenever we go there.

Our next stop was to go back to Captain Tony’s. And sure enough Gabriel was playing. It wasn’t as crowded as the last time we went there during our last trip so we were able to sit closer to the front.

As usual Gabriel played a bunch of songs that we usually request which was a lot of fun to hear again. We stayed until he went on break. We were both getting hungry at this point so we told Gabriel we would see him again the next time he was playing, but unfortunately we didn’t get to meet up again. 

Video of Gabriel Wright:

We started walking around and my husband suggested we go to Marylin’s for something to eat, but when we got there, they were closed. So then I thought about going to Off the Hook since it was close by. We walked in and they were pretty crowded. We asked if we could sit at the back bar and it wasn’t a problem at all. In fact it was nice and quiet.

My husband ordered the tuna poke and I had the scallops ceviche. I never had a chance to have ceviche during our last trip so I was so happy to have it again. Off the Hook always makes great ceviche. I remember I would always order it back when they were located behind the Gardens Hotel.

While we were looking over what to have for dinner we saw that they have personal pizzas. I thought ‘sure I can go for that’! So we ordered the personal pizza with duck bacon. When it came out I was really surprised. It was larger then I expected and it looked terrific. And it was. I loved the firewood taste it had. The pizza was definitely enough for two people. In fact we couldn’t finish it so we took the leftovers back with us to the Gardens. 

My review of Off The Hook:

By the time we got back to the hotel it started to rain, so we made it just in time. We sat out on the porch and listened to the rain for a bit while watching the Yankee game on my phone. I didn’t know what to expect the next day figured the best thing would be is to get some sleep.

Tuesday, July 6th – Tropical Storm Elsa

When we woke up the storm was here. The rains were coming down and the winds were picking up. There was no need to rush out to breakfast this morning. I contacted Zack and we agreed to take a rain check (no pun intended) for the following day.

We wound up setting outside on our balcony watching the storm for hours. It was really cool to see. Every once in a while you would feel and see a huge gust of wind. We even saw one of the large palms from the two iconic large palm trees at the Gardens (and also my inspiration for when I redid their logo several years ago) fall into the pool. 

Every time you would think the storm was over, there would be another band that would come through. While we were watching the storm we saw a few other guests as well waiting it out. We chatted for a bit and even recommended to them totry the Kaya place since they were looking for a place with good fish tacos. 

We also saw David, who works at the Gardens down below trying to clean up all the debris from the trees that fell. He joked around saying how my husband should help. 

Video of Tropical Storm Elsa:

Eventually the storm subsided and we were getting antsy to get back out after being stuck at the hotel for so long. So around 1:30-2pm we went back out, or so we thought. We walked to the front of the hotel and the street was flooded. Luckily the Gardens sits on the corner of Angela and Simonton so we were able to go through the other side to Simonton which was fine. David showed us where the opening in the Gate was to leave. It was like it was just flooded right in front of the hotel.

I wanted to check out down on Front St. to see if it was flooded. When we were walking around I didn’t seem much of anything as far damage, etc. All and all it was just a storm that had rain and wind but nothing too serious at all. It was a big sigh of relief. When we reached Front St. it was perfectly fine. No flooding whatsoever. 

Since it was after 3pm I knew that General Horseplay was open (during the week they don’t open until 3pm as opposed to on the weekends they open at noon). My husband is a big fan of the place so we went back. 

The place was pretty busy but not too bad. It was also happy hour so that made it fun. For happy hour they give you dice to roll, actually just one and depending on the number that’s the discount you get. I rolled a 3 so my drink was half off. My husband rolled a 1 so his drink was only a dollar. 

Now this is a type of place where you can settle in and just keep ordering drinks. The recipes they put together are so tasty that you can’t really taste the alcohol. We were thinking of staying for another, but when I got up to use the ladies room, I could feel it. Plus Zack was playing that evening at Ramshead. His original show with Caffeine Carl was postponed obviously because of the storm, so it was the only chance to see him that day.

On our way to Ramshead, I noticed a lot of places were closed because of the storm and the ones that were open were packed with people. When we got to Ramshead it too was busy with people. We were going to have dinner at the bar there but it was too uncomfortable to eat so we just ordered a couple of drinks.

Zack showed up shortly after we did. I didn’t think the place would have entertainment that night but I am glad they did. His son Kai showed up too.

While we were enjoying his music, the couple from Missouri showed up, Sandy and Josh. My husband started talking to Josh and I started talking to Sandy. They were telling us how Zack played at their wedding 11 years ago (they got married in Key West) which was really cool. 

We wound up hitting it off with them and talked for a while. When Zack’s show was nearing the end I was starving. We both were. Since we were close to the restaurant 915 and also the Blackfin Bistro we figured that we could try going to either place for dinner. So we said goodbye to everyone and walked down towards 915.

When we got there, they were closed and so was the Blackfin Bistro. Then we were going to try Old Town Tavern and they too were closed. We circled back and then wound up coming upon this newer place I heard about Lost and Found. It was also crowded but once we walked in I could see on the side of the bar there were a few open seats. I thought thank goodness – I needed food asap.

We sat down and shared the shrimp cocktail. I saw that they had fried hogfish fish tacos and ordered them. I know a big surprise my husband ordered the burger. While we were waiting the bartender mentioned that they were substituting the hogfish with grouper. I love both so it didn’t matter to me and I told her it was fine.

It felt like eternity because I was so hungry but when the food came out I was so happy. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. The fish tacos were tasty and my husband enjoyed his burger. I even stole a few of his fries. I did notice a lot of locals in the place which is usually a good sign. I was so glad that we stumbled upon this place. It was really good.

My review here:

After dinner we were pretty tired so we walked back to the Gardens and that was that.

Wednesday, July 7th – Long Long Long Day

The storm was well out of Key West leaving it to be a beautiful morning to wake up to. We rescheduled to have breakfast with Zack and Kai that morning and would plan on meeting at Breakfast Club Too. First we made a stop at Cuban Coffee Queen before walking along Simonton St. 

The sun was shining and it was getting hot. We walked down to the Breakfast Club Too and noticed there was a letter on the door saying that for the month of July they are closed on Wednesdays. We waited for Zack and Kai to show up and when they did Zack suggested Harpoon Harry’s.

We walked in and it was really crowded. We were seated all the way in the back but it was fine. The breakfast at Harpoon Harry’s is always solid. Nothing fancy, just good home cooked food. I particularly enjoy their grits. It was a pleasant way to start the day – catching up and enjoying each other’s company. We finished breakfast and thanked Zack and told him we would see him later at Willie T’s.

After breakfast we wound up walking around along the Bight. It was amazing what a difference a day makes as far as weather. 

It was still quite humid. Locals were saying that the storm didn’t come close enough. It was actually 55 miles out to the west of Key West when it passed by. They said if it did come close enough the following day would have low humidity but that definitely wasn’t the case.

We wound up stopping in at the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon for one. They never wound up opening the day before after the storm passed. I guess it was like a snow day for them. We were enjoying the conversation with the bartender but knew one would be enough.

Since Zack was playing at 2:30 at Willie T’s that day we decided to go back to the Gardens and relax for a while. Unfortunately the pool was closed that day because it had to be treated / shocked after the storm. The pool on the other side of the hotel where the suites are located was open, but we figured we would just relax in the shade.

Before heading back out for the rest of the day we both agreed to freshen up since it was so hot out. It was a great idea. We made it back out to Willie T’s and thankfully found a table in the shade. 

We sat down and ordered a couple of drinks and listen to Zack play. During his show we saw his friends show up Natalie, Ron, Janice and Matt. We saw them last time and that is when we stayed out too long at Ramshead the last time, but it was a lot of fun. Also Sandy and Josh who we met the other day showed up. They actually sat with us and we had a great time talking and listening to Zack.

When Zack’s show was over we saw another familiar face John LaMere. We always enjoy watching him as well so we figured we would stay for a bit and then head down to the Tuna to see Zack and Caffeine Carl play.

We were getting hungry so we grabbed a menu. We wound sharing a dozen oysters. I never thought about ordering oysters at Willie T’s but they were delicious and very fresh. It definitely hit the spot. My husband also ordered their friend shrimp which wasn’t as fancy but very good as well.

With our bodies refueled we said good bye to John and made our way down Duval to the Smokin Tuna. 

When we walked in there was a female artist singing and her voice sounded amazing. I looked up on the schedule and her name was Kristen McNamara. She was finishing her show so we only heard a few, but at the very end she wound up singing the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone in the place stood up, took off their hats and put their arms across their chests, even the staff. It actually gave me chills it was so cool to see and experience.

Instead of sitting at the bar we wound up sitting at a table for more room and a better viewing experience. My husband ordered their delicious jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon. I wasn’t too hungry so passed on them, but in hindsight as usual I probably should have eaten more that evening.

Not before long I saw Caffeine Carl setting up with Joey Marchiano, the drummer. Then Zack showed up and I had to get a few pictures before they started.

Once they started Sandy and Josh showed up and joined us. It was a fun night. We wound up staying through both sets. 

Video of the Band:

When they were done so were we. We said goodbye to everyone and made it back to the Gardens and called it a night.

Thursday, July 8th – Taking it Easy

A few days prior I reached out to our friend Billy to see about going out on the water with him. I was hoping that today was the day that we would do so, but unfortunately he never got back to me.

After the night before we wound up sleeping in later then we normally do, but I needed it. I was feeling the effects of not eating enough compared to the amount of drinks. It wasn’t a great start but thought that a good breakfast may do the trick.

We freshened up and walked back down to La Te Da. It was nice and quiet this time and we found two seats at the bar along the road. I was so happy we could finally find a spot to sit, especially where we were. We ordered breakfast and surprisingly it came out quite fast this time. It was really good.

Unfortunately the breakfast did make me feel that much better so when we were done we went back to the Gardens to kick back for a while. Later on we had a beverage at the Gardens Bar and talked to the new bartender Phil for a while. He was a nice and friendly guy but boy he took forever to finish a story. We managed to listen to him for a while before going back out. 

Zack was playing again at Willie T’s so we headed down Duval. At least Willie T’s is pretty close to the Gardens so the walk in the heat wasn’t too bad. 

Zack’s son Kai was there so we joined him.

I also saw Donna who works at Willie T’s, a friend of Zack’s who I have become friends with being we are both Kevin Harvick Nascar Race fans. It was nice to see her, she always has a big smile on her face.

I tried a couple of things to drink, but nothing tasted good. It was like drinking sand. I couldn’t do it. So when Zack was done we didn’t stay much longer.

Video of Zack singing his song Harmony:

We were craving pizza again so we walked down to Onlywood, the original location, which is on the way back to the Gardens on Duval. 

My husband grabbed a menu and asked me what kind of pizza I wanted. The first thing that struck my eye was the marinara pizza. He wound up waiting for the pizza while I walked back to the room.

When he came back with the pie and opened it up we realized there was no cheese on it. I had no idea that it wouldn’t come with cheese, but looking back it didn’t say it had cheese on it on the menu. All well. It was still good, but my husband wasn’t too thrilled. I think I wound up eating the majority of it. At least it wasn’t too fattening because it didn’t have the cheese.

We were both really tired from the day/night before so we called it an early night. I think I was asleep by 9pm.

Friday, July 9th – Last Day 

Since we went to sleep so early, I woke up feeing refreshed. It was an awesome feeling. It was our last full day but it felt like we were there a lot longer. Maybe because we were just there a few months ago, it almost felt like a continuation to this trip. 

Of course our first stop was Cuban Coffee Queen. Then for breakfast we wound up going back to Breakfast Club Too knowing they were open. The place was pretty crowded so we decided to sit at the bar, otherwise they would have sat us at this two top right in the line of foot traffic.

I wound up ordering the chorizo rostis and my husband had the eggs and hash. While we were waiting for our order, we noticed a girl sitting near us eating off this platter which appeared to have 20 or so silver dollar sized pancakes and a plethora of sides, like jars of jam, etc. My husband asked the bartender what it was and it is called the pancake charcuterie board. I think it was enough to serve a family of four but it looked delicious and no she didn’t finish it.

Our breakfasts soon came out and I forgot how large the rostis are. It was so good I ate almost half of it but it still looked like I didn’t put a dent in it. I felt guilty not finishing it. If we were staying at a place with a kitchen I would have totally brought back the leftovers. It was that good – especially their homemade chorizo. 

My review here:

When we were done with breakfast we wound up walking around the Bight again.

As we were walking near the White Tarpon restaurant, we heard a guy yell to his wife that there was a manatee in the water. So we rushed over and sure enough there it was. I have only seen one a few years ago but not this close. He even came up for air. It was quite impressive to see.

We then walked back to the Gardens to start packing some things up. We had a later flight the next day (1:30pm) but figured why not get some of it done. I also was able to check in for our flight at the Gardens. 

The Gardens also has a computer and printer available so you can print out your boarding passes. I know you don’t need them if you have the app on your phone, but I tend to like having the printout just in case. I did have a problem with the printer, but David was able to help me. Basically I had the paper in the wrong part of the printer. 

Once we were set with everything we walked back out to the Green Parrot for one, since we hadn’t been there yet. It was kind of crowded but luckily two people were leaving when we came in so we were able to get seats at the bar. We chatted with a nice couple for a few. 

Then we made it back out to Willie T’s to see Zack play one last time there for our trip. While we were listening to Zack, Janice, her friend Marie and boyfriend showed up. We wound up having a great time laughing and telling stories.

I made reservations for our last night at a new place called the Red Shoe Bistro. It is located in the old Bliss restaurant location. I read about it on Tripadvisor and saw it recommended by locals. I looked at the menu and it looked different and I wanted to try it so I booked us a table at 6:30.

When Zack’s show was over we said goodbye to everyone and went back to the Gardens to freshen up. The Red Shoe Bistro is located down Petronia St. It is very close to the Gardens.

We walked in and the place was so charming. We were the first table so we were seated by the window. The owner came up to us and read us the specials. I ordered the spinach salad with mandarin oranges, bacon and almonds. It was tasty and refreshing. My husband had the oysters rockefeller and of course I had to have one. They were delicious. 

For dinner my husband had the shrimp and risotto and I had the catch of the day which was mutton snapper. Everything came out great and nice and hot. It is never fun to have dinner served to you that has been sitting around for a while and/or is lukewarm. 

Then after dinner the owner said for dessert they had homemade key lime pie. I don’t normally have dessert but I thought it is our last night why not? I am so glad I ordered it, it was so good. I prefer key lime pies that aren’t loaded with meringue. 

My review here:

We were both pretty stuffed but I wanted to go back to the Smokin’ Tuna to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play again. We made the walk down Duval which seemed longer then usual. 

My video of the walk:

We walked in and it wasn’t too crowded. 

We wound up grabbing a table again, but in order to sit there you have to order food. My husband ordered a chicken caesar salad. I couldn’t even think of eating anymore after the dinner we had at the Red Shoe Bistro. My husband was pretty full but took one for the team.

While we were waiting for the band to play Carl came over to say hello so I had to get another picture with. 

Not before long the band came on and started to play. They sounded even better then the night before. Maybe because it was the last night. 

Kai came by and sat with us too. Just when we were thinking we were going to leave after the first set, Sandy and Josh showed up. We couldn’t leave now.

Then I thought maybe we’ll stay until the end, but after the second set we found out they play until 1am on Fridays. We wound up dancing and having a great time. It was a fun way to spend our last night in Key West. 

It was getting late and we wound up leaving around 12:30. I knew it was going to be a long travel day so it probably was a good idea. 

We walked back for the last time down Duval to the Gardens hotel. I set my alarm for the following morning since we were planning on meeting Zack and Kai for breakfast like we usual do our last day.

Video of the band:

Saturday, July 10th – Leaving on a Jet Plane

I didn’t sleep that great. I never do the night before we have to leave. I tend to wake up frequently checking the clock and that’s what I did. So I really didn’t need to set the alarm on the clock. We got up around 8:30 and I was feeling the night before but after a shower it seemed to help.

We weren’t meeting Zack until 9:30 so we had time to gather the rest of our things for the trip home.

It was getting close to the time to meet, so we went down to Cuban Coffee Queen for our last cup of coffee. There wasn’t a line so the wait wasn’t long.

We walked down to Sarabeth’s and a few minutes later Zack and Kai showed up. It was still pretty humid out so we opted for the inside for breakfast. I noticed that the inside was redone. It used to be yellow, but now it is painted white with blue accents. Very nordic in away – it looked really nice and updated.

The waiter came out and read the specials. Yes specials for breakfast. I couldn’t believe how many things they had, including filet mignon eggs benedict. My husband ordered the candied spiced bacon for an appetizer for us to share. Everyone ordered off the regular menu and everything was really good.

Unfortunately I couldn’t eat that much because being out so late I wasn’t really hungry. Plus I was getting sad so that always kills my appetite. 

After a nice breakfast we sad good and got my regular send off picture with Zack and Kai. It was great to see them as always and hope to see them again when we return in the fall.

We walked back to the Gardens and asked the front desk to call a taxi for a 11:45 am pickup. Our flight wasn’t until 1:30pm so it was plenty of time – plus we didn’t have any luggage to check.

Not before long it was that time to make the walk to the front of the hotel and wait for the taxi. The taxi showed up right on time. I think we had the same taxi driver before. She looked and sounded very familiar.

Once she dropped us off we walked in and the airport was packed. Thankfully once again we have TSA Pre so the line wasn’t as long. While we were waiting on line to go through security I looked at the flight times above on the monitor and noticed our flight was already delayed 10 minutes. Oh great I thought, here we go again.

We got through security without any issues (I remembered not to bring back a box of coasters this time). We made it to the lower level and practically every seat in the place was taken. We walked near the eating area and saw two familiar faces – Sandy and Josh! They had a flight a few minutes before ours, but we were able to chat for a little bit before they had to leave. It made the long wait go by pretty fast.

Then their flight was called to board so we said goodbye and wished them safe travels. Eventually there was an update on our flight that it was on its way, but once it landed they would have to clean it, etc. So we had probably another half hour or so being delayed.

It seemed like an eternity. Finally the ticket agent for United announced that they were ready for boarding – finally. We were in Group 1 so we walked outside and made the long walk to the plane. I still don’t understand why United is always the furthest plane on the tarmac. 

We boarded the plane and soon we were on our way back home. The flight was not nearly as turbulent as our last trip. It was actually pretty tame. We wound up landing around 40 minutes later, so it wasn’t too bad.

I got in contact with our driver once we landed and met him curbside. It took us about an hour to get home and walked in the door around 6pm.

However, during our vacation we had some severe storms here ourselves in NJ. We had a tree of ours fall, but thankfully it didn’t cause any damage, but not something you want to see when you get home.

We were both tired but I always have to unpack and do laundry. My husband actually mowed the lawn too when we got home. Needless to say by the time we were done with what we had to do, we both slept very well that night.

Due to the storm we couldn’t do everything I wanted to do, but I am still happy that we decided to go. I will always appreciate going back to my happy place whenever we have the opportunity.

Key West is a place near and dear to my heart – is filled with special friends and great people a like. I always enjoy seeing familiar faces and meeting new ones.

Thank you for taking the time reading my blog….. until next time!

2 thoughts on “Should We Stay or Should We Go – Key West 7.3.21-7.10.21

  1. Wayne Howard

    Love reading your trip summaries, they help us plan our adventure! I’m so flattered I got a mention and a pic!! 😎 “This is the kind of spontaneous publicity I need” (name the movie). And I agree with Tad…pizza with no cheese??? Just wrong!! No self respecting tri-state area human can eat pizza with no cheese!! When we’re settled in down there we’ll pick you guys up and head to the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key. I don’t know who has the best pizza in the keys but it’s pretty dam good, and it has CHEESE!!

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