I couldn’t believe we were headed back to Key West again after just a few months. However this time, felt like it was a much needed break and so did my husband. With our arrival day nearing I was getting super excited watching the weather forecast. 80s during the day all week and 70s in the evenings. It was a welcoming sight to see after our cold trip back in January. (That is why the month of April is my favorite time to visit Key West. The weather is usually very warm, but not too warm and pretty much on the drier side.)
Saturday – April 16th – Arrival Day
Our flight landed a little bit sooner than expected so that was an added bonus. We deplaned and walked the tarmac into the airport as another flight was walking to their plane.
Luckily there was no line outside of the airport, so we were able to grab one of the first taxis. Soon we were on our way to the Gardens hotel.
(You can read my review of the Gardens Hotel here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d227346-r835996964-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html)
We walked in and check-in was a breeze as usual. When you stay at the same place over and over like we do, it can’t get any easier than that. .
Then came the infamous turn. Our typical right turn onto Duval. My husband and I always joke about it, how once you make that turn all the energy from Duval St. comes to life.
While we were walking down Duval St. we noticed that some of Duval St. was completely closed. It turned out they were having a flea market.
It was neat to walk down the street and not have to worry about traffic, etc. It reminded me when they used to close parts of Duval during the evenings several years ago.
During our stroll, I remembered Gabriel Wright was playing at Captain Tony’s that afternoon. My husband and I felt bad that we didn’t get a chance to see him last time we were in town, except for when we ran into him while we was riding his bicycle.
We walked in and Gabriel saw us right away and welcomed us. We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar and ordered a few drinks. It was a beautiful afternoon listening to him sing some of our usual favorite requested songs that he always remembers.
It was nearing 4 o’clock so I wanted to be sure to see our friend, Zack Seemiller at Rick’s before his set ended. We said goodbye to Gabriel and told him we would most likely see him again.
On our walk back I saw that our friend Terri was bar tending at the Tree Bar and I wanted to stop in and say a quick hello. So much for going back to the Gardens. There were two seats open and we sat down and ordered a couple of fresh squeezed orange juice and Titos. I must have to say those drinks are super refreshing and I could drink more then one, but it wouldn’t be a good idea with dinner on the near horizon. We talked to Terri for a few, along with a couple of people sitting at the bar. It was kind of funny because I heard one of the guys talking and I mentioned to my husband that his voice sounded familiar. And then my husband said ‘yes’, he just said he did voice overs. Go figure?
We thanked Terri for the couple drinks and started walking back down Duvala. It was getting closer to the time of our reservation, so we walked down to Blue Heaven instead of stopping at the Gardens first. There were already a few people lined up and I thought to myself now we are going to have to wait even though I made reservations.
When I walked up to the hostess, she said our table was ready. I was so relieved that we didn’t have to wait. I know technically it was still very early in the evening, but both of us hadn’t eaten since at the airport .
We were both full after our meals, however several years ago we saw the episode of the show with Andrew Zimmern when he visited Key West and went to Blue Heaven. I remembered him ordering a piece of key lime pie and watched behind the scenes of the baker making it – with that huge pile of meringue on top. When our server asked us if we would like anything else, I said yes a piece of key lime pie please.
We finished up the pie and we didn’t have much energy left to do anything else, especially after a day of travel. As a result we walked back down to Angela St. to the Gardens. The bar was still open so we talked to Phil while having a night cap and then went to get some much needed sleep.
You can read my review of Blue Heaven here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447631-r835997980-Blue_Heaven-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
Sunday – April 17th – Easter
We woke up to a beautiful morning. This was our first time back for Easter in Key West since before covid. In the past we have had Easter Brunch at Louie’s Backyard and Latitudes. I really enjoyed Louie’s Backyard for brunch but I prefer to eat earlier in the morning and the first seating at Louie’s isn’t until 11am.
A few months ago I made reservations on line for breakfast at Latitudes. I was able to book the ferry at 9:15am. Once we freshened up we walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen for our first cup of coffee of the week. We remembered to take the little short cut this time which cuts off a lot of time, even though it isn’t that far of a walk at all, but when you really need that first cup of coffee, the quicker you can get there the better.
We walked in and the line wasn’t too long. For some reason we always wind up getting behind someone who doesn’t know what they want and wind up asking a hundred questions about every item on the menu. Sometimes I wish they could have a separate line for coffee orders only, but I know it is a small place and they do the best they can.
Eventually we got our coffees in hand and walked down towards the Opal Resort (which used to be the Margaritaville Resort, and the Westin before that). It was nearing 9:15am and I noticed that the ferry was already there and loaded with people. We tried to drink all of our coffee before boarding, but sadly had to throw reset of it away.
Then as we walked onto the ferry we saw a few people holding coffee cups. Darn it I thought. I didn’t think beverages were allowed. All well. Good to know for next time.
The outside seating was fully occupied, so we opted to sit inside which was nice and air conditioned. I always enjoy the inside too because the smell of the teak wood reminds of taking the Caneel Bay Ferry from St. Thomas to St. John years ago.
We were given menus and water. I started to take a few photos while we waited for our server. And waited…. and we noticed no one was coming over. Finally we did get one of the server’s attention and he said he would get someone to come over. After a few minutes someone did come over. He apologized and said he usually works dinner and not breakfast (I assume he was filling in for someone).
Once we were done, we walked back to the dock to catch the ferry back. We timed it exactly right because the ferry just arrived. We only had to wait a few minutes to load back onto the ferry. I noticed this time the ferry was almost full. It was around 10:30am so most likely it is a popular time with hotel guests to go to the main island.
Eventually we made our way to the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon to see our friends Phil (the owner) and Ramsey (one of the bartenders that works there). We chatted for a bit and it was nice to see them both. (I always love it when it is the beginning of the trip and people ask you how long you are in town and when you say for the week it seems like forever.)
We said our goodbyes and walked down back to the Gardens. They were still setting up so we secured two seats at the bar while we watched all the guests and locals alike arrive. Then I noticed the owner of the Gardens Hotel Kate was dressed in her Easter finest.
I wound up trying to look myself but came up empty. However, one of the locals I was talking to, came back with several bottles of champagne and give one to us. I thought that was really nice.
After Jazz ended we walked down to Firefly. We had always walked by it but never tried it. This time I was determined to give it a try. When we walked in, the hostess asked us if we wanted to sit inside or outside and I suggested outside. So we walked up the stairs (the restaurant is basically a transformed house) and through a dining area onto the outside porch.
We ordered our appetizers and main meals. While we were sitting there, the winds started to pick up quite a bit. So when our server came back over I asked if we could move inside and apologized for the inconvenience. She said it wasn’t a problem and we walked back inside, downstairs and wound up sitting at the bar since the tables were all occupied.
As we were settling into our new location, our appetizers arrived. My husband ordered the mac and cheese which was served in a cute little cast iron skillet. I don’t know what made me order it, but I wanted to try it and be somewhat daring. I wound up ordering the buffalo pig ears. Actually the first few weren’t so bad, but after I started realizing what they were, I had enough. At least I can say I tried it.
You can read my review of Firefly here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d4867469-r835999547-Firefly_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
We were both quite tired so we headed back towards the Garden, but first stopped to grab a bottle of white wine for our room. It was nice to sit out on our porch/balcony with a glass of wine before retiring for the evening.
Monday – April 18th – La Te Da, Hogsbreath, Cafe Sole
The food came out in a timely matter and was as always very good. Once we were fueled up we walked back to the Gardens to relax for a little bit.
We thanked Gabriel for playing our usual requests and he mentioned that he was playing at the Salty Frog (formerly Red Fish Blue Fish – ate there once….no comment) the following evening, so we told him we would stop by.
You can read my review of Cafe Sole here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d495527-r836001571-Cafe_Sole-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
When we were done with our meals we walked down towards the Galleon. It turned out that friends of ours, Will and Lynda, (that used to come down from NY to Key West for the winter months – and were the ones that talked us into coming down to Key Wests back in 2006) were in town the same week as us. Will plays with the Hippie Band every year for Earth Day at the Schooner Wharf.
We hadn’t seen them in a while, so we were both excited to see them. We walked into the Sunset Tiki Bar and Will was already playing. Lynda was sitting down, so we sat next to her along with a few of her friends. I noticed however, the winds started to pick up. And I mean pick up. At least it wasn’t too cold out our anything.
Will was only playing until 9pm so we wound up staying until the end. After he was done we sat and chatted for a little bit, catching up on things. It was so nice to seem them both again in Key West.
It was getting late so we said our goodbyes and told them we would see them again at the Schooner Wharf later on that week.
We walked back to the Gardens and turned in for the night.
Tuesday – April 19th – Breakfast Club Too, Smokin’ Tuna, Red Shoe Bistro and Salty Frog
The winds started to pick up a bit again but it was welcoming because it was getting a bit warm in that sun, especially with no clouds in the sky.
We ordered a couple beers and settled in to watch Zack and Carl. It was a nice afternoon to hear them play. I kind of prefer just seeming them before instead of the band. However, I enjoy the full band as well, but it is just a little different.
No surprise we wound up staying for the entire show. At that point we were feeling pretty good. We said goodbye to Zack and Carl and headed towards the Gardens hotel.
I had made dinner reservations that evening at one of our new favorite places, Red Shoe Bistro. We made it back to the Gardens to get ready for dinner.
The Red Shoe Bistro is located not too far from the Gardens, like Firefly. We walked down Duval onto Petronia. The place was quite busy. I recognized one of the owners and he asked us where we would like to sit, and we prefer the bar so he seated us there.
For our appetizers I decided to go with their crab cakes and my husband and had the special which were lobster crepes. When our appetizers came out they looked so good. I wasn’t sure if it was because I was so hungry but wow, the crab cakes were delicious. They were served with a light tomato sauce which isn’t a normal pairing with crab cakes but it worked beautifully. My husband absolutely loved his lobster crepes. I even had to try a taste and they too were amazing.
My husband wound up ordering what I usually get, the yellowtail snapper with shrimp and I tried their catch of the day which was tilefish. Both dishes were outstanding. That is why we keep coming back to this place. It is always consistently good.
You can read my review of Red Shoe Bistro here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d21141783-r836002156-Red_Shoe_Island_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
After dinner we walked down to Ramshead where Zack was playing. Unfortunately there weren’t enough seats at the bar for the two of us and it was pretty crowded. We saw Zack’s friends, Ron, Natalie and Stephanie so we talked to them for a couple of minutes. Then we decided to check out the Salty Frog where Gabriel Wright was playing. Plus I wanted to walk off all that food we just had. I was stuffed.
We walked down towards Mallory Square into the Salty Frog. The place is a decent size. Gabriel was playing towards the back. My husband ordered us a couple of drinks (that I really didn’t need) while I grabbed a table.
Gabriel saw us and we said hello. His wife Kim was doing the video so we said hello to her as well. It was a fun night listening to him at a new place instead of Captain Tony’s. Don’t get me wrong I like Captain Tony’s, but it was a nice change.
It was getting late and I couldn’t drink anymore. Gabriel was ending his set so once he finished we said our goodbyes and made the long walk back to the Gardens and passed out for the night.
Wednesday – April 20th – Bagatelle’s, Smokin’ Tuna, Willie T’s, Martin’s
It is always so pleasant to walk down Duval in the morning. No crowds, no traffic, just a quiet street unlike at night – especially on the weekends.
We walked in to Bagatelle’s and were seated right on the front porch, which like La Te Da, is a perfect place to watch the world of Key West go by.
I was in the mood for something different, so I had their lobster omelette with mushrooms and swiss cheese AND topped with a Key Lime Hollandaise sauce. Yes it was decadent but oh so good. My husband ordered just a regular breakfast of fried eggs.
So we regrouped and walked down to the Tuna. Joal was already playing and he recognized us. I can’t even remember the last time we saw him but it was nice to see him again and listen to him sing.
Not before we long we saw Ron and Natalie walk in. They joined us at our table and we had a fun time hanging out and listening to Zack. While he was finishing up we saw John LaMere walk in. He was scheduled to play after Zack so he came over and welcomed us back in town.
We stayed for a few John LaMere songs before making our way back out. We were both getting pretty hungry and needed to grab something to eat. We said goodbye to Ron and Natalie and decided to give Martin’s a shot.
Unfortunately when we walked in, it was just after 6pm. We just missed happy hour. The host asked us if we had reservations but obviously we didn’t. Luckily two people just left that were seated at the bar and told us that we could have those two seats, perfect!
Once we sat down, my husband ordered a martini and I had a glass of white wine. There’s no way I could have had a martini after drinking all afternoon, but it did look good.
Our appetizers consisted of tuna poke and the calamari ceviche. Both were delicious. My husband decided to go for it and ordered the beef wellington. Martin’s had a grouper special wrapped in bacon so I decided to go with that.
My husband’s beef wellington looked amazing. I even had to try a taste even though I don’t eat beef and it tasted as good as it looked. My grouper, on the other hand, wasn’t what I had hoped for. Unfortunately it was overcooked which dried the fish out. All well, not every meal can be a top ten. It still tasted very good but just too dry for my liking.
My review of Martin’s is here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d779473-r836003023-Martin_s-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
After dinner we agreed to just walk back to the Gardens. I knew I wouldn’t make it to the Tuna. We still had the bottle of white wine in our room, so we walked back shared a glass and called it a night.
Thursday – April 21st – White Tarpon, Mallory Square, The Roost, Willie T’s, Berlin’s, Smokin’ Tuna
We walked in and sat at the bar. This morning, however I was not in the mood for eggs. I think I reached my limit of eggs for breakfast several days in a row. I saw on the menu that they had some nontraditional breakfast items, such as a BLT. For some reason it just sounded so good to me, so I wound up ordering. My husband ordered the huervos rancheros.
His breakfast came out in a cute little cast iron skilled. Then when my BLT came out, I could not believe size of it, but boy did it taste good and hit spot. I definitely recommend trying the White Tarpon for breakfast.
When were done with breakfast we wound up walking around and did a little shopping. We walked through all the shops near Mallory Square like we usually do.
It wasn’t too hard to find and we walked in. It was such a cute little place. No one was in there but then the bartender came out from the back. She told us to sit anywhere and that they make their own ginger beer. They had a special Key West lime mule on hand so we both thought to give it a try. It was a good decision because it tasted nice and refreshing after all our shopping. The bartender introduced herself, Annette, from Dublin. Boy was she a hoot to talk to. I could have stayed there for a while just listen to her tell us these stories, but I knew we still had the rest of the day ahead.
Then the next order of business was to find this store for my husband’s friend. Last time we were in Key West, my husband’s friend asked him to pick up this hat, but both of us totally forgot about it. So this time he wanted to make sure he picked one up. Apparently when my husband’s friend and wife visited Key West last year, they saw this rooster hat at a place called Tucker’s and like my sign, regretted that he never got one.
Ironically the Tucker store was located really close to the Gardens. We must have walked past the store countless times and never noticed it and/or walked in. We walked in and the place was so cute. All their clothing, hats, accessories…. I even had to get a hat. They were too cute to pass up. So instead of one hat purchase, it was three. Yes my husband got one too.
I think for some reason that meal gave me some energy, enough energy that we walked back down Duval to the Tuna. Joal Rush was playing so it was fun to catch him again.
Carl’s wife Erin was working so we sat at the bar. We wound up staying for Caffeine Carl and the Band. This time Just George was playing. I was kind of disappointed that Zack wasn’t playing that night but George is always solid.
We had a fun time listening to the band. In fact it was probably the latest we had stayed up during our entire trip.
It was getting late and unless I wanted to feel extremely terrible the next day, which was our last full day, then it was that time to head out and get back to the Gardens.
We did make it back and crashed.
Friday – April 22nd – Last Full Day (Always Comes TOO Fast)
We noticed while we were eating that the rain was starting up again and then it would dissipate. However once we were done with breakfast, the rains started up again. And it was coming down. I thought we were going to be stuck at Sarabeth’s for hours. Eventually the rain stopped momentarily so we were able to make our escape. We side our goodbyes and told Zack we would catch him later at Willie T’s.
Next up was of course to see Zack at Willie T’s. Unfortunately this time it was packed, most likely due to the weather so we couldn’t find any open tables. Thankfully a couple of seats at the bar opened up so we were able to sit down.
When we sat down, it was just before 6 o’clock and the bartender said that we can still order off th Happy Hour menu.
We looked at the menu and everything looked so good. We wound up sharing the pizza with pepperoni, tuna poke and the calamari steak.
We probably could have ordered more but after the pizza I was quite stuffed. It was such a great deal. We had a couple of sangrias and all that food and I believe the bill was around $45? I would definitely go back to Off the Hook for their happy hour.
When we were done with dinner we walked down to the Schooner Wharf.
The Hippie Band was already playing. We located Lynda who was sitting at a table near the stage. It was nice to see her again.
We ordered a couple of drinks and listened to the band.
It was a nice evening but of course I was getting sad knowing we were leaving the next morning. The band eventually went on break so we were able to see Will before we headed out. It was getting later in the evening and I wanted to stop at the Tuna at least to see a couple of songs before we had to get back to the Gardens.
We said our goodbyes to Will and Lynda and we all joked how we have to get together up here in NJ/NY this summer.
We walked back down Duval. Being it was a Friday night, the streets were filled with people. We dodged the crowds and made it to the Tuna. There were no seats to be had. The place was packed. I was debating about sitting at a chair at the end of the bar, but there was only one. And by the time I thought about sitting down, someone beat me to it. All well.
Then I noticed these two ladies sitting at one of the tables near the stage. It looked like they were leaving, because they only had drinks and no food. I walked up and asked if they were leaving. They weren’t but invited us to join them. I thought that was really sweet so we took them up on their offer. It turned out they were locals and they were waiting to see Caffeine Carl play.
While we were chatting Carl came over to say hello to us. Then Zack spotted us and came over and I gave him one last hug goodbye before the band came on to the stage. We only stayed for several songs. I was hoping to hear Jersey Girl but didn’t get to hear it. And then it came to be that time where we had to motivate ourselves to leave.
We said goodbye to Erin and Big Ed who was also working. Then made our way by the stage and waved goodbye.
And made our last walk down Duval to the Gardens.
Saturday – April 23rd – Going Home
I can never sleep through the night without waking up, especially the night before we have to fly back home. I think I might have looked at the clock ten times throughout the night.
I did have the alarm set for 6:00am but didn’t even need to do so. We did get up on time and packed up our things after a quick shower.
We did the dreaded walk of woe dragging our rollable carry-ons past the pool to the front of the Gardens. Our taxi was scheduled to pick us up at 7:15am. Usually they show up on time but this time we had some issues. It was nearing 7:30 and no taxi.
Eventually the taxi did show up. Once we were dropped off at the airport we hear someone calling to us. We look over and it was Phil the bartender from the Gardens. He was waiting for us. He had two Dunkin Donut coffees in hand and a couple of egg and cheese croissants. We told him when were leaving the previous day, but I didn’t expect him to do that. We were both beside ourselves. We thought it was so nice of him. We thanked him and told him we would see him soon.
Thankfully it wasn’t raining.
Our flight took off on time and actually landed a few minutes earlier. (And as a side note the mask mandate was lifted while we were away, so we didn’t have to wear one in the airport or on the plane and even at Newark airport when we landed.)
I got in touch with our car service and we met the driver outside at the curb. Ironically our car driver, whom we have gotten to know, used to live in the Keys years ago and gave me a welcome home gift.
We got home around 1pm and soon the thoughts of Key West became another distant memory.
It was another great trip to Key West, seeing our friends, visiting our favorite places and listening to great music. Key West continues to be one of those special places filled with beauty and wonderful people that keeps bringing me back. It’s my happy place.
Thanks again for taking time to read my blog…. until next time!