Originally my husband and I were planning on returning to St. John, in the US Virgin Islands for October. I had postponed the trip last year due to COVID. However, at the beginning of this year I was uncertain about the testing requirements and the availability to visit the neighboring British Virgin Islands. I contacted the villa management company about pushing out our St. John trip another year to 2023. They were very accommodating and appreciated the fact that I gave them enough notice so they could easily rebook the villa with that amount of time.
So without hesitation I wanted to return to Key West as the alternative. It also turned out that our friends Brent and Julie would be in Key West the same time. I immediately contacted the Gardens Hotel and we were all set to return to Key West (for our 28th time!) I knew as well, that it was Fantasy Fest, but after getting a small dose of it last year, I knew we could either avoid it or see it so I was not concerned at all.
Saturday, October 22nd – Arrival Day – The Gardens, Rick’s, Latitudes, The Smokin’ Tuna
It was only about 3 months ago that we were in Key West, but with the weather turning colder I was eager to get back once again. Our flight was scheduled out of Newark Liberty International at 9:30am so I had our usual car service pick us up at 6:30am. We arrived at the airport in just over an hour. The airport wasn’t too crowded when we walked up to the TSA checkpoint. Recently we had to renew our TSA Pre status along with the Clear Pass. Everything was up-to-date providing a quick walk through security. Then my husband and I both got the random check light. I had never seen it before, but all they did was take each of our cell phones and scanned and wiped them down. I would assume it is to trace any amounts of something illegal on the phones? Nevertheless our phones were handed back to us and we walked down towards our Gate. The United Club Lounge was still under renovations so we found a place to have some coffee and something to drink.
It was nearing the time of when we were scheduled to board. We walked down to the end of the terminal to the lower level. This seems to be the usual gate for Key West lately. I noticed that mostly everyone waiting to board the plane was older. There weren’t any kids or families in sight – most likely since it was Fantasy Fest. Soon the announcement was made and we were able to board the plane. We were lucky enough to get the 2nd row in First Class because of my miles and the United Card. The plane was full, but being that it is smaller plane it doesn’t take too much time for everyone to board.
It was actually a beautiful morning for flying. Usually we have to wait a while before take off, but this time we were able to take off in a timely manner.
During the flight we were offered breakfast. The flight attendant told us it was some sort of cold chia seed cereal of some sort. I decided to pass and I am glad I did. When my husband was handed the breakfast I could see is look of disappointment. Thankfully there was a decent fruit bowl and yogurt.
Our flight was a bit bumpy throughout the duration but we managed to make great time. It was around 12:30pm and I could start to see all the blue and green hues below – which is always a sign that we are getting closer. The captain announced that we were approaching Key West and would be a few minutes early.
I was so excited that we were going to be landing with so much time left for our first day.
Once our plane landed we anxiously awaited for the door to open. Soon we were given the go ahead sign to deplane. This time though, our escort waited until we all excited the plane. Usually they will escort you while everyone is still walking off the plane. It seemed like an eternity but finally she started walking us towards the entrance to the airport.
The weather was absolutely incredible. The sky was so blue. We had our usual carry-on luggage so we breezed through the small airport and outside to grab a taxi. When we walked out of the airport we saw one of our friends and musicians picking up a friend, John LaMere. We quickly walked over to him and gave him a hug. He welcomed us both “back home” and that just made me smile.
We walked back over to catch a taxi and there was no one waiting. We were able to get in the first taxi in line and we were off to the Gardens Hotel. As I mentioned earlier, this marked our 28th time in Key West and also our 28th time staying at the Gardens. We just can’t seem to validate staying anywhere else in Key West since we love the place so much.
After a quick ride down to Simonton St. I could see the familiar yellow that surrounds the Gardens. The taxi dropped us off and we walked up the stairs and into the main building to check-in. There wasn’t any other guests checking in, so we were able to check-in quickly. It was just after 1pm and our room was ready. I also shipped a box of our toiletries ahead of time that they already brought to our room.
As we walked through the building and out onto grounds we saw two familiar face at the pool bar. It was Brent and Julie waiting for us! Also Phil who bartends at the pool bar, whom we have become friendly with, was also working. It felt like it was a welcome wagon. We were going to drop off our things, but first Phil handed us both a cold beer. We sat down and talked to Brent and Julie for a few. While we were catching up, my husband brought up our luggage and unpacked his things. Then came my turn to do the same. When I walked into our room I noticed that Kate, the owner of the Gardens left us a bottle of wine welcoming us back. I thought it was so sweet.
It wasn’t terribly hot that I didn’t feel the need to change at that point and neither did my husband. Julie had booked us dinner that night at Latitudes so I thought that we would just freshen up later. I was also hoping to stop at Rick’s to see our friend Zack Seemiller. I wound up getting a shirt for him and his son Kai from the Pearl Jam concert we saw last month.
It was just around 2:30 and there was just enough time to catch the end of his show. We told Brent and Julie we would meet up with them around 5:15. Brent was also playing later that evening with Caffeine Carl and the Buzz with Just George so he wanted to drop off his guitar before dinner.
We walked out of the Gardens and quickly crossed Angela St. Brent told us last year about the short cut down to Cuban Coffee Queen. Since we didn’t have too much time, we took the short cut and onto Duval. Duval was busy as usual with locals and tourists walking around. I did spot a few that were already dressed up for Fantasy Fest.
You can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/7PsBSFGvOUs
We made it down to Rick’s and Zack was playing. He acknowledged us as we walked in. It was great to see him again. When he was done with his show we had a chance to talk for a few minutes and I was able to give him the shirts from the show. He thanked me and we told him we would see him again at Hogs Breath, but not before getting our usual photo together.
By the time we got back to the Gardens we had just enough time to freshen up and get ready for Latitude’s. We even had time for a quick chat with Jim, the general manager at the Gardens. It is always good to see him.
We met up with Brent and Julie and we walked with them down Duval to the Tuna. Brent quickly dropped off his guitar and we were on our way towards the Opal Resort to catch the water taxi to Latitudes.
As we got closer to the resort I saw they had a large Fantasy Fest sign on display.
It was a gorgeous evening and I thanked Julie for making the reservation. I originally thought I would be too tired to go to Latitude’s our first night after a day of travel, but looking at the water and sky made me excited for dinner. (Plus I had made reservations for us later in the week for breakfast and thought it would be too much, but it wasn’t at all.) We only had to wait a few minutes before the water taxi approached the dock.
There were several other people going to Latitude’s as well as we boarded the boat. The ride is pretty short, but it still reminds me of the ferry ride from St. Thomas to St. John. Once we docked we walked off the boat onto the pier and to the restaurant.
The hostess seated us at a table right outside. I knew we were in for a terrific sunset that night. Our server came over and asked us for our drink order. They didn’t have any specials that evening, but everything on the menu was available.
For our starters I had the lobster and crab cake and my husband had the tuna poke. Our friends had the scallops and shared the wedge salad. Then I figured that my husband and I would share the caesar salad. For our main meals my husband and Brent with the yellowtail, Julie ordered the scallops and decided to go with the grouper.
While we were waiting for our first course to arrive we watched the sunset and the view was magnificent. It was a long time since my husband and I had been to Latitudes for dinner.
Our first courses arrived and I could not believe the size of the lobster and crab cake. I thought it was going to be a light first course, but it was delicious nevertheless. My husband’s tuna poke was just as good, which I had a taste of it myself.
Then our salads arrived. They actually split the portions of our salads ahead of time before serving them to us. I didn’t realize you could do that and I would definitely do it again since the portion of the regular salad is more then enough for two people, especially having it as a second course. The caesar salad was perfectly dressed and was refreshing.
Once we were done with our salads, I departed to the ladies room. When I walked back to our table, I could not believe the view while the sun was almost set. I had to make sure I took a picture and I was so glad I did.
Soon it was time for our dinner courses. The grouper was tasty and fresh as well as my husband’s yellowtail. Julie loved her scallops. I was a little hesitant going back for dinner, due to the last time we went to Latitudes (for Easter Brunch) the food was just okay. However, this time everything was spot on and that’s important especially when you look at the prices for dinner. And I don’t mind spending the money when the food is that good and also the view.
You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d680742-r867000974-Latitudes-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
After we were done with our main meals, no one had room for dessert. Plus we were planning on going to the Smokin’ Tuna when we got back. Once we were all set with the bill, we walked back to the pier to wait for the water taxi. We timed it right that one was on its way. I believe at night the water taxi’s leave Sunset Key every half hour.
Again it was a short ride back and we walked down to the Tuna. It was pretty crowded when we walked in, but there was one table that was open right in front of the stage. It was if it was left that way for a reason. While Brent went on stage to set up with Carl and the band, we ordered a couple of drinks. Erin and Ed were also working behind the bar so I made sure I said hello to them.
At this point of the evening I was starting to feel the long day but as soon as the band came on, it was if it gave me my second wind. The band sounded great that night and it was a lot of fun. When they took a break, Carl and George came over to say hello. It was nice to see them again.
You can watch a video from that night here: https://youtu.be/zHDh8FzZCcQ
I was able to power through until the end of the show even though I was getting tired from the long day of traveling and being up since 5:30am. I believe it was just after midnight when things started to wind down. Once the band was done, we waited for Brent and made our way back towards the Gardens. It was a lot of fun, but I was ready to get some sleep.
Sunday, October 23rd – Bagatelle, Jazz at the Gardens, Zombie Bike Ride, Kaya Island Eats
After a good night sleep, we woke up a little later with the sun shining through the curtains. I don’t mind though since the sun rises a bit later in Key West then what I am normally accustomed to. We both freshened up and walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen. I was happy to see there wasn’t a line, so were able to get our coffee in quickly.
With our coffee in hand we walked down Duval. It was just around 9:30 and it was still quiet. I remember last year when we went to Key West during Fantasy Fest (even though it wasn’t the full Fantasy Fest) mornings were very quiet. Most likely due to the fact a lot of the Fantasy Fest activities start later in the evening and end late.
We walked down almost to the end before stopping at Bagatelle. It is one of our usual spots to have breakfast. Usually though it is in our rotation towards the end of our visit, but I was in the mood for their southern eggs benedict. We walked up the stairs and the hostess seated us at one of the tables on the front porch. I think it was the exact same table we sat in a few months ago.
Since we already had our coffee, we ordered breakfast when our server came over. I of course had the southern eggs benedict and my husband ordered the huervos rancheros. While we waited for our breakfast, I watched the conch trains go by and all the tourists starting to fill the streets. Then I realized there was a cruise ship in town. We didn’t notice too many ships in while we were in Key West. Maybe one ship every other day. It wasn’t like it used to be, 2 or even 3 ships in at once.
Soon our breakfast was served and I was hungry. The benedict was just what I was in the mood for. The braised pork that replaces the usual ham and the cornbread all go so well together. Plus I enjoy the spicy hollandaise sauce that they serve on top of the eggs. Speaking of eggs, my poached eggs were cooked perfectly. The whites were set and the yokes had a slight doneness around the outside. One of my pet peeves is having eggs benedict that are so underdone that when you put your fork in them they disintegrate into a puddle. My husband had no complaints on his huervos rancheros and enjoyed them as well.
You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447767-r867003688-Bagatelle-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
Once we were done with breakfast, we wound up going for a walk around the Bight. It was another beautiful day. The humidity was low so even though it was in the low 80s, it didn’t feel too hot. Plus there was a nice light breeze as well.
We wound stopping in one of our favorite places, The Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. Our friend Ramsey was bartending so it was fun to see her again. The manager Phil stopped by too so we chatted with him for a while. We joked about how a year ago we were there while they were getting ready for some sort of gathering, not knowing what it entailed. (Let’s just say it is for couples that enjoy the company of other couples). (And if you wearing an upside down pineapple on your clothing it is a sign, which we had no idea as well.)
Luckily it wasn’t starting for a bit, so we had time to sit back and take in the view of the water in the background. We talked to Ramsey for a bit as well and before we knew it, they arrived and started to set up for the up and coming festivities.
That was our signal to tab out and plan our next move. We thanked Ramsey and made tentative plans to meet up the next day and if not we would see her again later on in the week.
It was a nice afternoon to walk around while trying to decide what to do. Then we heard from Brent and Julie that they were back at the Gardens. So wound up walking back to the Gardens to meet up with them. We walked in and grabbed a couple of seats at the Gardens Bar. Phil was behind the bar again, which is always entertaining.
It was a relaxing afternoon talking and telling stories. And every so often, a few guests would walk by all dressed up to go out later in the evening.
I remembered as well that the Zombie Bike Ride was going on that afternoon. We asked around throughout the day where it was starting but no one really knew exactly where it was. I then saw Kate, the owner of the Gardens all dressed up wearing her Fantasy Fest Queen sash. That evening the Gardens was honoring all the past and present Fantasy Fest Queens and Kings right before Jazz.
The staff began setting up the area for jazz by moving around the tables and chairs near the pool area. At this point my husband and I decided to stay and listen to the jazz before heading out for dinner. Brent and Julie had plans to go to A&B Lobster House that evening so we figured we would go some place close by for dinner once Jazz was over.
Everyone started to arrive and grabbed their seats at the table while the Jazz started. I walked up to Kate and talked to her for a few. She had the former Fantasy Fest Queens and Kingssitting with her and she asked to get a picture of all of us. I thought that was so nice.
Then she had to excuse herself because it was time for her to honor the Fantasy Fest Queens and Kings. I took a few pictures while she read their names and congratulated all of them. The jazz was nearing the end and my husband and I were getting pretty hungry at this point.
We walked down Angela St. to Duval and decided on Kaya Island Eats since it was so close by and the food has always been good the couple of times we have tried it. Once we crossed Duval St., my husband noticed that the road was blocked off and there were a couple of police officers stationed on their motorcycles right in the middle of Duval. Then as we looked around, we saw everyone was waiting for something.
And without even planning it, it was the Zombie Bike Ride about to come down Duval. I thought what timing! I immediately grabbed my phone and out started filming. Then there it was. The bicycles started to ride by us on Duval one by one, then group by group. It was such a fun sight to see everyone dressed up as Zombies. There were people of all ages and kids as well. I couldn’t believe we actually got to see it.
You can see my video here: https://youtu.be/THbKwcpQR4s
The bike ride was still going on, but we knew we had to get something to eat. We walked in and saw that the seats at the little bar area were opened. So we sat down and ordered a couple of beverages. Like last time, as soon as we sat down, flashbacks of this little restaurant in St. John called Longboard came to mind, which brought a smile to my face and also a little sad. Next year we’ll be there I thought to myself.
For our first course we wound up sharing the tuna poke appetizer. I remember it was a decent portion and figured it would be enough for the both of us. My husband ordered the rasta pasta for his main course with chicken and I was in the mood for their mahi mahi fish tacos so I went with that.
The tuna once again was delicious as well as our main course choices. When we were finished I flagged over the owner. I showed him the review I did on Tripadvisor back in January. In the review I included a picture that was taken of us and all of the staff. He remembered and said we should do it again as a tradition. He could only wrangle up just one other server because the rest of the staff were busy, but we did get a picture and told him I would write another review about how much we love the food and the place. He was very appreciative.
We walked back to Duval and the Zombie Bike Ride was still going on as well.
We watched a few more of the bikers go by before going back to the Gardens. Phil still had the bar open so we had a nightcap and listened to more of his stories. We also realized someone left behind the Fantasy Fest Queen crown.
While we were winding down for the evening, Brent and Julie came back from the A&B Lobster House.
We all decided to go to the gazebo to hang out for a bit. While we were talking about how we enjoyed our dinners, another couple Ann and Mike stopped by. They also came back from dinner and a Fantasy Fest event. We wound up hanging out for a while with everyone before retiring for the evening. It was nothing that we planned but it was fun.
Monday, October 24th – La Te Da, Hogs Breath, Cafe Sole, The Glass Cats
The night before we made plans to go to breakfast with Brent and Julie. So I didn’t want to sleep in too late. It was a bit of a struggle for me though to get up that morning. My husband got ready first and then I managed to get myself out of bed and into the shower.
We walked out of the room and again it was a gorgeous day. When I felt the sun shining, it made me feel a lot better. We walked down to meet up with Brent and Julie. We all grabbed a cup a coffee before we walked down to La Te Da. The streets again were pretty quiet.
The bar at La Te Da was all filled up so we grabbed a table, which was better because it makes for easier conversation. I ordered the La Te Da eggs benedict which consists of two poached eggs, served on top of breaded fried tomatoes and english muffins. I have ordered it before and do enjoy the different approach. Everyone else ordered scrambled eggs. Our food didn’t take too long to arrive. Everything was delicious as always when we have breakfast at La Te Da.
Brent and Julie had plans to go to the beach that day, which worked out perfectly, because I wanted to see Zack Seemiller at Hog’s Breath. Plus Brent was playing at the Tuna again that night with a band called The Glass Cats, so we would meet up with them later at the Tuna.
We walked back to the Gardens to relax for a little while. I was finally feeling like myself so motivated myself to get us both going. We walked back down Duval towards Hogs Breath. The streets were filled this time with more people. Some people were also dressed up or not so dressed up for Fantasy Fest, but there was a mix of people.
We were walking by the Tree Bar next to Rick’s when I noticed Terry was bartending. So we stopped in and said hello. We each ordered their signature fresh squeezed orange juice with some Tito’s. The orange juice tasted nice and refreshing. It also felt like a little vitamin c boost. We talked to Terry for a few and also some of the other patrons that were sitting there, including this beautiful dog.
My husband was wearing a High Tide t-shirt that we got a few years ago while we were on St. John. It is a restaurant located in Cruz Bay. While we were talking a couple noticed my husband’s shirt. They told us how they were supposed to go to St. Thomas, but do to the COVID restrictions implemented earlier in the year they changed their plans to Key West like us. And ironically the husband was from New Jersey, such a small world.
We finished our conversation and our drinks then headed down to Hogs Breath but not before thanking Terry. When we walked in Zack was still setting up. I wanted to sit at the bar near the stage, but all the stools were taken. Luckily the stools near the raw bar were open so we wound up sitting there. I also wanted to see the hats that Zack got in. Earlier in the year I designed these trucker hats for him. It was a bit of a long process, but he finally got them. He brought a few extra to give to me and my husband. I was so excited. I thought they came out really good if I do say so myself.
I immediately put the hat on and sat back as we listened to his show. It wasn’t too crowded so it was nice to enjoy the music without worrying if you are sitting to close to someone and/or move down a stool for someone else to sit, which we always do if there is room (even though I prefer the empty seat next to me).
After a couple of hours we made our way back to Duval. I had made plans with Zack to have lunch the following morning with his son Kai like we usually do at Breakfast Club Too, so we said we would see him then.
We were planning on going back to the Gardens but then I thought why don’t we stop by the Tuna to see who is playing the afternoon slot. We walked down Charles St. to the Tuna. It was pretty quiet, but another bartender we know (also named Phil) was working. He recognized us right away and welcomed us back.
We grabbed a couple of seats and ordered a drink. There were two guys playing and I believe their name was Dogwater. They were pretty good and I enjoyed their music. We only stayed for one because we knew we were coming back later that night. Plus I made reservations at one of my favorite places to eat, Cafe Sole for dinner.
We thanked Phil for the drinks and mentioned to him that we would back the next day to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play so we would see him then.
We made it back to the Gardens in enough time to freshen up for dinner and regroup for a few. Then it was nearing our reservation time so we walked back down Simonton and made the right hand turn onto Southard. I still can’t believe years ago when we were newbies in Key West, we could never find Cafe Sole and if we did, we would walk way out of the way and eventually find it. It is only a few minute walk down Southard to Frances, where Cafe Sole is located right on the corner.
We walked in with just a minute to spare. The covered outside porch area was already quite busy. I originally had reserved a table there, but then my husband noticed that the little bar area was empty. My husband asked the server if we could sit there. She said they normally don’t seat people there and didn’t have anyone stationed there but she would do her best. We weren’t in any rush and didn’t mind.
I picked out a bottle of red wine while we looked over the menu. It didn’t take us long on what to decide since we always order the hogfish. Our server came over and we ordered the hogfish for our main dish of course, but to start I went with the caesar salad and my husband ordered the escargot. He was contemplating the conch carpacchio but I am allergic and can’t eat it, so he ordered the escargot. That way I could have one or a few.
Our appetizers came out pretty quickly. The caesar salad was very good, which is really hard to mess up a caesar salad. I guess maybe if it is over dressed, but I tend to like extra dressing on a caesar salad. I tried a few escargot that my husband ordered and they were very good.
Then our hogfish arrived. It looked terrific. The sauce I think makes the dish but either way it was delicious.
You can read my review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d495527-r867007089-Cafe_Sole-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
Once we payed our bill we walked back to the Gardens to meet up with Brent and Julie. They were already waiting for us so we walked back down to Duval to the Tuna. We wanted to get there before the show started so we could get good seats. Being that it was a Monday night, it wasn’t too crowded when we walked in as opposed to a Friday or Saturday night at the Tuna.
Cliff Cody was just wrapping up his show and came by to say hello to Brent and Julie. Then it was time for Brent to set up with the band The Glass Cats. We saw the lead singer Myles Mancuso back in July playing at Hanks, so we were familiar with his voice, but I wasn’t sure what type of music The Glass Cats play.
Not before long Brent and the band were set up and the show was about to start. They started playing and immediately I recognized the song. It was Atlantic City, a song I really like. I thought if this is their first song, this is going to be a good night.
And a good night it was. Song and after song, the band sounded great. As the night went on more Fantasy Fest people arrived and started dancing. We even ran into Ann and Mike (guests from the Gardens Hotel that we had been hanging out with).
Then we noticed a larger guy wearing justs a thong and fishnet stockings dancing with a few girls. And this guy could dance and so could the women. We found it was the lead actor from the musical that was being played at the San Carlos Institute called Bum Farto. He was very entertaining.
All and all it was a fun night. We stayed all the way until the end and were able to meet Myles and the rest of the band. While we were all talking they said that they could get us tickets to see Bum Farto that Wednesday night. At first I was like see Bum Farto? What is it? Who is he? Then I thought why not? Something different to do in Key West.
You can see a video of them performing Dirty Laundry by Don Henley here: https://youtu.be/sk2_DZx3Q9I
We thanked them and headed back to the Gardens. Brent and Julie were mentioning that they would probably just have breakfast at the Gardens and we decided to do the same. Plus save some money since it is included. We said good night and headed in for the night.
Tuesday, October 25th – Tutu Tuesday (Breakfast Club Too, Carl and Zack, Blue Heaven, The Salty Frog)
I told Zack that we would meet him at 9:30 for breakfast so I made sure I had the alarm set not to oversleep and to give us enough time to shower. It was another beautiful morning and the sun was shining. We each grabbed a cup off coffee a the Gardens before walking down Simonton St. to Greene St.
We walked up to Breakfast Club Too and it was busy, but not too bad. The hostess seated us inside since the outside was all taken but it was fine. Soon Zack and Kai showed up and we waved them over. I wound up going with the chorizo rostis. I have had it before and I know the portions are huge but I was just in the mood for it. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered. It was nice to catch up with Zack and Kai. Having breakfasts with them is one of my favorite things to do while we are visiting Key West.
We thanked Zack and Kai for breakfast and told them we would be at the Tuna later. We decided to walk around the Bite for a few to burn off a few calories from breakfast. Again the weather was just spectacular. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t too hot or humid or windy – just perfect.
My husband got a message from Brent and Julie mentioning how they were having a late breakfast at Shor at the Hilton (which is located right next to the Galleon). We told them about the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon and they had never been. They wanted to check it out since we kept mentioning to them and how it is one of our go to places during the day. So we told them we would meet them at the Galleon for a drink.
We walked on over to the Tiki Bar and this time Candace was working. It was nice to see her as well. We ordered a couple of drinks, deep eddy sweet tea and water with a lemon. I find the drink to be refreshing and it is a nice way to ease in to the day.
Not be before long we here Julie and Brent show up. They couldn’t get over the view. I guess I take it for granted because we always go there and are so used to it. We talked for a bit and just enjoyed the view. Eventually they wanted to get back to the Gardens because Brent had some work he had to get done.
We all walked back on to Duval, but we took a turn down Charles St. to the Tuna and they continued on their way to the Gardens. I also made dinner reservations for all of us that evening at Blue Heaven so we told them we would catch up with them later.
Another favorite thing I like to do is go to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play at the Tuna. They have a great dynamic between the two of them and sometimes you don’t get to see it as much when the entire band plays together. Don’t get me wrong I still enjoy the entire band, but there’s something about just kicking back on a Tuesday afternoon listening to just the two of them.
We walked in and as expected Phil was behind the bar. We grabbed a couple seats and ordered a couple of drinks. Then I noticed the tables in front of the stage were open and asked Phil if we could sit there. I know they are usually used for people to have something to eat, but there weren’t too many people there so it wasn’t a problem.
It was a fun afternoon watching Carl and Zack play. I wanted to stay until the end, but my husband thought it would be better to start moving around since we had dinner that evening. We said our goodbyes.
You can see a video of Caffeine Carl and Zack here: https://youtu.be/kaahLFfCULk
We walked back on to Duval. The streets were filled with people wearing Tutus. I forgot it was Tutu Tuesday. Some were wearing tutus with garments underneath, and some were not. And the ones that were not, you wish they were.
By the time we got back to the Gardens, there wasn’t too much time before dinner. I made our reservations for 5:45pm thinking we could maybe catch Zack playing at Ramshead Southernmost after.
We did have time for a pre-dinner beverage at the Gardens Bar with Brent and Julie. I was debating about hopping in the shower but it wasn’t that hot of a day that I felt fine and Blue Heaven is casual, like most places in Key West.
Once we were done with our drinks we walked back out onto Simonton down a side street, which I love doing. You kind of get the feeling of what Key West is without all the tourists walking down the quiet side streets.
We walked down Petronia and to Blue Heaven.
There wasn’t a line this time so I walked right up and gave the hostess our name. She sat us at a nice table on the left side of the stage area.
Our server came over and he was a hoot. He was very energetic but very good. He went over the specials including stone crab. I remember I ordered it last year and was sticker shocked when we got the bill. So this time I asked him how much the appetizer was for two claws and he said $45. Pass.
I wasn’t in the mood for seafood that night so I wound up going with the Jamaican jerk chicken. To start with, I went with the miso baked eggplant that I had been eyeing since our last time we had dinner at Blue Heaven back in July. My husband and Julie ordered the filet mignon. She told us how the filet mignon is one of the best steaks in Key West, which I was surprised to hear. You would think a place like Prime or something. Brent wound up going with the yellowtail snapper.
We all ordered salads for our first course. When I first saw the miso baked eggplant, I knew I ordered the right thing. It was so good. The char they had on the eggplant was delicious. My Jamaican jerk chicken was good, but it was mostly just a mild dry rub. I tend to prefer jerk chicken that is spicier and has more of a sauce if you will. My husband loved his filet mignon so Julie was right. I even had to have a little taste and I do have to say it was extremely tender and flavorful for a filet.
You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d447631-r867009280-Blue_Heaven-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
No one had room for dessert so once we were done we walked back down Petronia. When we walked by Ramshead I popped my head in but disappointedly Zack was on break and the bar area was pretty full so we kept walking. My husband suggested that we go back to the Gardens for the evening, but then I remembered that Gabriel Wright was playing at the Salty Frog and we had not seen him yet.
So I convinced everyone to walk back down Duval all they way to the end to the Salty Frog. Along the way we saw a lot. Maybe too much. There were so many people dressed up or not dressed depending on how you looked at it. It was quite the sight to see.
After dodging the Fantasy Fest people, we walked in to the Salty Frog and there was Gabriel playing towards the back. As usual his wife Kim was filming him. My husband went to the bar to order us a couple of drinks while we grabbed a table.
When Gabriel went on break he came over to say hello and we introduced him to Brent. Ironically they are both from Ohio so that was kind of a fun fact.
We probably stayed longer then we should have but it was a lot of fun. When Gabriel was done, we took a few pictures and headed back to the Gardens.
You can see a video of Gabriel here: https://youtu.be/kAAj9LXVkaY
We had to dodge the Fantasy Fest people once again, but in a way it was entertaining seeing everyone.
We did make it back to the Gardens. We wound up going back to the Gazebo for one last night cap. I grabbed the bottle of wine that Kate left us and poured myself a glass which probably wasn’t the best ideea. We were having so much fun that I didn’t even care. We stayed up for a while longer before it was definitely time to get some sleep. We parted ways and said we would meet them for breakfast in the morning right at the Gardens.
Wednesday, October 26th – Captain Tony’s, Willie T’s, Bum Farto
After the late night we had, I definitely had a hard time getting out of bed. I was in no hurry to get up early that morning. Thank goodness I packed some Advil and it was much needed that morning. It was a slow start but after a shower I started to feel a little better. We walked down to one of the tables at the Gardens outside and then saw Brent and Julie. They were already eating breakfast but asked us to join them.
The breakfast that the Gardens offered that morning was a tasty omelet with vegetables and cheese. I tend to forget that the Gardens does offer a very good breakfasts each and every morning, but we usually go out for breakfast since we skip lunch. It is a great option though and especially being that it is included in your hotel rate. Brent and Julie also reminded us that later that was the Bum Farto show. The show started at 7pm so we had to be there a little earlier to pick up the tickets.
I may sound redundant, but again the weather was incredible. After breakfast we went back to sit on our porch for a little bit to regroup. Feeling slightly better, we walked down Simonton all the way down to the Sunset Tiki Bar. We each ordered our usual sweet tea and water.
Usually the day we tend to feel all the days of Key West catch up to us, is on Thursday. This time it was one day earlier, Wednesday. We only stayed for one and wanted to start moving around again.
We walked down to Captain Tony’s to see if Gabriel Wright was playing, and sure enough he was. So we grabbed a couple of open bar seats and ordered a couple of drinks. I think I just had a White Claw. I couldn’t really do beer at that point. I don’t think I really drank much beer during the trip, and normally I will have Corona Light, but maybe since it wasn’t as hot? I don’t know maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.
Of course Gabriel played a few songs that we always request like he always does. I do really appreciate it that he does that and remembers the songs I want to hear. We were finally feeling better and stayed for a little while. We even had a chance to talk to him for a few when he went on break.
Meanwhile I had reached out to friends of our Wayne and Karen. They were also going to the show later that evening and fans and friends of Zack. So I thought that we could meet up at Willie T’s before the show and grab something to eat and see Zack play.
So after Captain Tony’s we wound up walking back to the Gardens. It was nice just to hang out and talk to the other guests. Plus Phil was bartending again and as I mentioned before he is quite comical. We also ran into Kate’s dog, Valen”tiny”. The dog is tiny but adorable.
We also ran into another couple we met during our last trip in July, Lynn and her husband Alan. They wound up going back the same time as us so it was nice to see them again. Brent and Julie showed up. They had dinner plans so we figured we would meet up with them after.
It was getting later in the afternoon and I wanted to catch at least some of Zack’s show. Plus we were supposed to meet up with Wayne and Karen. I did get a message from them that they were heading there shortly. (They live up the Keys a little bit).
So we walked back down Duval to Willie T’s. Willie T’s is actually pretty close to the Gardens. We walked in and there wasn’t a table available. Well there was one, but it was right in the sun, and the last thing we wanted to do is sit in the sun right before going to a show at the theater. While my husband ordered a couple of drinks at the bar I noticed a couple leaving, so I grabbed the table. Zack was playing and waved hello to him.
While we were listening to Zack’s show I got a message from Wayne and it turned out that they were going to go Virgilio’s for dinner instead. So we wound up ordering food anyway at Willie T’s since we were already there. We shared some coconut shrimp and I had their mahi mahi sandwich and my husband had a burger. Surprisingly the food was really good. I remember a while back having their wings there and also their peel and eat shrimp. While we were eating, Wayne and Karen stopped by. It was nice to see them again. They were excited about the Bum Farto show as well.
Zack was finishing up his show and then John LaMere was up next to play so we stayed for part of his show. We still had some time before the show so we made the short walk back to the Gardens and ran into David! He used to work at the Gardens, it was great to see him.
Then it was time to get to the theater. Actually it is called The San Carlos Institute (they call it an institute now instead of a theater, because I found out they have classes there).
We made it to the theater and were about to go in, but all of a sudden we heard a fire alarm. Someone must have pulled it accidentally. So we had to wait for the fire department to show up. (Ironically the story of Bum Farto was that he was initially the Chief of the Key West Fire Department.)
Once they gave the clear we were able to enter the building. I was always curious to see what the inside looked like.
Our seats were located on the upper level so we walked up the stairs and sat down. It was just us and a few other people (in the upper level).
Soon the seats below filled up and thhe show began. It was so cool to see all the old photos of how Key West looked back then. The first halaf of the show was good but it felt a little long. We were able to break at intermission to use the facilities, which were co-ed, very interesting.
When the second half started, the pace picked up and it was really good. There was this one singer I believe his name was Aarron Lavigne and his voice was incredible. The show ended and all of us were pleasantly surprised how much we enjoyed the show, plus it was something different to do.
By the time it ended we just agreed to go back to the Gardens and get some sleep.
Thursday, October 27th – Latitudes, the Gardens, Lola’s
Several months prior I made reservations for breakfast at Latitudes, but moved it to Thursday (I originally had it booked the reservation for that Sunday) since we were going to have dinner our first night there.
We woke up to another beautiful morning. The reservation wasn’t until 9:45am so we had some time to sleep in. We both freshened up and met Brent and Julie for some coffee at the Gardens.
It was the perfect weather to walk down Duval to the Opal Resort to catch the water taxi.
There were a few other people waiting as well, but definitely not as many for dinner. We boarded the taxi and we were on our way back to Latitudes, but this time for breakfast which I always enjoy.
We walked in to the restaurant and ironically were seated at the same table we had dinner the other night.
Our server came over and took our orders. I wasn’t in the mood for eggs that morning so I went with their smoked salmon.
The breakfast was very good and better then when we went for Easter Brunch back in April. We talked about walking in the Locals Walking Parade the following day. Brent and Julie told us how they would do it every year while they were in town. We were excited to walk the parade, but we didn’t have any costumes.
When were all done with our meals we took the water taxi back. It was a short ride as usual. Once we got off the taxi Brent and Julie headed back to the Gardens. I didn’t feel like going back just then and wanted to walk around for a bit.
Eventually we made it back to the Gardens to relax for the afternoon. We would occasionally see other guests that we became friendly with throughout our stay. It was a nice afternoon just taking it easy.
Julie had made reservations at Lola’s that evening for the 6pm seating. So when it was time for dinner we met up and made the short walk down Simonton to Lola’s. When we arrived they were just opening up. We only had to wait a couple minutes before we were seated. The owner’s wife came over and told us what the menu would be for that evening. I find it exciting not knowing what they are going to offer until you sit down. I do wish however, they would tell you the prices, especially being it is a cash / check only place. What if you didn’t bring enough?
I wound up ordering the pork belly for my first course and the lamb chops for my main meal. Brent and my husband went with the Halibut for their main courses and Julie went with the snapper. Our first courses were brought out and I noticed their portions were huge. I couldn’t get over it. My husband’s lobster tail appetizer was quite large. My pork belly was the only one that was probably a normal portion, but it was excellent.
I wish I took a picture of the halibut when it came out. The piece of fish looked like a brick. When my lamb chops came out I couldn’t believe how many there were. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered and including me. The food is expensive, but worth it in my opinion.
You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d19247202-r867011766-Lola_s_Bistro-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
Everyone was pretty full after dinner that we just walked back to the Gardens. I wanted to go to the Tuna but I knew Caffeine Carl and Zack were not going on until 10:30pm. I knew I wouldn’t make it after that dinner.
We wound up going back to the Gazebo near the Gardens Pool and had a nightcap (or a few) before calling it a night and again it wound up being a late night.
Friday, October 28th – Shor, Locals Walking Parade, The Smokin’ Tuna
I was in no hurry to get up early that morning (again). I wanted to sleep in so that I would feel refreshed to start the day. We eventually got up and I did feel a lot better getting the extra sleep. By the time we freshened up it was after 10:00am. We knew breakfast might be a challenge because we were later.
We decided to give it a try and walked back down Duval towards Bagatelle. While we were walking, we noticed that there was a cruise ship in town and there were a lot more people walking around. We made it to Bagatelle, but it was packed. We walked by Two Friends and joked about going in there, but it was crowded plus I am just not a fan of the place.
Then we looked across the way and Island Dog was serving breakfast again, but it was also crowded. We kept walking and I thought about going to the Kermits again for breakfast, but then my husband had an idea of trying Shor at the Hyatt. Brent and Julie talked highly of the place so we figured why not?
We walked in to the Hyatt parking lot and followed the signs to the restaurant. We have walked by the Hyatt numerous times going to the Galleon, but we had never walked in. It took a couple wrong turns, but we eventually found the restaurant.
Once we were seated, our server asked us politely if we could order soon, since the breakfast service was over at 11:00am and it was almost that time. So quickly I decided to go with again, the smoked salmon and my husband ordered the sausage gravy and biscuits. The view from our table was beautiful. I thought to myself, why hadn’t we ever eaten here before? Maybe I just thought it was for guests only, but obviously it is open to all.
The serve then brought out our breakfast. I almost took a second take because the portions were enormous, and I mean big. My husband’s breakfast look like a couple of softballs and mine was loaded with smoked salmon on top of grilled rye bread. Regardless of the portions, both our meals were delicious. I think for future visits, maybe we would share something instead.
Our server came over and asked us how everything was. We chatted for a few minutes and he was very nice. Once we were done we thanked him and walked back through the parking lot.
You can read my full review here: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g34345-d1368286-r867013493-Shor_American_Seafood_Grill-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html
Since we were right there, we walked to the Sunset Tiki Bar once more. Ramsey was working again and I was glad to see her. We sat down and started talking about the Local Walking Parade later that evening. She said she would walk in it, but didn’t have a costume. And the more and more people we talked to, made it seem like you should wear a costume in the parade even though it isn’t required. Ramsey told us about a place that had costumes we could check out. We actually pasted it walking down Front St. on the way to breakfast. The place was called Fairvilla. We thanked Ramsey for the recommendation and once we finished our drink that was our next move.
We walked back down Front St. to Fairvilla. We walked in and everyone else was doing the same thing, looking for a costume. One of the staff came up to my husband and asked if he needed help. He had no idea what to wear so that was quite helpful.
In the meantime, I walked around trying to figure out what to wear. I remember I had these black yoga pants I packed that I could wear as a base. Then I saw this cute pirate bandanna. I immediately wanted to be a pirate. Turned out the outfit my husband wound up picking out was a pirate as well. So we were going to be pirates for the parade. I was able to find a top as well to wear. There was a sense of relief from the both of us that we did get costumes and also a sense of excitement as well. We were going to be in the parade!
We made it back to the Gardens to again relax for a little bit before getting ready. Once we were all dressed up we saw the other guests dressed up as well, including Lynn!
It was time for us to head out and walk down Simonton to Olivia St.
We started to see others walking as well. We walked down past the Cemetery and onto Frances where the parade started. It was quite a wild scene, seeing everyone dressed up.
Local B&Bs had drink stands set up along the way if you wanted something to drink. Unfortunately all of the drinks that were free, tasted like from my old college days of going to parties – everclear mixed with a fruit punch mix. It didn’t cost anything so I had a couple.
It was a slow walk but a lot of fun. Some of the locals would through beads out as well to catch.
We wound up back on Simonton and past the Gardens hotel.
You can watch my video of the parade here: https://youtu.be/cLfRhciFze0
Shortly after that the parade came to an end. It was again something fun and different to do. Since we were right near the Gardens, we walked back to figure out what our next move was.
I always forget that the Gardens Bar is open to everyone and we a few stragglers from the parade stop in. When we saw this guy we all started singing Purple Rain. It was pretty funny.
I wanted to see Caffeine Carl and Zack that night, but again due to a Pat Benatar cover band playing, they were not scheduled to play until 10:30. Then we figured that we would go there and grab a table and have something to eat. My husband loves their blackened mahi mahi over caesar salad so it was an easy sell.
We regrouped and we made our way back down Duval to the Tuna. John LaMere was playing as we walked by. The streets were filled with Fantasy Fest people once again.
We made it to the Tuna and it was packed. The only table available was behind the bar, but it was fine to have something to eat. As predicted, we had the caesar salad with the blackened mahi mahi. We all ordered some wings as well. The food isn’t high end, but if you want something reasonable and very good, the Smokin’ Tuna does have decent food. Honestly I can’t remember the last place I did have a bad meal in Key West?
We finished our dinner and then Julie and I went on a mission to find a table close to the stage. The Pat Benatar cover band was just about finishing up. They were surprisingly good, even though I am not really a Pat Benatar fan.
There were no tables empty in sight and it didn’t look like anyone was going to be leaving anytime soon. Then I noticed a table that had a couple of people still sitting at it, but it was covered with empty drink cups and bottles. They were talking to one another and I asked if they were leaving and they said no. Then I thought well maybe Julie and I could sit on the end until they left. So I asked if we could and they said no problem. And shortly after that, they wound up leaving.
I ralled my husband and Brent to come over to the table. After my perseverance we were able to enjoy a table near the stage. Plus it was our last night and I wanted to make sure we were able to see Caffeine Carl and Zack play.
It wasn’t before long the band showed up. We said our hellos as they set up. Once the band came on it was a lot of fun. We did get the occasional dancers in front, but some of the costumes were impressive while other costumes not so much.
We stayed for most of the show, but then we all started to feel the day and evening. We said our goodbyes and left.
You can watch a video of the band here: https://youtu.be/TZPBYzJqdTQ
It was our last walk down Duval during the craziness of Fantasy Fest. Again it was very interesting to say the least. I couldn’t imagine how it was going to be the following night for the big parade, but we were leaving so we were going to miss it.
We made it back to the Gardens and got some much needed sleep.
Saturday, October 29th – Saying Goodbye
Our flight wasn’t until 4:30pm that afternoon so again there was no need to get up super early. As usual, I made plans to have our last breakfast at Sarabeths before we left town with Zack and his son Kai.
I set my alarm that morning for 8:30am so I wouldn’t oversleep. I wound up getting up before the alarm. After we were both freshened up, I started going through our toiletries, throwing out what wouldn’t make the trip back. This way we wouldn’t have to check our bags and still do carry-on.
We didn’t have much time to go to Cuban Coffee Queen, so we just walked down to Sarabeths. When Zack and Kai arrived, we were seated outside. (They won’t seat you until everyone in your party is there). The usual and very enthusiastic server was working. He was dressed up as Napoleon Dynamite and the other server was dressed up as Pedro. It was pretty funny, especially when he would recite the lines from the movie and do some random dance moves. I wish I took a picture.
My husband and I both ordered scrambled eggs with bacon. Zack ordered an omelet and Kai had the french toast. It was a nice breakfast but unfortunately when both my husband and I tried the bacon, something was off. Way off. I don’t know if it was bad or what, but after that neither of us could eat our meals, which was unfortunate. I am sure it was just a fluke because we have never had a bad meal there.
It was a nice time nevertheless. After breakfasts we said goodbye to the both of them.
I was able to get a later check out. So we were able to stay in our room until 1:00pm. We got back to the room and packed up the rest of our things, this is the part of the trip I dislike – the waiting until you leave. This was unusual for us. Usually our flight leaves Key West earlier in the afternoon, but this time they changed the flight for a later time.
We were sitting out on our porch and thought we have time for one quick walk back down Duval. So we did just that. We started walking back down Duval and I thought that we could stop in at Rick’s and see Zack play one more song before we go, since we didn’t see him that much during our trip.
While we were walking, we noticed all the barricades were set up along Duval and a lot of people sitting in fold up chairs along the way. We thought to ourselves are these people waiting for the parade tonight? It was only noon and the parade was hours and hours away.
We made it to Ricks and Zack was just about to get started. He seemed surprised that we made it for a song. It was fun to see him play one song before we headed out. He told us too regarding the people sitting along Duval. Apparently they come from Miami in a large bus. They sit there all day and bring their own drinks (coolers). It annoys the locals because they don’t pay for anything while they are there all day and take up all that room.
We said goodbye to Zack once again and told him we would see him soon.
It was nearing 1:00pm and we had to be out of our room. We walked back as quickly as we could and made it back just in time. We grabbed our luggage out of room and brought it in the wine room area where they said we could store it while we wait for our taxi. We didn’t have our taxi picking us up until 2:45pm so we had some time.
Phil was opening up the bar so we sat at couple of seats. Brent and Julie showed up soon after. Funny how they welcomed us there and then they were sending us off. They weren’t leaving for a few more days after us.
Even though the thought of leaving always makes me sad, it was a pleasant afternoon talking about all the things that we did in the past week. Eventually I got the call from the Front Desk our taxi was there. We said goodbye to Phil, Brent and Julie.
Soon we were at the airport. The TSA checkpoint had no line, so we went straight through without any issues. Our flight wound up boarding a few minutes earlier then it was supposed to.
The flight seemed shorter then normal. Just after 2 hours, the captain came on the intercom telling us we were making our decent into the Newark Liberty International Airport. We wound landing just after 7pm – about 30 minutes early. We did however, have to wait for a few planes to clear the area before we could get to our gate. All and all though, it was a very uneventful flight which is always a good thing.
We met up with our car driver and in about an hour or so, we were back home. It wasn’t too cold yet but it was dark out. Soon the thought of being in Key West was a distant memory.
When I tell people how many times we have been to Key West, most of them scratch their heads and ask why don’t we go anywhere else? I tell them we love it, because of the people, the beauty, the vibe, the music (especially) and just everything about this tiny island has to offer. We have made great friendships over the years that makes it harder for me to leave each and every time. I am just so grateful that we have been fortunate enough to be able to do so, so many times and never take it for granted.
Thank you reading my blog. I truly appreciate it. Until next time!