Winter Break in Key West January, 15 – 21, 2023

For the past couple of years, we added a January trip into our rotation to Key West to help break up the long cold and gray Winters in New Jersey. It felt like we were just in Key West (well technically we were 3 months ago in October), but I was ready to get back (which I always am). And this trip made it our 28th time to Key West.

I wound up not packing our things until the day before our arrival. I kept checking the weather and each and every time I did, the temperature (for when we would arrive) kept getting colder and colder. I couldn’t believe it was only going to be around 62 degrees. Luckily the forecast showed that it would warm up later in the week. I thought how I would rather have our trip start off cold and warm up vs. the other way around. So I wound up packing more pants and long sleeve tops. The low 60s doesn’t seem so cold, but in Key West, if it is very windy and damp from the humidity, it does feel cold. 

Sunday, January 15th – Arrival Day

Our flight was scheduled for 8:45am that morning, so I had the car service we always use pick us up at 6:00am. I remember last year when we left in January for Key West, it was around 2 degrees. This time it wasn’t bad – in the low 30s. Actually we were having a very mild weather for January and also not much snow. The last time we did get snow, was right before Christmas but it was only a couple of inches – if that.

The car service showed up right on time and we were on our way to Newark-Liberty International Airport. It was a beautiful morning. As usual our airline of choice was United since they offer the direct flight to Key West. Unfortunately United knows that, so the cost of airfare for the direct flight is now outrageous. 

We went through TSA with ease and I was hoping the United Club Lounge was finally open in Terminal C, but it was still under construction. It feels like it has been under construction for a couple of years now. We wound going to the same restaurant we went to the last time we were waiting for our flight to Key West. 

We sat down and I took the painstaking time of ordering a couple of drinks and breakfast for us. I find it so frustrating trying to order from the iPads they have set up. By the time you set up your account, place your order, we should have had at least something to drinik – and the staff is just standing around waiting there. Can’t they just ask you for your order and then enter it? That would be too easy. 

Eventually we did get our order and enjoyed a adequate breakfast before our flight. Meanwhile I was checking the weather forecast and it said that Key West was only around 59 degrees. Yikes I thought – that’s cold. At least I was dressed warm and I thought if worse came to worse I would just keep on what I was wearing when we arrived.

It was getting close to the time we were scheduled to board so we grabbed our carry-on luggage and walked down to our gate, which is generally the last gate in the terminal on the lower level. We took the escalator down one level and saw a few people waiting. The flight didn’t look crowded at all. We grabbed a couple of seats and waited for our group to be called. Once all the preflight options were announced, people with disabilities, people with children under 2, service people, Premiere 1K and so forth, our group one was finally called. 

We boarded the plane and settled in for the two and half hour flight. We were delayed a bit waiting to take off as usual at Newark airport, but we did wind up making up for it in the air. Not before long I could see the view of land change to water. Then the blue and green hues of the water. I always get that sense of excitement once I start to see all the of the Keys below.

The captain took the plane past Key West to our right and came back around to land. I always try and find the Gardens Hotel (where we always stay at) while we are landing, but I can never pin point it out. 

Once we landed, the captain came on to the intercom and announced the weather in Key West was mostly sunny, breezy and only 62 degrees. I knew at that moment that I was leaving on my jacket. We were one of the first ones off the plane and once we started walking on the tarmac, you could feel the cold wind blowing – but the sun was shining brightly above. I also noticed that we were directed around all this construction. The person directing us to the entrance of the airport mentioned that the airport recently began construction. This was due to the expansion project for a larger airport It is greatly needed with Key West becoming such a popular destination with so many airlines/flights available. 

After walking through a maze, we made it to the entrance to the airport. With our carry-ons in tow, we bee-lined it outside and to the taxi line. No one else was waiting, so we were able to hop in the first taxi waiting. 

Meanwhile friends of ours, Brent and Julie were already down in Key West and they were also staying at the Gardens. We coordinated our trip again so that we would be staying in Key West at the same time. On our way to the Gardens I texted Julie to let her know that we were on our way.

While we were en route to the Gardens, my husband and I noticed that the taxi driver was taking us a different way to the Gardens. Somehow we were in New Town and then went down Southard St. Once we made the left turn onto Simonton I realized we were almost there.

He dropped us off and we walked up the stairs to check-in inside. When we walked in, no one was at the front desk. There was a bell on the desk so we gave it a rang. Still nothing. So I tried calling the main number and Jim, the General Manager answered. He told us that the receptionist George was checking in other guests and he would be right back. While we were waiting we heard two familiar voices walk into the building. It was Brent and Julie! They were about to come into the office as well to check about the status of their room. They were changing rooms for one night since the room they were staying at for the following week wasn’t available.

It was great to see them again. George made it back to the office and we quickly checked in. Julie and Brent’s room wasn’t ready  yet, so we walked out past the pool to the bar where another familiar face was behind it, the bartender Phil! He welcomed us back and we all sat down. It was chilly out, but I didn’t care – we made it back!

After a very cold beer we grabbed all of our things and went to our room to unpack. Thankfully the room felt warm. I was worried how some places in Key West do not have heat. Plus it was forecasted to get down into the upper 50s that night. We were all unpacked and walked back to the bar. Brent and Julie were still waiting on their room so we ordered another beer.

My husband and I were also quite excited. Being that we are NY Giant fans we were anticipating the game later that evening. We thought about going down to Jack Flats to catch the game, but Brent and Julie mentioned that the room they were moving to was on the new side of the Gardens, in Cottage 1. We thought it was a possibility but really didn’t want to impose.

George walked outside and told Brent and Julie their room was ready. My husband offered to help them move their things. I decided to stay and hang out and talk to Phil and his niece who was beginning to set up for Jazz at 5pm. It was nice to settle in and chat for a bit.

When Brent and Julie were settled in they came back. They told us that Cottage 1 would be perfect to watch the game since there is a separate living area with a flat screen TV. Sold! My husband and I decided yes – why not? This way we didn’t have to walk all the way to Jack Flats, which wasn’t far, but it was cold and getting colder. And most likely it would be crowded.

First, however, we both wanted to run out to the nearby liquor store right on Duval to grab a few things for the game. We told them that we would meet back at their cottage shortly. We walked down Duval and noticed everyone sporting sweatshirts and jeans. This was an uncommon sight in Key West, but it was cold. Instead of making our usual right hand turn onto Duval, we made a left hand turn where there is a liquor store a few steps down on the left hand side. I noticed that Duval St. was still decorated in its holiday splendor.

We walked in and after having a couple of beers at the Gardens, I wasn’t in the mood for beer. I decided to go with some hard seltzer, I can’t remember if it was White Claw or High Noon but one of those. My husband grabbed some beer for himself and also some sake for Brent and Julie.

We walked back, but into the other entrance to the Cottages located right next door to the Gardens Hotel. It is a cute little area with several cottages surrounded by a pool that is someone smaller than the one in the main area, but it is still a decent size.

We walked to the Cottage and it was adorable. Brent greeted us at the door and we sat down while the game was about to start. I was both nervous and excited to watch the game. Ironically most of the people I work with are from Minnesota, so it gave me extra anticipation leading up to the game. I figured how it would be amazing if the Giants could somehow pull off the win, but if they couldn’t, at least I was in my happy place to distract me from feeling disappointed. 

While the game was going on, the sense of hunger started set in. We thought about ordering a pizza, but one would have to be gluten free for Brent and Julie. I have a Doordash account on my phone so  I looked around for options. Out of all the pizza options that were on Doordash (not many) I couldn’t find one with a gluten free pizza.

So our next option was mexican. I saw that nearby Old Town Mexican delivered on Doordash. We all picked out what we wanted and then Brent decided to pick it up instead of waiting for the delivery – otherwise it was going to be a while. My husband wound up accompanying him while I continued to watch the game.

I couldn’t believe that the game was as close as it was. I started to think that the Giants were actually going to win the game. By the time Brent and my husband got back I was starving. They wound up having a drink at the restaurant while they waited for our to-go order. I ordered some sort of tuna tostados for myself, while my husband and shared some fried calamari. It wasn’t great, but decent for what it was.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Giants won! We were all so happy. I was especially happy being that we were in Key West to watch them win.

When the game was over we were all getting tired. We thanked Brent and Julie for their hospitality and went back to our room to watch the late night game. I remembered that a fellow forumite on Tripadvisor Flboy22 was going to be at the Smokin’ Tuna that night to catch the Marshall Morlock Band. I had every intention of going a few days ago, but it was so cold out and walking down Duval didn’t seem so appealing at the time. Next time I thought!

We wound up only catching the first quarter of the game and called it an early night.

Monday, January 16th – the Saint, Hogs Breath, Red Shoe Bistro

After a good night sleep we both freshened up and were ready to start our first full day back in Key West. I opened up the door to outside and noticed it was still chilly out so I decided to go with a pair of my run pants and a jacket. 

We made our first usual stop to Cuban Coffee Queen for two cups Cuban American. There wasn’t a line so my husband was able to order right away. Once we had our coffee in hand, we walked onto Duval. I wanted to try the Saint for breakfast for two reasons. First we had heard about it from locals during previous visits, how it is a good place for brunch/breakfast. Second, it was a place we had never been before. Plus it was still a bit on the cooler side, so I wanted to go somewhere that was indoors. 

We walked down Duval and made a left hand turn onto Eaton St. Then we both saw the unassuming little black and white sign that said “The Saint”. As we got closer, you could see the red carpeted entrance. This is definitely the place I thought. 

I wasn’t exactly sure where the restaurant was, but when we walked into the lobby area, I could see the bar to our right. The lobby itself was quite eccentric if you will. I thought this is going to be interesting. 

When we walked into the restaurant, we asked the young lady behind the bar where we should sit. She said we could sit anywhere, so we decided to sit at the bar. There were only two other couples in the place. She asked us if we were staying at the hotel and we told her we weren’t. Then she asked if we were locals, which always makes me smile. We told her how we were staying at the Gardens. Since we weren’t staying there, we had to leave credit card while we were having breakfast, which was fine.

The bar itself was interesting with the unusual chairs to sit on. I loved the chandeliers. We perused the breakfast menu and I wound up going with two fried eggs over medium with a side of the cheesy grits. My husband ordered the avocado toast that came with two fried eggs as well. While we were waiting for our order I had to use the ladies room. I asked the bartender where it was located. 

I had to walk outside where there were tables set up for outdoor dining and then back inside through a couple of doors. When I walked back to the bar I notice a sign pointing to the Halo Lounge. I heard about it as well and wanted to check it out. We didn’t have an opportunity during this trip, but at least now I know where it was for maybe in the future.

I also reached out to our friend Mo, whom we met with her friend Kristen about a year and a half ago during our first visit during Fantasy Fest. We made plans to return after that trip and January wound up working out for both of us. Unfortunately her friend Kristen couldn’t make it this time. 

Our breakfast was served and it was very good. I saw my husband’s dish and thought to myself I should have ordered it. It wasn’t just avocados on pieces of toast, they were on top of a large slice of ciabatta bread with two eggs on top. Also on the side was a fresh arugula salad. My eggs were very good and the grits were cheesy and delicious.  

You can read my full review here:

While we were settling the bill, I heard back from Mo. We agreed to meet up at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar, since it was where we met initially. We had some time before we were meeting up, so my husband suggested we walk around the shops at Mallory Square.

I realized the day before that I had forgot to pack my sunglasses. I usually remember them, but since we have been experiencing endless cloudy days in New Jersey, it totally escaped my mind. We walked around and I wasn’t having too much success finding a pair that fit my face. I was thinking I wasn’t going to find a pair, but then we walked over to another sunglass display. And there they were. A pair of $14 sunglasses that fit. Perfect!

Once I purchased my high end sunglasses, we walked down Front St. and then towards the Bight. I wanted to see if all the holiday decorations were still up and sure enough they were. I was trying to imagine what they would look like at night since we had never been to Key West during the holidays. I was hoping that we would make it back to see it before they took the lights down.

We walked around past the Conch Republic Seafood Company down towards the Galleon. I still don’t understand why they block none guests from walking through parking lot now to get to the Sunset Tiki Bar anymore. So we walked along the water and to the bar. 

Mo was already there and she recognized us right away. Our friend Ramsey was working the bar as well, so it was nice to see everyone again. We chatted for a while catching up with what we had been up to. It started to warm up a little as well.

I remembered that our friend Zack Seemiller was playing at Hogs Breath that afternoon and wanted to catch part of his show since we had not seen him yet. I mentioned it to Mo and she was ready to go. We joked how last time we went there we were feeling pretty good and wound up buying a bunch of apparel at the Hogs Breath retaili store. We thanked Ramsey and said we would see her later on in the week. 

It was a quick walk down Front St. to Hogs Breath. The sun felt so good walking on the sidewalk. Usually when we walk around in Key West we try and pick the side of the street with the most shade. This time we were welcoming the sun to warm us up.

We first walked into the retail shop to look around. My husband suggested that he would go on ahead and see if he could find a few seats for us. Meanwhile Mo and I looked around to see if they had anything that we liked. There were a few things that caught my eye, but I figured that I would wait until later on to purchase something. Then I saw that I got a text from my husband telling us he found a few seats for us at the bar. 

We walked through the store and out to the bar – it was crowded. I couldn’t believe my husband found us seats. We walked around the side of the bar while I waved hello to Zack. Unfortunately it was hard to see Zack where our seats were. However, within a couple of minutes, I saw several people leaving the seats where I prefer to sit. So once we ordered our a round, we moved over and it was much better to see and we also had more room. 

We spent the afternoon both listening to the music and chatting away. We had dinner reservations early that evening with Brent and Julie at the Red Shoe Bistro so we couldn’t stay too late. I told Mo how Zack is playing the next afternoon at the Smokin’ Tuna with Carl and that we should meet up there. 

Once Zack went on break I was able to get my usual photo with him before we had to head out. We said our goodbyes and made it back to the Gardens. It was still on the cooler side, so there wasn’t much of a reason for me to change. I did grab a hat for dinner, but that was about it.

We met up with Brent and Julie at the Gardens Bar for a quick drink at the gazebo before walking down to the Red Shoe Bistro.

When we arrived at the restaurant we noticed a bunch of people waiting outside of the restauarant. It was just before 6pm so they weren’t open yet. After a couple of minutes, the owner opened the doors and luckily I was standing right in front. We were seated inside at a nice table located in the corner by the window. Our server walked over and told us the specials of the day, and one of them was black grouper. My eyes lit up because grouper is one of my favorites. We ordered our drinks and looked over the menu (even though I knew what I wanted). 

For dinner, my husband and I shared the scallop and deviled egg appetizer and caesar salad. Brent and Julie had the caesar salad as well. Brent and I both opted for the black grouper special, while my husband ordered the beef stroganoff and Julie ordered the scallops. 

Like last time, and the time before that, everything was served in a timely manner and delicious. This has become one of my favorite places to have dinner in Key West. Plus the location is so convenient to the Gardens Hotel. 

You can read my full review here:

After dinner, we wanted to walk around a little due to the fact we were all so full. We walked down Duval for a bit, but we really didn’t have any idea where to go. It was a Monday night and I wasn’t sure who was playing at the Tuna. I also knew Gabriel Wright wasn’t at the Salty Frog that night.

We agreed to head back towards the Gardens and have a night cap there. On our way back, Brent and my husband mentioned that when they went to Old Towne Mexican Cafe to pick up our to-go order on Sunday night, the bartender was really nice. So we decided to stop in for one. Plus the last NFL Wildcard game was on between the Cowboys and the Buccaneers. There were a couple of seats at the bar right in front of the TV – so it worked out perfectly.

We all ordered around of margaritas which probably wasn’t the best idea since I had two glasses of white wine with dinner. It was enjoyable however, to finally see what the place looked like inside, being that we pass by it almost everyday while we are in Key West.

It was getting late (for us) so we went back to the Gardens. We were going to have breakfast together, but I made plans to have breakfast with Zack at Breakfast Club Too (like we try to do when we are in town). We said good night and that we would meet up at the Smokin’ Tuna the next day to see Zack and Carl at the Tuna. 

Tuesday, January 17th – Breakfast Club Too, The Smokin’ Tuna, Woman’s Event at the Gardens, Kaya

We woke up to another beautiful sunny day. Unfortunately I didn’t sleep that great and I had a bit of a headache. After a shower and some Advil I felt a lot better. I opened up our door and felt outside. It was getting warmer! Excited about the temperature I picked out a pair of capris (no running pants this time) and a t-shirt. I still grabbed my jacket just in case it was still chilly near the water.

We walked back to Cuban Coffee Queen for some much needed coffee. I was going to wait until we got to Breakfast Club Too, but I knew the coffee would give me that extra jolt. We headed back onto Simonton and down to Greene St. 

The hostess seated us towards the back. We looked over the menu while waiting for Zack. I remember last time I ordered the chorizo poblano rostis. It was really good but it was a lot of food and I wasn’t exactly starving. When Zack showed up, we waved him over. I reached out to his son the day before as well to join us like he usually does, but he wasn’t able too. 

We all ordered breakfast and I went with an omelet. It was a fun way to start the day just talking and catching up since we saw each other several months ago. Everyone enjoyed what they ordered. I also thought the omelet was very good. however I prefer mine more on the fluffy side. 

We thanked Zack for breakfast and told him we would see him later with Carl at the Smokin’ Tuna. My husband got a text from Brent and Julie. They wanted to meet us at the Galleon Sunset Tiki Bar. Since we were already down on that side of the island, we made our way there.

I also reached out to Mo that we would meet up in the afternoon at the Smokin’ Tuna. We walked in to the Sunset Tiki Bar and this time Candace was working. She recognized us and started talking when Brent and Julie showed up. They grabbed a couple of seats and just enjoyed the view. It also was getting warmer out. I was finally able to take off my jacket without feeling cold. 

Our next plan was to walk down to the Tuna. Once we paid our bill we walked back down onto Duval. There was a cruise ship in  town so the streets were more crowded.

We made it to the Tuna while Zack and Carl were getting ready to start. I looked towards the end of the bar and there was Mo.  I waved her over and then explained how the seats they have at the bar make me nervous, especially after seeing more then one person fall off them.

In a way it worked out better because we were able to get a table at the front of the stage making it easy to talk to everyone and watch the entertainment. Phil the bartender (same name but not the same bartender that works at the Gardens) was working as usual and took our order.

Once we had our drinks in hand we sat back and enjoyed the music.

You can see Zack Seemiller performing “I’m Not Jimmy Buffett” with Caffeine Carl here:

While we were there a familiar face showed up, Zack’s mom. It was great to see her back in town. I talked to her for a bit before I noticed another familiar face, Jolene. Ironically I never met her in person, but we have had our fun exchanges going back and forth on social media while watching Zack playing live. It was great to finally meet her in person. We talked for a little while and she was so sweet.

When Zack and Carl took a break, I had to get a picture with them. I try not to do it every time we see them, but it had been a while (in my book) so I thought I was due.

Everyone was having a nice time and then we were thinking that we should maybe head back to the Gardens. Mo had never been there before, so I thought it would be fun for her to see the hotel. We send good bye to everyone and walked back to the Gardens.

When we got back to the Gardens we noticed that Phil was setting up and there were a bunch of people standing around.  It turned out the Gardens was having some sort of Women’s Event Fundraiser / Benefit of some sort. I can’t remember exactly what it was for, but knowing Kate (the owner of the Gardens) I am sure it was for a great cause. She is always doing some sort of benefit helping Key West. And then speaking of we saw Kate. It is always nice to see her. 

The rest of us began contemplating where we could go for dinner. Neither of us had dinner plans for the evening. Then I thought about Kaya. So we planned on freshening up and then meet back at the Gardens bar. 

When we met back up we made the quick walk down Angela St. and across Duval. Since the temperatures were beginning to fall again we opted to set on the side where it is enclosed. I had never been inside that side of the restaurant before. It is still hard to picture the place back when it was Cowboy Bill’s. That’s Key West for you – always changing. 

We grabbed a couple of seats at the bar and all of us ordered a mai tai (which I really really didn’t need). Once we ordered our food I started to look around. The place had a decent amount of TV displays. I thought to myself, it would be a fun place to watch sports. Who knew?

Our appetizers came out – the tuna poke nachos. They are one of my favorites. The tuna was delicious and fresh.

For dinner my husband had the rasta pasta while I had some sort of tropical shrimp salad. I probably should have stuck with the old reliable mahi mahi fish tacos, but I didn’t feel like making a mess. The salad was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but it just wasn’t what I felt like. Luckily my husband couldn’t finish all of the rasta pasta, so I volunteered to help him. That’s the go to dish to order at Kaya for sure. Everyone enjoyed their meals. 

You can read my full review here:

We made the short walk back to the Gardens and wound hanging out in the gazebo for a few. We made plans to go to Bagatelle for breakfast the following morning.

Wednesday, January 18th – Bagatelle, Mo’s last day, Little Pearl, the Smokin’ Tuna

For the first time, when I opened our room door, it was warm. So warm I could wear shorts! I was so happy. We freshened up and met up with Brent and Julie. We grabbed a quick cup of coffee at the Gardens before walking back down Duval.

It was a beautiful warm morning. One of those mornings that make you smile and appreciate how beautiful Key West is filled with flowers, palm trees, the brilliant blue skies. While we were walking, we noticed that there were police officers standing along the side streets and they were closed off preventing people from driving down Duval St. It was definitely odd. There was something going on. Maybe a movie being filmed?

We made it to Bagatelle and were seated outside on the first level. Once we sat down we noticed a couple more cops were standing on the side of the road and there was no cars, conch trains or trolleys going by.

Only a few people were walking along the side walk. After we placed our order, we saw a car drive down Duval with three people inside. One of them was holding a camera. I thought who is in that car? What actor? When our server returned with our cups of  coffee, he said they were filming a Hyundai commercial. Really? All of that for a commercial? It was kind of fun to see even though that’s all it was.

For breakfast I went with the eggs benedict that are served over pulled pork and cornbread with a spicy hollandaise sauce. I have had it before and I find it a bit indulgent, but oh so good. The poached eggs were cooked to a perfect medium – not runny at all. Everyone else enjoyed what they ordered. As we were finishing up Mo got in touch with me, letting us know that she checked out of her B&B and would be at the Sunset Tiki Bar at the Galleon. I told her that we would meet her there after breakfast.

Brent and Julie were planning on going back to the Gardens to relax. After breakfast we told them we would meet up with later at the Tuna to catch Caffeine Carl and The Buzz. We walked along down to Front St. and around the Galleon boardwalk to the tiki bar. The sun felt so good and the temperature was perfect, mid 70s. 

When we arrived at the tiki bar there was Mo. She had all her bags with her and I was starting to get a little sad that she was leaving. We ordered a round and talked for a while. Our bartender wasn’t exactly the most attentive type so we decided to go somewhere else. 

Our next stop was the White Tarpon. It was the perfect spot to sit at the bar near the water. While we were there, we saw a charter boat come in with everyone’s catch. It was entertaining to see all the pelicans come up to the dock waiting for the guys to through any remnants from cleaning the fish.

Unfortunately Mo had to head to the airport to catch her flight home back to Tampa. We walked out past the Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant to right in front of Kermit’s thinking it would be a good spot for her to catch her Uber. Within minutes her ride showed up and we said our goodbyes. We wished her safe travels back home and we didn’t get upset this time.

I had made dinner reservations a couple nights before for Little Pearl. I prefer to eat earlier for dinner, since we usually do not have lunch. However, Little Pearl only offers three seatings, 5, 7 and 9. Well 5 is too early and 9 is too late, so I made the reservation for 7pm. I was a little hesitant going there, because I read a lot of reviews about how once they changed over to the chef tasting menu, the portions are very small. We had not been to Little Pearl since the change, but I always enjoyed their food. 

On our way back to the Gardens we stopped at the Treehouse Bar next to Rick’s to see Terry the bartender. We started talking to another young couple. They mentioned how it was their first time in Key West. Then they said how they were having dinner at Little Pearl and so were we. And their next stop was Willie T’s and we told him we were doing the same thing. It was kind of funny. They left while we were finishing our drink. We did make it to Willie T’s to see Zack play. When we sat down, the young couple came over and bought us a round. I thought that was so nice.

We didn’t stay too long again because we had the dinner reservations at Little Pearl. We made it back to the Gardens to relax for a bit and freshen up.

Feeling refreshed, we walked down Simonton to Olivia St. I love walking down the side roads off of Duval. It is so quiet. We made it to Little Pearl. A friend of Zack’s Danny, was working. I reserved two seats at the bar so when we walked in he sat us right at the bar. My husband ordered a glass of red and I ordered a glass of white. The place was packed with people, then again it is a small restaurant but I am glad we made reservations. We looked towards the back of the restaurant and saw the young couple from earlier sitting in the back. We both gave them a wave.

My husband decided to splurge and ordered a dozen oysters for us to start (they costs extra). Then we each ordered something different from each course so that we could sample as much as possible.

The oysters came out first and they were fresh and delicious. 

The next course I went with was the salmon carpaccio and my husband had the grilled octopus. Both did not disappoint whatsoever. Our next course consisted of pork belly for me and the grouper cheek bao bun for my husband. And no complaints from either of us, as far as the portion size. 

Then for our next course I ordered the catch of the day, but unfortunately I can’t remember what type of fish it was, but my husband ordered the halibut. When our courses came out, I tried the fish I ordered, but it was a firm texture that I wasn’t exactly excited about. I prefer a flakey fish. I tried the halibut that my husband ordered and preferred it to what I had. So we wound up swapping our plates. My husband didn’t mind, at least I don’t think he did. 

For our final and last course I had the cheese platter and my husband had the ghost pepper sorbet – which I had to try. Again, I preferred what my husband ordered so we swapped plates again. All and all I would highly recommend making a reservation at Little Pearl. The food was outstanding and we both thought the portions were adequate. We thanked Danny and made our way to the Tuna.

You can read my full review here:

In a way I was wishing the walk was farther then it actually was, so I could walk off all that food. We made it to the Tuna and Brent and Julie were already there. They already secured a table so we sat down to join them. Cliff Cody was finishing up his set, so we were able to listen to a few songs. 

Once his set was over it was time for Carl, Zack and the rest of the band to set up. During our visit, there was a RokIsland Festival going on. Apparently the guy who runs the Mile 0 festival, which was happening the following week, added the RokIsland Festival last year. Basically it consists of different hair bands from yester-year aka the 80s. Ironically I was fan back in the day before changing over to completely different music – such as Pearl Jam (my favorite band)

Due to the festival, the band started at 8pm instead of 9pm and would only play for an hour and a half to make room for an 80s band that night – The Bullet Boys. We wound up staying all through Caffeine Carl and The Buzz’s show and then came the Bullet Boys. I was getting tired, but just out of curiosity I wanted to check them out. You could tell they were coming on next. I saw this one tall guy with the longest hair I have ever seen obviously in the band. 

Then the placed started to fill up with people from the festival. The band began to play. I could not believe how loud it was. I mean it was LOUD. We stayed for a couple of songs, but honestly I didn’t recognize any of them and don’t even know what their hit was? 

You can hear how loud the Bullet Boys were here:

It was getting late and we all had our fill. When we walked out of the Tuna neither one of us could hear each other speak for a few minutes. My ears were ringing. Eventually our hearing came back by the time we got back to the Gardens. Then it was time to get some sleep. 

Thursday, January 19th – The Seaside Café at the Mansion, the Gardens, Lola’s

Since we were out pretty late the night before, we slept in a little later. We dragged ourselves out of bed and freshened up. It was another beautiful warm sunny day. Brent and Julie were going to go to the Seaside Café at the Mansion at around 11:30for their gluten free lobster pizza. 

I was kind of hungry, so my husband and  I told them we would find a place for breakfast and meet them at the café for a drink. We walked down Duval to La Te Da.  As we got closer, I could see that it was packed. Most likely because it was later in the morning. So we walked to the next possibility – La Grignote (I always wanted to try it or breakfast) – but like La Te Da it was crowded. Then there was the Banana Café – another negative. There were groups of people standing outside waiting to be seated, so that was the indication there was a wait.

At this point it was almost 11am so we figured that we would walk around a bit and wait to eat. Then meet Brent and Julie at the Seaside Café. We had some time to kill and we were near the Southernmost Buoy. We walked by and the line wasn’t that long. The last time we had our picture taken was our very first visit to Key West back in March of 2006. We both looked at each and thought why not? 

While we were waiting, I could hear the people approaching the buoy for a photo. It was kind of an understood gesture to do if you will. You would ask the people behind you (or in front of you depending on how it worked out) if they would take your picture and then you would offer to take their picture. This way everyone gets a photo with whomever they are with. So I turned around and asked the nice couple behinds us if they would take a picture and they easily obliged.

After being tourists for a few moments, we walked down to the Southernmost Beach Café for a cold beverage. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple of screwdrivers. It was nice to be surrounded by the water. Usually we are on the side of the island, but it was a nice change.

It was just about 11:30am so we walked over to the Seaside Café. They were just about to open when we saw Brent and Julie waiting. Unfortunately it was too windy for them to have the umbrellas open at the tables near the beach so we sat near the bar. We would have fried if we sat out in that sun. 

Our server came over and we both knew what we wanted – the lobster pizza! Brent and Julie ordered their gluten free version and my husband and I ordered the regular version. Again it was so nice to take in the water views and it was a gorgeous day.

I was quite hungry at this point and I was eagerly anticipating this lobster pizza. I have read so many reviews of it. And then I saw the food truck. I forgot how they do all the cooking in a food truck – pretty impressive. 

Our pizza orders came out and looked delicious. I took the first bite and it was exactly what I expected if not better. The lobster was delicious and it paired well with the cheese and the garlic white sauce. The garlic wasn’t too strong, but just enough. Maybe my only slight critique would be that it could use a little more lobster? 

You can read my full review here:

Once we were finished with our pizza we leisurely walked back to the Gardens. When we got back to the Gardens, we didn’t feel like doing much. When we are in St. John in the US Virgin Islands and rent a villa, we tend to have one of those days people refer to as a “villa gravity day”. It refers to a day where you don’t want to do much and relax at your villa. So we decided to have a “Gardens” gravity day. 

It was a nice day to relax by the pool.

Julie made reservations for all us at Lola’s at 6pm that evening. So after spending the afternoon relaxing, my husband and I went to the nearby liquor store to grab a bottle of wine for dinner.  Then it was time to get ready for dinner.

Lola’s is one of those places where they do not have a menu. I find it exciting to hear what is offered that particular night. 

We made the quick walk to Lola’s and had to wait a couple of minutes before the owner opened the door. I think we were the last ones to be called to the door to be seated. We were seated at our usual table near the entrance. The place still had all its candles lit on the walls. It still amazes me how that’s not a fire hazard, but it does look pretty.

Our server came over and went over what the appetizers and the main courses were that night. When I heard the words “hogfish” for one of the entrées I knew I was going to order it. Funny, my husband and I both ordered it. For the first course I had no idea why, but I decided to go with the half braised duck. When it came out, it was a huge portion. It probably could have been enough for dinner. I told myself only eat half of it so you don’t fill up, but I wound up eating everything. It was absolutely delicious and fork tender. My husband had the calamari steak which he thoroughly enjoyed. Brent also had the duck and Julie had their scallops, which they are known for.

Like most times we have eaten at Lola’s, there is a bit of a delay between the appetizers and the main courses, but it is just one chef cooking. It does give you some time to digest your food if you had a large appetizer like I did. Our main courses came out and everything was delicious. The hogfish tasted so good and I forgot how much I enjoy it.

You can read my full review here:

After dinner we walked back to the Gardens. Everyone was so full that we didn’t feel like doing much of anything. I still had some wine left over so I grabbed a glass from our room and Julie and Brent did the same. We all walked over to the gazebo and had a nightcap before calling it a night.  

Friday, January 20th – La Te Da, Willie T’s, Smokin’ Tuna

When I woke up I couldn’t believe we were leaving the next day already. It just goes by way too fast. I wish I could be like one of those lucky people who can rent a place for a month. That would be great, if money was no object and I didn’t have to work. Well technically I can work from anywhere but my husband cannot.

We freshened up and met Brent and Julie back at the gazebo. They were having coffee and we joined them for a cup as well. We decided to got to La Te Da for breakfast. I was hoping that it wasn’t going to be jam packed like the other day.

We walked down Duval to La Te Da. Again it was another beautiful and not too hot of a day. We walked in and all the seats at the bar were taken and the tables towards the back were full as well. Then Julie and I noticed two high top tables towards the front, right where you walk in available. Those could work if we put them together. When we walked in the bartender told us we could sit anywhere so we grabbed the two tables. We couldn’t push them together, but they were close enough. The table worked out really well in a way. We were still near the sidewalk where you can people watch, which I always enjoy. 

Besides my husband, we all ordered the tropical fruit with yogurt and granola. I guess we were all still quite stuffed from the night before at Lola’s. My husband ordered a half order of the sausage and gravy. Our food arrived in a timely matter. Everything was very good. I don’t think you can mess up fruit, yogurt and granola though. We enjoyed sitting there for a little bit watching the world of Key West go by before making it back to the Gardens to relax for a bit. 

Brent and Julie wanted to back to the Sunset Tiki Bar that afternoon so we would give them a text when we were going to head back out. 

After relaxing for a little bit I was antsy to get back out. This was our last full day and I didn’t want to spend it all day at the Gardens like we did the day before. We texted Brent and Julie but we didn’t hear anything. So we decided to walk to the Sunset Tiki Bar and they could meet us there when they were ready.

We made it back to the Sunset Tiki Bar and Ramsey was working again – yey! I was glad that she was working so we could see her before we left. We talked for a bit before Brent and Julie showed up.

I remembered that Zack was playing at Willie T’s that afternoon and wanted to catch part of his show. Julie wanted too as well, since both her and Brent never were at Willie T’s before. 

We said our goodbyes to Ramsey and set out to our next stop, Willie T’s. We walked down Duval St. to Willie T’s. Luckily just as we were walking in, a group of people got up and left so we were able to get a table.

We said hello to Zack and ordered a few drinks. As I mentioned, Brent and Julie had never been to Willie T’s before, so it was fun to take them someplace new. We had a fun afternoon listening to the music. 

Julie wanted to catch Cliff Cody at the Tuna that evening and he was playing from 5-7pm. So we headed out of Willie T’s and back to the Gardens to freshen up. We figured that we would get to the Tuna, hopefully find a good table and also grab something to eat. Plus I wanted to start packing up our things so it wouldn’t be too much to do the following morning before we left. 

Once we were all ready, we walked back down Duval to the Tuna. When we walked in, it was packed. So much for getting a good table. Then my husband found one in the back behind the bar. They aren’t my favorite tables to sit at, since the view is obstructed of the stage with the bar. We had to get something to eat regardless, so we went ahead and sat down and ordered dinner.

My husband had his usual favorite at the Tuna, grilled mahi mahi over a caesar salad and also a side of wings. Brent and Julie ordered the same as well. I wanted to try their fish tacos so I went ahead and ordered them. While we were waiting, Julie recognized Cliff Cody’s girlfriend and she was sitting at one of the tables near the stage. So she walked over and came back telling us that we could join her at the table.

We already ordered so we decided to stay at our current table since it was easier to eat and then would join Cliff Cody’s girlfriend. Our food came out fairly quickly. When my fish tacos arrived, I couldn’t believe how big they were, but they looked delicious. And they were. I wound up finishing them without any problems. Everyone else enjoyed their meals. Again, nothing fancy, but if you want a casual dinner that won’t break the bank and listen to music the same time – you can’t go wrong with the Smokin’ Tuna.

After we paid our server the bill for dinner, we walked over to Cliff Cody’s girlfriend. There were several other people sitting around the table as well, but thankfully there were enough seats for everyone. 

We noticed a lady that got up on stage and joined Cliff Cody. I can’t remember her name but she played the violin really well. My husband and I usually don’t catch Cliff Cody so it was nice watch him play.

When his set was over he came over to say hello. He wound up leaving with his girlfriend and a few of the others that were at the table so we had more room at the table.

Then we saw Carl and Zack arrive and began to set up. Again they were only on from 8pm to 10:30pm because of the RokIsland festival. Then Zack’s mom, his friend Jolene and a couple others showed up. Since we had extra seats available, I told them they could sit with us. 

Soon it was time for the band to start. I was both happy and sad, because we were leaving the next day but we were all having a good time. As it got later into the evening, more and more people showed up. I would probably say the majority of them were from the RokIsland festival. This made it quite difficult to watch the band because  a lot of people were dancing and just standing directly in front of the table we were sitting at. It is what it is, but it does get a bit frustrating if you want to see the band.

You can Watch Caffeine Carl and The Buzz with Zack Seemiller performing a “Born To Run”:

We did stay until the end of their show. The next band that was scheduled to perform was Mr. Big. I only remember their one hit “To Be with You” back in the dayy and was curious to hear  it. So we wound up staying even longer. It took a while for the band to set up, but once they did, the lead singer sounded really good. There were also two other band members from another hair band, Trixter. It was definitely entertaining and not as loud as the Bullet Boys the other night. We stayed for a few songs and unfortunately never heard their hit song, but most likely they were saving that song until the end. 

You can watch perform “Wild World” here:

It was getting late and we were leaving the next day and I didn’t want to feel too terrible. So we left the Tuna and made our one last stroll down Duval St. 

We made it back to the Gardens and it was time to get some sleep. Brent and Julie weren’t leaving for a few more days, but told us that they would be around before we had to leave.

January 21st – Departure Day

I had made plans with Zack the day before, for our usual last breakfast at nearby Sarabeth’s. We agreed on 9:30am, so I made sure I sat our alarm clock so I wouldn’t oversleep.

We woke up and freshened up. We had a little time to finish packing up any last minute things that were left out. Our flight was at 1pm so my husband went to the front desk to have them call us a taxi to pick us up at 11:45am. 

Then we walked down to Cuban Coffee Queen to get our last cuban coffee before walking down to Sarabeth’s.

We waited a couple of minutes but then we saw Zack and his mom walking down the street. 

We couldn’t get a table ahead of time though. Sarabeth’s won’t seat you until your entire party is there, similar to Blue Heaven. They weren’t terribly crowded so we didn’t wait long to be seated. We decided to sit outside since it was a beautiful morning.

As usual, it was a nice way to end our trip. We just chatted for a bit and enjoyed a good breakfast at Sarabeth’s. Then it was getting to be about that time that we had to go back. We had to be out of our room by 11am and I didn’t request a late checkout since we would be leaving shortly after that time.

We thanked Zack and his mom for breakfast and said our goodbyes.

Quickly we walked back to the Gardens. Everything was pretty much all packed. I made sure I checked my phone to see the status of our flight which was still showing on time.

We rolled our luggage across the grounds to the bar area where Brent and Julie were waiting for us. Phil the bartender was there as well starting to set up for the day. We just talked about the fun week we had together and that we need to do it again.

11:45am came quickly and we had to get going. We said our goodbyes and rolled our luggage out to the front of the Gardens. Soon our taxi showed up and took us to the airport. It is funny how driving down the road (A1A) from the airport to the Gardens makes me so happy, but driving from the Gardens to the airport is the complete opposite.

Once we got to the airport, the TSA check point was a breeze – no line at all. We took the escalator down to the gate. That’s where everyone was – waiting for their flight. My husband found two seats at our gate. There wasn’t really enough time to get something to eat before we took off, plus I was still pretty full from breakfast.

Our flight was delayed a few minutes due to the fact it was delayed leaving Newark-Liberty International Airport. Once our flight arrived we began boarding. Thankfully this time, our plane wasn’t the furthest one away. 

The flight was a little bumpy throughout, but not too bad. I knew we were getting closer to New Jersey, because I could see all the cloud cover below. “Back to being gray” I thought to myself.

We wound up landing about 20 minutes ahead of time. However, by the time we found an open gate, it was around the time we were scheduled to arrive at 4:30pm. Our driver from the car service met us outside the terminal and we were on our way back home. Soon we were back at our house and the memories of Key West quickly faded.

For dinner, my husband and I were both craving pizza. That’s one thing that New Jersey is known for – good pizza. So I picked up my phone and ordered a pepperoni and mushroom pizza. It was just what we needed after our travel day. We were able to make it back in time to catch the Giants and Eagles game, but unfortunately the game didn’t go as we both had hoped so called it a night at halftime.

Key West will always be a special place to me. I appreciate returning time and time again to see our friends and making new ones. There is always something special each and every time we visit that I will always remember. Hopefully we can continue making more memories in my happy place.

Thank you reading my blog. I truly appreciate it.  Until next time! 

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