If you can acquire a skill in the fraction of time that it takes most people to read the instructions, then you can rightfully earn a nickname like Diamond Dave. David Bevens became Diamond Dave while working for the Dry Tortugas fast cat ferry. He phenomenally managed to learn boat practices and terms in an unusually short time and the captain described him as a rare treasure.
“Like with most things I do I just take in the knowledge,” Dave shrugs nonchalantly, “so the captain said, ‘you are like a diamond in the rough,’ and it just stuck.”
We are sitting on the front porch of Cork & Stogie, where that Dave works and which is owned by his parents, Leslie and David Bevens. A couple of regulars are relaxing at the table adjacent to us and they, along with the rest of the patrons inside at the intimately quaint bar know that I am here to interview Dave for Florida Weekly as the featured bartender and they are very excited about it.
With a cold beer in his hand, Dave begins to enthusiastically share story after story as I ask my regular set of questions. His answers are involved, as though he is talking to a best friend and I get the sense that he has very much acclimated himself to the laid-back vibe of the island. In one of his stories he is let go from his job in the automotive business after retaliating against his father’s involuntary termination by playing the military taps melody. In another he states that his family has been coming down to Key West since the 1980s and finally decided to make the permanent move 10 years ago to open up a bar and take it easy. There’s also the one about the aneurysm in his arm that sent him straight to the ICU last year. And then he is also running as a candidate for king of Fantasy Fest.
“I’m running for king of Fantasy Fest because this community has done so much for me, especially when I was in the hospital and the Sister Season Fund helped with my expenses,” he said. “I want to give back. With this I’m fundraising for AIDSHelp, but I’m also trying to raise money for suicide prevention as well.”
The selfless competition for the annual title of Fantasy Fest king is both a prestigious and iconic one that holds the utmost respect in the community. For months, a small handful of candidates host a variety of unique events to see who can raise the most money. After a final tally, the king is honored by riding alongside the queen and the runners-up on the anticipated parade float in the Fantasy Fest parade at the end of the week-long festival. The king also gets to keep the title for the rest of the year and appears at various functions and fundraising events.
Dave will be hosting a few more events prior to the coronation, including a rave at Sidebar on Sept. 27 and a beach blanket bingo at the Tipsy Rooster on Oct. 13.
“You put a lot of your time towards a good cause,” Dave explains when I ask him what it is like to be in the running. He then adds “and I do get to ride on a parade float and I’ve never even seen one because I’ve always been bartending.”
Which brings us back to what this article is really about — the fact that Dave is our bartender of the week. His career in the industry started when he landed his first job as a DJ and then found his way behind the bar at a neighborhood “hole in the wall” called Stooges back in Ohio where he grew up. He has since “done it all,” from bar-backing to serving and back to being a DJ for over 20 years.
“I learned through trial and error. This older woman taught me how to make shots and pour beers and I mastered it very quickly,” he says. He is now a seasoned professional at both Cork & Stogie and also The Salty Angler just a block down the road. “If you are looking for a good craft beer, good wine and a good cigar to complement what you’re drinking along with a relaxed feel, then Cork & Stogie is the place for you. Salty Angler is a burger and barbecue restaurant with local fish that is brought in fresh every day. They also do awesome adult milkshakes, but the food is where it’s at and they have their fair share of good live music too.”
At Cork & Stogie, where he works most Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, he is famous for his Bloody Mary that he indulgently garnishes with bacon, drunken shrimp, blue cheese stuffed olives, havarti cheese and celery. At Salty Angler where he can usually be found on Thursdays and Fridays he makes an “unconventional” rum punch using three different flavored rums and a blend of juices he keeps a secret recipe.
Regardless of where you find Diamond Dave or what drink he makes you I’m sure that he will always have a story or two to tell you.
“I’m definitely a personality behind the bar,” he admits. “I’m just me all the time.” ¦
Cork & Stogie 1218 Duval Street www.corkandstogie.com
The Salty Angler 1114 Duval Street www.thesaltyangler.com