The Salty Oyster Dockside Bar and Grill is located at the Perry Hotel next to the picturesque marina on Shrimp Road on Stock Island. If you sit at the bar with bartender Angie Romo, she may be inclined to tell you about her travels around the United States, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean if you ask her nicely. She has trekked up the highest mountain in North Africa and hiked through the fjords of Norway. Angie might seem shy at first, but you will soon find that she reveals herself to be very charismatic, extremely friendly and is full of interesting stories that will keep you wanting to know more about this otherwise reserved personality of hers.
So, let me start off by giving you a hint or two about Angie. She and her husband, Brian, successfully sailed a catamaran for approximately nine adventurous months around Central America and the Caribbean even though neither one of them knew much about navigating the ocean when they started. They island hopped the Bahamas, went down rivers in Guatemala and escaped rough seas when storms threatened their path by hanging out in Belize for a little while.
As for the United States and Canada, the couple just recently completed a 10-month road trip that took them to the east coast, to the west coast, to the north and back down to the south, where they have finally returned to their home in the Florida Keys. Luckily, when the two arrived from almost a year-long journey, they found their house to be unscathed by the recent hurricane and were able to resume normal island life without even missing a beat. However, Angie now has a whole bunch of new memories to talk about and perhaps even make you a little envious.
“Having wildlife as close to us as we were and having bears and moose at arm’s length was amazing. There were bears everywhere! It was like we were driving through one giant animal park. We made it all the way to Yellowstone before Irma hit and that’s when we decided it was time to come home and make sure everything was OK,” Angie tells me.
When she first came to the island, the Minnesota native found work at the late Crabby Bills, followed by Conch Republic Seafood Company and then at Sunset Pier of Ocean Key Resort, where she stayed for 13 years before joining the team at Salty Oyster. The open-air boutique hotel bar welcomes overnight guests and daily visitors who simply want to catch a breeze, enjoy an ice-cold craft beer or have a casual bite to eat in an idyllic setting that offers a glimpse into what the Keys may have been like years ago when bohemians such as Humphrey Bogart and Ernest Hemingway first discovered them.
“I’m kind of spoiled,” she admits when describing her outdoor office. “I really do like working in a really pretty place and even though it is a gorgeous property, it hasn’t given up its Stock Island casualness. In other words, it is still Stock Island casual, but in a very pretty spot.”
The Perry Hotel is a fairly new addition to Key West’s rapidly expanding sister island and is home to Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar, a chef-driven seafood restaurant, and the more laidback Salty Oyster on the opposite end of the pool. Angie herself is a resident of Stock Island and is proud of “the working man’s island,” where she has watched neighbors’ kids go from babies to high school students and where she has been the host of many community gatherings, including an annual spam cook-off and a shark week “Jaws” viewing party. With a new mix of world-class hotels and gourmet food trucks, Stock Island is slowly becoming the cool place to be. For the moment, though, it still retains authenticity.
If there is one thing that Angie wants you to know about her little oasis far away from the bustle of Duval Street, it is that “the food is delicious” and even more tempting when the entire menu is half off during happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. every day. Happy hour also includes all draft beer, wine by the glass and almost all liquor. Try the blackened Maui sandwich with orange slice, red onion and lemon aioli or the citrus lime dusted chicken wings with habanero dipping sauce.
“Even though it’s a short menu, everything is made from scratch,” she explains. “Take the burger, for example, which has bacon and cheese mixed into the actual ground meat for extra flavor. Everything here gets a little bit of a twist.”
You can usually find Angie bartending on weekends from open to close, which, at the moment, is from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. She seems to have found her niche at a place where, like her, “everyone has been incredibly friendly … and the commute isn’t bad either.” ¦