BY LAURA RICHARDSON Florida Weekly Correspondent TO THIS HUMBLE FLORIDA WEEKly Key West Edition writer, December holidays be damned — Thanksgiving is the real most wonderful time of the year. When else are you allowed — nay, encouraged — to gorge yourself on a week’s worth of food, walk around with your pants shamelessly unbuttoned toned (or, if you’re a seasoned vet like I am, you eschew pants altogether and go with an outfit with a lot more stretch), and yell at the television while impossibly athletic dudes tackle one another for three hours (go, Cowboys!), all in homage to some apocryphally idyllic breaking of bread in the historical equivalent of the most uncomfortable family dinner of all time? Though there will be no crispness in the air and no leaves or snowflakes falling, we here in Key West will be giving thanks the only ways we know how: with good food, copious drink and an outdoor activity or two for good measure (after all, we’re mostly thankful that we don’t have to wear itchy turtlenecks and clunky boots to Thanksgiving dinner). And because Florida Weekly is also thankful for you, our loyal readers, we’re going to let you in on our favorite turkey day activities… just promise us you’ll still love us after you emerge from your delicious, delicious food coma.
If you’ve escaped to Key West for Thanksgiving to get away from an interminable family dinner during which your Nonna Rosa won’t stop asking you for the millionth time when you’re going to stop wearing tutus and finally settle down and have kids, you’re in some serious gastronomic luck. Key West’s infamous motto is “One Human Family” and we don’t suspend that mentality during the holidays. No matter when you visit our island home, you’re family while you’re here (the Olive Garden was really onto something with that slogan). To ensure you feel as warm and fuzzy as you should during Thanksgiving, many restaurants around town will be serving dinner on Thursday night. Your dad’s dry-as-sandpaper turkey and that awful canned cranberry sauce will be a distant memory after you’ve experienced the overwhelming number of options for a gourmet Thanksgiving meal. And you don’t even have to do the dishes! Now that sounds like a holiday miracle to me.
Though almost all Key West restaurants will be open and serving their typical menus, a substantial number of them are also preparing special Thanksgiving menus (some traditional, some less so): Little Pearl (632 Olivia St.), Dante’s (955 Caroline St.), Azur (425 Grinnell St.), Antonia’s (615 Duval St.), Bagatelle (115 Duval St.), Boat House (700 Front St.), A&B Lobster House (700 Front St.), Hard Rock Café (313 Duval St.), Café Solé (1029 Southard St.), Commodore (700 Front St.), Duffy’s (1007 Simonton St.), Grand Café (314 Duval St.), Hot Tin Roof (0 Duval St.), Bliss Key West (411 Petronia St.), Viva Saloon (903 Duval St.), The Saint Hotel (417 Eaton St.), La Trattoria (524 Duval St. and 3593 S. Roosevelt Blvd.), Martin’s (917 Duval St. — did somebody say turkey schnitzel?!), One Duval at the Pier House Resort (1 Duval St.), Prime Steakhouse (951 Caroline St.), Rooftop Café (308 Front St.), Café Marquesa (600 Fleming St.), Conch Republic Seafood Company (631 Greene St.), Croissants de France (816 Duval St.), First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery (301 Whitehead St.), Shanna Key (1900 Flagler Ave.), La Te Da (1125 Duval St.), SHOR at the Hyatt Resort (601 Front St.), Spencer’s by the Sea (1435 Simonton St.), Sun at the Casa Marina Resort (1500 Reynolds St.), Nine One Five (915 Duval St.), Terrace Roma (300 Front St.), Pepe’s (806 Caroline St.), Bistro 245 at Margaritaville Resort (245 Front St.), Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar at The Perry Hotel (7001 Shrimp Rd., Stock Island) and Tavern ‘n Town at the Marriott Beachside (3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd.).
A full list of restaurants open on Thursday can be found at www.thekeywester.com/2018/11/key-west-thanksgiving-2018. These restaurants will get booked up fast, however, so make sure you call ahead and snag a reservation as soon as you make the difficult decision of where to eat (analysis paralysis is real, people — especially when it comes to a meal as crucial as Thanksgiving dinner). And honestly, you can’t go wrong with a single one of the options above. From squab and Alaskan halibut at Little Pearl to hickory smoked turkey breast at Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar, you’re guaranteed to be well fed and waddling away from the dinner table.
On a budget but still want to chow down like it’s your last meal on Earth? (To be fair, if you hit more than one of the above restaurant suggestions, you might be sleeping off the tryptophan for at least a week, but there’s no such thing as a turkey-induced coma… right?) Chef Patrick Rooney (Paddy to his friends) at locals’ favorite Mary Ellen’s Bar (420 Appelrouth Ln.) has got your back. For the ridiculously low price of $10, Mary Ellen’s will be serving a perfectly cooked and carved turkey, brown gravy, sausage herb stuffing, mashed potatoes and roasted seasonal vegetables. As if the meal wasn’t enough, Mary Ellen’s bar is fully stocked (hello, Moscow mules on tap!) and the bar will be showing all of the Thanksgiving Day football games starting with the Bears v. Lions at 12:30 p.m. If this is a dream, please don’t wake me — food, booze and sports all day?! I think I may have died and gone to my own little gluttonous version of the Great Beyond.
If the thought of leaving the house (or the hotel room, as the case may be) and braving the holiday crowds gives you hives, the fabulous folks over at Great Events Catering have exactly what you’re looking for. Order ahead and you’ll enjoy rotisserie-style carved turkey, gravy, green bean casserole, cornbread roasted apple sage stuffing and herb monkey bread, all from the comfort of whatever soft surface you care to rest your tush upon. And the best part? This gourmet turkey dinner feeds four and will only cost you $120. Now that is something to be thankful for.
I’m sure there are some of you out there who are having a hard time reconciling the fact that you won’t be preparing a ten-course meal this Thanksgiving. Bobby and Art at Bobby’s Monkey Bar (900 Simonton St.) understand that, for many, cooking is an expression of love (for better or for worse — we all have that one family member who insists on bringing her flavorless green bean casserole year after bland, uneaten year) and so, every year, Bobby’s plays host to an eclectic Thanksgiving potluck. Regulars sign up to bring dishes way in advance (as much to stake their claim to their favorites as to avoid redundancies) and the night always ends as every night ends at Bobby’s — in a beautiful, drunken, karaoke lovefest.
And for something completely different than what you’d usually get at home, Bourbon St. Pub (724 Duval St.) will be hosting its Annual Turkey TurnAbout Show & Thanksgiving Buffet beginning at 5 p.m. During this one-of-a-kind event, you can nosh on turkey and all the fixins while your favorite bartenders and Bourbon St. Pub staff perform in drag. The show begins at 10 p.m. and all tips from the buffet and the performances go to the Sister Season Fund, a favorite local charity (you can’t spell Thanksgiving without “giving,” after all).
If you’re reading this after Nov. 22nd and fear you’ve missed your opportunity to indulge in the traditional Thanksgiving cornucopia, don’t fret. Pepe’s (806 Caroline St.) serves Thanksgiving dinner every Thursday of the year. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and (naturally) cocktails with fresh-squeezed juice. What goes better with turkey and stuffing than a Greyhound with grapefruit juice fresh from the press? Pepe’s, we are so very thankful for you.
Chances are, if you’re in Key West, the weather is beautiful and you may be looking to explore our beautiful aquatic surroundings. If you want to work a little for all the calories you’ll inevitably be consuming, Fury Watersports is offering its usual Ultimate Adventure Thanksgiving-style — a six-hour catamaran sail that includes snorkeling the only living coral reef in North America, parasailing, jet skiing, an inflatable water park, and Thanksgiving breakfast and lunch. The trip runs from
10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and costs a mere $154.95 for adults and
$109.95 for children — a total bargain when you consider you’re spending six hours cavorting in the middle of the ocean and enjoying an entire Thanksgiving meal at sea. When was the last time you ate turkey and sweet potato casserole on a catamaran? And you’re not truly living until you can say you got to see Key West from above with a belly full of stuffing. Book online at www.furycat.com/ key-west/thanksgiving.
Sunset Watersports appreciates that some of you want to get out on the water but don’t have any inclination to be up or active that early in the morning (or active at all, really). From 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 22, it will be offering a Thanksgiving Sunset Dinner Cruise. For $69 per person and $39 for children, you get a traditional turkey buffet and unlimited mixed drinks, draft beer, wine and champagne plus live music and an unobstructed view of the breathtaking Key West sunset. To reserve, call Sunset Watersports at 305-296-2554 or visit www.sunsetwatersportskeywest.com/ key-west-special-thanksgiving.html.
If (for some inhuman, unnatural reason) you have the energy and the desire to do anything over Thanksgiving weekend after you’ve spent two days stuffing yourself fuller than you stuffed your poor turkey, Hog’s Breath Saloon will have its 25th annual Hog Trot at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. Starting at Hog’s Breath, the course tours down Whitehead Street to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, which means you pass the Green Parrot twice. The Parrot doesn’t open until 10 a.m., but if you walk really slow, I bet you can stretch that 5K into a two-hour excursion that involves a pit stop for a root beer barrel at Key West’s most famous watering hole. If you’re running for the actual health benefits (for which we salute you), a 5K is the perfect excuse to spend your day face deep in mimosas, drunk eating the remainder of your Thanksgiving leftovers. And since the race ends at Hog’s Breath, you can have your first beer of the day (for free!) the minute you cross the finish line. You know, the more I think about it, the better this race sounds… if you agree, you can register online at www.hogsbreath.com/keywest/hog-trot/.
To wax serious for a rare moment, we residents of the Florida Keys are a self-selecting bunch of people who, for the most part, moved down to the end of the road because we appreciate the simple things in life and recognize that it takes very little more than good food, good weather and good company to be happy. Choosing to spend your holidays with us is an indication that you value those same things and we are truly thankful that you are here supporting our local economy and contributing to the good vibes we strive to cultivate. Welcome to our One (Weird) Human Family. We promise not to get (too) drunk at Thanksgiving dinner or spend the meal asking you repeatedly when you’re going to get a real job. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Florida Weekly Key West. ¦