January 16, 2011 – This morning we woke up early to drive to Key West. Our plan was simple – more good food, exploring, and hopefully some great pictures.
The day got off to a good start as we saw the clouds change from grey to fuchsia with the rising sun. We were out pretty early (about 7:15), so didn’t encounter much traffic on the way to Key West. We stopped at a little park on the left side of the road and went wading in the Gulf of Mexico. Although the water wasn’t that warm (at least this time of year), we did like seeing how clear it was. A snowy egret agreed that the water was quite nice, though it did startle Louisa when it landed about 10′ behind us.
We were making good time, so we also stopped for a short walk along a roadside path. We saw some pretty flowers and a few more birds, including a little one that was happily wading in the water and catching grubs.
Traffic thickened as we neared Key West, though the Old Town parking garage was fairly empty when we got there a little before 11am. Since we woke up early we were definitely ready for lunch at BO’s Fish Wagon. The weather was perfect for walking, although we only had a few blocks to go from the parking garage to our lunch destination. Along the way we saw at least one of the resident Key West chickens. The lunch wagon was quite fun and photogenic as well. We decided to split the fried grouper (with fries), as well as the conch fritters. The fritters came with key lime mayo, which Louisa enjoyed, and were kind of like large hush puppies with pieces of conch inside. Conch is a bit chewy, but tasted great in the fritters. The grouper piece was large and yummy, and the fries were hand cut, salty, and very tasty as well.
After lunch we walked towards the waterfront. We enjoyed checking out the boats and pelicans, as well as the bright blue-green water. Wandering around made us hungry, so we went to Island Joe’s coffee for a treat. We each had a dark coffee (though Tony had his with some cream and sugar), and Tony made a (good) last second decision to get the Key Lime Pie. It was kind of like a Key Lime tart, with a thick graham cracker crust and a just-slightly-thicker Key Lime layer. It also had a bit of whipped cream on top. Tony really enjoyed the tart, though Louisa likes a larger filling-to-crust ratio.
We wandered through town for a bit and found Matthesson’s bakery. We were originally lured by offers of free fudge samples, but eventually decided to split a key lime pie and a fresh (read: still gooey) chocolate chip and macadamia nut cookie. We ate at the little counter against the wall and then headed towards the Little White House. The building itself is rather unimpressive, though the grounds are pretty. There’s a little garden with a fountain and benches; we relaxed for a few moments and then a large hawk flew overhead. We chased the hawk, but lost it among the houses.
By this time it was within a few hours of sunset, so we headed towards Mallory Square. There was a chicken with a few chicks pecking in the dirt, as well as a variety of street performers. The more interesting ones included a guy on a tight rope juggling with fire batons, and a sword swallower. We happened to pick a great spot to sit along the wall… right next to the sword swallower. Fortunately there wasn’t a cruise ship in town, so we had a good view of the water, and the crowds weren’t (as) crazy as they could have been. The sunset was a bit cloudy, but still pretty, and the variety of shore birds and bobbing pelicans were also fun to watch.
After the sunset we went to dinner at Red Fish Blue Fish. We had some great coconut shrimp, grouper with crab cake and beurre blanc, garlic mashed potatoes, and the best key lime pie of the trip – perfect filling, crunchy graham cracker crust, whipped cream along the edge. Dinner took place during the Jets game – a group of fans were at the bar, and the J-E-T-S song got a bit louder as the evening wore on. They were well-behaved and mostly quiet, though.
After dinner we took the path along the marina to get back to the car. The reflections of the lights and boats in the water is always pretty at night.