I spent the weekend in Islamorada, one of the Florida Keys.
Charming, with barefoot, casual ease, these islands are peppered with quaint local eateries.
On some of the busier islands, you will find the random Starbucks or Dunkin Doughnuts, but I’ll be over at Bob’s Bunz instead of having a cinnamon roll.
The locals have fierce allegiances. I had a wonderful discussion with a couple who were supporting the backyard hangout because they made their product on-site, not on “mainland,” as they called it. The "Mainland" is Miami around these parts.
I am a believer in supporting small local restaurants over chains. Being in the Keys does encourage this but the lifestyle continues for me even when I'm on Mainland.
I do like some chain restaurants, but small business owners win me over every time. I haven’t been disappointed yet.
I appreciate a chef or pit master who finally achieved his dream, or a passionate barista, sommelier, brewer—it doesn’t matter, these are the places I seek out.
Unfortunately, a few wine bars and gastro pubs were shuttered indefinitely, unable to survive the ongoing wake of “The Rona,” as I call it.
If you’ve ever tried such places, I find the food presentation is handled with more care. The flavor profiles are more daring. I'm sure they want seating turnover just as the larger establishments, but I think they care about your experience with their craft even more.
We found other breweries, and local hotels, Hadley House, that were worth a visit too. I loved that they had some entertainment, games and a neat attitude.
Meze was the only little restaurant surviving in the plaza it was in, but that Mediterranean menu was delightful.
When I talked about this with the couple, they said, "Oh god, I don’t even want to know who's cooking in the back of those large chain places.”
I used to work in one.
I’ll tell you.
Sonny was African and he had a large notebook from "Corporate" with laminated pages that explained in detail the measure and weight of how each dish was to be made.
Yes, of course, most of it was frozen. Deep fryers are amazing that way.
Sonny was jovial and organized as the back of the house should be during service.
Do you take the effort to seek out the underdog?
Who do you support when you go out to eat or have a beer?
I’m sure if you did a little research, you’ll find your next best neighborhood spot in a nearby shopping plaza—possibly even closer than that huge establishment.
Thanks for being here.