A Short History
An ancient range, a stainless steel sink and a century-old history of entertaining the islanders sat inside the shuttered blue building on Petronia Street in the heart of old Key West, in the Florida Keys.
On September 19, 1992 Suanne the artist and Richard the writer cooked and served black beans, rice, and fish to their first lunch customers on the painted picnic tables under the tropical almond tree in our fine outdoor dining area.
One hundred years earlier, the owners of the Dade County Pine structure sold spirits to Key West and Florida Keys residents. Through the years the property has hosted cock fighting, gambling and Friday night boxing matches refereed by Ernest Hemingway.
The outdoor courtyard is paved with the slate pool table tops from the days the downstairs operated as a billiard hall and ice cream parlour.
A dance hall, a bordello and a playhouse have occupied the second floor. Today inside the Bordello Gallery above the restaurant, one can still peek through the sliding peep holes into the tiny rooms.
The current business saga began with no money down, some gardening tools and Mom's church cookbook. Seas permitting, Suanne, Richard and baby motored in daily to their Key West restaurant from their houseboat home on the farside of Christmas Tree Island. The duo slowly built up their lunch counter business. With the addition of breakfast and a $2 special they eventually hit the $100 gross sales a day plateau, sometimes. Rain played havoc with their dinghy and the outdoor business.
One and a half years later Richard lured his brother Dan down from his chef's position at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, N.C. A formally educated chef, who started in the restaurant business at age 14, Dan wasted no time taking over dinner at the Key West restaurants. The fish plate turned into Black Grouper seared with dried herbs and served with a key lime honey glaze and a warm cucumber and red onion salad. Chef Dan's food always tasted great. Most of the numerous former kitchen employees would readily attest to Dan's exacting care for food. The specialties are Caribbean cuisine, sea food and vegetarian dishes.
Journalist Charles Kuralt said Dan's scallop sauce "would make cardboard taste good." Accolades have come in from around the world for this most unique of Key West restaurants.
Enjoy the food and ambiance and keep an eye out for falling almonds, Spanish limes, coconuts, and roosters. Finally, no swinging from the water tower on the rope swing!!!