Thursday, January 20, 2022

Dining delights in Key West: Munching a tasty, Cuban inspired path through town

Before the restaurant opened  to the public, our small tasting group was invited in to El Siboney,
a small, family-run eatery part of an enjoyable food tasting tour in Key West, Florida.  


Conch fritters are on the menu at Mangoes, a lively fish eatery in Key West.
The walking tour features five fun restaurants and lots of local history.

Pork, beans and rice are
a staple of the Cuban
        diet here served            
casually at El Siboney. 

CUBAN FOOD, VINTAGE CARS, MUSIC, COFFEE SCENERY SUGGEST HAVANA -- BUT YOU'RE HAPPILY DINING IN KEY WEST, U.S.A.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

ONE CAN dine like a king, snacking your way through a leisurely few hours in Key West, where the scents and tastes of Cuba and the Caribbean are a very real part of life.

We took a fun foodie's walking and tasting tour and we're going back for seconds!

El Siboney takes its name from the Indian
people who inhabited the Key West region.
Here Kayla introduces herself and the eateries.

What a moveable feast -- small bites of food, glorious food, with the emphasis on spice and seasonings one associates with the Caribbean, Cuba and South America.

Throw in vintage cars sprinkled around the town, a walking tour with stops at historic places, and you've got a fun three or four-hour escape.   

The Speakeasy Rum Bar  is a Key West landmark, and
both it and its adjacent inn is popular with tourists.
WE BEGAN eating while our guide, Kayla, introduced us to the restaurants and our first dish, a classic pork, beans and rice offering.  Cubans eat lots of pork  and the Florida transplants brought their dining traditions. Kayla, who grew up in Mexico, is studying business and saving for her own food truck to specialize in Caribbean cooking. She comes from a family of good cooks, knows her Key West history and has flair and ambition.
Every stroll in Key West
is bound to encounter a
protected rooster or two.




WE TOOK OUR comfy chairs at our first restaurant,  El Siboney, with its colorful posters and friendly, family oriented ambience. Many consider El Siboney the most authentic Cuban restaurant in Key West. It is named for an indigenous tribe that inhabited Cuba circa 1492. It's also the name of a small town where the Cuban revolution began. 

Image result for key west conch people
Vintage cars are part of the Key West allure,
much as in Cuba, where old cars are on show.
 
Kayla gave us an overview of our two-plus hour adventure while a group of six enjoyed a small plate of shredded pork, rice and a side dish of beans, served in the traditional way, with a wedge of lime and a slice of buttery Cuban bread -- slightly sweet and tasty.
Mahi mahi with goat cheese
and mango is a hit at Kaya.

 AFTER A FUN, quarter-mile stroll through a pretty palm tree-lined neighborhood, we arrived at the Speakeasy Inn and Rum Bar for a refreshing libation.  The bar tender briefed us on the history of the famous landmark. Now a bar and guest house, it was once the home of Raul Vasquez, who was a cigar selector at the Gato cigar factory. Raul’s passion was rum-running between Key West and Cuba. 

The signature key lime
pie, with whipped
cream and berries.

Kaya Island Eats is one of the stops on the
tasting tour. It is favorite with locals. 
 WE CHOSE a non-alcoholic alternative to the rum cocktail since it was barely mid-day, then we were off again, headed to Mangoes on Key West's main artery, the colorful and lively Duvall Street. Here, we enjoyed the town's most famous menu item, conch fritters, served fresh and hot from the fryer, with lime and a tangy aioli. 

At each stop, we were given time to stroll, ask questions of the chef, enjoy the artwork, and relax between courses. Next, Kaya Island Eats, where the chef, a Maui transplant, served us a delicious  small-plate serving of delectable mahi mahi, perfectly seared and topped with lovely goat cheese crumbles and a lime reduction. 
After the food tour, Keller and Cookie took a
short stroll to Key West's beautiful lighthouse.
The town is walkable and user friendly with
historic homes and museums all around.
    



     LIMES ARE as much a part of the Key West culture as are the roosters and chickens which stroll about, protected by law with stiff fines for annoying or  hurting them. So our finale was that classic dessert -- Key Lime Pie -- served on the palm lined patio of Cuban Coffee Queen, where we'd stocked up on coffee beans the day before. The savory pie and a small glass of sweet, kick-ass Cuban coffee capped the tour.  Each of these places would make a fun separate stop, but the food tour's the way to go for a delightful edible overview of a fascinating town.  

  keywestfoodtours.com; historictours.com

keywestchamber.org

A fun family outing to swim with the dolphins await
at Hilton Waikoloa Village on The Big Island of Hawaii.
UP NEXT
:  The dolphins are calling. And Hawaii beckons. We've got our traveling togs back on, fully vaccinated, "boostered" and enjoying hitting the airways again with courtesy, distancing, masking and respect for our fellow travelers. Although getting to Hawaii is not as easy as it was "pre-COVID," it can be done, if you're prepared. In search of dolphins and a chance to swim with them, we arm you with pointers to help clear the virus scanning procedure and shorten your wait in line. Then we take you to Kauai, and the Big Island for some fun away from crowds. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on travel, cruising, the arts, family, nature and more: www.whereiscookie.com

3 comments:

  1. Fun food piece. Love the idea of walking between courses.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We are big fans of food and walking tours. Do them in Europe.

    ReplyDelete
  3. We've done several "Eating Europe" tours in Amsterdam, London and Rome. Always fun to "taste" one's way through a city's culinary life as well as historic importance. Thank you for introducing us to this one in our own state.

    ReplyDelete