During our tour of the Florida Keys, we ate at too many memorable places to write individual stories about each one. Such good food, so little time.
As usual, before hitting the road I had a solid list of restaurant recommendations from Chowhound, online research and a friend who used to live in Key West. There’s something about camping that makes food taste amazing, even more so when it’s raining on your parade. Probably because delicious food is that single bright, dry spot during the day.
Not every place we stopped at was awesome. Sometimes even the best of intentions go astray due to circumstances beyond your control. I’ve listed the highlights and places I would return below.
Versailles Cuban Restaurant | Miami, FL
Versailles is located downtown near the baseball stadium in Little Havanna, the “heart” of Miami’s Cuban community. They have a popular walk up window where you can order a small cafe con leche, which is cheap, sugary and delicious. I wish I had one of these down the street, then I would have a cafe con leche in the morning every single day.
Gator Grill | Homestead, FL
Immediately following our walk on Anhinga Trail in the Everglades, my husband wanted to eat alligator. I was thrilled to be able to spot a couple babies and large ones from afar, not be served one on a plate. However he and hunger won, so we ate lunch just outside the park at Gator Grill. I tried my husband’s alligator tacos which tasted like chewy chicken, but he loved them.
Robert is Here fruit stand | Homestead, FL
Robert’s fruit stand kept popping up on websites as a place to stop by for a Key Lime Pie Shake and to sample unusual produce. The shake was very, very tart.
Big Pine Restaurant | Big Pine Key, FL
This restaurant was not on my prepared list, but rather a hidden gem we stumbled upon. Thank goodness you can’t plan everything out. We ate here for dinner and came back for breakfast. I’m not sure if it was the hunger talking, but our meals were especially delicious and please try the fried fish sandwich.
No Name Pub | Big Pine Key, FL
My husband was excited for No Name because they boast of having the best pizza ever. Well, after Shakespeares and Pizzeria de Michele in Naples we have high standards. It was decent and the restaurant is covered in dolla, dolla bills.
Kelly’s Caribbean Bar | Key West, FL
To start our Key West bar hopping happy hour, we started at Kelly’s for cheap wings ($4 for one lb.), margaritas ($3) and beer ($2). The wings are huge and tasty with one of their local brews. For the discount belly up to the bar, made out of an old Pan American airplane.
Half Shell Raw Bar | Key West, FL
Continuing our happy hour dinner, we headed to Half Shell by the water for smoked fish dip and steamed shrimp. They have more of an extensive seafood menu if you want to really sit down and eat.
El Siboney | Key West, FL
My half Cuban friend adamantly recommended El Siboney, which we also ate at twice. They have addicting grilled, buttery bread as a starter. Everything we had was tasty including the cuban sandwich, black bean soup, plantains, roasted pork, and chicken and yellow rice daily special. After spending some time at Smathers Beach we rode bikes here for lunch, just beware of the laid back service.
Santiago’s Bodgea | Key West, FL
Probably our nicest meal of the trip, we went to Santiago’s upon the suggestion of our bed and breakfast host (her favorite restaurant on the key). The restaurant is smaller and has dark, intimate lighting. We enjoyed bruschetta, beef tenderloin, bread service and one more plate I can’t remember…sorry. If you go, please get a glass of the sangria, for me.
Angelina Guest House | Key West, FL
On a side note, while in Key West we stayed at the Angelina Guest House. It was a lovely place to stay in a convenient location. Our room was spacious, inexpensive for the island and the innkeepers were very helpful. It didn’t hurt to be woken up by the smell of fresh baked cinnamon rolls every day.
Restaurants on the list that we didn’t make it to:
Parasol’s holds a special place in my foodie heart.
Located on a corner in the Irish Channel neighborhood, it’s where I ate my very first po’boy in New Orleans. Hailing from the Midwest, my po’boy knowledge is limited but I’ve tried to make up for lost time at Mother’s, Johnny’s and Stanley. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at any of them but Parasol’s might be the best.
Part dive bar, part hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Parasol’s restaurant is small and one could say cramped. If a passion for food will teach you anything, it’s that looks can be deceiving. At least that’s what I told my mom when she suspiciously eyed the building. Charging forth we went in for po’boys and a quintessential New Orleans experience on our annual trip.
Passing the ground level bar littered with remnants of St. Patrick’s day decorations, we made a beeline for the stairs to the second floor dining area. You walk up to the window to place your order, grab a table, and can order drinks from the bar below through a tiny cutout window in the adjoining wall.
When it comes to po’boys, my husband and I share an unspoken agreement. One of us orders a fried shrimp, the other a roast beef, both fully dressed and then we split them along with an order of french fries. Hoisting this policy on my mom, we followed suit.
Even while dining at an odd hour in the afternoon, there was a slight wait but it was oh so worth it. The beef was tender and gravy soaked, the shrimp were plump and golden brown. The French bread had a sturdy crust and cushiony interior, and manages to stand up to the mess created by a fully dressed po’boy (a layer of mayonnaise, topped with tomato slices, lettuce and pickles).
We polished off our two regular sized po’boys, french fries, tea and the crazy mix of escaped drippings in the bottom of our baskets. It’s unsightly, sloppy, grubby. This is what people come to New Orleans to eat.
According to the Cynical Cook, Parasol’s switched hands over a year ago and the previous owners now operate Tracey’s a stones throw away. Both restaurants are a short distance off Magazine street in the Garden District. Either way you probably can’t go wrong, but the hearts wants what is wants – which for me is Parasol’s.
If you liked this post, read more of my Restaurant Stories.
Parasol’s Bar and Restaurant
2533 Constance Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
For months and months I’ve had these photos ready to be posted and dishes to recount. Days have gone by without documentation or words because there is no way I can be unbiased in this article. Why? I want you to love EBT.
In an ideal restaurant world, all diners are treated like critic royalty Pete Wells and each plate is executed with a God-like consistency (the same yesterday, today and tomorrow). But naturally places come and go like migrating birds, service is carried out by imperfect people and taste is subjective. This is why every restaurant story I write and publish is my personal opinion of the experience I have at that time.
I’m still going to be honest but need to confess that I have a personal interest in EBT. My younger brother is the General Manager and I want to see it thrive.
EBT has been a classy establishment in Kansas City for a long time, offering table-side preparation and souffles for dessert. It’s also a namesake of a downtown department store, Emery Bird Thayer, hailing from a previous era.
I grew up in the Kansas City area and lived there until I was 23-years-old, but I had never eaten at EBT until last November. Of course I had heard of it but it seemed like an upscale lunching lady type establishment. Hidden on the backside in a bank building, it’s located directly off of State Line and I-435. Preconceived notions and an obscure location were not doing it any favors.
When we traveled to the Midwest for Thanksgiving, EBT was our first stop. We were welcomed by the sight of rows of orchids and a surprisingly large dining room. The art deco interior is decorated in warm tones and the lights were low during our relaxed late night dinner.
To begin the evening we sampled an array of appetizers such as the tender Thai Glazed Beef Skewers and Bacon Wrapped Tiger Shrimp with Thai chili sauce, but I couldn’t keep my hands from the buttery toasts. I have a bread and butter weakness. And although they are easy constructed at home, I do enjoy a salad with ingredients I don’t usually have on hand like the Apple, Gorgonzola and Red Leaf Salad or Iceberg Wedge. Both were equally delicious especially because I didn’t have to make the sherry vinaigrette or creamy bleu cheese dressing myself.
For our entrees my husband chose the Beef Ribeye and I picked Seared Scallops and Risotto from the appetizer menu, diligently trying to save room for dessert. His enormous steak came with mashed potatoes and almondine mixed vegetables, bleu cheese sauce on the side. I was slipped an extra perfectly seared scallop atop the slightly over seasoned risotto.
Finally the moment had come that I had been waiting for and he rolled out the table-side cart for Bananas Foster. He steadily melted butter, whisked in brown sugar and then with a few quick movements ignited the liquors shooting up a glowing flame. Nothing is more dramatic than a burst of fire in a dark dining room. Being fully gluttonous, I also ordered a chocolate souffle and mopped up every bit of cream anglaise from a tiny, adorable pitcher. The chocolate flavor wasn’t as intense as I anticipated but it was tall, light and airy.
We ate, drank and thoroughly enjoyed celebrating in my brother’s newest professional adventure. He’s good at what he does and reveres a fine meal just as much as I do. And as I said at his wedding, he got his driven work ethic from our father, his ability to make friends with anyone from our mother and I’m so very proud to call him my brother.
Read more about EBT restaurant below and browse my other Restaurant Stories.
The Young and the Restless: The Pitch
EBT restaurant targets fresh new image without abandoning longtime roots: Kansas City Business Journal
1310 Carondelet Drive
Kansas City, MO 64114
Friend them on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EBTKansasCity
Follow them on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EBTKansasCity
Meandering down the long stretch of Lakeland Drive, local gems inconspicuously blend into the chain restaurant landscape like deer in the woods. You know they are there but it takes focused determination to hunt them down.
Eslava’s Grille occupies the shell of a former fast food restaurant, mixed in with the likes of Primo’s, Saigon, Fusion, Grant’s Kitchen and Table 100 from Jackson to Flowood. The former chef from AJ’s on Lakeland (the lakeside location closed) took off on his own and has operated Eslava’s for just over a year.
Similarly as hearing about a book I’d like to read and then promptly forgetting the title, I had wanted to eat at Eslava’s but it escaped my mind time and time again.
Recently my husband ate lunch there and I snagged a highly discounted certificate on the Restaurant.com website, which was a perfect reason to go back for dinner. The weekend rolled around and we took off for a date night.
Upon entering we saw a fairly full dining room, open doors and no host or hostess. We looked around aimlessly – wondering if we should sit or wait – and were rescued by other patrons who said we seat ourselves. A waitress rushed by shortly after and apologized for the confusion. She came back and promptly took our order of crab cakes, salad, Red Fish for me and Cajun Pasta for him.
Inhaling a basket of warm, buttery crostini with the kitchen in full view, we set in for our leisurely meal.
All four of the listed appetizers sounded great, but the other three might have been better options than the average crab cakes. Their version was thick, lightly breaded, accompanied by a light mango salsa and plated on a creamy sauce. The fresh green side salad was unembellished and came with a lovely house-made vinaigrette.
When my entree was set before me, I couldn’t help but observe how brown and one dimension the plate was. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the large portion of fish prepared with restraint and a dash of lemon, absent of a heavy sauce or pools of butter. It was served with roasted potatoes and an overcooked yellow squash/zucchini medley on the side, which is how Southerners seem to like them. On the other hand my husband’s pasta was plum full of seafood and had a muted spicy kick. After one good dash of salt, I kept sticking my fork in his bowl in return for my vegetables.
We had pleasant, if not slightly drawn out service, because there seemed to be only two people working the dining room besides the cooks. This might have been amended since we dined there, but they need a standing sign near the door instructing people to seat themselves. We observed many parties come in with confused faces. It’s a very small detail but one that could be of great help.
For generous portions and fresh seafood, the prices are fair. If you’re curious to try it for yourself, consider buying a certificate from Restaurant.com because our meal of one appetizer and two entrees was still over $40 after saving $25. I’d like to return for the avocado salsa, pasta or fried green tomatoes and crab meat sauce. And unbeknownst to us, apparently it is a BYOW establishment that other tables were happily taking part of.
Due to the simplicity, you might have the same thought as I did, that I could have made this at home. However, when you don’t feel like cooking, search out Eslava’s bright sign for a solid seafood meal.
2481 Lakeland Drive
Jackson, MS 39216
The only thing unpalatable at Succotash is the art.
For Christmas we stayed in Mississippi, which means I went home to Kansas City for Thanksgiving. While in the Midwest, I had the rare luxury of spending one whole day with my little brother. We had a complete Joey and Janice-esque day of fun, except we actually like each other and neither of us have that annoying accent.
Having a shared passion for both eating and cooking, brunch was the natural choice to start the day. Moving beyond our usual First Watch family obsession, we decided to go somewhere new and ended up at Succotash.
Succotash is an eccentrically decorated diner, kitschy objects are strewn about and the chairs are painted a combination of Smurf and royal blue. You won’t be able to avoid an odd painting of a woman eating blood red soup dribbling from her mouth. The image is creepy, I was glad it was out of sight and hung upside down.
Now, this post might not be helpful because a over a month has passed. When reviewing their menu online, I noticed the dishes are different from what we ordered in the restaurant.
Succotash serves Cafe du Monde coffee but I chose to sip on a cappuccino while reading the three page menu.
I had a vegetarian version of the Kitchen Sink, but requested sausage gravy instead of mushroom gravy. My brother ordered a version of Eggs Benedict with crab meat; the only version online includes smoked salmon. To round out the meal we split a single blueberry pancake on the side.
Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and the pancake was bigger than our heads.
I was presented a platter of home fries layered with spinach, vegetables, eggs, cheese and smothered with gravy. All of those vegetables felt deceptively healthy despite the gravy blanket. The Eggs Benedict featured a rich Hollandaise sauce covering a fresh mound of crab meat. Surprisingly, the spinach was raw in both dishes, simply an interesting decision. The blueberry pancake almost exceeded the edges of the plate, was perfectly sweet and golden brown.
While stuffing ourselves we caught up on life, marriage, culinary aspirations and talked a lot about nothing. We ate leisurely and I don’t know what was more delightful, brunch or spending time with my brother. The painting is another story.
2601 Holmes Street
Kansas City, MO 64108