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Friday, February 3, 2012

Bars in the Keys

Key West is a destination. But, getting there is half the fun. While you can fly directly into Key West International Airport (international, in this case, a very loosely used term) we almost always prefer to land somewhere north of the Keys - Ft. Lauderdale the preferred choice over Miami - and drive down. It's only 190 miles but, done right, it's a full day's drive. I say "done right", because to really enjoy the trip, there are a number of places you'll want to stop along the way...and I say a full day because each stop merits a lengthy stay, usually involving some adult beverages.

Although there are plenty of well known watering holes between the end of the Florida Turnpike and Islamorada, we usually bypass them and make a bee line for our favorite spot - Lorelei's (officially "Lor-E-Lei Restaurant & Cabana Bar"). As I typed the words, I just let out a sigh, wishing I could be there right now...Sitting at one of the waterside tables with a hand made top-shelf Margarita.



Located at mile marker 82, on the right if you're heading South, the first thing you see is the weather worn Mermaid, welcoming you to Lor-E-Lei.


Head up the drive, park your car and it's just a short walk to a large outdoor patio that wraps around the kitchen and bar.


Park yourself on a stool, or walk out to the beach and grab a table.



Either way you're in for some great food and stout boat drinks. Conch Fritters are some of the best we've had anywhere and their "catch of the day" fish sandwich is always fresh and delicious - and one of the more reasonably priced in the Keys. Finish it off with a slice of their house-made Key Lime pie with whipped cream and Mango sauce and you'll know why we make it our first stop on any drive down to KW.



I have to say, we have never had bad service at Lorelei, even when they're busy. The last time we were there, we wanted to sit out on the beach but there was no server in that section. We went up to the bar, grabbed a couple of drinks and ordered our food. When the chow was ready, the Manager walked it out to us. Lor-E-Lei also has live entertainment seven nights a week.. And, unlike other water side establishments we've been to, the music always fits the atmosphere. When I'm kicking back, soaking up the sun and enjoying a cold beverage, I want to hear Buffett, Beach Music and Reggae - not hard rock or sad songs (I'm talking to you, Slider's in Fernadina Beach) . Maybe it's just me...

While we usually stop on our way down - which usually puts us there around lunch time - Sunset is when Lor-E-Lei really shines. On the return trip, we'll often time our flight out of Ft. Lauderdale so that we can catch the sunset (and another slice of pie) from their deck before bidding adieu to the Keys.



Another one of our favorite stops is Robbie's Marina, 4 1/2 miles down US1 and also in Islamorada... One of the main attractions here is a chance to feed the large and voracious Tarpon that hang out around the docks. Plunk down a few bucks, grab a bucket of bait fish, then walk out back and let the fun begin.




There is also a restaurant - appropriately named the Hungry Tarpon - with an outdoor bar....



And an eclectic open air market where you can buy everything from original art to jewelry and souvenir knick knacks.... You can also charter a fishing boat, rent kayaks and go snorkeling....


You can, literally, spend a whole day at Robbies...

To be continued.....