Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Key West - Road trip to the Cracked Conch Cafe

Not much to look at on the outside - but oh those conch dishes!
Key West is called the Conch Republic after an attempted "secession" from the USA on April 23, 1982 in response to a roadblock set up by the US Border Patrol as a checkpoint for drugs. It instantly killed Key West tourism and Key West responded by claiming to secede from the USA. Of course they never did secede and the whole event became famous in Key West lore. But the basis of selecting the name Conch Republic is, of course, the conch. It's edible but usually tough unless tenderized by beating which you can hear in the background of any restaurant that knows how to serve conch.

A satisfied customer
The most famous conch restaurant in the Keys is the Cracked Conch Cafe in Marathon which has been featured on the Food Network - they came to the expert to learn how to cook conch. Armed with all that info, we headed east on US 1 in our Mustang convertible and was at first dismayed by the 10 mile backup on the lane going in the opposite direction, ut ho for the trip back, however, onward to Marathon 50 miles distant.

The appearance of the restaurant does not inspire confidence in the presence of the finer gourmet arts but we knew their reputation and ordered a variety of conch dishes. Ann had the conch fingers and conch fritters and I had the conch sandwich. I can now understand the attraction of properly prepared conch. My previous experience was with tough, stringy conch but what I had today was nothing like that. The sandwich had a huge slice of conch and it was as tender as fish or chicken but with a taste all its own, quite nice.

As I said, it doesn't inspire confidence but they deliver 
The restaurant has a reputation of staying open 7 days a week, holidays and all, and prides itself on not closing during hurricanes, as the owner once said, "Everyone out in emergency situations needs somewhere to eat so I stay open!" So if you're even down this way, pay the Cracked Conch Cafe a visit.

Photo from Sharman Fitchett  of a Stuart, Florida sunset - Key West has no monopoly on beautiful sunsets
On the way back, the traffic jam had cleared, great! In the evening, we once again toured Duval Street at night with the top down. As you pass by each bar, you hear the blare of music come and fade which intermingles with the night scene and musicians playing on the sidewalk, quite an experience. On Thursday we provision, back to chores, one more week of Key West!