On A Dock At Sunset Eating Seafood

A Short Story and a Few Reviews

The beach at Bahia Honda

We’ve lived in Florida for over 40 years and we love the state. I spent much of my life either on the sea or under it and if you’re a water person there’s no better place to be. Beaches, coral reefs, lobsters and for years our favorite getaway place – the Florida Keys.

Back a few decades ago the Keys were pretty much half price in the summer months and our weekend destination two or three times a month.

Florida was a “snowbird” for Winter retirees and by May each year the states population seemed to drop by a third. Unfortunately nothing stays the same and with the Florida population growing from 8.7 million in 1980 when we moved here to 21.8 million in 2020 the change has been dramatic. Young families outnumber the “snowbirds” and Florida has become a full time home for many.

Many years ago one of our favorite stops in the Keys was the Islamorada Fish Company. It was actually a fish market on the Gulf side of Islamorada. A great place to buy fresh fish, shrimp and lobsters and there wasn’t much else in the area around it. Behind the market were docks where fishing boats unloaded their catches. The docks had a number of picnic tables and gas grills and we usually timed our visits near sunset if we could, so we could sit on that dock and eat as the Sun went down in the Gulf of Mexico. They grilled fresh lobster, fish, scallops and shrimp – nothing fancy and always cooked on those grills, served on a paper plate along with a Greek salad. Life just didn’t get any better than that.

We introduced friends and family to this gem and every visit was a memorable experience.

Just a few miles north of the Islamorada Fish Company was another favorite, Marker 88, a tiki hut bar on the Gulf that usually had good drinks, food and music after the Sun went down.

Outdoor World Islamorada

On one visit to the Islamorada Fish Company there was construction beginning on the lot just north of them and on the next trip we were amazed at the size of the building going up. A number of months later we returned and Outdoor World was now open on that lot. Parking was hard to find and we had to park down the road and walk back. Once we got there we realized there was a line next to the market and we were told that the wait would be well over an hour for a table. We left and haven’t been back to those docks again.

Shortly after that a condo complex was built just South of Marker 88 and a couple of years later the condo residents started complaining about the load music and the traffic at night. After a couple of decades Marker 88 had to turn down the music and be done by midnight.

Fortunately you can still find places like the original Islamorada Fish Company and Marker 88 in the Keys. Places where the seafood is fresh, the grilling kept simple and straight forward. Hurricane Hole just north of Key West is one and Ship Wreck in Key Largo is another.

A couple of years later an Outdoor World opened in Dania Beach, Florida not far from where we were living and the large attached restaurant was The Islamorada Fish Company. It’s a decent rstaurant but not exactly fresh catches grilled right on the dock. Today in Islamorada it is now a huge restaurant attached to Outdoor World* and I would expect that the food, while never as good as what was served on the docks it is probably good.

The Key’s still offer its share of fresh seafood and live music, always with a nod to Jimmy Buffet who left an indelible mark on this narrow strip of islands. But sadly nothing ever stays the same.

Some of our favorite places in the Keys include:

Lorelei’s is still drawing a crowd and The Green Turtle (the originator of Key Lime Pie) both in Islamorada have been institutions in the Keys forever.

Conch Republic Seafood Co. is right in the middle of the action in Key West with a great bar. Be sure and save your tokens.

The Hurricane Hole just north of Key West. Great seafood, good drinks served on the dock. A favorite with the locals.

Shipwreck’s Bar & Grill in Key Largo is nothing fancy but great seafood with good drinks at fair prices.

A new comer is Key West Cuban Coffee in Key West that serves great food at remarkable prices.

Capt. Tony’s Bar in Key West is also an institution that hasen’t changed much and was once Jimmy Buffets favorite hang out when he lived in Key West. It’s not far from Sloppy Joes.

*Actually there are over a dozen Islamorada Fish Company restaurants inside Outdoor World locations today.

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