Saturday, June 29, 2013

Little Room Jazz Bar

When sensory overload hits, and you need to decompress, head south to 821 Duval and the smoothest spot on the island -  The Little Room Jazz Bar. A recent discovery for me, and a spot I can't wait to get back to. 

Step inside and take a moment to let your eyes adjust to the dim light. Saxophones, Violins and Mandolins adorn the rich maroon walls. Candles light the dark wood high top tables and a flat screen running footage of sharks and other fishes creates a relaxing backdrop behind a portion of the bar. 

Though performers aren't on an elevated stage, the main seating area offers plenty of room for jazz lovers and two side rooms feature stuffed chairs and a couch for a more comfortable listening experience. 

Live jazz starts at 8pm nightly and the club offers two daily happy hours. 2-8pm and 12:30am to 2:30am. Don't ask for a well drink though. The Little Room's offerings are limited to craft beers and wine. For my party, that worked just fine. My son grabbed a glass of white wine and my friend James and I downed a couple of beers. (James and I are pictured below)

You can check their website, for a list of daily performers, though I'm not sure it's current. We were there this past Tuesday and what we heard didn't sound anything like the Haitian infused Jazz I was expecting. Whomever it was, entertained the crowd with a couple of sets that mellowed us enough to continue our crawl up Duval.

Update:  I should have actually read the white board I wandered past at the front door - a duo called, The French Connection was the featured act that night. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Here a cluck, there a cluck everywhere a cluck, cluck"

Mark here. It's time for a chicken post. I had to do it.  It was a gimme.

A quick explanation for those who haven't been here yet,  Key West is loaded with feral chickens. They populate every silly part of this island.  Even after I've told you, you'll still be amazed and amused by them. They're descended from released fighting cocks and escaped domestic birds and now roam freely.

They're beautiful critters and they certainly add charm and color to the town.  No doubt about it.  I am certain tourists take more pictures of chickens than Hemingway's House. On the whole, they are pretty cooperative models and their vibrant colors seem to naturally complement the tropical flowers.

They definitely seem to enjoy the lifestyle.  On any given day, you can find chickens hanging out at the beach...

...or just lounging in the sun.

That's not to say they are all freeloaders.  This fellow seems very good at waiting tables.  That said, I suspect he would have stolen your order when it arrived. Not a good way to keep your job.

Others seem satisfied with simpler jobs like cleaning "floors" at outdoor restaurants.  I guess it's important to find the job that suits you best. It's honest work, after all.

Now for the downside, those devils don't just crow at dawn. I've heard them bellowing at 3am like drunken college kids.  The locals often find them pretty annoying.

I suppose when it comes to Key West's chickens,  the best approach is to just take them for who they are, a charming addition to the landscape.  If Key West stands for anything, it's "live and let live." Then drink a Rum Punch.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Restaurants - Blue Heaven

One of the most popular breakfast options in Key West, you'll find Blue Heaven tucked in Bahama Village, at the corner of Petronia and Thomas, just a short walk from Duval Street. The main seating area is outside under the Spanish Lime trees. Free range, err, roaming chickens and roosters wander through the tables most days, looking for handouts. (just not this day)

The food is excellent but a bit on the expensive side. Mark and I headed here spur of the moment a few days ago in desperate need of breakfast. By the time we got our food, we were so hungry we forgot to take pictures, sorry. You'll have to believe me when I say it was as beautiful as it was tasty. I gorged myself on the airy blueberry pancakes and was squirted in the eye by more than one gigantic blueberry my forked pierced.  Mark had a fluffy ham and cheese omelette and could barely finish it. Their specialties are a variety of Eggs Benedict dishes including a Lobster Benedict, ordered by a guy at the table next to us. I really wanted to ask for a bite.

If you're used to a breakfast that includes the staples - bacon, toast, fruit, you're out of luck. Everything here, is á la cart, so costs add up quickly.  Mark and I stuck with the basics, his omelette, my 2 pancakes, a coke and an ice tea and the bill, with tip, was 27.84. If you're not on a tight budget, I'd say go. Otherwise, you'll get just as good a meal, for a bit less, at Two Friends Patio, and they don't hit you with the á la cart thing. 
If you have to wait on a table, as we did, you can pass the time at the ping pong table. 

This is Jesk, one of the resident cats. On the Blue Heaven website, they were offering her up for adoption in 2007. I guess it didn't take. 

Mark and I killed time at the bar, while we waited for a table. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Key West Custom House: Art and History Museum

Mark here.  Want to hear about a place we should have checked out a long time ago? The Custom House, on the northwest corner of Key West, near Mallory Square, is definitely one of the most striking buildings on the island.  The 3-story, red brick structure is gorgeous and it's entrance is graced by a 40-foot sculpture of two ballroom dancers. Inside, it houses the Key West Art and History Museum.
Either before or after you go inside, take the time to walk around the outside of the building. The grounds are gleefully populated with a bunch of marvelous sculptures of people enjoying life.  The artist, Seward Johnson did a terrific job of capturing folks enjoying simple pleasures and some more formal or exotic ones, as well.  Many of the statures are positively lifelike. I'm not going to post pictures of the statues. I want you to have the full delight of seeing each one fresh.

The historical exhibits focus on the early days of Key West and the building of the Overseas Railroad. Building that railroad was a fantastic engineering feat and they have several displays that really show just how fantastic. They also have several great displays illustrating what life was like in the Lower Keys during the days of Hemingway and earlier. I think a lot of us are closet history buffs so I think that stuff is cool.

They also have several exhibits of artwork from local artists and, hands down, my favorite exhibits are the bas relief wood sculptures by Mario Sanchez.
He was the son of a cigar maker and a local folk artist who depicted everyday life on the island.  He worked outside under a tree using simple wood chisels and dime store brushes. For me, that adds to it's charm. I love their light-hearted tone and simplicity.

Mario based many of his characters on actual local folks and the museum does a nice job of sharing some of the back stories of the people in the works. If you look carefully, you'll notice many of these people as recurring subjects. You may also notice that the atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance in Key West goes back at least 100 years.  It's evident in many of his pieces.

We waited over a year to visit the Custom House but, once we got there, I was delighted. It's definitely worth the time.