A perennial favorite of ours, Louie’s Backyard brings a touch of understated Southern charm to Key West. On this visit, we booked a 7PM reservation, hoping to catch a peaceful sunset over the Florida Straits.
From our resort near the 700 block of Simonton Street we walked the 2 blocks to Whitehead Street to catch the Duval Loop, saving our feet the 10 block walk in a humid, hot Florida evening. Off the bus at South Street we strolled the remaining 3 blocks, enjoying the quaint neighborhood of the Casa Marina District, reminiscing of our first magical trip in 1994 (but that’s in a later blog!). We arrive an hour early overanxious I guess, but the Maître ‘D tells us it’s no problem, escorting us through the understated, elegant restaurant. We requested outdoor seating and were not disappointed! Our table faces the back deck bar with a full view of the aqua clear waters. With our backs to the interior (we are seated next to each other) we are under the canopy, giving us a cool, breezy location. Although we are near the bar back and storage area, we don’t let that spoil the view.
Our waiter arrives promptly and introduces himself as Johan, smoothly pouring ice water and reciting the evening’s specials, while presenting the one page menu. We check the menu, but I have made my choice from the specials: an appetizer of fried oysters and the fresh caught Yellowtail! Those who know Key West seafood never pass up Yellowtail Snapper! Cindy mulls the list and settles on an apple and bleu cheese salad appetizer and the house special Shrimp-n-Grits. For a pre-dinner cocktail Cindy opts for the club soda and cranberry with lime, a refreshing non-alcoholic alternative. Feeling adventurous I go for the Papa’s Pilar rum (a local spirit) and seltzer with lime (every drink should include lime in Key West!).
The appetizers arrive and we dig in, hungry from our walk over. Cindy’s salad is crisp and fresh, with top quality bleu cheese, tart apples on a bed of greens. The prefect combination of salty, sweet and savory. My oysters are, in a word: perfect! Deep fried to a golden brown, salty and briny, on a bed of tropical greens… (“Give me oysters and beer, for dinner every day of the year, and I’d feel fine”- Jimmy Buffett). The appetizers are devoured and we resist (a little) eating the sour dough bread with tasty, salty creamed butter.
The table is cleared just in time for our entrée’s. After the obligatory food photo, we savor the aroma. The first bite of my Yellowtail is a wonder. Perfectly fried, meaty and moist, with a fresh caught sea flavor. Served on a bed of Jasmine rice, it is accompanied by mango chunks and a light, tropical red wine sauce. Cindy’s shrimp are lightly grilled on a bed of southern, creamy grits with Applewood smoked bacon chunks, finished with a light butter cream sauce. She is slightly disappointed in the texture of the shrimp (too firm) and would like the grill char marks usual with this dish. A tall order to say the least.
Our plates are empty and our bellies full, so dessert is not an option. Though from past experience we can recommend both the key lime pie and anything chocolate offered. After dinner drinks are ordered (the same as before dinner) and Johan thanks us for our visit before presenting the bill. Dinner for two, appetizers and two rounds of drinks, $133.00, well worth every penny. We tip generously for fine service and decide on sunset drinks on the After Deck.
One Conch Shell: Poor
Two Conch Shells: Fair
Three Conch Shells: Average
Four Conch Shells: Good
Five Conch Shells: Outstanding
Location and ambiance- 5.0 Conch Shells (What you expect in Key West!)
Cleanliness- 4.8 Conch shells (move the tray storage)
Wait Staff and personnel- 5.0 Conch Shells (show me better and I’ll make the acquaintances)
Food Choices and flavors- 4.9 (almost perfect but for the shrimp)
Drinks- 4.8 (great suggestion on the rum)
Average Rating- 4.9 Conch Shells