To the great relief of night workers all over the city of Key West Sandy's has reopened after a month of renovations which were supposed to last ten days. It looks nice and bright and shiny.
Nothing much has changed fundamentally from the customer's perspective, except that the interior has been refurbished, the equipment is clean and the lights, at one in the morning seemed brighter than I managed to remember them.
Apparently there were problems with the laundry building attached to the café and it was a case of the more you do the more you need to do. Now the shop is ready to last another thousand years, give or take.
There are lots of Cuban coffee shops all over town, from the tiny and totally Conchy shop in Habana Plaza on Flagler where old Cuban men go to gather, to tourist havens like Ana's on Simonton. How they all make money, Kim's Kuban, Little Jon's, Five Brothers, Conch Scoops, Cuban Coffee Queen and so forth, I have no idea.
Sandy's is operated a by a crew of Mexicans, not Cubans, who play Banda music in deference to their heritage and offer several Mexican dishes on the extensive menu. But that isn't their biggest selling point.
I limited myself to a small café con leche with a cheese bread, the classic Cuban snack as I wanted to celebrate the opening of this vital institution, the only Cuban outlet open 24 hours. And that's what makes them special. Show up on White Street, a block south of the gas station on Truman, which itself sells excellent Dion's fried chicken, and here you are, an oasis of light on a dark street, here seen looking south toward White Street Pier.
This is a gathering place for night shift cops between calls when they take a meal break, or stop by to pick up coffee. It's been hell for them such that they decided to club together on night shift and buy coffee and bring a coffee pot into work...one of their number is a Cuban Conch and he was assigned brewing duties. It was, they admitted no substitute for the real thing.
My midnight feast of melted American cheese (white cheese bread made with Swiss is not authentic, though don't tell my wife as she hates American cheese) on Cuban bread, made with lard, a d hot pressed flat is what a body needs. I'm not Cuban so I only take one sugar in my coffee but Conchs will take three or five. Strong people. On the subject some people like to ask for their con leches dark, but that's not for me. I like my "liquid candy bar" to give the caffeine the proper mild taste.
The overnight institution is back and we are all very happy about that. If you are on vacation and not calorie counting go for the fried fish sandwich which is to die for when they are on their game. Take your coffee and sandwich to Rest Beach and look out at the ocean as you enjoy local cuisine, in proper Key West style.