Once again we find ourselves at a local business in Key West that has one original outlet downtown and then decided to build a second business across town because...Key West is too big? A four mile long island doesn't qualify as big no matter how you measure it, Yet there are dozens of restaurants and stores that double up because some people don't want to drive "all that way."
In point of fact when we arranged dinner with Robert and Dolly one stipulation from them, residents from up the highway, was we choose a place "east of White Street." Downtown traffic in winter can be a bit intense and Duval Street becomes a circus with happy pedestrians stepping off sidewalks apparently at random. Not everyone likes to drive the wild streets of Old Town.
My wife and I had driven downtown, deep into the heart of Old Town to the Gardens Hotel, wedged between Simonton Street and Duval and found parking right across the street. The hotel has not proved to be particularly accessible on previous visits so this time I showed up and decided to walk in on my cane, suitably impressing my wife as I negotiated a few steps and found a not-too-deep armchair unfortunately out of sight of the piano. The place was indeed packed for Michael Robinson's weekly performance.
It's possible to manage the mean streets of down town but there is some sense in offering people a choice of locations as I confess to being an exception to the rule - I like driving around. My wife once had a teacher's aide who quit the job after a few weeks as she couldn't handle the commute from Duval Street to Stock Island, a distance of five, not always traffic-free, miles.
I ordered Penne Venezia, an odd mixture of mushrooms dried tomatoes basil and crab meat in a cream sauce. It was an odd combination of flavors, sort of surf and turf that worked really well in a rich cream sauce. I ate half and gave up boxing the remainder. The two women ordered snapper fried in a coconut crust and it was perfect. The fish was moist inside crispy outside and no trace of any frying agent. The rice was creamy, almost a risotto and we looked at each other in surprise.
I think we both have long seen La Trattoria on Duval Street, a rather dusty storefront appealing to visitors where we had a not very memorable meal many years ago and with the choices we have in Key West the restaurant never came up again. This time I actually suggested it after driving home to our temporary apartment just round the corner. Driving by at night the place looked very inviting, romantically lit and overlooking the ocean (across four lanes of traffic). Worth another go I thought to myself. My wife when arranging to meet Robert and Dolly offered it up as an option they accepted so we ended up going.
It was a great meal. Service was a bit slow at the beginning but by the end of the meal everything was up to speed. We staggered out with boxes of food as portions were quite large and next day's lunch was looking delicious too. My wife nixxed dessert which was a drag, not that she was wrong as I was stuffed but I'm thinking the opening bruschetta was delicious, the main course was great so how could pudding be awful? It couldn't of course but we'll never know. I went home and had an orange.
I'm glad we went and we shall go back. It's nice to have a slightly better eatery we can I hope count on to offer good food in a calm atmosphere. Not every meal out has to be a food truck I suppose.