Key West Bar Hops
The Keep Calm and Hop On Tour
Hops MacBarley's Ongoing
Key West Bar Boondoggle
Saturday, 20 March 2021, 7:40 PM
Goose Island IPA (bottle) $7.00
I caught the lull. Happy Hour is 3:00 to 7:00 daily, so if there had been an HH crowd, those people had already shuffled off, and with Daylight Saving Time upon us, the dinner crowd was still a while away.
Hence, I had the bar mostly to myself: my choice of seat, no neighbors to either enhance my mood or to shred it, and the full attention of the barkeep. Well, maybe not full. He had a table in the back room that was his responsibility too.
The layout here is nice. Really classy looking
bar. The dining
rooms are nice – all three of them – by they are
irrelevant to our discussion here.
Go restaurant hopping with Harry McHungry if you want
to hear about those.
I love the white 4x4 pillars that support the ceiling beams. They are all broad and strong and nicely white as well. There are multiple ceilings, actually, as this front dining area is more courtyard than room.
Somewhere behind the backbar, there is a blue light that shines up onto the ceiling and gives a nice glow to it all, almost like an azure sky of deepest summer (as Alex Delarge would say).
The bartop is a nice dark brown wood. It’s not highly polished, nor does it have a swooping curb; it’s unadorned, simple and distinguished without being showy.
The backbar, too, has a very good look. Three shelves high, with arches at the top, small spotlights shining down, and what looks like artificial hedge on the back wall, it is adorned almost exclusively by glassware. Four bottles sit proudly on the middle shelf on this side, and, around the corner another six or so are similarly on display.
That seems practical. I left bartending shortly before the tsunami of flavored liquors invaded bars around the world. How many flavors of vodka do you need? Absolut alone has 17. Seventeen flavors of vodka! At that’s just one brand. What about Skyy? (Also 17, but not all the same.) And Grey Goose? (9, for now.)
Where the hell are you supposed to keep all these bottles? Do you just load up on Skyy and tell the fans of Ketel One Botanicals to go shove it? You can stock 25 flavors and you know some jamoke will request the 26th.
And that’s just vodkas. Rums, whiskeys and bourbons are almost as guilty.
What ever happened to mixers?? If I wanted my vodka to taste like oranges, I mixed it with orange juice.
OK. Hold up. I gotta confess to being a bit of a hypocrite here because I do love Bacardi O (orange flavored) Rum mixed with OJ and Cranberry, over ice, on a hot day. Or cold day, that’s good too. The blend tastes so good, I can drink six tall glasses without feeling a thing until my face hits the floor. So yum.
But anyway, FreshCo was having none of that humbug. They had enough to get you something good. It might not suit your most exotic tastes but, hey, chill out and have a mainstream cocktail with the meal you came here for.
Speaking of chill, that describes my barkeep. A somewhat stout Latin chap, he had a casual and downright jaunty response to just about everything. Between his accent and his mask, I couldn’t really understand much of what he was saying, but his eyes were constantly smiling and he had an easy laugh. I didn’t catch his name, but he seemed like a Carlos.
I asked for an IPA and he was like, mmm, I thinnnk we got one o’ those (chuckle, but muffled). I pointed at the Goose Island on the bottom shelf of the chill box and said, “I want that.” He was like, okaayyy, you wanna see what else is there? I said, “Nah, I want that.” Okayyyy, I’ll get ya that (with a chuckle.)
Word must have gotten out that Hops was In The House because people started showing up for dinner. Every few minutes another couple or family came in and were led to an available table. They were all very clever and pretended not to notice me as they walked near or past the bar. Sneaky paparazzi. I wasn’t fooled.
Menus are not usually my
thing, but there was little of interest going on in the lull
time, so I checked this one out.
The prices seemed pleasantly low.
really low, but less high than I was
expecting. I mean, some looked affordable enough
for me to actually consider eating here. For instance, an
order of Famous Crab Cakes was $17.
Now, I don’t know how big or how many, but I’m guessing
you’d get two of them and each might be about the size of a
cheeseburger with a few bites chomped out of it.
Sound about right?
Maybe more than a few bites?
Depends on the size of the burger ... and the bites.
The sides were listed at
the bottom of the page, and they had prices next to them.
Ahhh, I thought, no wonder the entrée price was nice,
Alice. (OK, that one didn't rhyme.)
But when I asked Carlos, he smiled and said noooo, they’re all incluuuded (chuckle). I asked about Happy Hour, and got a similarly cheerful reply, yesss, fourr to sevennn (chuckle), twooo for onnne (chuckle). Is there a locals’ discount? Ohhh, I thinnnk … mayyybeee… (shrug) (chuckle). He was a kick. He went back to check on his table.
I looked back at the menu
and noticed something about the Famous Crab Cakes’ description. The phrase “just the
necessary fillers” was curious enough, but the end of that line
– “Featured in many restaurants
throw-out” – made me go Whaaaaat??
Who’s throwing out what? And why??
It was merely an unfortunate mix of line break and mis-wording, though, as the continuation makes it clear that “throughout Florida” was the intention. Still, what fillers are necessary??
The sign hanging out front says, “Southernmost FreshCo” and that’s because this is another expansion. Unlike Stinkin’ Crawfish (#340), though, who o’erleaped a whole continent to get here, FreshCo just bopped down from Miami. I think they are a familiar name because they have been busy since the day they opened. That day was delayed, of course, by the COVID thing. They looked pretty much ready to go last spring, but everything went onto the back burner and the place sat lifeless until recently. They opened up about a month ago.
I’m happy about the hours of Happy Hour. Too many bars shut it down at 6:00. This place is the second-closest bar to my abode, so my odds are a whole lot better. And Carlos says it’s 2-4-1 (I think, chuckle), not just a buck off or some lame thing like that.
So, yeah, I love the bar and the ceiling, I like the HH and the food price, and the convenience is great…
Those bar stools gotta
go, FreshCo! Freaking
flimsy tiny seats. These
are the worst bar seats in all of Key West.
Now, a few other bars use these too, so you're the
worst, you're tied for the worst.
Lucy's has them, and I
hated them there. Burger Fi had them, and they went out of
business. (They might still be around if they had better
bar seats, hmmm?) Amigo's had a backless red version of
them. They're not a bar, but they still have crap seats.
The seat itself on these things is puny. I’m not a small guy, but I’m not a fat-ass either, and I could NOT sit comfortably on that flat metal slab. This seat is, literally, a pain in the ass.
It would be bad enough that it’s not contoured, but the manufacturer’s lame attempt at a back totally back-fires. It’s just a curved metal pipe with a metal slab running down from the top. The pipes just cram into your hips if you try to sit back at all on the seat, and if you do lean back, you got a pipe jamming up between your vertebrae, and you feel like you’re gonna topple over backwards. W(ho)TF thought this was a good idea?
I Googled “cheap bar seats” and those things showed up on Overstock … at $45 each!! Amazon had the same style in ugly mint green for $60!! Jayzuz.
Give me your basic backless, unpadded wooden stool anytime. At least my hips would not be constricted. And those are “just” $25 each. Even that still seems like kind of a rip. I’ve gotten those at thrift shops, with padding, for about $5.
But I guess if beer can go for $7, then the stools you drink it on deserve a raise too. Maybe that’s why the beer costs so much: they have to cover the cost of these stupid metal seats.
Yeah, I get it, they’re trendy, but just ask anyone: they suck.
Too bad too. I was really in the mood for some of those Famous Crab Cakes and another Goose Island, but I couldn’t sit in that seat any longer. I almost blew off a free dinner elsewhere, because the Famous Crab Cakes (with all those necessary fillers) would’ve so hit the spot, but it just wasn’t worth it.
I declared #341 Hopped and moved on to get my freebie victuals.