#Eat: Experience the best happy hour in town

430 Duval has gourmet food and top-notch beverages for $4.30

#Eat: Experience the best happy hour in town

“Chic.” “Sophisticated.” “Hip” and “Delicious.” These are just a few of the words used to define 430 Duval, the latest upgrade to be unveiled at the historic La Concha hotel in Key West. The contemporary restaurant is the second nonconforming statement that La Concha has made in 2014. Earlier in the year La Concha unbolted Wine O, a cosmopolitan wine bar/shop lined with rows of rare bottles and contemporary seating. Now comes 430 Duval, the hotel’s signature restaurant situated in the grand lobby, offering a modern escape from the conventional venues that line Duval.

“We are a city hotel,” said La Concha General Manager Michael Weber. “We are not competing with the waterfront resorts. We have an ever-changing menu of small bites in a stylish lounge setting. We want guests to feel like they are at home dining with friends.”

Instead of traditional seating, 430 Duval guests dine in sleek high-back chairs or intimate banquettes, while neutral furnishings with contrasting textures create a calming and romantic atmosphere. The middle of the dining area offers a wraparound couch and casual dining table, accentuating the social atmosphere of lounge dining and small plates for sharing.

However, no restaurant can thrive on ambiance alone. One of the first renovations that Michael Weber initiated at La Concha and 430 Duval was his staff — and two of his greatest finds came in the way of Executive Chef Andrew Nguyen and Director of Outlets, Jennifer Doughtery.

“We knew we had an incredible product,” said Michael Weber. “But even with the crisp, contemporary feel of 430 Duval, it was imperative to have the right team in place. Everyone here aims to please. It’s an educated, experienced staff and it’s all hands on deck.”

Executive Chef Andrew Nguyen provided Weber and his team with the perfect medium between sophisticated small plates set against casual dining. Nguyen, a native of Vietnam, says his culinary vision is a fusion between his Saigon and French influences, blended with the island ingredients he has mastered during his eight years in Key West. Already a local staple, Nguyen boasts an accomplished culinary background.

“The entire team at 430 Duval has been very welcoming to me,” said Nguyen. “They have allowed me to prepare the dishes that I am used to, while tying in a tropical flair to fit the island surroundings. Most of all, the hotel prides itself on quality. We don’t take shortcuts here and it shows”

One of Nguyen’s favorite dishes is his Cuba Libre — lacquered Berkshire pork belly, topped with caramelized ripe plantains and a sunny quail egg. Nguyen says the Cuba Libre, a favorite of Hemmingway’s, personifies the blend of local flair with his diverse palate of influences. Other small plates include Orange Blossom Honey Glazed Florida Spiny Lobster Tostones, Cuban Espresso Dusted Black Angus Beef Tenderloin and Cumin Citrus Rubbed Heritage Pork Chop. And one would be remiss not to sample the Fricossee of Escargot & Roasted Bone Marrow.

Along with the addition of Nguyen, 430 added Jennifer Doughtery, Director of Outlets. Doughtery, who also boasts degrees in culinary arts, returned to Key West in January of 2014 and began work at La Concha during Fantasy Fest.

“It was a crazy week to begin work,” said Doughtery. “But the busy week really prepared me for the vision at hand. More than anything, it was amazing to see everyone getting their hands dirty. When you see your general manager busting his tail and doing the dirty work, everyone follows his lead.”

One of Doughtey’s favorite attributes at 430 Duval is the reoccurring theme of great tastes and social dining. Doughtery claims there is a “flavor for every taste bud” on the menu and guests can share some of the best eats in Key West without being too full for a sunset or walk along Duval. But her favorite component of the new hotspot is the trend that she and her team have created during happy hour.

“Our happy is one of the best kept secrets on the island,” said Doughtery. “Everything on the menu is $4.30 and we use some the most popular items from our regular menu.”

While the happy hour menu is ever-changing, reoccurring selections include the Island Jerked Chicken Wings, the American Black Angus Slider and Applewood Smoked Bacon wrapped sea scallops. Entertaining bar mixologists complete the happy hour experience with 430 Duval cocktails, including a variety of unique mojitos and signature martinis.

430 Duval is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Happy hour occurs daily from 4:30- 6:30 p.m.  To learn more about Duval Collection, visit www.duvalcollection.com

Editiors note: La Concha is pleased to announce the opening of their new juice bar, JuicE, on Nov. 17. JuicE will be located in the current Starbucks location and Starbucks will relocate to a nearby location.

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