The quaint building that houses Grunts Bar was once part of the Old Island Trading Post at Porter Docks, where the Pier House is located today. The structure was moved to the quiet end of Caroline Street and restored. The interior is filled with items from Key West’s past, including the antique ice cream freezer that is used to chill Grunts’ famed ice-cold beer mugs. Outside there are tables on the brick courtyard and lots of tropical foliage. The style is very inviting, and very Key West. Along with the impressive wine list, Grunts has six beers on tap and 26 bottled varieties, plus the house sangria.
Chris and Cindy Trevette own the establishment, and Chef Josh Furman operates the food concession. For dinner, you’ll find a mix of the casual and upscale. The fish dip is made with local fish the chef smokes himself. The fish tacos, topped with chipotle aioli and crunchy Asian-flavored slaw, have gotten rave reviews on TripAdvisor, along with the Grunts dinner salad with jerked chicken (again, seasoned and grilled by the chef). Of course you can also grab a burger. It’s made with 10-ounces of black Angus beef. From the eight fine dining entrees on the menu, bar manager Tami Lynch-McGrail recommends the sautéed red snapper and grilled shrimp, which features a key lime-caper buerre blanc.
“It’s amazing … Chef Josh is a true sauce master,” she said.
Most evenings also feature a dinner special or two. On the evening of my visit, Chef Josh was offering Thai-style mahi mahi and rack of lamb. And for dessert, there is both Key Lime Pie and warm bread pudding, both made in-house and served with real whipped cream.
“Grunts is such a funky little bar. It really is a hidden gem,” said Tami Lynch-McGrail.
Lynch-McGrail came to the establishment this past August as bar manager, and since then has used her expertise to create an interesting wine list that changes every three months or so. “These are non-retail wines. You really won’t find them anywhere else in Key West,” she explained.
The sparkling Cremant de Limoux Brut, produced by the “best small vineyard in France,” was delicious. And it’s an amazing value, according to Lynch-McGrail, who is well-known in Key West for catering and introducing Key West to tapas years ago. I enjoyed tastes of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, dry riesling, and especially the King’s Ridge pinot noir from Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley. All were vintages I hadn’t tasted before.
409 Caroline St., Key West
Open for happy hour from 4 p.m. and food service from 6 p.m. Closed Monday.