If I spend a dinner out at a restaurant repeatedly asking my two active daughters to pipe down and stay in their seats, the meal is rushed and I am irritated that I didn’t call a sitter or get to enjoy a second glass of wine. And if Mom isn’t happy, nobody is happy.
So when I don’t feel like cooking and we are looking for a casual, stress-free meal, we head to Hurricane Hole just past the bridge on Stock Island. We grab a table with a clear view of the pirate playground area and the girls head straight for it. My husband and I can enjoy a drink while the kitchen prepares the girls’ meals, and then we order as they are finishing up so that they can play while we eat. Pretty perfect.
“We have the most child-friendly restaurant in Key West,” says Matt Moline, who co-owns the restaurant with Matt McKnight. They have six kids between them, so they should know!
Both Matts are from cities known for brutal winters. Moline ran several establishments for a large restaurant group in Chicago, while McKnight worked for hockey teams in Ottawa. “A kitchen isn’t much different than a locker room,” he jokes. The search for warm weather and island life brought them each to Key West.
They joined forces in 2009, opening The Conch Shack on Duval Street. The pair added Hurricane Hole in July 2012. “When we took over, the menu was very simple. We started by adding more beers and wines,” says Moline. The restaurant just unveiled a brand new menu, and I was fortunate to spend some time checking out the owners’ favorites items.
Hurricane Hole’s mussels arrive at the table steamed in white wine and aromatics, with cream added for richness and a side of garlic toast to mop of the broth. The tuna steak sandwich is made with marinated sushi-grade tuna, seared and topped with sundried tomato/black olive tapenade. Poisson a la Vierge elevates the catch of the day with a vibrant green sauce made with lemon, capers, olive oil, scallions, garlic, basil and parsley. From the desserts, don’t miss the deep-fried Oreos. (Imagine a hot ice cream sandwich inside a funnel cake and you are heading in the right delicious direction.)
I also met some regular customers (they arrived by paddle board!) who raved about their favorite menu items — the fish tacos and ‘Not Your Normal’ chicken sandwich. “Since we are in the marina, we have a big clientele of regulars, people who eat here four or five days a week,” said McKnight.
Friday evenings at Hurricane Hole have become extremely popular with local families. The kids can watch a movie (sitting in new kid-sized Adirondack chairs) while parents enjoy drinks and dinner. The kid’s menu offers chicken tenders, hot dogs, mac & cheese, and the like, served with hand-cut fries or applesauce or steamed veggies. Even the dog will be happy with a Doggy Meal of chicken, hamburger, or bacon served on a paper plate.
5130 Overseas Hwy. Key West
open daily 11 am. to midnight