Kaya drawing loyal fan base

Kaya drawing loyal fan base

Cudjoe Key resident Peggy Taylor said the accommodating staff and fresh, clean atmosphere at Kaya

Peggy Taylor couldn’t resist the Key Lime Pie from Katie Strobe.

Island Eats have solidified her loyalty.

A fan of the locals spot since it’s incarnation as tiki bar Knuckleheads, Taylor said the kitchen always prepares a fresh, simple plate to suit her vegetarian diet.

Owners Scott Taylor and Gabriela Espinoza with Carla, 12, who’s in training to take over the family business.

However when owner Scott Taylor brought his fellow foodie friends up from Key West early last year to scope out the building, they were unable to see his vision.

“It was overgrown and in need of serious renovations,” he remembered with partner, Gabriela Espinoza. “But this is probably one of the only restaurants where you can stand in the middle of our dining room and see clear, unobstructed views of the bay and the ocean.”

Not only does the stilted eatery offer spectacular water views, a corner seat by an open window this week offered the perfectly refreshing cross breeze.

Taylor, originally from Hawaii, has 20 years of Key West restaurant experience under his belt with his last post at landmark restaurant Blue Heaven.

His vision for Kaya Island Eats focused on island food for locals. With jerk seasoning, teriyaki and soy, curry and plenty of cilantro and lime flavoring the varied items on the menu, Taylor said some customers have taken to dubbing his theme “Jawaian.”

“We decided to be intentionally eclectic,” he continued, explaining that instead of a traditional, standard conch fritter, he put a Southern twist on the Keys staple for his Conch Spiked Southern Style Hushpuppies.

The spicy kick of the Ya Mon Jerk Portobello sandwich was mellowed with a cooling creamy goat cheese.

The Ya Mon Jerk Portobello, like all of the lunch sandwiches, are available for dinner as a platter with coconut saffron rice and slaw.

By working with local purveyors and designing menu items that call for minimal preparation, it’s clear that this restaurateur is diligent about quality.

Enjoy Happy Hour in the Mermaid Lounge everyday from 5-7 pm with live music, rarely seen microbrews and a flavorful, but extensive wine list.

Top it all off with an attentive, experienced staff, and the Lower Keys eatery is certain to draw crowds from up and down the Florida Keys.

Kaya Island Eats, located at 3100 Overseas Hwy. on the Saddlebunch Keys, is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week from 11 am to 10 pm. (305) 906-KAYA or www.kayaislandeats.com.

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