Each afternoon at sunset, Marty the bartender slings a shot glass in front of each of his patrons and pours his signature concoction.
“We have big ships, little ships and all kinds of ships here in the marina,” he waved his shot glass to the bay front view, “but the best kind of ships, the most important kind of ships…are friendships.”
With that, local regulars and visiting tourists tossed back their sunset celebration shots and casually continued with their conversations.
Keys Fisheries epitomizes the makeup of the Marathon community. The fish market that occupies the largest section of the waterfront block collects daily catches from multi-generational commercial vessels and ships their mouth-watering products around the globe. Picnic tables provide the primary seating in the restaurant – which is all open air and cooled by a bay breeze and plenty of ceiling fans. Those tables are filled with a healthy mix of tourists and locals who pass the time waiting on their made-to-order delicacies by catching the sunset or gazing at the tarpon flitting back and forth in the glowing green lights just below the surface.
In addition to their menu of staples – fresh caught fish, stone crab, lobster and shrimp available in a wide variety of preparations – Keys Fisheries recently invited sushi artist extraordinaire Park to add his creations to their menu.
The Marathon Weekly’s Island Eats team made fast friends with Park, his wife and adorable two children who were always enjoying his creations under the former ownership of Takara Thai and Sushi restaurant. When the landmark restaurant changed hands, “Paiky” as many of his friends call him quickly accepted a position at Publix preparing sushi in the morning for the lunch crowd. Gary Graves and the crew at Keys Fisheries soon sought out his talent for their establishment in the evenings.
Familiar with his dishes, we asked Paiky to surprise us by preparing three rolls he most liked to make, and he happily obliged.
As we listened to the animal names announced over the loud speaker – “Elephant, elephant your order is ready” – we basked in the evening breezes coming off the bay. This is one among the many unique qualities of Keys Fisheries…after perusing the menu on the wall at the entrance to the restaurant, the person who takes your order asks for your favorite cartoon character, favorite animal or other distinguishing category with which they use to serve their orders. This atmospheric quirk allows parents to take their kids down to the water to look at the boats or feed the tarpon while they wait for their order.
Paiky turned the corner with a red plastic cafeteria tray full of house specialty rolls. The Florida Lobster Roll is filled with shrimp tempura, asparagus, avocado, cream cheese, spicy and wasabi mayonnaise, eel sauce topped with generous pieces of local lobster. A spread of cucumber, ginger and wasabi for garnish disguised the fact that this artwork was sitting atop a plastic plate!
Another of Paiky’s signature creations was the Florida Roll with pecan-crusted mahi, mandarin oranges, asparagus and key lime mayo. By far our favorite and his most unique creation was the Conch Republic Roll featuring cracked conch, cucumber, masago, bonita flakes, wasabi mayo and what initially looked like plain old yellow mustard turned out to be the most interesting touch – a curried mayonnaise.
As the summer pace of life ensues, the Island Eats team advises it’s time to rediscover this old Marathon favorite.