Marathon Island Eats: Middle Keys Restaurant Proving Its Potential

Marathon Island Eats: Middle Keys Restaurant Proving Its Potential

When seasoned restaurateur John Kotch first discovered the former Chappy’s restaurant in Marathon, he knew he’d found the latest addition to his empire.

The giant tiki roof, the exceptional views and the location at the foot of a historic bridge personified Kotch’s vision for an incredible Middle Keys eatery.

Sunset Grille & Raw Bar’s menu features only the highest quality ingredients – local, fresh seafood is delivered to the restaurant daily – in a unique, Caribbean inspired menu. There are all the usual suspects of a Keys-themed menu – plenty of fresh dolphin, grouper, crab and conch available in various preparations across the menu – with some original additions to satisfy any pallet, like the Curry Chicken available in a salad or on a croissant during lunch from 11 am – 4 pm seven days a week.

As the sun drops lower in the sky and desk jockeys escape the grind, Sunset offers what Kotch calls a “true Happy Hour” with two for one drinks and a regular rotation of appetizer specials to whet your appetite just in time for an elegant evening meal.

From Stuffed Hogfish and Coconut Curry Lobster to Seared Shrimp and Dolphin Jalamango, Kotch designed his menu on his work experiences in the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas.

“There was one kitchen that served four restaurants,” he explained. “I still go back as often as I can for inspiration and fresh ideas.”

He recruited his staff from two established North Carolina eateries to come down and open the new outpost. Laughing, he recalled how on the night of the closing sale from previous owners Jim and Bettye Chaplin, he and his staff immediately began making modifications to the interior of the facility.

“We call it the seven day miracle at the 7 Mile Bridge,” he chuckled.

On the night before his grand opening, Sunset hosted a locals’ appreciation night, and Kotch said nearly 500 people attended the event –advertised only through the Coconut Telegraph.

“On our opening night, we were on a wait within the first 30 minutes,” he explained. “The response has been incredible!”

The dreary Wednesday of St. Patrick’s Day, his staff was preparing to fire up the grill poolside to keep the party going well into the evening. With plans to build a permanent poolside tiki bar, perfect for grabbing a cocktail in the middle of a game of Corn Hole, Sunset Grille & Raw Bar is certainly going to be a hot spot for locals in the summer months.

“We have to remain fluid,” Kotch said with manager Jeremy Rogers in full agreement. “Every time we come up with a new idea, we’re just gonna do it.”

Another major improvement to the existing property was a significant investment in the restaurant’s landscaping. Towering breezy palms set the perfect scene for a Florida Keys sunset and epitomize the new owner’s vision for a Caribbean setting in the continent’s southernmost state.

As indicated by the name, Sunset Grille also features a raw and steam bar serving generous portions of oysters, clams, shrimp and three types of crab. Sprinkle in a variety of brews and specialty cocktails along with live entertainment seven nights a week, and Sunset Grille & Raw Bar becomes a welcomed addition to the Middle Keys enticing destinations and places to dine.

 

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