Spending with reckless abandon is a thing of the past. Americans are now watching their dollars more closely and as the holiday season approaches, they’re beginning to reflect on what’s most important – family.

In fact, the dull roar of young children, parents and grandparents filled the dining room at Tom’s Harbor House on Duck Key one recent Saturday evening following cosmetic renovations at the casual, waterfront-dining restaurant.

The dining room is cozy and accommodating. Lit by an ambient glow from wall sconces and warmly toned with natural green and brown tones, Tom’s Harbor House is suitably situated in the marina at Hawks Cay Resort overlooking Tom’s Harbor. A group of regal luxury boating couples settled around a large table just as local fishing captains made their way from the bar back to the kitchen to coordinate their catch with the night’s menu.

Adjacent to the dining room, the Truman Lounge is designed in the era of Hemingway’s Key West. Large woven palm fans stir the bar air filled with the sounds from a local musician singing proudly about his island home. Sorry, Parrotheads, make your way on down U.S. 1 for Jimmy Buffet’s trop-rock sounds.

We nestled into our cozy corner of the dining room to start with a cocktail and peruse the appetizer menu. Though they all sounded tempting, we opted to share the Key West Ale Mussels. Our fabulous waitress, Kim, who said she often makes a meal of this starter dish, applauded our selection. What a treat! Sautéed with this local brew and flavored with loads of shallots, garlic and tomatoes, it was hard to resist the urge to order another round portion of the perfectly prepared bivalves. Topped with crispy shoestring potatoes, this dish was not only a treat for the tongue but for the eyes as well.

We opted to continue our exploration of the menu by sharing two intriguing entrees.

One of those was the cowboy cut bone-in ribeye served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus. The steak was not only cooked to perfection, but it was also topped with simply sautéed mushrooms. Delicious!

Our other choice sounded too tempting to resist – Lobster Gnocchi. This delectable dish was comprised of petite potato dumplings served in a rich cream sauce with fresh spinach and topped with a lobster tail. Perhaps an extraordinary individual could polish off this healthy portion in one sitting, but this dish proved just as good the second time around as the first time it was served.

The dishes we sampled were all generous portions, but Tom’s Harbor House menu offers several options that are a bit more figure friendly. The day’s fresh local catch is offered in a variety of preparations. Diners could easily enjoy a tapas-style meal with the incredible offerings from the appetizer menu, which during Happy Hour from 4-6, are available at half price. We can’t wait to go back and try the pulled pork sandwich that’s slow cooked in sangria…yum!

Part seaside grill and part laid-back fishing village, Tom’s Harbor House at Hawks Cay is a legendary option for casual dining in the Florida Keys. Located at the Hawks Cay Marina and with a spacious waterfront deck, Tom’s Harbor House restaurant is favored by locals and resort guests alike. Open daily for Happy Hour at 4 with dinner service at 6 pm, Tom’s Harbor House restaurant offers live entertainment on weekends.

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