The V Restaurant at the VFW Post 3911 is open to the public and deserves to be discovered for its sizzling skillets, huge burgers, potato skins and deviled eggs topped with BBQ pulled pork. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Let’s be clear, once and for all: Everyone is welcome at the VFW — and its V Restaurant — on the boulevard in Key West. Everyone. 

Sure, you’ll always run into fascinating veterans and active-duty service members who hail from all over the country and have served all over the world. But all are welcome, including civilians, who need not be accompanied or sponsored by a veteran. 

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, a couple from Wichita, Kansas had come straight from the airport for their first Key West cocktail. A contingent of Coast Guard officers convened in the large meeting room in the back. And a foursome of local women — all civilians — played canasta at a table in the dining room, their cards standing neatly in racks specifically designed for the game. “We also have a group of about 20 women who play mahjong here every Monday and Friday,” said regular Barbara Corns. “Everyone is welcome and the VFW post is so welcoming.” The post is also smoke-free, but with a comfortable, screened-in and covered patio for smokers on the side.

People from all over — men and women, locals, snowbirds, active-duty military, retired veterans  and civilians — gather to watch college and pro football. The World Series was a big draw. And Veterans Day on Nov. 11 packed the place. 

And if you haven’t eaten at the V — or even known it existed — add it now to your lunch, dinner and takeout rotation. 

“Our biggest problem is letting everyone know they can come,” said Mark Johnson, who opened the V Restaurant inside the post in July 2022 and is about to add a full-on butcher shop and meat market in the coming weeks — also open to the public. “We serve our entire menu for lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and it’s quite possibly the freshest authentic American food on the island.”

The burgers are huge — and they’re all half-price every Monday. The corn chowder is homemade and the deviled eggs are heaped with BBQ pulled pork. And then there’s Johnson’s sizzling skillets — a 10” cast iron skillet lined with homemade cornbread, then layered with BBQ pulled pork and topped with real mac and cheese. 

While Monday features half-price burgers, Wednesday offers buy-one-get-one-free drinks all day — well drinks, wine and beer. Thursday is prime rib night — $29.99 for a 14-ounce portion, a baked potato and veggies. Friday is always a fish fry; Saturday is bingo, which raises money for the VFW Post, starting at 6 p.m. ($9 to play all eight games.) And Sunday is half-price beer and appetizers through football season.

Just this week, Johnson also launched a curated collection of rare, high-end bourbons that has already proven popular with bourbon buffs.

Then there’s the butcher shop — Tactically Tender — opening before the new year, Johnson said.

It will offer fresh, sliced Boar’s Head deli meats, along with top-quality steaks, homemade sausages, spice rubs, sauces and more. 

“It’s going to be old-school — brown paper and Sharpie markers, and the prices will be significantly lower than our local grocery stores because I don’t have any extra rent or overhead since the space is already here,” said Johnson, who has lived in Key West for five years and also owns restaurants in Point Pleasant, New Jersey and in Texas. 

The income from the V and from the soon-to-be Tactically Tender help the VFW Post 3911 keep the lights on, but also to help local veterans and military personnel when they face assorted personal struggles. 

Supporting local veterans has never been easier — eat lunch, have some drinks, reserve the meeting space — it’s the right thing to do. For more information, find them on Facebook under Southernmost VFW Post 3911, or call 305-294-9968 or stop in at 2200 N. Roosevelt Blvd.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.