Hip spot pays homage to writers

“Ernest Hemingway’s patronage of Key West triggered so much of this town’s history. It made Key West a destination for great writers,” said owner of Backspace Bar and Kitchen Robert Watters.

The Keys’ famous literary characters are the backdrop for the new Backspace Bar and Kitchen, located in the building formerly occupied by Finnegan’s Wake, on the edge of the historic seaport. Owners Robert and Chloe Watters said they created Backspace Bar and Kitchen to pay tribute to late and famous Key West writers. A bottle of Wild Turkey Whiskey signed by Hunter S. Thompson is displayed next to an original, typed piece of Hemingway’s work. And décor heavy with antique typewriters is off set by a decades-old bar.

The food is a flavorful hybrid of classic New Orleans dishes and sweet, tropical Hawaiian tastes. Their Hawaiian-style ribs are slow marinated and topped with grilled pineapple salsa alongside coconut rice and tropical jicama slaw.

Numerous items on the menu have a “GF” symbol. The flavor of the gluten free dishes isn’t compromised, according to Chloe. One of her favorites is the Island Jerk Chicken — house-smoked, Jamaican style jerk, half chicken served with coconut rice, pork belly collard greens and cane sugar-glazed squash.

The island vibe continues on the outside patio. Cocktails such as the Beachcomber— Dark Jamaican and Barbados Golden Rum mixed with fruit juices — are served in a cup resembling an Easter Island Tiki head.

The couple owns another restaurant in New Orleans. Like the NOLA establishment, the Key West restaurant will be branded with a pin-up girl. She’ll be featured in the advertising and will also appear in person at the restaurant — a sexy and brainy spitfire — who interacts with the patrons. Robert and Chloe said they are looking for the right lady to embody the spirit of the Southernmost branch of Backspace Bar and Kitchen.

“We have a pin-up girl named Viktoria in our ads and live version who sings,” Chloe said. “Our Key West pin-up girl will defy typical domestic stereotypes, opting instead to read and enjoy cocktails, all the while looking absolutely fabulous.”

As the evening stretches into night, Backspace closes the kitchen and transforms into a bar. The transformation happens at 9 p.m. with live music from bands including The Greens and Michael McCloud and a new “Rot Gut” menu. Well drinks are just $2.50 on Friday and Saturday nights. Happy hour is daily from 4-6 p.m. The restaurant and bar opens daily at 11:30 a.m.


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