BIZ FEATURE: KEYS ROTISSERIE SERVES UP AFFORDABLE HOME-COOKED MEALS

Keys Rotisserie carries on the family recipes of Frank and Jodie Buonaruto. ALEX RICKERT/Keys Weekly

Fast, homemade, affordable. When dining in the Keys, it’s usually a “pick two of those three” situation. With any luck, Keys Rotisserie in Marathon might be able to change that.

The Middle Keys’ newest eatery is a labor of love for Frank and Jodie Buonaruto. As full-time residents since 2019, the couple always knew they wanted to relocate to the Keys when their children went off to college. The two are no strangers to the culinary industry; they met when Frank’s parents owned Super Subs (Subway, before Subway was cool) and Jodie was working at a deli. Upon moving, they quickly saw a dining need within the community, and their business idea was born.

“There are a lot of great restaurants in Marathon, but sometimes they’re hard to get into, and there’s a lot of seafood,” said Jodie. “We needed something for the locals where they can grab a quick and affordable dinner or lunch and not have to cook that night. When we lived out west, there was a rotisserie that we loved, and we thought that would be great here. Quick options, chicken and steak, and everything homemade.”

Working in Key West for a remodeling company immediately after their move gave the pair plenty of time to hammer out the details of their plan during their two-plus hours of driving each day. Enlisting the help of Jodie’s sister Tara Carr as a part owner, the trio slowly moved toward Keys Rotisserie’s eventual opening. “We didn’t come here with a lot of money to open a restaurant. It’s all sweat equity,” said Frank. “For the last two and a half years, any time we made a little bit, we would buy something for the restaurant. We already knew what we wanted, because we designed it from scratch on the car rides.” 

The sweat equity hasn’t stopped yet. As it stands now, they choose to work from 7 a.m. until roughly 11 p.m. every day. The couple and their son Chris are still the store’s only staff. “We wanted to start small so we can manage what we have and understand the business,” explained Jodie. “It’s a family business serving a family meal. It’s kind of old school, but we’re going to bring it back,” said Frank.

Speaking of family meals, Keys Rotisserie’s menu is based entirely on proprietary recipes either crafted by Frank and Jodie themselves or passed down from relatives over the years. They intend to use those family recipes to serve the families of the Keys. “The biggest thing we’re doing is trying to keep it affordable for everybody,” said Jodie. It’s true; as just one example, a “chicken and steak combo” serves up ¼ rotisserie chicken, ¼ pound of tri-tip steak, and two sides for just $15. “We’re willing to work a little harder for a little less,” said Frank. “We’re doing this for the people who live here.”

In one month since the restaurant’s opening, the flame-cooked rotisserie chicken and steak have already started to draw a crowd. “We’re already at our six-month goal in terms of the number of chickens we cook every day,” said Frank. The restaurant is doing everything it can to keep all food preparations in-house and avoid shortcuts, taking great pride in the handcrafted meals it offers. 

The couple is looking forward to building on what they’ve started already with the community at their back. While the option isn’t available yet, they are looking into future ideas for delivery and curbside services. “Some people have eaten here every day since we’ve been open,” said Jodie. “It’s been a labor of love, but it’s been worth it because the people we have met have been fabulous and so supportive. I get calls every day.”

Hungry for some affordable flame-cooked rotisserie chicken and steak? Pay Keys Rotisserie a visit at 11524 Overseas Hwy., call 305-440-3492, or visit keysrotisserie.com.

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.