The Flaming Buoy Filet Co. delights

By Chance Parker

When approaching the Flaming Buoy Filet Co. on Packer Street — tucked into one of Key West’s quaint, less-traveled neighborhoods — you might feel as if walking into tasteful, yet funky market. Passing under delicate flower boxes, past the rustic chalkboard sign, you will no doubt be struck by the elegant simplicity of the interior, a classic Keys example of maximizing minimal space. It’s the perfect place for a romantic evening any day of the week.

We opted to dine al fresco, as the Flaming Buoy entrance is flanked by two large, inviting porches. Our server, Mikah Norona, even offered us bug spray, and remembered members of my party from earlier visits. She was very knowledgeable, providing polished yet casual service. Mikah explained the reasons behind the obvious midwest influence: from the hearty chili with dark chocolate and baking spice notes, to the decadent chicken and waffles, and the fall-off-the-bone Danish ribs. She said owners Fred Isch and Scot Foreste hail from Cincinnati’s Bearcat country, and brought their favorite recipes with them. And boy, are we glad they did!

We began with a mango bellini, which immediately transported me to brunch (one of my favorite places), and the appetizer trio. With a small portion of decadent lobster mac and cheese, grilled and marinated Key West shrimp with a complex cilantro lime chutney, and Caprese salad with marinated heirloom cherry tomatoes, this shareable appetizer got a fantastic experience off and running. We also could not resist sampling the chili, smothered in cheese and onions. It is prominently featured in several of the Flaming Buoy’s dishes, including the Chili Cheese Coney and the Three Way, a Cincinnati-area favorite, combining a mélange of ingredients like chili, spaghetti, and sour cream.

Do not assume, however, that Flaming Buoy is only serving up meat and potatoes. Our entree course consisted of some of the most classically delicate seafood on the island, beginning with the Lobster Thermidor. This staple of East Coast aristocracy is rich and comforting, and seems to somehow fit perfectly in this eclectic menu. We paired this dish with the Shooting Star Black Bubbles, a rare sparkling red wine from the Lake County region of California. With its aromas of black fruit and chocolate cake, this wine complemented the upscale casserole’s creamy goodness quite well.

We also could not resist sampling the grilled mahi mahi with lime butter sauce. Cooked to perfection, and served over creamy homemade mashed potatoes, we once again could see Ohio sneak into the picture, in the best way. This dish was paired with Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc — a citrusy wine with balanced acidity and pronounced lemongrass notes, a great accompaniment to the whole plate. It also bears mentioning that many of the dishes were served with a slightly spicy Broccoli Cake, a moist, crave-worthy treat all by itself.

No visit to the Flaming Buoy would be complete without one of its innovative desserts. Try the Tropical Stir Fry or spicy chocolate quesadilla to get your taste buds and frontal lobe active at the same time! For comfort food with style in a quirky, casual atmosphere, the Flaming Buoy Filet Co. will have you falling in love, as well.

Flaming Buoy Filet Co.

1100 Packer St., Key West


Open 6 to 9:30 p.m. nightly

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