A trio of taco del dia

I realized a few weeks ago that my last article in Key West should be on the groovy gastro-pub 2 Cents that I first wrote about over a year ago.  When I wrote about it for my blog I described it as a warped stroke of artistic genius.  A place where I pictured some coif-haired visionary locking themselves in for days, dangling unlit cigarettes, headbanging to 80’s rock n’ roll, shoving wads of money to delivery drivers under the door and as a result, creating a room full of cosmic paintings and galactic lamps that is undeniably ubercool.  The place is uncommonly futuristic.

I also said that the food was good but that I expected something a little more.  Although I meant it in the most flattering way, a week later I was enjoying a Sunday brunch at 2 Cents when co-owner Chris Schultz approached me in mid-bite to confront me about the implication.  I grew quiet and couldn’t really find the words to express what it was that I felt was missing, but he admitted to growing pains and thought they had an infinite potential to be more as well.  Yet even though we both agreed, I didn’t know we were looking for different things.

And so it goes a year later and I am trying to think of a worthy subject to part Key West with.  “Schultz thinks you should write about 2 Cents,” my husband tells me.  He’s standing behind the bar looking tall, dark and handsome with a devastatingly awesome beard.  Most of the locals who come in know Brad.  He has been at 2 Cents since they first opened their doors in 2012 and it turns out that he was standing in the same spot when we first met. It was the second time I had ever been to the restaurant.

“He thinks you should do a follow up,” he smiles knowingly.  Schultz still hasn’t forgotten.

The family at 2 Cents: Server Livi, left; bartender and my husband Brad; chef and co-owner Chris; and sous chef Zach.
The family at 2 Cents: Server Livi, left; bartender and my husband Brad; chef and co-owner Chris; and sous chef Zach.

I had been halfheartedly brainstorming up something mainstream and generic like the top ten places to visit in Key West or where to go for happy hour, but then I realized that I was sitting at 2 Cents and waiting for my meal to arrive just like the last week.  Along with amazing food, the premise for my article was there all along.

The week before that I had the khung pao noodles with grilled grouper.  The week before that I had the tacos of the day.  When I’m in the mood for a nibble I’ll order the edamame hummus or the radishes with sea salt and butter.  When I’ve been attacked by some horrible viral infestation I always make sure that the coconut curry mussels are part of my self-medication.  Today I’m having one of the last meals I’ll have here for a while with some of my best friends.  It’s bittersweet.

Of course we order the tacos.  We also order the sweet and velvety tomato terrine with fried mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic, the pork belly with brioche stuffing and cranberry sauce and their famous Thai style fried wings. Chris Otten, the Chef co-owner joins us for a conversation about the quality — or lack thereof — of tomatoes in Key West. He’s passionate about food with a new menu to prove it. There’s even a daring bone marrow dish served the way Anthony Bourdain likes it.  Otten isn’t working tonight though. Instead he would rather wish farewell to his friend (Brad) and talk to someone about tomatoes (me).

It’s in the moments like this one that my last story reveals itself to me.  Suddenly I awake from a satiated blissful ignorance to find that a lot of happiness for me is right here.  In the food, the people and the memories I will have with me forever.  Meeting Brad is my favorite memory by far, but the two of us also celebrated our wedding party here with our closest of friends after we returned from eloping to Las Vegas.  This last dinner is just another one of those moments.

2 Cents had become an extension of my home and the people a part of my family.   I guess I finally figured out what I was missing and as I get ready to move across the country in search of new culinary adventures, it will be one of the things I will miss most about Key West.

2 Cents
416 Applerouth Lane

The famous Thai-style fried wings
The famous Thai-style fried wings


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