Good rule of thumb: Follow the locals. In this case, to S.S. Wreck & Galley Grill on Grassy Key. It’s where locals go to discuss a day on the water while they feast on food and cold draft beer.
The tagline on The Wreck’s sign reads “Original Since 1999.” It refers to the owners — Stephanie Cheever and Steve Hathaway, partners in life and business — who have owned this place, on and off, for almost 20 years.
“We were supposed to buy it in September of 1998 but Hurricane Georges hit and we were not able to sign the closing documents until October,” said Steve, adding that the restaurant opened the following summer. The restaurant has changed hands twice, and has been back in Stephanie and Steve’s hands since 2015.
“Everyone has been happy to see us back,” said Steve. “We got our customers back, and even our staff came back.”
There was one more rebirth — in 2017, just 16 days after Irma.
“We still had tarps on the roof and tiki, but our employees gave us a hand along with the construction people who were our first customers,” Stephanie said.
So, what makes The Wreck so popular?
“First and foremost, the coconut shrimp made with hand deveined shrimp with our own cocktail sauce. And secondly, the salmon with the Cajun smoked seasoning made in the house,” said Rachel, the bartender. “And the potato skins don’t come from a bag. Ranch and blue cheese dressings – made here. Also, try the hand-cut calamari and gator. Plus, we have frog legs. And homemade soups!” (Rachel is a really good spokesperson, nay, cheerleader.)
Lunch specials change daily, but the nightly specials rotate evenly — Taco Tuesday, all-you-can-eat catfish on Wednesdays. Thursdays are devoted to BBQ ribs served with fresh beans, and homemade cornbread. The Big Ass prime rib on Friday nights does not need any explanation. But diners can indulge in the peel-and-eat shrimp every day, or try some surf ’n’ turf. The buffalo chicken is always a hit; have it on a sandwich, salad or as a dinner entree.
“I come here several times a week,” said William Brown. “Why? I love the food, and like the people!”
On Sundays, diners gravitate toward Chef Bill Roberts’ creations. He, too, has been there through thick and thin, for almost 20 years.
Don’t miss the Key lime pie. Stephanie, her friend, and her friends’ parents worked two years to get the recipe just right. “I told them, if I ever owned a restaurant, I’d put this on the menu and name it after her dad, ‘Two-beer Bob,’” Stephanie said. (His nickname sounds like another story.)
On any given night at The Wreck, there’s a guest enjoying the mile-high nachos, and folks talking and watching one of the screens. Good things happen when a former lineman and salon owner from Clinton, Michigan start anew in the Florida Keys.
S.S. WRECK & GALLEY GRILL
MM 58, next to Dolphin Research Center
58835 Overseas Hwy., Grassy Key
Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; closed Monday.