When new owners Steve Kibbe and Hannia Rivera took over Mattheessen’s on White Street earlier this year, they kept much of what made the 4th of July Cafe a local favorite. As long time Key Westers, they both knew the homemade ice cream and big-as-your-head cookies would always be a hit. Adding more items to the menu and offering an interesting list of daily specials? Well, that is what comes from many years in the restaurant business … both Kibbe and Rivera (who also own Shots & Giggles on Caroline Street) obviously know what the people want.

You might not notice many changes when you walk in the front door of what is now called White Street Grill at 4th of July Cafe. Those big cookies, weighing in at a half-pound each, are still in the case. And so is the colorful array of ice creams. Both are still made by the Mattheessen family at their other shops closer to Duval Street.

Every day brings a list of lunch specials, with two soups (everything from turkey corn chowder to beef barley to chicken brussels sprout), an entree salad (like Greek salad with housemade tzatziki sauce or summer salad with strawberries, grapes, nuts, and blue cheese), and maybe a special sandwich. You’ll still find the famous chicken salad, in a wrap or on a croissant. The Famous White Street Grill Burger is bound to become just that, with a half-pound burger topped with sliced prime rib, sautéed mushrooms, AND melted Brie.

Starting at 5 p.m., there are usually new specials for dinner along with the new dinner menu (you can still order from the regular menu). The BBQ spare-ribs are very popular here, available as a ‘teaser’ or a half-rack with sides. Grilled pork tenderloin, meatloaf, pasta alfredo, and a hand-cut 16-ounce ribeye are other options. Recent dinner specials have included shepherd’s pie, three-cheese ziti marinara, and surf and turf, made with the ribeye and a skewer of teriyaki shrimp and red peppers.

Every Tuesday is Taco Mania, with taco (beef or chicken) platters, taco salads, and a burrito or other Mexican entree available at both lunch and dinner. We live nearby, so it is a popular choice at my house. And if we are too lazy to ride our bikes up the street, they will even deliver in Key West, free of charge.

With two girls under 10 years old, I am a big fan of the restaurant’s children’s menu, available every day from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. (9 p.m. on Sundays). It covers all the kid favorites (hot dog, grilled cheese, chicken tenders, even buttered noodles), adding a side (fries or fruit), a drink, and a small dish of ice cream for just $7.95. Last week the girls were hot and sweaty from day camp, so we headed there for an early dinner, ending with one chocolate ice cream sprinkled with M&M’s and one Papa Smurf (it’s bright blue, and tastes like blueberries … or something).

Chef and cookbook author Kendi O’Neill wrote about food and restaurants in Maryland before moving to Key West. She blogs about island living at keywestkendi.blogspot.com.

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