PERFECT PAIR: DELIGHT YOUR DATE ON VALENTINE’S DAY AT THIS ISLAMORADA LOUNGE

Sunset Lounge’s sambal oysters with Blue Point Toasted Lager. SAMANTHA DELLILO/Keys Weekly

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and for those of you who haven’t made your V-day plans, I’ve got just the thing. Above the Square Grouper in Islamorada at MM 80 is the Sunset Lounge. 

Picture the Sunset Lounge like the Square Grouper’s relative with a “higher” view. You definitely know they’re related from the quality of food and professionalism of the staff, but they’re slightly different, more daring and clever. Both their drink and food menus are completely separate from their downstairs counterpart. The cocktails have that extra element of ‘oomph’ and the food is just unique. 

This Valentine’s week, I have the perfect suggestion to turn up the heat in your love life. I call it the Florida Keys Eats “Perfect Pair.” Way up yonder in the state of New York is the Great South Bay, nestled up along the village of Blue Point. This quaint town is home to the famous Blue Point oyster. This oyster is world-renowned for its firm texture and sweet aftertaste. Sunset Lounge kicks it up a notch by not only broiling them to perfection, but also lathering them in a sambal compound butter. 

I’m sure you’re familiar with the show “Hot Ones,” where celebrities eat their way through various hot sauces on wings. Every episode, the one thing all the guests say on the show is when a spice hits you just right, you get a sense of euphoria. Almost a slightly drunk feeling. That is what these sambal broiled Blue Point oysters do to me. Sambal is a type of chili paste that will make you feel alive again, that’s all I can say. The spice isn’t a hot-like tabasco or sriracha; it tastes more sophisticated than that and keeps the heat in your mouth without all those awful gastro hot sauce consequences. 

Right when the elation hits from the broiled sambal oyster is the opportune moment to have the other half of the “perfect pair” ready to go, Blue Point Brewing’s Toasted Lager. This beer is from the same area of New York, and let me tell you, when you take that first sip after eating a Blue Point oyster, you can taste the long-awaited reunion in your mouth. They know they belong together and they’re having a party on your palate. Toasted Lager is Blue Point’s flagship recipe with its toasted name coming from the direct flame kettle it was once made on. It sports a deep copper hue with a whole range of tasting notes coming from six different grains. 

First and foremost, obviously, a warm toasted malt flavor with hints of caramel. It sips complex like a stout but goes down light like a lager. Jimmy Buffett once said, “Give me oysters and beer for dinner every day of the year and I’ll feel fine.” It’s a dreamy start to a romantic night out but surely, you’re not full just yet. 

After a couple of Toasted Lagers, I’d switch it up and order the absolute smokiest cocktail in the Keys, the Maple Smoke Manhattan. Sunset Lounge really got it right when they made this baby. It tastes like you’re sipping a campfire and it is garnished with a maple-candied bacon that will bring a tear of happiness to your eye. As far as food orders, Sunset Lounge is one of the only restaurants I don’t have a usual go-to order. Their specials are always so different every visit and never disappoint. I do love their crispy conch steamed buns, their lobster roll is top three I’ve ever had and their she-crab bisque is addicting. 

Sunset Lounge never gets old. I’ve found myself there four times in one week and I’m equally excited every visit. This place is packed to the gills with creative freedom and you can see that in the decor, food, libations and even the staff’s personality. Spice up your date night this Valentine’s week by heading to the Sunset Lounge and ordering the Florida Keys Eats perfect pair, broiled sambal Blue Point oysters and a Blue Point Toasted Lager.

Samantha Dellilo has been in the Keys since she was 1 day old, so definitely consider her a Conch. Holding a passion for food since she can remember, while most kids were watching Barney, she was watching Emeril. "Being half Cuban and half Italian, food in those cultures is considered a love language. It's a total experience whether eating out or cooking." She's been with her other half, Marky, going on 17 years. The two met when they were 9 years old at Key Largo School. Samantha owns Florida Keys Eats, which is a blog of "must eat, must see, and must dos" from Key Largo to Key West.