The Shameless Lounge, 610 Greene St., opened in mid-July and it only took days for the rumors to spread about it’s fabulous food and signature cocktails.
Owners, Dion Contreras and Sarita Bandita smiled when asked about the bar’s popularity, almost viral in nature.
“All true,” said Contreras, a native of Puerto Rico who came to Key West via Chicago.
“When people walk in, I want them to feel like they walked into my home. It’s an eclectic representation of favorite places around the world and how everyone here brings their flair from somewhere else,” said Sarita.
Plus, they have Chef Jennifer, formerly of Saluté and Blue Heaven. The evolving menu developed from months of passionate foodie discussions between Jennifer and Sarita Bandita.
“She’s great with our food,” Contreras said. “All our desserts and pizza dough is homemade too. We have a great pastry chef.”
Sarita descibes the menu as “comfort food with a twist.” Contreras is happy to go into more detail.
“Our pizzas are based on various styles,” he said. “They are very popular.”
He said the luncheon sausage fest pizza is one of his best sellers.
“Along with our unique salads,” Contreras said. “Where else can you get a watermelon and blueberry salad? Or a shrimp and leeks pizza with bacon?”
The large interior is decorated with four murals depicting Key West scenes and famous characters. One has a towering photo of author Ernest Hemingway, bare-chested and holding a shotgun.
All four murals are framed with black-and-white photos of Key Westers in photo-booth styled headshots. Some try hiding their faces, while others laugh at the camera.
“It is a collaboration of the communities input, with new additions and changing artwork,” Sarita said. “The arts are key here, and this entire space is an homage to past and present shameless Key West characters.”
The Signature Craft Cocktail menu represents Sarita Bandita’s passion for drinks that highlight the rich flavors of handcrafted spirits blended with a Key West flair and sassy innuendo.
“We infuse our liquor with fresh ingredients for these drinks,” Contreras said. “One of the most popular of our signature drinks is the ‘pin up girl.’”
The $11 cocktail is made with strawberry-infused Tito’s vodka, fresh muddled strawberries with Liquor 43 and Cointreau, shaken with half-and-half and served in a strawberry-sugar rimmed martini glass.
Recently opened, the lounge is still developing its entertainment, but some staples have already been marked on the schedule.
“Sundays we serve up a help yourself Bloody Mary bar and the almost famous ‘Hangover Brunch Sandwich’ and the remote is first come first served for NFL games” he said.
Monday night at 10 p.m., after most dinners have been served, Contreras said the lounge begins an “interactive” game show event featuring Q-Mitch, where customers willing or not so willingly participate.
“Wednesday we have singer MC Couscus,” Contreras said. “He wrote a song about our pizzas, so while he’s performing our pizzas are half priced.”
Friday nights, beginning at 11 p.m., the lounge hosts a “flip cup” tournament after the music entertainment ends.
“And the last Sunday of each month we’re having a ‘Drag Brunch,’” Contreras said. “The Girls of Duval Street will be performing while guests enjoy a special themed prix-fixe menu.”
The lounge’s dinner menu varies from its lunch menu, though its popular salads are available.
“We also have a great buffalo chicken soup served in a puff pastry,” he said. “Our most popular dinner item is just about a tie between our sea scallops plate and grilled hanger steak.”
Also popular with customers is the lounge’s homemade potato chips and its homemade ketchup.
This is Contreras’ first restaurant/bar venture.
“I love it,” he said, in the midst of orchestrating deliveries and having menu discussions with Chef Jennifer. “It’s the nature of the beast, a lot of long hours and for a while no days off. But I’m loving it.”
Contreras and Bandita said the support and appreciation they’ve received from the locals and visitors has made their hard work worthwhile.