It was past midday and the line outside the window of the main building was growing by the minute. Before placing their orders, people were busy creating colorful “names” for themselves based on a theme. On that particular day, it was “sea creatures” and at least one customer was called to the pickup window when she was called “Mermaid” over the loudspeaker
“Gary Graves is the man behind it all,” said Drew Kennelly, the manager of Keys Fisheries.
Graves had been working the other end of the fishing business — the fish house — for almost half a century when an extra space came available and he decided to open the restaurant and market in 2000.
Kennelly, who has been the general manager of the Fisheries for a couple of years, was proud to say that the place has the freshest fish in the Keys or, as the sign by the order window reads, “So fresh that the claws are click’n and the tails are flip’n.”
The catch is brought in by local fishermen and providers from Key Largo to Key West daily. “We pay the fishermen well,” Kennelly said.
The most famous sandwich on the menu, the Lobster Reuben, is Graves’ invention. The count of sandwiches is chalked on the blackboard — and now it’s over 313,754. Customers are invited to guess what the total will be at the end of the month to win a free Lobster Reuben and a T-shirt.
Stone crab season runs from Oct. 15 through the middle of May. At Keys Fisheries, they are available both on the dinner menu and in the retail market. The upstairs “Pickled Pelican” bar sells them for $3 per claw. The raw bar also offers oysters on the half-shell and delicious tuna sashimi. The happy hour is from 4 to 7 p.m. and bartenders pass around free “Sunset Shots” to be consumed, en masse, at the moment the sun disappears into the Gulf of Mexico. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday a good dose of musical entertainment is added to the spectacular sunset.
The name of the bar changes every year … for charity. Suggestions cost a dollar each and the contest is held about the same time as the blessing of the local fleet at the end of July each year. The winner will see his or her name on the bar’s signage and T-shirts, plus they get full bragging rights.
Aside from catch and cook service, Keys Fisheries will package and ship the fish you caught overnight anywhere in the continental United States. Complete the delivery from the market with fresh shrimp, lobster, smoked fish dip or even a raspberry Key lime pie or a rum cake to impress your friends and family.
Go to: www.keysfisheries.com to order online and to look at the live webcams!
Keys Fisheries Market and Marina
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
On the Gulf end of 35th Street