In a place with a reputation for knowing how to throw a good party, most of us in Key West —whether tourist or local — have occasionally been there. You know, that “I’m never doing that ever again” morning when you struggle to recall blurry memories. And even though we swear that we will never have another one of whatever it was, everyone knows that a good Bloody Mary can make you start to feel better again along with a big, fat, juicy burger.
The Bloody Mary mix at Rick’s Tree Bar (below Durty Harry’s) isn’t prepackaged in a bottle. Its coveted list of ingredients has kept locals guessing at its recipe in their own homes for years. If you get lucky enough to have one, watch the bartender make yours, because it’s the closest you’re going to get to figuring out exactly what goes in it. There’s fresh horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. It gets topped with a pickle and a stick of celery and looks like any other ordinary Bloody but the taste reveals that there’s something more to it.
After the Tree Bar, I like to walk the two blocks to a tiny silver food truck on Caroline Street, easily found by the grill’s aroma perfuming the neighborhood. There are a few makeshift seats, a couple high tops with oversized beach umbrellas and almost always a couple of chickens running around. The umami burger at Garbo’s Grill is half a pound of pure ground beef patty with chipotle Gouda and steamed tomato. It does the trick just they way it’s served, no need for any extra condiments. In fact, ketchup is strongly discouraged. The burger is even better when you carry it a few more blocks to The Porch and wash it down with a nice afternoon beer while sitting outside.
Then, after all of this — after the infamous Bloody Mary, the highly acclaimed umami burger and a cold pint of some tasteful craft beer — things start to look up again. The shakes subside, the migraine turns into a soothing calm and we forget everything that happened last night.