A floating kitchen? A boat-through restaurant? It’s hard to categorize the Harbor Hillbillies establishment in Boot Key Harbor, but everyone agrees it’s totally marvelous.
Harbor resident Hilary Badoian’s summation is short and sweet:
“Great service, down-home cooking food,” she said.
The Harbor Hillbillies opened last month in Boot Key Harbor. It’s located just west of the City Marina, built on a 24-foot “tri-toon” platform. It’s all kitchen, and customers stay in their dinghies to place their breakfast order and receive the yumminess.
Owners Kassidy and Joel Steinle said most of the menu items cost between $5 and $10, with $7 orders the most common. It serves pancakes, cinnamon rolls, muffins, eggs, bacon, sausage and biscuits ‘n’ gravy (including a vegetarian gravy option for those that avoid meat). Right now, the boaters are going for the “mash” meal.
“It’s a layer of potatoes covered with egg, gravy, sausage, onions and green peppers,” Joel said. “That’s pretty popular.”
Joel and his friend “’Inappropriate’ Steve” (we’re not making that up, that’s his nickname in the harbor), built the kitchen from scratch. It’s propane powered and features a griddle, steam table and refrigerator. Joel, a Missouri native, said the eatery fills a real niche in the harbor.
“We call it Ozark food at Ozark prices,” he said. “We saw the opportunity for cruisers to eat here, instead of dinghying to shore and then calling for a cab or making a hike to other restaurants.”
Both Joel and Kassidy have a background in hospitality. And both are from Missouri. He arrived first, in the fall of 2013 on Enchantment, a 45-foot sailboat; she came a year later.
“I check into the marina for three days 16 months ago, and I’m still here. I had my two small kids with me at the time, and it was like Mayberry here. It’s so friendly and there are lots of community activities to do,” Joel said.
Harbor Hillbillies is an informal joint. Wear your jammies or your best foulies to tie up to the floating kitchen. It’s open most mornings, 9ish to whenever. Gosh, we loe the Keys.
Love Me Tender
The Harbor Hillbillies have started a new customer rewards program that spreads good will throughout the harbor. When customers raft up to form a line at the restaurant pick-up window, they are encouraged to play “Love Me Tender,” answering questions about how long they’ve been cruising, what kind of boat they have, etc. Those who play earn a free cup of coffee.