Bar and grill in Marathon is serving up down-home cooking

Nowhere Bar and Grill, the family-friendly new restaurant at 11399 Overseas Highway, offers delicious food from just about everywhere.

After living and working in the French Quarter of New Orleans for years, with Miami roots and Texas flair, owners Dave and Dodie Rodriguez, with their children Todd, Megan, Richard and Nikki have literally raised the bar for good home cooking in the Keys.

When they moved into the place in August and started a three-month renovation, the first thing that was fixed was the bar, which was too high to be comfortable to sit at and have a couple cocktails.

“So, we raised the floor to make the bar a comfortable height,” said Dave, then joked, “We weren’t going to lower the bar for any reason.”

Nowhere, not lowering the bar, shows with their extensive full bar and well-thought-out menu.

Menu items include the popular Cuban Rueben with in-house roasted Cuban pulled pork, Virginia baked ham, Swiss, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island on rye. If you like Cuban food with a kick, this is the place to be.

The Sloppy Jose Sliders also brings the family’s Miami roots to the table. Three sliders are presented on a sweet bun with Cuban-style picadillo, topped with fried sweet plantains. The plantains bring the perfect sweetness to the easy-to-eat sliders.

Speaking of sliders, their weekly Wednesday slider night offers $1.25 buns filled with favorites like the Sloppy Jose, Marathon Mahi in a tasty garlic aioli, kicked-up burgers, pulled pork, and buffalo chicken. The night starts at 4 p.m. and goes until close.

The Everywhere Chicken Sandwich shouldn’t be missed either. “It has a little bit of everywhere on a bun,” said Dave. With Teriyaki chicken, Virginia baked ham, Swiss cheese, and French Dijon mustard on a Kaiser, the sandwich pulls from the cuisine of many continents.

The Rodriguez’s started visiting the Keys when living in Miami. They were high school sweethearts who reconnected 30 years later in Texas. They both started vacationing in the Keys again and would visit for one week, then the next year it turned into two weeks, and after that, a month, until they made the move to Marathon to retire at 45 years old.

“The kids talked me out of retirement and into the restaurant,” Dave and Dodie said. Dave likes to spend his days fishing and Dodie spends some evenings at Nowhere seating and chatting with customers. Sons Richard and Todd have backgrounds in cooking and restaurant management. “It’s quite the family affair here,” Dodie added.

The family’s tight connections are shown throughout the restaurant with board games lining one wall for keeping family dinner nights sacred. “I had one mom tell me it was so nice to have a meal with her kids with their cell phone put away playing games,” Dodie said. Games include Connect Four, cards, and Apples to Apples, a popular questions game that kids love. “It’s tough to keep kids occupied.”

A popular dinner dish is the Crossroads Coconut Snapper. Flaky fillets in a panko coconut breading served with knock-your-socks-off mango lime chili sauce and Caribbean coleslaw. For less than $18, it’s a real deal and it’s the mango lime chili sauce that has the best backstory.

While working in a mission in Texas, which Dave did for four years before retiring, he once had a man come in asking if the mission needed any mango jam. The next day a pallet of the jelly was delivered. “I had to come up with some creative ideas for the jam, and the sauce was created,” Dave said. “Everyone loved it.”

For desserts, the homemade Rosina’s rice pudding comes from a family recipe passed down by Dave’s grandmother. The “Fried Yummers” are little beignet-like dough with a sweet homemade key lime dipping sauce. The crème brule is silky and delicious and made with real vanilla beans from Laurie’s Deli across the street.

Dave and Dodie took a step back from the business now that it has established.

“The kids are mostly running it and doing a great job,” they said, adding that they still show up to help out. Especially on karaoke night; Dave is best known as “This Singing Chef.”

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