“There’s still some magic left in this tourist town.” -Jimmy Buffett, Blue Heaven Rendezvous
What do you get when you take a building that was a formerly a brothel and held boxing matches in the courtyard, refereed by Hemingway. You take an artist named Suanne, a writer named Richard (neither with any formal restaurant experience) and finally a brother in law, Dan, who knew what the hell he was doing? How about one of the best restaurants and most welcoming places in all of the Florida Keys.
Blue Heaven on the corner of Petronia and Thomas Streets in Key West was not an overnight sensation, it is the result of hard work, perseverance and a determination to succeed at a way of life. I was first introduced to Blue Heaven by my good friends John, Pati and their son Alex. Regular Conch wannabe’s, Blue Heaven has always been their favorite place to eat in the city. Even on short visits they often eat here a couple of times. Finally, they brought me and I too was hooked.
The restaurant is built around an inside courtyard where the tables are set. If it rains, well you get wet or don’t eat. The bar sits on it’s own. It has a water tower built on top of it. Jimmy Buffett has performed up there, singing his song named after the restaurant, “Blue Heaven Rendezvous”. It’s not uncommon to see Kenny Chesney sitting quietly on his own enjoying breakfast or a big piece of Key Lime Pie. Recently Kenny flew his grandmother (her first plane ride ever) down to Key West from Tennessee just for a piece of Key Lime Pie. Enough said right?
My first experience was breakfast. A breakfast I didn’t eat because the line was far too long for me to wait. Little did I know that a wait of any amount of time is worth it here. Now whenever I am in Key West, I go to Blue Heaven for breakfast, even after a big night prior. I start with fresh Baby’s Coffee (see my article on this Key West roaster). And I never forget the banana bread. It is made fresh and melts in your mouth. Regardless of what you order you have to have some of this on your table.
The menu is large and varied. Each time I go I am determined to work my way through it. Unfortunately, I always end up with the fresh lobster benedict. I’ve walked breakfast buffet’s in 5-star hotels in Bangkok that took up two rooms, that don’t compare to the flavor and quality of this treat. You like pancakes? Their buckwheat pancakes fall off the side of your plate like a brontosaurus burger from the Flintstones.
The best thing to do while waiting for a table, they don’t take reservations, is to walk the courtyard and check out all the cool signs and funky style of the buildings. Kenny Chesney named his, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem” album after a sign of the same name from the courtyard. That sign has since been stolen. Bummer. He even shot his music video, “The Good Stuff” sitting right at the bar. That all said, the place is still super chill and doesn’t have that touristy vibe.
Perhaps one of the most famous items at the restaurant is the outdoor shower. It sits right next to the bar with a sign, “Showers $1. To Watch $2.” When I was shooting the catalog to launch my first bikini line in Key West, I knew I had to ask to use it. Joan, the manager and Richard the owner, were totally cool and said shoot away! How HOT is this shot? I printed a 20”x20” wrapped canvas of this image and gave it to Richard. It has to be one of my favorite shots of all time.
Key West is a great place to drink, have fun and be rowdy. Knock yourself out and enjoy. Don’t forget, however, there is more to Key West then the bars and tourist stops. Blue Heaven is a can’t miss while on the rock. When you go home, I suspect you’ll remember your Blue Heaven Rendezvous fondly.
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