Based on how often we are in the “Mermaid,” it’s not even close. And our endorsement is not meant as any negative for the always marvelous Louie’s Backyard or Latitudes at Sunset Key.
The Thirsty Mermaid comes out of the box with a huge jump: Their oyster purveyor, Skip Bennett’s Island Creek Oysters in Duxbury, Massachusetts, is maybe #1 in America for oysters. We usually go for oysters from Massachusetts when they are on the blackboard (the oyster menu changes daily). Oysters from Maine are a close second. Forget the big, milky monsters from the warm waters of the Florida Panhandle. These oysters are “happy hour” specials and lack the brininess and minerality of oysters from New England’s cold waters.
One of the co-owners of the Mermaid is part of our favored restaurant group here in KW and the other is a KW native and lifelong fisherman. Tito, Loredana, Ester, Eva, and Julianna form our favorite floor staff in Key West.
Not surprising, much of the menu is seafood-based (a local Snapper sandwich, green Gazpacho w/a large grilled shrimp, or the great fried oysters). Mermaid’s menu is rounded out with a “certified” Black Angus burger, a not-to-be-missed grilled cheese, and a locals’ go-to Caesar with shrimp and scallop. There’s always ceviche, tuna poke, and cracked conch, as well as Florida Stone Crabs (owner Ryan’s catch from local waters in season).
There is a ten beer draft selection. And the small wine list is perhaps the best (not a hard trick) in Key West, America’s wine list “wasteland.”
Check in with our buddy Mark’s wine shop next door to the “Mermaid,” for much of what good wine is to be found in Key West, especially his awesome Cote Roti from the northern Rhone Valley in France. We buy almost all our wine from Mark’s UVA and have been surprised at how Mark has educated Key West’s wine crowd in such short order.