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The Dennis, RIP

One of the pleasures we always looked forward to during our annual visit to Key West was the excellent Cuban mix at the Dennis Pharmacy, a 1950s-era drugstore with a serpentine turquoise counter. Only a few discerning tourists ever found the place, which was largely frequented by locals.

Alas…in a scenario that will feel all too familiar to New Yorkers, the Dennis was closed three months ago, and the building is being remade-yes, you guessed it-into a bank.

As Key West has become steadily more gentrified, family businesses like the Dennis have shuttered. I love Key West; don’t get me wrong. The white frame Conch houses surrounded by lush gardens of bougainvillea and a profusion of tropical greenery frame the streets. Shotgun houses in Bahama Village, a traditionally African-American community, are reminiscent of pre-Katrina New Orleans. There’s still a whiff of funkiness and artiness to the place, but it’s giving way fast to the relentless march of escalating second-home housing prices.

Food-wise, it’s best to stick to a few tried and true places. Alonzo’s Oyster Bar looks like a tourist trap, but has impeccably fresh oysters and clams on the half shell. Antonia’s on Duval, (a schlocky street filled with T-shirt shops and bars which thankfully do not spill over into the adjoining largely residential streets), has very good Italian. My home-made linguini with tomatoes and shrimp was toothsome; the shrimp was perfectly cooked and the pasta, al dente.

On our way to Key West on Saturday, we drove down from Fort Lauderdale. Driving Route 1 along the length of the Keys is one of the great American road trips. On either side of the two-lane highway (or on long bridge spans suspended over the water) are turquoise expanses of sea, the Gulf on one side, the Atlantic on the other. The Keys are still satisfyingly rough around the edges. Vaguely Deco motels remain to dot the landscape and there’s plenty of good road food. Try Rib Daddy’s Steak and Seafood on Key Largo at Mile Marker 102. There, eschew the seafood and pick the Baby Back Ribs, so tender and juicy the meat tumbles off the bone.

Alonzo’s Oyster Bar
700 Front Street
Key West, FL
305 295 5884

Antonia’s
615 Duval St.
Key West, FL
305 294 6565

Rib Daddy’s Steak and Seafood
305 451 0900

Related posts:

  1. Key West Hot Spots
  2. O’Neal’s near Lincoln Center: RIP
  3. Yench RIP

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