If we were planning on catching our own lobsters, then we were going to need licenses and apparently Marathon Key was the closest place to buy these. So it only made sense to stop at Keys Fisheries for lunch, since their billboard informed us that it was just minutes off the main road and touted an intriguing headliner, the lobster Reuben.
Able to be entered by land or sea, this waterfront fishermen’s shack permeated a salty sea air - both literally and figuratively. I don’t know if the lobster Reuben was worth $14.95 - actually I do and it wasn’t - but deep breaths from the surrounding ocean on an overcast day made me thankful for its crispy, grilled bread warming me from the inside out.
Old school, rocket-shaped buoys roped off the dining area and rigged an informal perimeter as to where the floor ended and water began. A wooden menu hung like a Broadway placard detailing show times with a set of blinking, purple and copper-shadowed eyes behind a sliding glass window awaiting our order.
“Song?” asked “The Shadow” in a Janis Joplin, smoker’s voice that solidified all of her fun-loving, sixty-something years. My brows knitted before realizing that she was asking us to pick a song to identify our order, instead of giving a name. How fun! But pick wisely because when, “Happy Birthday” got called over the microphone, I felt embarrassed for the lame-o lady going to retrieve her order.
Maybe lame-o would have been a little more creative if she took advantage of the frozen drinks, whose washing machine sloshes swirled in hypnotizing circles of Jolly Rancher reds and greens, behind the full bar adjacent to a crude gift shop showcasing lobster trap artwork and the condiment station with enough squeeze bottle-bouquets of tartar and cocktail sauce for the Royal Wedding.
Lobster Reuben: Nothing to stand up and shout about, but an idea that’s smart enough to lure everyone in at least once, and I had no regrets. Clearly we weren’t the only ones, since the answer to their contest of guessing how many lobster Ruebens sold in the prior month (win a free sandwich and Keys Fisheries t-shirt) ranked around 3,000.
Conch fritters: Since my favorable experience with conch chowder the day before, I had forgotten my former, grit-filled gripes against conch and happily wrapped my mouth around their briny chew. Hidden in a pillow of dough, my lips still found no grit to kiss and I was actually becoming quite fond of this local delicacy, though it was probably time for them to change the fryer oil.
Before we cut out, we posed in cut-outs! Keys Fisheries was nothing short of a good time – photo ops, novelty sandwiches, local delicacies, art, games, fabulously, eye-shadowed employees. They were comfortable in their worn, sea shanty skin and made for a laid-back lunch that was worth a drop of the anchor.