Dining Outside the Home: Paradise Restaurant in Key West, Florida! “Behind every storm, there is a paradise waiting for you,” say owners Christian and Julian Velez. Together they created Paradise Restaurant, specializing in tasty Latin American food. Their hospitality alone embraces everyone who comes to dine here. Sure, the iguanas may come into view over your shoulder, but that only adds to the ambiance of outdoor seating. Sit back, sip on a salty-sugar rimmed margarita for good measure while deciding what to order. Ever tried sweet and succulent fried plantains? You must. They are simply delish caramelized niblets of green bananas. Pair them with pork carnitas and Cuban black beans. Talk about Paradise.
Dining Outside the Home: Nine One Five in Key West, Florida. During the day you may walk by this charming whitewashed Victorian home, with ocean blue accents, thinking it’s a magnificent private residence. What a glorious sight. However once the evening hours roll around, every table seems to be filled with jovial guests on the wrap-around veranda before overflowing into the front yard beyond the white picket fence. Notice how the amber lights soften the mood for intimacy and celebration. Your first thought may be, “How do I get invited to the party?” My advice? Make a reservation because if you don’t, you’ll wish you did. Take time to enjoy every course. For starters, think about the raw Ahi Tuna Gravlax or fig balsamic Burrata. Delectable choices. Homemade pastas like fettuccine, cannot be resisted, especially when mixed with Key West pink shrimp and capers. The menu is varied to appeal to every palate. Go ahead, you’re worth it.
Dining Outside the Home: Pinchers Crab Shack in Key West, Florida! Sometimes you need to take a break from the noonday sun to whet your whistle. No worries, Happy Hour runs every day. Sit at the bar, a short distance from the stage where live music is very laid back, for the perfect vantage point for Duval Street commotion. Sip on classic cocktails, some with Cuban rum, and it won’t be long before you’ll be transported to warm southern beaches where ocean waves wash your worries away. When you get hungry, rely on local fishermen to supply the freshest seafood the Gulf has to offer. It’s all good at Pinchers.
Dining Outside the Home: Old Town Mexican Café in Key West, Florida! When a restaurant boasts of an abundance of hatch chiles and fresh, local ingredients, you begin to wonder if Santa Fe style Tex-Mex might be a good choice for dinner. Anytime the weather is hot, and the drinks are cold, it draws a crowd on Duval Street for seafood favorites, like skewered shrimp marinated in lime juice and ginger. Take a swig of on-the-rocks margarita. The salted rim offsets the spicy salsa you can’t resist tasting now and then. If you’re in the neighborhood, take advantage of Happy Hour specials. There’s no rush here.
Dining Outside the Home: Red Fish Blue Fish in Key West, Florida! When you’re wandering around Mallory Square, step off the beaten path a block or so to discover a hidden gem where seafood is prime and the drinks go down easy. Order one of the signature cocktails from Red Fish Blue Fish, made with real fruit and fresh juices. Stay awhile, and without a doubt, you’ll be smitten by the most breathtaking sunset in the Florida Keys. This is cause for celebration. The sheer beauty and passion of the residents is enough to make anyone feel at home once they cross the threshold of this popular seafood joint.
On a recent trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew there was one place that was definitely on my Bucket List: Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace along the Las Vegas Strip. If you’re familiar with the reality cooking series, Hell’s Kitchen, I don’t need to tell you Michelle Tribble was the winner of Season 17. She was awarded the position of head chef for this Vegas hotspot by owner, Gordon Ramsey. And this is the second time I’ve met her. No matter how busy the kitchen staff is, on a full-scale stage for all to see, excited patrons as well as Instagram enthusiasts stop by to pose for selfies. Chef Michelle, keeping one eye on the crew as she circles the dining area checking out the food, continuously greets curiosity seekers for feedback and photo ops. She really is down-to-earth, very personable, and pays great attention to detail. No wonder it was a privilege to meet her.
Dining Outside the Home: Kenji Burger in Kapaa, Kauai. It’s always good advertising when a sign boasts: “We use 100% Kauai grass fed beef,” especially if you prefer a fusion diet of healthy meats and vegetables. Grass fed beef translates into leaner burgers. At Kenji Burger, the Japanese mix of Asian cuisine with American favorites provides a taste extravaganza that’ll leave your head spinning. Think outside the box. Teriyaki burgers, misoyaki fish sammies, spicy poke bowls, loaded sushi burritos, and furikake fries. This is not your ordinary burger joint. See the maneki-neko Japanese cat figurine, with its paw raised, perched on the counter? It definitely brings good luck. Perhaps you’ll give them a try. Kenji Burger is spot on.
Dining Outside the Home: Paniolo Santa Maria-Style BBQ in Kapaa, Kauai. In the heart of Old Kapaa Town, you can get food hot of the grill on the outdoor patio while listening to lively island music. Meet up with family or make new friends across the picnic table. Paniolo’s signature style reflects cooking meat that has been properly seasoned over an open fire. There is an art to moving the grill up or down to control the temperature. The results will amaze you. Plates are served with chili-bean rice, tossed green salad, and grilled French bread slathered in butter. Follow your nose to the woodsmoke aromas of barbecue pork, tri-tip steak, fresh fish, and tender chicken. It’s a toe-tapping happy place to eat.
Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai. Fusion food is spot on at Oasis on the Beach, an open-air restaurant a few steps from the ocean. This is Hawai’i, after all, where the fish is as fresh as the view is captivating. No humdrum menu here. One of the House specialties is the island catch-of-the-day, seared to perfection. Mmmm. Pair it with Thai curry spices blended into coconut milk for a fabulous sauce. Did you notice the farm-to-table veggie chunks to add flavor? Now you’re talking. Don’t forget a scoop of white rice. It’s a meal in a bowl that does not disappoint.