The sun changed colors the lower it got to the horizon. As it sank over the bay behind Sundowners Restaurant in Key Largo, Florida, it lost its bright yellow edge and became at first orange then red. All around it clouds on the horizon reflected pastel hues. We had a table at the very southwest corner of the patio. The sun’s fading warmth took the edge off winter in Florida. Champagne bubbles glistened in our glasses in the last rays of the sun.
Florida Keys in winter offer many wonders. A thin strip of islands connected by bridges run about 120 miles. The Overseas Highway, or US 1, is designated by mile markers. Key Largo is the first city entering the keys. Sundowners Restaurant is at mile marker 103 bayside. What a way to see sunset.
Legendary Restaurateur Robert Stoky created Sundowners on an ideal location that lives up to its name. Bobby, as he prefers to be called, is also the author of the book “Recipes and Tall Tales from Legendary Restaurants in the Florida Keys.” For the conch fritter lover with zest for curry sauce, for those that wish the recipe for cocktails like Coconut Margaritas or Watermelon Mojitos, this is the best source. For delicious food, Sundowners is the place in the Florida Keys.
The open patio is set with tables at water’s edge. There is climate-controlled seating inside for those that prefer it or when the weather is inclement. The place to be is on the patio at sunset. Get there early to select a patio table and order drinks. There are exotic cocktails to be found only in the Florida Keys. Sundowners Mango Coconut Mojito is made with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum, mango, mint, lime, simple syrup (sugar and water), and a splash of lemon lime soda $11. Their Moscow Mule is made with ginger beer, fresh lime juice and vodka, served in a copper cup $10. The classic Pina Colada with rum, cream of coconut, and pineapple juice blended smooth and served frozen is $9.
Sundowner’s wine list has 88 selections with extraordinary vintages including Champagnes like Veuve Clicquot brut, yellow label $85. Moet Imperial brut Champagne is $60 and Chandon splits from California are $10. Sauvignon Blanc includes Cloudy Bay from Wairau Valley, New Zealand $45 the bottle. Uppercut from California is $7.50 the glass $30 a bottle. Red lovers will find Cabernet Sauvignon like The Seeker from Chile $45 and Justin Isosceles from California $124. House wines by the glass come from Barefoot Cellars.
Sundowners provides a three course tasting menu. Prices range from $28 to $32 depending on the choice of entrée. Starters include lobster bisque, kale Caesar salad and house salad. Entrees vary from jumbo lump crab cake, onion encrusted mahi mahi, filet mignon Madagascar, a 6-ounce pan sautéed steak, and a 12-ounce prime rib. A side like sautéed spinach and kale, Orzo and wild rice, sweet potato wedges or house cut french fries is included. Desserts on the tasting menu are white chocolate crème brulee or a choice of ice cream.
The main menu has many choices. Appetizers include jumbo lump crab cake $17. The crab cake is hand picked fresh crab meat without fillers. It is browned to perfection and has a wonderous sweet-crab-meat flavor served with Pommery mustard. Crab stuffed oysters are baked in lemon aioli. They are served in their shells. The lump crab meat forms a wonderful and savory topping $12. There are chilled oysters $12 the half-dozen, conch fritters $12 and many tasty treats to tempt any gourmet.
Sundowners clam chowder and lobster bisque is served in a hard baked bread boule. The top crust is cut out and replaced as a top to keep the soup hot. There are large chunks of clam and a most savory thick soup. The bread is hard crust and delicious. Our server Dremetrius Bowen placed a hot coconut bread loaf with creamery butter atop a cutting board on the table. The bread was fresh baked and hard to resist. The boule from the hot soup was even more savory, a bread lover’s dream.
Entrees on the menu include whole yellowtail snapper dusted with cornmeal, fried and topped with Thai chili sauce $29. Hickory grilled Mahi Mahi is served with sautéed spinach and kale $26. There is Florida lobster tail fresh caught on the Atlantic side of the Keys broiled and served with herb butter $29. The smoked sea salt cowboy steak is a 22-ounce bone-in ribeye. It is dusted with Sundowners own smoked sea salt and served with sherried tomatoes $38. There is key lime seafood with lobster, blue crab and shrimp $32. Barbecued baby back ribs cost $22. There is something for every taste on the menu.
Try to leave room for dessert. By the time the meal is finished, the horizon will be aglow with purple set into a black velvet sky. Take time to relax with coffee and key lime pie. It is made with a meringue topping and has a tart key lime base on a savory crust $8. There is molten chocolate cake, peanut butter pie and white chocolate crème brule all $8.
Service was caring and efficient. At evening patio lights were lit adding to the casual ambiance in this romantic Keys setting. Our server Dremetrius Bowen has been with Sundowners for 7 years. “I’m from Homestead. I’m a Florida guy,” he said cordially as he poured sparkling Champagne and offered suggestions.
Sundowners combines fine food with an atmosphere hard to find anywhere. When travel takes you to South Florida be sure to dine there at sunset. It is a relatively short drive from Miami. The hustle and bustle stops where the Keys begin. For information visit www.sundownerskeylargo.com or call them for reservations at 305 451 4502. Their address is Mile Marker 104 Bayside, 103900 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL 33037. Pick up a copy of Bobby Stoky’s recipe book for good cooking tips at home.