Louie's Backyard - Key West, FL
Upon arrival for a Memorial Day weekend in Key West, I was quickly taken to Louie's Backyard for drinks. Hungry, I asked the bar server if it was too late for dinner. She replied that it was indeed, and that they don't serve food on the lower deck anyway. My hosts assured me though that Louie's was the best restaurant in all of Key West and that we would come back the next evening for dinner. Nonplussed at my hungry tummy, they also assured me there were snacks at their house.
So the next evening, we had reservations at Louie's Backyard for 7:30. We were seated promptly on the dining deck. I love efficiency at supper! Our waiter was also super efficient, but a bit on the dry side. I likened him to a martini and thought, well, this could be a bad sign or a good one. It's vacation. I took it as a good sign. I wasn't wrong.
Before I get to the food, I want to give a few housekeeping notes. First, like I said, there is no food served on the lower deck and the kitchen closes at 10. Second, have reservations. Third, the menu is mostly gluten-free. Fourth, the menu on the website, whick you can view through this link, isn't current, so if you aren't smitten, go by and look at the one on the board out front before writing the place off. Fifth, this place has one of the most beautiful views ever. EAT OUTSIDE!!!! I mean really, just look at the view!
Now, for the food at Louie's Backyard. The focus is on seafood. If you need to be gluten-free, ask. You can't have the conch soup, but you can have the tuna cakes. My hosts, who have been coming with their family to Key West for over 20 years think the shrimp and grits are the best on the island. I passed on those... what if the ones I make at home just aren't good enough, and went for a tapas-style menu. First, the shrimp and chorizo with mango. This dish was an amazing blend of local shrimp, tropical fruit and earthy sausage. I will be trying to make something similar in my own kitchen this summer. Yes, it was that good!
Second, a mixed salad with fig balsamic and walnuts. Third, the tuna cakes. My friends did indeed order shrimp and grits and the scallops with a tangerine sauce.
First off, Louie's Backyard gets an A for presentation. After comparing a few restaurants on the island, I loved the lemon and lime slices that garnished each plate. The citrus gave brightness and color to each dish. I only wished I hadn't had to ask for pepper! The fennel salad was lacking in fennel taste and needed a touch. Second, let's go back to brightness. The chefs at Louie's Backyard allow the ingredients to show themselves off for their freshness without making them fussy or competitive for attention. Everything I had was harmonious, with a enough pleasant surprises, like a bit of fresh ginger or mint in the tuna cakes, to keep things interesting. The tuna cakes were amazing I have to add. Bread crumb free, they were safe for me to have and reminded me of the wonderful filling in a pot sticker, which I can't have!
Third, the portions were ample without making me feel like my plate was bigger than my head. The goal was to leave satiated, not stuffed, and that we achieved. My only negatives were having to ask for pepper and more water, and that the scallops were ever so slightly overcooked. Everything else was brilliant!
I haven't spent much time on Key West, but Louie's Backyard served up a beautiful, amazingly tasteful meal. I loved my time enjoying the view and the food. Take your special someone there for a beautiful, romantic evening and enjoy.