Friday morning, sadly, it was time to leave Key West. We had the identical breakfast by the pool again, and then went to check out of the hotel and load up the car. Matt’s dad was driving this time, so that I could stare out the window at the Keys. We didn’t stop until we reached Islamorada, where we’d decided on a place called Shula Burger at the Postcard Inn, because they had a veggie burger on the menu.
The menu, however, did not have a veggie burger, or anything vegetarian at all. Our server explained that they were rebranding. OF COURSE. I ordered a crappy taco salad without the meat, and I was glad they at least had good beer. (Cigar City Helles is great, by the way.)
Matt took over driving, and we headed back up to Key Largo, where we had to stop at Shell World, the giant craft market with the huge lobster out front:
The shops were indeed as touristy as expected, but there was a bunch of cute stuff, too. I finally fulfilled my desire to own one of those colorful glass floats wrapped in rope, too. I can’t help loving cheesy nautical decor.
From there, we went to find the African Queen. There are about 50 signs for it, so it’s easy to find. The dock is next to the Holiday Inn.
I hadn’t seen the movie at that point, so it was definitely not what I expected. They still take people out on this! Having now seen the movie, I know that the boat is in far better shape at this point.
We snuck through the back yard at the Holiday Inn and went to use their restrooms (their pool complex looked really appealing, too), and then hopped back in the car. We made a quick stop at a nearby liquor store to pick up souvenir rum, the same one we’d tried at Rum Bar:
We also picked up beers for the room, and Matt discovered you can buy Cuba Libres in a can!
Then it was time to head back to the mainland. Traffic was pretty light again, and we made it to the Westin right on I-95 in Fort Lauderdale around 5ish. We checked in, and had adjoining rooms again. Matt’s parents got out their brandy, and we opened some beers and started looking on our phones for a place to have dinner. Based on reviews, we decided on a place called Tap 42, about 10 miles away. Then we set to tearing apart our suitcases and repacking them so that our souvenirs would stay intact on our flight.
Matt’s parents had brought their own bottle of E&J Brandy, the only brand Judy likes. Based on their previous experiences in Florida and Alabama, it was hard to come by, so they were prepared. What we’d learned on the trip, though, was that apparently E&J is now distributed in Florida, so that was even the rail brandy at most places we visited. Consequently, they had a whole bunch left and wanted to use it up before we left. Nothing like having a whole bunch of brandy foisted on you early in the evening, before you’ve had dinner.
We eventually headed to the restaurant and parked. We walked around the back to the entrance, and discovered that the place was PACKED. The restaurant itself is pretty small, and apparently it’s really popular with the douchebaggy crowd, because that’s who was on the patio. (Everyone was really dressed up, too, which was strange.) We asked at the desk how long the wait would be, and they said probably 45 minutes. We decided to stay anyway, because it’s not like there were other spectacular options in the area. We worked our way up to the bar where we could find a standing spot, and ordered drinks. Their cocktail menu was really impressive, so Matt and I were happy; the Farmers Market featured bourbon, sage, mango, lemon, and spicy bitters.)
We were only there for 15 or 20 minutes before our buzzer went off, so that was a nice surprise. They seated us at a long high-top table, and handed us menus. I was immediately thrilled with our decision to stay there, because the vegetarian offerings were spectacular. We ordered the vegan ‘ceviche’, which had fresh lychee, pineapple, and avocado in coconut milk, bruschetta with cheese and dates, and then I got a veggie burger with horseradish. That ended up being so big that I had to take it off the bun to eat it. Everything was great, and it made up for the crappy vegetarian food in Key West. (Our server explained that the owner is vegan, so it was important to him to have those options on the menu.)
From there, we headed back to Mai Kai for a victory lap. The place was way more crowded this time around, and the bar was packed. We were able to get a table in the back where it was quieter, though. I had a zombie, which of course was delicious. We unfortunately couldn’t stay very long, but managed to get in a couple rounds before the in-laws were ready to go. On the way out, we asked the guy we’d spoken to on our first visit about the shrunken head, and he said he’d take us there. He headed off through the restaurant, and for the first time ever, we realized just how gigantic that place is. (We’d only ever been to the bar in front, the bathrooms, and the souvenir shop.) There’s a huge room with a stage for the luau – which was going on as we passed through – and then several other rooms decorated in various island themes. And, you know, the rainforest that Harlan ended up in the first time around. We finally made it to the shrunken head room, and he pointed it out to us in a case on the wall. There was a big table of people eating in front of it, so it was kind of awkward. But dammit, we got to see the shrunken head, and it was as creepy as expected.
We went back to the hotel and stopped into the bar to pick up manhattans to take up to the rooms with us. A very drunk lady at the bar commented quietly (she thought) to her man-friend about why people would want to drink something like that when they were in Miami. I wanted to tell her that we’d spent the last week drinking all of the rum in the world, so it was time for a change.
We hung out in Matt’s parents room for a while watching baseball and helping with their brandy stash, and then went back to our room to finish packing and sleep.