We all have those places. Special entries in the memory bank that we love to revisit anytime the opportunity presents itself. Since there is an express train which links my brain and food, it is of little surprise that many of these places for me are restaurants. The Varsity, Narcoossee's, and Hemingway's at the Hyatt Grand Cypress, are all great examples of eateries who's nostalgia is as important to me as what is on the menu.
|The Exterior of Hemingway's|
About 3 minutes after I won a free weekend at Grand Cypress, I logged into Open Table to make a dinner reservation at Hemingway's. I was a little worried as I hit the "submit" button, because my memories of the restaurant were fuzzy at best. My last visit to Hemingway's came over a decade ago, and I wondered whether time had been kind to this old friend, or if its best days were left behind.
Still, I never once considered eating anywhere else...
|The restaurant sets atop the Hyatt's amazing pool|
We pulled up a chair in the restaurant's watering hole - Hurricane - and chatted with two guys across the bar that I had followed around the golf course. I was too distracted by golf talk to realize my straight-up and stirred Manhattan had arrived shaken and on the rocks. Perhaps it was the laid back Key West atmosphere, but I didn't have it in my heart to let a Manhattan go to waste, even an ill prepared one.
|The Lobby and Hurricane Bar|
As one would expect given the restaurant's namesake, there is a distinct island flair to Hemingway's. Creaky hardwood floors, trophy fish on the walls, and even the humidor in the lobby, help transport guests to the Florida Keys or the shores of Cuba.
We made our way past the kitchen and into the dining room, and the memories all started to come back to me. Hemingway's was just as I'd remembered, and I hoped the food would soon follow suit.
The menu at Hemingway's tells the story of the man himself, by featuring many of his reported favorite dishes. For our appetizers, the wife started with the Pork Barbacoa Tostones, while I opted for the Island Barbeque Scallops and the signature Crab Cake. Yes, I ordered two...don't judge.
The scallops were perfectly cooked, and not overwhelmed by the barbeque sauce, as can easily happen. In addition, the crab cake was one of the best I've had in a long time, and was nearly 100% lump meat. I didn't get the opportunity to try the wife's tostones, mostly because they didn't last long on her plate. I'll take that as a good sign...
For my main, I connected to Hemingway's time in Cuba by ordering the crispy red snapper. The plate was nicely presented, and served with black beans and white rice. It is rare that a simple piece of fish impresses me, but this one more than delivered. The only thing which would have enhanced the dish were a couple fried sweet plantains, but sadly they were not available. Trust me, I asked.
|The Crispy Snapper|
The wife went with the Duval Street Shrimp Scampi, which was a hit, with the exception of being misspelled on the menu. Of course, the pasta was a Truffled Pappardelle and anytime the T-word is involved she's sure to be happy.
|The Duval Street Shrimp|
I debated back and forth on what to have for dessert, but when our server claimed one was called "The Bomb," the decision was made. "The Bomb" was basically a chocolate lava cake, and even though it's hard to fail at warm cake and ice cream, it more than lived up to it's name.
Key Lime Pie is the wife's go-to dessert, and she thoroughly enjoyed the version at Hemingway's. Which is good, because if there is anything a restaurant named after the most famous Conch should do well it's Key Lime Pie.
|The Key Lime Pie|
Not much has changed at Hemingway's in the decade since my last visit, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The service was outstanding, the food excellent, and the atmosphere took me to the Florida Keys and back. Until this visit, Hemingway's found itself in my list of special places based on memories alone. This meal proved they deserved their spot, however, and I look forward to returning for another decade to come.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~