TERRY’S PICKY PALATE / A breakfast bonanza at Deuce’s ‘Off The Hook’ Grill

BY TERRY SCHMIDA
Anybody out there remember The Last Straw?
For those who don’t, it was a funky White Street neighborhood restaurant, circa 1992, owned, operated – and decorated – by the late, great local artist Capt. Outrageous. I came upon it during a Spring Break visit in that year, and decided that if eclectic and entertaining eateries such as this were what Key West was all about – then I was all about Key West.
I moved her permanently three years later.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting an intimate bistro that reminded me, quite pleasantly, of that dining experience back in ’92.
Deuce’s “Off The Hook” Grill, 728 Simonton St., has that same organic local feel to it, with old photos, tie-dye T-shirts, and a youthful and hip waitstaff, including several actual Conch employees!
When it came to the food, however, I was in another universe.
While The Last Straw bragged about serving the “Worst Food and Drink in Town,” I had the best breakfast of my life at the four-year-old “Off The Hook.”
Though it’s a mostly seafood place, co-owner Sophia Kloeber takes pride in ensuring that “everyone has something to eat – anda decent selection of wines and craft beers to boot.
“As well as really fresh fish, we also have pizza, burgers, lots of veggie stuff, gluten-free options, a kids’ menu and more,” she said. “We have daily lunch and dinner specials, and something for every taste and diet here.”
For my meal, Kloeber, my server Scott Atwood, and (behind the scenes) chef/co-owner Patricia Cassavell had me sample several items that were inventive, delicious, and quite reasonably priced.
The feast began with Shrimp Hash, a delightful melange of home fries, fresh shrimp, chopped duck bacon, caramelized onions, red peppers, a slaw mix, and poached eggs, with a little fresh ground pepper on top. I’ve never had anything quite like it, and it was superb.
Next up were the Huevos Rancheros. I’ve had this Mexican staple before, but somehow OTH’s blend of poached eggs on a warm tortilla with seasoned black beans, shredded cheddar, pico de gallo, jalapenos and ancho chili sour cream, had a nouveau zing to it. The fried plantains on the side were a tasty touch, as well!
Crab Benedict came next, blending juicy lump blue crab meat and perfectly poached eggs with a wonderful Old Bay-infused Hollandaise, on a fresh English muffin. Deelish!
On the side, I sampled both the eatery’s famed crispy and thick bacon, and the Duck Bacon, which was a new one on me. It’s marbled, rather than streaked with fat, so a little healthier than the usual, but the rashers were smoky and scrumptious.
I let my belt out a notch for Mom’s Famous Buttermilk Pancakes, which were infused with blueberries, and drizzled with genuine maple syrup, a taste of home for this former Quebecois.
Teetotaler that I’ve become, I eschewed the two-for-one Mimosa special, opting instead for a tall, cool glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice.
And with that, I returned home for a food-inspired nap.
Deuce’s “Off The Hook” Grill is the stuff of dreams, and the kind of restaurant this town needs more of.
But don’t take my word for it; go see for yourself!
Deuce’s “Off The Hook” Grill is open from 8 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. daily, but closed on Tuesdays. Take-out and delivery are available. Credit cards are accepted, and locals receive a 10 percent discount off all food and drink. Dinner reservations are recommended.
For reservations, or more information, call 305-414-8428, or visit www.offthehookkeywest.com