TERRY’S PICKY PALATE / A New York Strip and a Margarita at Pepe’s Cafe & Steakhouse

BY TERRY SCHMIDA

To me, Pepe’s Cafe & Steakhouse, 806 Caroline St., has always exemplified the best of Key West: Good food, a funky atmosphere, and a sense of history that’s reflected in the menu, and on its walls.

There’s no fusion cuisine here, (unless you count the Pepe’s Steak Smothered in Pork Chops entree,) just a dining tradition, begun in 1909, of good, honest chow.

“All our steaks are cut to order,” owner Shelley McInnis told me. “And all our fish is delivered daily. We get our meats daily from Fausto’s, to do our part to support the community. And all our house sauces, including our hot sauces are made from scratch. It’s just fresh, simply prepared food.”

While Pepe’s breakfast and lunch offerings are well-known throughout the island, McInnis wanted to stress to me her eatery’s steakhouse roots, and so she prepared for me a 12-ounce New York Strip, with asparagus, homemade mashed potatoes, and house gravy.

The steak was perfectly cooked, “on the rare side of medium rare,” just as I ordered it. The potatoes were creamy and smooth, and complemented well by the gravy. The crisp but still tender asparagus was wonderful.

As always, Pepe’s offers sauteed onions and mushrooms, or peppers with their steaks, at no extra charge.

To wash it down, McInnis suggests a Margarita, made, as all their cocktails are, with freshly squeezed juice.

As the oldest restaurant on the island, Pepe’s offers flavors for every taste and budget.

During the hot summer months, McInnis suggests the Steak Caesar, made with a filet mignon. There’s also a three-course prix fixe meal special, and of course, Happy Hour favorites such as half-price raw or cooked oysters and discounted drinks from 4 to 6 p.m.

“Our customers can come for Happy Hour and then segue into dinner,” McInnis said.

It’s a choice I highly recommend.

This was a great dining experience that I invite all my readers to share!

Pepe’s is open from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Credit cards are accepted.

For more information, call 305-304-7192, or visit www.pepeskeywest.com/

keysscribe@aol.com

CUTLINE:

Pepe’s server Paula Hodges wears a smile as she dishes out a delicious New York Strip and a Margarita.