Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Cafe - Key West

During a short stay in Key West, Florida, we ate at The Cafe, located at 509 Southard Street (305-296-5515). It gets 4.5 stars on Yelp and is rated #7 out of 288 restaurants in Key West on Trip Advisor. They have a decent vegetarian selection and the menu items are different from what I normally see at vegetarian restaurants and were quite good.
Judy got the baked brown sugar acorn squash stuffed with curried Israeli couscous, red quinoa, zucchini, dried cranberries and pine nuts, over sauteed spinach. I don't believe I've ever seen acorn squash on a restaurant menu before and this was our first time eating red quinoa, something we have since purchased and made at home. The unusual mix of items tasted home-made, I guess because I've only ever had anything like it at home, or by La Fuji Mama who loves her various types of squash, like ambercup and kabocha. I would characterize this as a meat and potatoes dish in a vegetarian genre, nothing real fancy, just good basic, good-for-you food, which is real nice when you are traveling and trying to find something healthy. It was not flashy, not a taste powerhouse, but Momma's home cooking friendly. 
To share, we ordered the roasted stuffed red peppers, vegetarian sausage, brown rice, eggplant, onion, portabella mushroom with parmesan cheese, marinara and grilled asparagus. I didn't even realize, until doing this post, that we got green peppers instead of red peppers, they must have been out of red. As with the stuffed squash, I don't think I've ever seen stuffed peppers as a restaurant dish, but I've had it cooked many times by my mother, by Judy and by La Fuji Mama. This dish had a little bit more of a flavor quotient, supplied by the vegetarian sausage, particularly, and the parmesan cheese. And the marinara tasted home-made. 
I got the falafel pita with three bean salad. It was very good, I think the best thing we had. It was a very large pita with marinated salad (cucumber, tomato, onion, parsley), hummus, tahini, pesto and several chunks of falafel that were moist and mixed in well with the pita, unlike some falafel that can be so dry, all dripping out the sides, so nicely wet and moist and flavorful. The three bean salad was home-made type, better than store-bought, healthy tasting.
I've been to a lot of restaurants and this is a hard one for me to pin down and categorize. Maybe the name is a clue: The Cafe. How unoriginal and boring can a name for a restaurant be. But look at the sign, it looks Van Goghish, with big lush carrots and carrot tops jumping out of a blue background. 
Then the menu, stuffed peppers and stuffed squash, pretty basic stuff if you're cooking at home, but for a restaurant - extremely unusual. So what this restaurant is is a fun blending of home cooking with a restaurant that actually makes the restaurant very unusual, when at first blush it seems so bland. I highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Key West. 


  1. I really like quinoa, and after trying Judy's red quinoa recipe, I've discovered I love red. That stuffed acorn looks delish--someone find me a recipe!!!

  2. Vegetarian restaurants are a good choice when traveling--healthy food at a time when we tend to have a less healthy diet than usual. This was not a five star restaurant, but definitely worth the visit.