Located at MM 22.5 on Cudjoe Key, Square Grouper Bar and Grill has been a favorite restaurant of mine, and many other locals, since its opening. While the bar does not serve liquor, it has a fine list of wines and microbrews, and you will find that the bar is almost always packed with locals socializing and enjoying a unique brew, and sometimes having a bite as well.
At the back of the restaurant there is also a comfy sitting area for diners to wait for an open table, and you can order drinks and appetizers here as well. Or, you can opt to wait outside and take a load off at one of the benches provided. The only negative thing about sitting outside is that there is a septic stench that you whiff once in awhile.
We went to Square Grouper to celebrate a friend’s birthday last night, and while we did have to wait about 45 minutes for a table (they do not take reservations), it was well worth the wait. The last two times we ate here, it was good, but everything left us a bit flat. But the restaurant is stepping up its game with new chefs, each specializing in a specific preparation in the kitchen for consistency on each plate.
Our server, Corey, who has worked there for about four years and somehow we have never had him serve us, was amazing. He was very sharp, probably the best server we have ever had at any restaurant anywhere in the Keys. He made some great drink and dinner suggestions and we were never wanting for sinks, bread, or anything else during the course of our meal. I am going to request him as our server from now on, because he just made dinner that much better.
Now, on to the food! First off, SG serves the most wonderful warm rolls with butter; my favorite are the pretzel rolls and the cranberry rolls which everyone at the table always fights over. After we each got the roll that we wanted we ordered our appetizers. To start, the table shared the Yellowfin Tuna and Avacado Egg Rolls, the Smoked Fish Dip, and the Fried Calamari.
There were two egg rolls split in half served on the plate. They were crispy on the outside and steamy on the inside filled with tuna and avocado. The combination of crispy and soft along with the combinations of flavors were wonderful.
The smoked fish dip was served with chopped onions, jalapeños, and tomatoes along with a stack of crackers. In my opinion the dip was a bit bland but the presentation was wonderful and the rest of the table enjoyed it.
My favorite appetizer was the calamari, and they really do it up perfectly here. It it flash fried and sprinkled with some banana peppers and grated parmesan cheese and served in a large tortilla shell bowl with a marinara sauce as well as a key lime tarter sauce for dipping.
Next, we were served houses salads with have fresh mixed greens, blue cheese crumbles, red onions and just the right amount of their house honey mustard vinaigrette dressing. It was refreshingly fabulous.
Next came the entrees: Seared Sesame Tuna Loin with Asian Slaw, Square Grouper Stew, House Smoked Pork Butt over White Bean Stew, and Pasta with Key Lime Butter Sauce and Pan Sautéed Seafood Combo.
The tuna was a very fresh, fine grade and the sesame seeds, fish, and slaw all mingled on the taste buds perfectly.
The Square Grouper Stew is a rich and creamy red stew loaded with shrimp, scallops, calamari, and grouper. The seafood was perfectly prepared and the base was slightly spicy and absolutely delicious. This comes in full and half portions, and I suggest going with the half portion as the full portion is bigger than my head.
The Pork was a recent menu addition which is why we ordered it. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed with this choice. The white bean stew was amazing. But the pork was very plain and a bit dry. If you like smoked port I think you would love this dish, but I will not order it again. I actually hope that they serve the white bean stew separately because it was very tasty and would be great served with a crusty piece of bread. This dish was also served with asparagus which were prepared perfectly, seasoned just right and slightly crunchy.
The Seafood Pasta is a favorite. The pasta is cooked al dente and mixed with a creamy, but not too rich key lime butter sauce and topped with a good amount of seafood, including sautéed shrimp, scallops, and grouper. The seafood was sautéed perfectly and the flavors mingled perfectly together.
We did not get it this time, but another great option here that we order often is the Braised Beef and gravy over pasta. It is almost like a beef Stroganoff, with tender, shredded beef and a yummy gravy served over pasta and plated with asparagus. Delish!
All desserts here are also made in house. They typically include a special cheesecake of the day, key lime pie, the Magical brownie with ice cream, chocolate sauce and heath bar crunches, fondu, and a special ice cream selection. The Brownie really is magical; I can attest to that. But last night the table shared a special for dessert which was the apple bread pudding. Normally I do not care to bread pudding, but this was tasty, served in a gigantic bowl with a butter rum sauce and topped with whipped cream. It was a great combination of flavors that really made this dessert good.
If you are staying in Key West and have a car to get around or if you are staying in the Lower Keys, you really do need to incorporate a meal at the Square Grouper into your visit.
Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West, be sure to read my other restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog as well as our restaurant reviews.
To see what is happening on the island during your visit, check out our Key West Events Calendar to see other upcoming special events. For more information about the fun side of Key West… things to do and see in our island city, go to our Key West Web Site.
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Island Genn – Your Key West Concierge