Ocean Grill & Bar | Review

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

I love eating at Duval Square because it is a comfortable atmosphere with great restaurants and (drum roll) parking in Key West!  Ocean Grill & Bar recently opened after the owners of the New York Pasta Garden, also located in the square, bought the space and opened a seafood specific restaurant. With friends in town, four of us headed down to try out this new eatery on Friday night. To be safe, we did make reservations, always a good idea when dining in Key West.

When we arrived the restaurant was still a little quiet, so we were able to choose indoor or outdoor seating. Since my little Maltese, Indiana Bones, was not with us, we opted to eat inside. The decor is sleek and modern, and the acoustics were good so we did not have to shout at one another to be heard! Right off the bat, the hostess and the wait staff that we met were all very friendly and they were all very good looking too; it was like we walked into a photoshoot. I am pretty sure that if our waiter, Shawn, could make a pretty good living as a model if he got tired of doing what he is doing.

Wedge salad

Wedge salad

Once seated, we ordered drinks all around. The guys ordered manly cocktails while us girls each had a glass of wine. And these were not your average skimpy glass of wine. The glasses were filled to the top and by the middle of the meal we were both just a little tipsy. I think that Shawn said that they do a 16 ounce pour with all of their wine servings!

To start, we ordered the lobster bisque, the shrimp and grits, the calamari, and the wedge salad. I did not have a favorite out of these as they were all stand out dishes.

The lobster bisque had a hint of sherry mixed with the rich and creamy tomato and lobster soup, topped with poached lobster; it was simply mouthwatering. I have been dreaming about this bisque ever since!

Lobster, shrimp and scallops over pasta

Lobster, shrimp and scallops over pasta

The shrimp and grits was one of the best renditions of the dish that I have ever had; there were four large local shrimp grilled with a chili lime butter and served over cheese grits with a roasted corn butter sauce.

The calamari was something that I think even people that do not like calamari would enjoy. This dish was not at all chewy, and the chili honey garlic sauce that it was tossed with mingled sweet and spice perfectly.

The flavors of iceberg lettuce topped with bacon, onions, cherry tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese and a roasted garlic blue cheese dressing melded  together to make this simple wedge salad special.

After this we were all pretty full, but we decided to try a few other things on the menu. We followed up our amazing starters with a caprese salad, lobster, shrimp and scallop pasta, seafood risotto, and more shrimp and grits.

Seafood Risotto

Seafood Risotto

The fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, baby greens and basil with a balsamic reduction and olive oil made a delicious caprese salad.

The pasta dish was huge, and since we already feasted on so many appetizers around the table, we did have some left overs here. The pasta was prepared al dente and the seafood which included sautéed lobster, shrimp and sea scallops along with fresh baby spinach and sun dried tomatoes in a sherry tinged cream sauce and was very rich and very delicious.

The seafood risotto was also a very large portion, so we had leftovers here as well. The risotto was creamy and flavorful on its own. But served with perfectly sautéed lobster, shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic and topped with grated Parmesan cheese made this dish amazing.

Calamari

Calamari

I don’t even know what dessert options there were since we were ridiculously full after all of this. But I can tell you that we will be coming back again. There are some other dishes that I would love to try! Not to mention having a few of these other ones again. They also serve breakfast at Ocean Grill and Bar!

Before deciding where you are going to eat while visiting Key West or the rest of the Florida Keys, be sure to read my other restaurant reviews; check out our restaurant review section of this blog.

And to see what is happening on Key West 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.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

Key West’s Lobster Mini Season 2014

Key West Lobster

Key West’s Capt. Steven Lamp of Dream Catcher Charters with their Mini-Season Catch

About

Lobster mini season, also called spiny lobster sport season, always falls on the last consecutive Wednesday and Thursday in July. So this year’s mini-season begins at 12:01 a.m. on July 30th and ends at 12:00 midnight the 31st. During this two day lobster bonanza, each properly licensed snorkeler and diver is allowed to take up to six legal sized lobsters per day in Monroe County; the rest of Florida is able to keep up to twelve lobsters per day.

This event brings about 25,000 visitors to the Florida Keys, so marinas and hotels are filled to capacity. Coming down on the spur of the moment is not a good idea during this week as you may end up sleeping in your car!

While mini season allows for lobster lovers to enjoy being on the water catching a few of these delicious crustaceans before the opening of the regular season which starts on August 6th, everyone should remain mindful of the rules and be safe on the water. There will be about twice as many FWC officers patrolling on and off the water during mini season as usual and will include undercover agents as well as police dogs trained to sniff out lobsters. That may seem an excessive use of law enforcement and maybe even be funny to some folks, but it is a stark reminder that following the imposed rules are extremely important. It also helps our local lobster population from being completely decimated in two days, as people seem to go crazy over these crustaceans.

There are many rules to follow, and I am notating some below from the FWC for your use, but please, please, please contact the FWC with any questions about regulations for mini season. If you get caught breaking the law, knowingly or unknowingly,  you will not pass go, you will not collect $200. You will go directly to jail! This can be a really fun time on the water, but that fun can quickly go south if you are not careful or if you do not follow the regulations. Stay safe and legal and keep the good times going.

Rules
How to Measure a Florida Spiny Lobster

How to measure a Florida Spiny Lobster for Mini season

Possession: Lobster must be of legal size before they are in possession. NOTE: You may not have lobster in your possession in Everglades National Park.

Bag Limits: The Federal bag limit cannot be combined with the State bag limit. Six (6) per recreational harvester per day. The two-day total of twelve lobster per recreational harvester in Monroe County, adjacent Federal waters, and Biscayne National Park can only be possessed when transporting your catch by car on, or after, the second day.

Egg-bearing (berried) lobster regardless of species must be released unharmed. Stripping egg-bearing females of eggs, andpossession of spiny or ridged slipper lobster tails from which eggs have been removed is prohibited. Eggs are an orange, yellow, brown, or red mass found covering the underside of the lobster’s tail.

Coral is protected from damage and removal in State and Federal waters. Do NOT touch, hold on to, stand on, break or otherwise harm coral. It is a fragile living animal.

Gear: Harvesting or attempting to harvest spiny lobster using any device that will or could puncture, penetrate, or crush the exoskeleton (shell) or the flesh of the lobster, and the use of such devices is prohibited.

“Bully-netting” is defined as using a circular frame attached at a right angle to the end of a pole and supporting a conical bag of webbing. Possession of bully nets is prohibited in Everglades National Park.

“Hoop-netting” is defined as using a frame, circular or otherwise,supporting a shallow bag of webbing and suspended by a line and bridles. Possession of hoop nets is prohibited in Everglades National Park.

“Artificial Habitat” is material (e.g. wood, metal, concrete, plastic) that has been placed to provide cover and habitat for spiny lobster. It does not include fishing gear allowed by FWC, legally permitted structures or artificial reefs permitted by Florida-DEP or Army Corps (e.g. Duane, Spiegel Grove, Bibb, Eagle, Thunderbolt, Vandenberg).

License Requirements: Recreational harvesters are required topossess a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing License with a currentcrawfish permit. Consult your license agent for exemptions.

Spanish and slipper lobster are closed year round to harvest in Key Largo and Looe Key Existing Management Areas, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks, Florida Keys National MarineSanctuary Ecological Reserves, Sanctuary Preservation Areas andSpecial-use Research Only Areas. During the Regular Season, they are closed to harvest in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State ParkLobster Exclusion Zones and from or within coral formations (patchreefs) within the Park.

Commercial Lobster Traps: It is a felony to molest, damage, or takelobster from traps in State or Federal waters.

Diving at night for lobster is NOT permitted in Monroe County and adjacent Federal waters. Bully-netting and hoop-netting is permitted at night. “Night” is 1 hour after official sunset to 1 hour before official sunrise.

Dive Flag: All divers and snorkelers in the water are required toprominently display a diver down flag. Slow to idle speed within 100 yards of a dive flag. Dive flags must be at least 20″ x 24″ in size and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. It must be displayed at the highest point of the vessel and visible from all directions. Flags must not be displayed when divers / snorkelers are out of the water. Dive flags carried on floats must be at least 12″ x 12″.

Measuring Lobster: Each harvester must have a gauge made for measuring lobster while harvesting in the water. All lobster must be measured in the water and released unharmed if undersized. Lobster carapace must be greater than three (3) inches. All recreationally harvested lobster must remain in whole condition while at sea. Tails can only be separated on land. When the tail is separated from the body, it must be greater than 5-1/2 inches.

 Prohibited Areas: 

  • Artificial Habitats in State Waters
  • Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Spiny Lobster Sanctuary
  • City of Layton: No person shall remove by any means, whether by trap, diving, spearing or otherwise, any Florida spiny lobster from any waters within the city limits.
  • Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: The following no-take areas are marked by 30″ diameter round yellow boundary buoys:
    • Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPAs)
    • Special-use Research Only Areas
    • Ecological Reserves 
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: All of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is closed during the two-day Sport Season to the harvest of spiny lobster.
  • Local Jurisdictions:  Local jurisdictions have specific restrictions on snorkeling and diving. Jurisdictions have extended the rule beyond the Lobster Sport Season. In the local jurisdictions, there is no diving or snorkeling within:
    • 300 feet of improved residential or commercial
    • shoreline, any manmade or private canal, any public or private marina
    • Dive means to wholly or partially submerge one’s body while equipped with a mask or goggles, whether or not any type of underwater breathing apparatus is used.
    • City of Marathon (Ch. 36 Art. VII) and City of Key Colony Beach (Ch. 5 Art. I). Rule applies during the 4 days preceding Sport Season and continues until 10 days have elapsed after the opening of Regular Season.
    • Islamorada, Village of Islands (Ch. 66 Art. I). Rule applies during the 3 days preceding Sport Season, the entirety of Sport Season and the first 5 days of Regular Season.
    • City of Layton and Unincorporated Monroe County (Ch. 26 Art. IV). Rule applies during the 3 days preceding Sport Season, the entirety of Sport Season and the first 5 days of Regular Season. Exception: diving and snorkeling is allowed in front of his or her property to the center line of the canal or 100 feet of open water.

Other Prohibitions:

  • Unless exempt, a recreational saltwater fishing license and a lobster permit are required to harvest spiny lobster.
  • Lobster must be landed in whole condition. Separating the tail from the body is prohibited in state waters.
  • The harvest or possession of eggbearing spiny lobster, or any other eggbearing species of lobster belonging to the families Palinuridae (spiny lobsters), Scyllaridae (slipper lobsters) or Synaxidae (furry lobsters) is prohibited.
  • No person shall harvest or attempt to harvest spiny lobster using any device which will or could puncture, penetrate or crush the exoskeleton (shell) or the flesh of the lobster.
  • Recreational trapping prohibited.
  • Regardless of what species you are fishing for, bag limits are only for properly licensed individuals and those people exempt from license requirements who are actively harvesting. People harvesting may not exceed their individual bag limit and take someone else’s bag limit. That is, people (including children) who are not actively harvesting or are not properly licensed (if a license is required) may NOT be counted for purposes of bag limits.
Charter Option

Want to go lobstering but don’t want the hassle of having to deal with all of the regulations or bringing down your own boat? No worries! This year Dream Catcher Charters is offering lobstering charters. Call and make your reservation soon as availability is limited!

Local Information

Once you catch your limit of lobsters you are going to have to prepare them, so check out some of our recipes. We have some great ideas for ways to prepare Florida Spiny lobster. You can also  take your freshly caught lobsters to a local restaurant to be prepared for you; check out my restaurant reviews and feel free to call us at 1-888-362-3474  if you are looking for last minute accommodations; you never know, you may get lucky!

Coming up, regular lobster season opens on August 6th, shortly followed by another Key West celebration, Lobsterfest. If you love spiny lobster this event is a must! Local restaurants set up booths all down Duval Street and serve this crustacean in a variety of different ways. There will also be music and lots of fun to entertain everyone, young or old. Even Indiana Bones loves going downtown for Lobsterfest!

To see what else 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.

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

Key West Aquarium

The main section of the Key West Aquarium located at Mallory Square.

The main section of the Key West Aquarium located at Mallory Square.

The Key West aquarium is one of Key West’s oldest tourist attractions. First opened in the winter of 1935, the aquarium had a bright future until the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 hit the islands and destroyed the overseas railroad and for awhile Keys tourism with it. For a time, the building served as a gun range for the US military. But in the mid 1940’s the aquarium reopened and it has been a popular attraction ever since.

Throughout the years many improvements were made to the building and to the exhibits, updating with the times. Today, the aquarium has some amazing exhibits, including American Alligator, Atlantic Shores, Jellyfish, Stingray Bay, Shark Feeding, and Touch Tank.

The American Alligator exhibit was one of my favorites. The baby alligators on display are on loan from the Alligator Farm in Homestead. When they alligators reach a certain size they are returned to the farm and swapped for babies. The Alligator room not only features these cute reptiles, but there is also a plethora of information about the American Alligator that you can read and be educated through.

While the Alligator exhibit was one of my favorites, the Atlantic Shores Exhibit was the most impressive of this little aquarium. It is an actual living red mangrove ecosystem that showcases the waters of the Florida Keys and why the mangroves are so important to the local environment. Local sport fish such as tarpon and permit along with tropical species like angelfish and parrotfish call this mangrove ecosystem home. Green sea turtles and nurse sharks can also be found enjoying their days in this exhibit.

The Jellyfish exhibit was very small, but the dark background and bright lighting made for a very cool viewing station for these gelatinous creatures of the sea.

The Stingray Bay allows for visitors to touch and feed the stingrays as these creatures are pretty docile and do not present a danger.

I always seem to miss the shark feedings, but they are offered daily at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and 4:30pm so plan your visit accordingly!

And the Touch Tank is filled with all different types of species that you can touch and photograph for an amazing memory. Sea stars were so cute and my favorite in this display, but there were also conchs, urchins, cucumbers, horseshoe crabs, and hermit crabs.

In addition to these exhibits, there are many other sea creatures featured. Our group voted the scariest as the Moray Eel. Yikes! Seahorses were another group favorite. And other local fish and other sea life like corals, lobsters, pinfish, jacks, french grunts, and many others that I have now forgotten can all be found in one of the many displays.

Visitors to the aquarium can opt to take a tour or they can explore on their own. And this may be the only aquarium that is dog friendly (as long as they are leashed). I am betting that Indiana Bones is pretty mad at me right now for not bringing him along!

So is you are visiting Key West come check out the aquarium which is opened 365 days a year!

Be sure to keep up with my blog for information about Key West. From its long history to what is happening right now!

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 previous restaurant reviews.

And 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.

Feel free to Email Me if you have any questions about Key West!!

Island Genn
Key West Concierge

Key West Recipe Feedback

Florida Lobsters

Catching Lobsters In the Florida Keys. Here the Guys of Dream Catcher Charters pose with their catch.

I was going through my emails this morning and I received one about a particular recipe that I shared in the Food and Drink section of this blog. Appropriately enough, it was for my Shrimp and Lobster Pot Pie, and it is once again lobster season! Below is the email; check out the spin that Sue put on my recipe.

“My husband loves the shrimp & lobster pot pie recipe and I wanted to tell you about the “spin” I put on it. I love Red Lobster’s cheddar bay biscuits, so instead of making a pie crust I cover it with the biscuit dough and bake it for 15 minutes. It makes several casseroles so I freeze them and he eats them for lunch. Very, yummy!

Thank you for sharing the recipe,

Sue”

I would love to hear your feedback to my recipes of other blog posts as well, so please Email Me! I look forward to hearing from you!

ANd check out the rest of this blog for lots of Key West Information including restaurant reviews,  the Key West Events Calendar, and  things to do and see in our island city.

Island Genn
Key West Concierge