Sunday, September 19, 2004

Poker Run

The 2004 Florida Keys Poker Run ends today. We managed to get to the welcoming Hog Roast at Schooner Wharf on Friday evening, but left early to get in to Shanna Key for the Half Way to St. Patrick's Day celebration.

There's a bike rumbling in the street just outside our door, waiting for the traffic light to change. We get a surprising number of bikes going past the door, surprising because there isn't much here to attract the bikers, except for Blue Heaven, two blocks down Thomas Street.

We walked down Duval St. to where the bikes were lined up, from Front St. to Southard St., a distance of five city blocks where motorcycles are lined up and parked on both sides of the barricaded streets. Most of the action that was going on while we were there was in the 200 block, centered on the three bars near the corner of Greene, plus at Captain Tony's around the corner on Greene. Sloppy Joe's is the hub of activity, the judging point for the bike show competition. Rick's and Durty Harry's across from Sloppy Joe's absorb some of the overflow, and beer is flowing freely at a variety of on-street sales points. We stopped at Durty Harry's for some pizza and beer, and watched just outside on the street as people strolled up and down looking at an stopping to admire some of the fancier machines on display. There were low riders, fat boys, tricycles (one of which was the front end of a car welded to the front part of a motorcycle), gorgeous paint jobs, trick lights, and chrome, chrome, chrome..

On the street outside Harry's, three massage therapists were giving back rubs and full body massages to any one interested -- and with the price in their pocket.

On our way down, we stopped for a few minutes to talk to Nancy and Corey, owners of Salsa Loca near the corner of Duval and Truman. They said that they had done great business all day, and were trying to clear some parking space in front for motorcycles they hoped would continue to arrive throughout the evening hours. Nancy and Corey are from one of the Carolinas, South I think, and only opened up a couple of months ago. I noticed a few weeks after they opened that they had hung a new temporary sign over their marquee. It read "That New Mexican Place on Duval Street", a clever bit of advertising that played against the good word-of-mouth advertising the restaurant began to get almost as soon as they opened. There's a smallish inside eating area, very nicely decorated in bright colors with Mexican accents. The in-the-wall air conditioner strains to cool on very warm days and nights, but getting the right table, near the A/C makes it tolerable. It can only get better as cooler weather approaches.

Outside, in back, there is a more spacious garden area, with a full wine and beer bar (they are waiting for a full license, so they serve wine margaritas that are pretty good). But, of course, restaurants are about food, and this is where Salsa Loca shines brightest. There is an extensive, three page menu, with choices of the usual Mexican combos (Janet likes #11), and a variety of dishes that most will recognize, and a few specialties of the house that are less typical. I like the fact that they have two varieties of huevos -- ranchero and Mexicano. I've tried both and they were excellent. Last Sunday (we go there on Sunday evenings, Janet's last day of work and the beginning of our 'weekend'), I tried a mole dish, with a nice brown mole sauce over tender chicken chunks, served with rice, a salad, refritos, and three warm tortillas. It was an excellent meal, and there were no leftovers "to go" as is usually the case.

The Poker Run was, I'm sure, a boon for the bars and some businesses in that part of town, but what I hear is that is hasn't done a whole lot for businesses at large, especially those that need the more traditional day trippers and cruise ship visitors who constitute the majority of tourist feet-on-the-street. As the threat of and memory of hurricanes diminishes, that business should begin to revive too. For their sakes, I hope it happens soon.

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