The island way down at the end of the Florida Keys, Key West, really and truly is the end of the line. Once you reach this dreamy, tropical piece of real estate, there’s nowhere else to go…but into the ocean. (Or Cuba.) And for that reason, for well over 100 years Key West has been the perfect haven, an ideal refuge, for island runaways.
What do Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Jimmy Buffett all have in common? Yep, you got it. They all ran away to this far-flung Florida isle, with its pastel-colored houses with their gingerbread trim and sunsets that will break your heart.
Another thing Hem, Buffett, and Williams had in common: they happily enjoyed their island libations. Rum, beer, whiskey, this unique coastal town provided their tipple of choice, no questions asked. And it will provide your cocktail of choice, whether that’s a mojito, Caribbean daiquiri, a Coca-Cola, or a Key West Sunset Ale.
And where should you enjoy that drink, alcoholic or innocuous? A dive bar, of course. That’s what Key West is famous for, after all. But here these two Island Runaways have a confession to make: as we’ve, well, “matured” a little bit, we don’t like our dive bars quite so…dive-y. In other words, while there should be a bit of grime and bad lighting, a hint of danger, even the possibility of a bar fight – it suits us just as well to have a mellow evening listening to live tunes with no trouble.
You know what I mean?
So where does that leave us? In Key West’s Old Town, Zickie and I like to head away from main drag Duval to Whitehead Street and stop in at the Green Parrot Bar. It is arguably (yes, we did say it’s arguable) the best dive bar in the United States. One of the best island bars you’ll ever find. The seductively louche atmosphere doesn’t cross over into squalor. There’s a charm there, from the barstools to the haphazard décor, that catches you off guard. Plus, you may have some verrry interesting conversations with your fellow drinkers. The place is a magnet for Happy Hour philosophers.
And if you don’t find that escape artist guru who will hold forth for hours over a brew? Then there is music. And man, what tunes! O.K., I don’t mean their juke box but they do have a killer juke box. But I’m talking about all kinds of gorgeous stuff, from Jimi Hendrix-style crooners to a Southern jug band to banjos. Um, did I mention the Green Parrot has ukulele nights?
Oh, yeah, they have a website. And you can buy a Green Parrot t-shirt online. (They’re actually pretty cool.)
If we won the lottery, which is, granted, a pretty distant possibility, I’d love to bring all our Island Runaway friends down for a drink of your choice – whiskey sour, martini, pineapple juice – to the Green Parrot Bar, at the very end of the line, a.k.a. Island Runaways heaven.
Check out the Green Parrot on their website or their Facebook page.
1. Zickie Allgrove, 2. Florida Keys -- Public Libraries 3. Drinks at Chart Room bar, Sam Howzit, 4. Band, Cayobo, 5., Think Pink Taxi, Joe Shlabotnik (2-5 from Flickr)