Sometimes, as you glean out the window of any South Beach hotel, you're suddenly thunderstruck by the realization that there is, without a doubt, something iffy in Florida's water supply. The grand State, somehow failing to pass the laxest of smell tests. Once you come to the conclusion, once you grasp the certainty of its truism, then the second revelation of that evening will spear-head you like a bolt and spark in you a necessity. A necessity to become your very own tourist in a liquor infested Ragnarok of wild parties, barely clad señoritas, dubious narcotics and fringe legality shenanigans. A wild nightscape riding on the azure rum soaked waves of the Gulf Steam
In other words, "dude, have you ever heard of Fantasy Fest? I'm thinking Key West."
Bang, ka-boom, crash goes off the starting pistol; off into the rat race you screech. Your monkey troop of deviant and willing wingmen holding the wheel tight while you do Jaeger shots down US 1. All around, like mirages from Treasure Island, a palm tree free-for-all serving as guard station to paradise.
A 4 hour straight shot, down one of the most picturesque Highways in America, will guide you to a spot on the globe that still manages to preserve its pirate atmosphere. The only section, on this great land, that endured to beat back the US Navy, with nothing more than dry Cuban bread, baked natives and a spiked resolution galvanized by Bacardi. You, my dwindling and inebriated friend, are about to enter the Conch Republic
... Hope your liver survives the experience.
But, before you jettison into Hemingway's old watering hole, there's a temple of worship - 30 to 40 minutes from ground zero - that deserves any spirit zealot's undivided attention.
NO NAME PUB.
Once a den of crabs, herpes, and STDs this ex-bombastic brothel/ bait shop / general store/ we will do just about anything for a buck, pitched into the nearest foxhole its loose moral ways and, like Tinder on a bender, started building up a new set of even looser morals.
No Name Pub is a ramshackle hole in the wall that has held fast to Florida's soils since the early 1930's. A piece of state lore that has constantly reinvented itself, always - no matter the business venture - keeping true to its Wild West atmosphere. This old, rustic building, a walk away from perhaps the United States' last known Final Frontier, has acquired a legendary status. An air of mystic and a sorcery fueled and churned mostly by its off-the-road, way out in the boonies, location. A primitive dive bar, now somehow posh and family friendly, safely ensconced in the outskirts of civilization; surrounded by wild roosters, endangered Key deer, alligators, snakes and Caribbean flora.
The place reeks of personality; a strange cross between redneck biker bar and picnic table restaurant. The place works on a set of rules snatched right out of the Twilight Zone. A clear set of directives that congeal and makes sense only to its proprietors.
Part of the joy of No-Name is the adventure of actually getting there. You won't find it advertised anywhere, and it's a long way off the Overseas Highway. Off into the distance, past abandoned lots, pine forests crawling with toothy prehistorian surprise, way out in the moorlands stands this fortress of cold beers and plastic umbrella drinks. A post in the periphery of suburbia and civilization, where once cellphone coverage was just a distant hope... Here lies the working stiff's utopia.
"A nice place if you can find it,"
GPS and Google Earth somehow pissing on that part of its fantastic folklore. This once Indian Jones like obsession has become a stomping ground to tourist and hipsters; a savage fight forever being waged between the unfaltering stubbornness of yesteryears and the adamant bullheadedness of tomorrow... both sides playing the game, none daring to lose an inch. Yelp and TripAdvisor on one ridge, shelling out digital bullets, while past the DMZ a bearded biker pulls out a shotgun and a machete. A bizarre dichotomy by which this bar not only sways too but tangos with. You'll wave with reckless abandonment at a mom and dad pushing a stroller into the dingy, yet inviting club; the picture of family bliss. Then, no sooner has that memory sunk into your system, that you'll find yourself ducking behind a palm tree, praying to God for salvation, as a squad of Hell's Angels vrooms their way into the parking lot and saunters in sniffing the fumes of a Norman Rockwell painting.
Inside, the kaleidoscopic madness turns up the dial. Toddlers and babies, oldies and grandmas, newlyweds and tourist, not to mention the obligatory same-sex couple, slap backs, and touch elbows with a lively bunch of characters that would look right at home in an episode of OZ. Autographed bills hang from the ceiling, spirited bartenders salute the locals, the leader of a biker gang happily offers to take a British sightseer's pic' by the stuffed Moose head. Some patrons scratch red tanned bellies and take advantage of the clothing optional standard the pub stands by. You stare amazed at what beer and good food can accomplish, a tear rolls down your cheek as you once more have hope for mankind.
It should come as no surprise that on account of its atmosphere and it's spanking pizza (perhaps one of the best in Florida) ZAGAT has rated for 11 years standing the pub as the
“Best casual dining experience in the Florida Keys."
Things to try:
- Their own beer—and while you're at it, get the souvenir pint glass.
- One of its many pizzas. My favorite three being the Mexican, the Chicken Caribbean and the Key Shrimp.
- For starters get the Pub Chili or if it's a good day and the surf is in your favor, try the majestic, mouthwatering Spicy Conch Fritters.
The IRS, in a fit of fiscal insanity, once had the Pub's manager count and declared (for Tax porpuses) the gazillion low hanging Presidents the patrons had stapled to the walls and ceiling as a rite of passage. Back then, the count came up to about 45 thousand bucks.
No Name Pub
30813 Watson Blvd
Big Pine Key, FL 33043
Phone: (305) 872-9115