|Some of you may not know that Bobalu’s downtown is not an original.
Often, people fly in to Key West Int’l so they may never drive by Bobalu’s Southern Cafe on US-1 at MM10.
However, the original on Big Coppitt Key has been a mainstay for decades.
We decided to try the downtown location at 404 Southard Street on Sunday night. It is quite a happening place between televised sports, generous happy hours, bands, and being in close proximity to the touristy area.
It is normal for there to be comparisons, especially when my beloved Handsome Captain
has known the family and been a loyal customer for years at the Big Coppitt restaurant.
Bobalu’s second location opened in March 2010 on Southard Street, next door to Green Parrot. The owners decided to bring all the fried food, subs, sandwiches & pizza to Southard Street and leave behind some of the very items that made Bobalu’s well-known in the lower Keys. There is only one fish sandwich on the Southard Street menu that isn’t fried. Not only does Bobalu’s Southern Cafe in Big Coppitt offer up their obvious Southern specialties, they also offer lots of fish…not only deep-fried but grilled yellow-fin, stuffed mahi, blackened grouper, and broiled local shrimp (among others).
Greg ordered one of his usual favorites in Big Coppitt:
The steak supreme sub with cheese, grilled onions, and banana peppers.
Except it didn’t taste like one of his favorites from Big Coppitt…nor did it look like one of his favorites from Big Coppitt. First off, the cheese was like a “creamy mush” (Greg’s words, lol) and not cheese…also, there weren’t nearly as many banana peppers. However, the most cardinal of sins in Greg’s eyes was that Bobalu’s downtown serves Sysco frozen fries. The original location proudly serves delicious home-cooked potato chips.
My fish sandwich was fine with the exception of the frozen fries…then again, it was the only choice if I didn’t want fried fish. One thing is a “for certain”, though…the owner of Bobalu’s used to be a commercial fisherman so his fish will always be fresh.
So Greg and I can look at this in two ways. We both are business-oriented; we completely understand why those who have the capital, leverage, and wherewithal to run a restaurant would lease or purchase the former Meteor Smokehouse. The location is large, it’s near Green Parrot, and there is lots of foot traffic. They are catering to a different crowd than that of Big Coppitt. There is absolutely nothing wrong with people who love sports and a cold beer or people who enjoy pizza while they listen to a band…nothing. However, the other way Greg and I look at it is this…we are used to the name Bobalu’s being conducive to lots of fresh fish, Southern specialties, and Greg’s favorite homemade chips. If the downtown location didn’t have the name Bobalu’s attached, it’s doubtful we’d have even gone there.
All that said, we like the owners. They are a good family and astute business people. They also make a very good pizza with fresh ingredients (though not a lover of the New Haven crust…Priss is partial to the New York foldable crust). The prices are good, they offer entertainment, and the happy hours are generous. We are very happy that they are successful on Southard Street. However, with what we are used to and our “inner foodie”…unless we are downtown and craving pizza, we will avoid Southard Street and continue to patronize Big Coppitt. We believe the original to have more of an Old Keys feel, anyway