Havana Cafe of the Everglades, Chokoloskee, Florida

Our merry band, Nora and Scott Griffin and Nancy and I, drove down to Everglades City, ostensibly for a boat ride through the 10,000 Island area of Everglades National Park, but equally for lunch at the Everglades Cafe. Not to spoil the ending, but they have great food in a beautiful setting.

Now for some sex. The National Park boat tour takes you through the islands where you can see all sorts of wildlife. The boat speeds up to attract dolphins, who like to ride the “surf” created by the boat’s wake. You usually can leave with extended videos of groups of four or five dolphins surfing and leaping in the waves together. Well, this time they certainly were together, but they weren’t surfing. The boat captain describes the dolphins conduct as “dancing” when children are aboard. The dolphins dance in threesomes right next to the boat. It has something to do with buoyancy — at least that’s what they claim. I’ll just leave it there, except to say that the dancing dolphins had zero interesting in surfing.

Back on land, we drove across the causeway to Chokoloskee, a fishing community of about 400 souls. It was the final home of Edgar Watson, who murdered Belle Starr and a whole lot of other people across the country until the local residents returned the favor. Chokoloskee Island was created 20 or so centuries ago with shells discarded by the indigenous people. They ate a lot of oysters, almost as many as Hunt’s clientele, and the island is a good 20 feet higher that the mainland. On the island sits Everglades Cafe.

I’ve reviewed the Everglades Cafe once before here, and you should take a look at that link to see why I say it’s a beautiful setting; and you can read about their tasty Cuban sandwich and the first winner of the Heisman Trophy. Outdoor tables are set in a lush garden, and there’s usually live Cuban music — everything to make diners comfortable. Indeed, they have space heaters available if the temperature plunges to, oh, 70.

Also making diners comfortable is some very good sangria, in which we all indulged in moderation.

I ordered the Shrimp Enchilado, which was shrimp in a spicy marinara sauce.

The had me at spicy. The shrimp were that-morning fresh and not at all overcooked. I liked the sauce a lot. I should have asked for more rice, so that I could do full justice to both the sauce and the black beans. Next time.

The mangroves of southwest Florida are the primary grounds for stone crabs, which are truly delicious, and more and more expensive the farther you get from the mangroves. Scott and Nora ordered the stone crab and shrimp combination, also with the Enchilado sauce.

Stone crabs, even when the shells are well cracked, require a certain amount of wrestling to retrieve the meat. That duty fell to Scott with predictably messy results.

But Scott, and especially Nora, thought his efforts were well worth the trouble. All the dishes were very good, but I think the winner, once again, was Nancy, who ordered Carlos’ Shrimp Plate.

You can see the bell peppers and onions and tomato, and if you close your eyes you can smell the garlic. This is a great dish, well conceived and well executed with perfectly fresh ingredients. Sensational.

It was another great meal, and well worth the 45-minute drive. We stopped at an Everglades boardwalk to take a walk, but thought better of it.

(“John, go up close and see if it’s asleep!” “Yeah, John, get real close!” “Poke it with a stick, John!”) So we headed on to Stan’s Idle Hour for some waterside music, a drink, and a snack, because if you’re in southwest Florida, you need to go to Stan’s.

You also need to go to the Havana Cafe, at least if you go to the National Park, as you should. The combination of the setting and the food make for a delightful experience.

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6 thoughts on “Havana Cafe of the Everglades, Chokoloskee, Florida

    1. Thanks! I would love to go there. Alas, we flew (and are already home) bit I love the Panhandle — I’m a huge fan of Hunt’s in Panama City. I mainly eat seafood there, since seafood on the Gulf is so much fresher than in DC, but a good barbecue place would be a sensational change of pace. Keep the recommendations coming! And see https://johntannersbbqblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/13/hunts-oyster-bar-and-seafood-restaurant-panama-city-florida/

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