|Photo Credit: Stephen Mccowage|
One of the many peculiarities of the keys that I’ve come to (mostly) handle with a shrug is that businesses will just be closed sometimes. In the middle of the day, in the middle of the week (as we found out the other day with Square Grouper). Try getting your haircut on a Saturday after noon between Key West and Marathon, I dare you. Rarely does the sign actually say “gone fishing” unless it is an establishment that sells fish, but if the weather is nice, you can be that is a good reason why the “closed” sign is hanging during a perfectly normal business hour.
It frustrates many, especially visitors, and defies a logic that many of us were raised with in this glorious capitalist country, but it makes more sense the longer you live down here. For one, many of these businesses are run by their owners – not trained staff who can be trusted to take the reigns if something comes up (or the weather is good for fishing). For another, it is sometimes more cost-effective depending on the season and the business. I’ve learned that many stylists, for example, have two jobs because they are only called in to style when there’s a customer – mostly because there just aren’t enough customers. My key only has 6,000 (semi) permanent residents compared to the 24,000 who lived with me in my last city not to mention the 1.31 million residents who lived in my last county. And while there are a sizable number of tourists who travel to the keys each year, rarely do they stop in for a haircut. Finally, there is what you might imagine – the work to live attitude that generally dominates. That’s not to say people here don’t work hard, but I’ve found that they don’t let work completely run their lives either.
This is why I wasn’t terribly surprised, but only a little disappointed, when I stopped by Big Mouth Eatery last week to try one of their sandwiches only to find a sign saying they were closed for “an event.” Mr. Foodie and I were still holed up in the hotel in Marathon so I was scouting for non fast-food places to grab a bite for lunch. I ended up hitting the salad bar at Publix (one of two major grocery chains in the keys) which was quite tasty. But I returned to Big Mouth Eatery another day and was able to sidle up to their long shiny counter for a sandwich. This place has been open for 18 months and as such gives off a contemporary vibe that is unique in the keys where mounted fish is the preferred mode of decorating. The menu was extensive with hot and cold sandwiches, a board of specials including a soup/sandwich combo special, and they offered alcohol (always a plus in my opinion).
I ended up with a pressed roast beef sandwich and a soda. The food was very good. It was so good that I ended up ordering another one to go so Mr. Foodie could try it when he got home from work. You can see that he liked it a lot. The atmosphere could have been a bit more cheerful. I’m not sure if the woman who helped me and the chef were the owners, but they seemed tense and/or exhausted. They did everything right and efficiently, just not very happily it seemed. I won’t hold it against them – owning a business is stressful and sometimes you just have a bad day.
I was heartened by the number of locals who came in even in the short amount of time I was there – always a good sign especially for a newish place. And they definitely made a good sandwich. The average sandwich cost around $9, but they had some specials which were closer to $6. If you’re driving through Marathon and want a place to stop for lunch, you should give them a shot.