Wild chickens run among streets and gardens all over Key West, but even most al fresco restaurants manage to keep them away from dining tables … with one significant exception. At Blue Heaven, chickens are welcome. In fact, they feel right at home. In this supremely laid-back restaurant in old Bahama Village, cocks, hens, and chicks roam along the dirt-floored patio pecking for bugs or the occasional scrap of pancake offered by a diner. It’s not unheard of for a particularly bold rooster to hop onto the back of an unoccupied chair at YOUR table and crow loud to wake you up in the morning better than a triple espresso.
An incredibly colorful place to eat, Blue Heaven has been the home of a boxing ring (Ernest Hemingway sparred here), a bordello, a bookmaking parlor, and a cockfighting pit (heroic roosters are buried in a little graveyard behind the dining area), as well as inspiration for Jimmy Buffett’s song “Blue Heaven Rendezvous.” It is delightfully disheveled, casual in the extreme and one of Key West’s most evocative dining experiences.
Three meals a day are served. Dinner features such local treasures as an Island plate (vegetarian), on which you get a honking-big sliced Portobello mushroom wallowing in buttered curry sauce. And there are big, sweet blackened Key West shrimp in a Caribbean presentation, deglazed with beer and finished with butter. Jerk chicken and yellowtail snapper are good, too.
But breakfast is Blue Heaven’s forte. Starting at 8am, when neighborhood roosters are still greeting the sun with gusto, it is a special joy to sit out under the shade of the banyan trees and fork into banana pancakes with maple syrup or spoon into nutty-flavored granola with fresh fruit, and drink coffee from mugs inscribed with the house motto: Blue Heaven: you don’t have to die to get there.
One other reason we like early breakfast best is that seats usually are available. In the evenings and on weekends, the wait for a table can be maddening.