Driving along the Overseas Highway, you can’t miss the huge mermaid indicating you should turn into Lorelei’s, a waterfront bar that has everything you need for a good night. The location is everything: It’s convenient enough, on beautiful Islamorada, right in the middle of the Keys; and the bar itself is tucked back against the water. It’s on the west side, which gives it a perfect vantage point for sunsets. It feels like we’ve stumbled upon a secret place as we walk up and the music of a live band drifts through the air.
It’s first-come, first-served, and somehow we score a spot right at the bar. The sun is setting and the place is packed with folks on their second and third happy hour rounds (daily from 4-6 PM). We dive right in. I start with a Key lime piña colada that’s poured from one of those frozen drink machines. It is delicious. Its Graham cracker-dusted rim offsets the sweet Key lime and coconut. These things are dangerous.
Peppercorn-crusted tuna is lightly seared and very serious about those peppercorns. Each bite is spicy, especially when mixed with the light wasabi cream drizzled on the plate. Its sweet soy reduction helps a little, but it’s good to have that colada handy for offsetting the fire in your nostrils.
Tropical coconut shrimp are my favorite thing to eat. They come in a beach-friendly and slightly off putting black plastic bowl but are very tasty. Hand-battered with fresh, flaky coconut, the shrimps are huge and golden. Orange horseradish dipping sauce is fine, but they’re better solo.
Snapper tacos are nothing special, with shredded cheddar cheese, cabbage, tomatoes, whipped guacamole, and a lime mayo. The fish seems a bit dull.
Even if the food isn’t four-star, the views are spectacular. And cheap drinks are a big draw. There’s even a “Fortharita” that we didn’t get to on this visit. That’s a 20-ounce, half frozen, half on-the-rocks margarita for $11.
The best thing about Lorelei is the contagious care-free attitude that ripples through the crowd as the sun sets behind picturesque palm trees. Then, wonderfully, the band is supplanted by a magician, delighting both the kids and adults.