We had found some information about Virgilio's on line and decided to try it the first night of our latest Key West trip. We had eaten elsewhere, and just stopped in for 1 drink and a short visit.
Our arrival time was 9pm and a band was just starting its setup. Our bartender, Denise, was working just her 3rd night at Virgilio's.
As we placed our order, my wife mentioned it was our 39th wedding anniversary, and the next thing we knew, we were presented with a chocolate mousse dessert to die for, with a giant sparkler!
I ordered my martini with very specific instructions.
It turns out that Denise is fast, efficient, congenial and a superb mixologist (not to mention extremely easy on the eyes – I hope that isn’t considered too sexist in this PC world)! She made me the very best Bombay Sapphire Dirty Martini I have ever had.
Apparently, she forwarded the information about our anniversary to the band, because the next thing we knew the band was acknowledging us, something they did repeatedly throughout the evening. People kept coming up and congratulating my wife, but not me – can’t seem to figure that one out – LOL.
The music started at 9:30. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Zack Seemiller, with lead guitarist and vocalist Caffeine Carl, put on quite a show. The locals obviously know their talents, and show up in droves, but they blew us away with one of the finest rock performances we have seen in a long time. I did not get the name of the drummer or base player. We have seen lots of live entertainment in Key West, but Zack and Carl are two people we will now go out of our way to see again.
That first night, our 1 martini, 1 hour visit stretched into 3 martinis and nearly 4 hours. We didn't get back to the Key west Harbor Inn until after 1am! I am not sure when the music stops, but we could easily have stayed all night!
Virgilio's has two bars. A liquor-only bar is located in a courtyard adjacent to the main room. No food is served there, so smoking is allowed. The inside bar serves food as well as beverages. I think they must use some sort of fans or smoke eliminators because even though we were seated just inside the main room with lots of smokers outside, I did not detect any smoke from the outer bar area. One person walked inside with a lit cigarette and was immediately told to leave.
Virgilio's is associated with/connected to La Trattoria. At the inside bar, they serve from the same menu. Once La Trattoria closes, the bar continues to serve bar food.
Not only is Denise superb at her in her work, she did something else I have never seen a bartender do before: she learned our names, not knowing whether we would ever return. I can understand that happening for locals after frequent visits, but not for out-of-towners who might just be passing through.
When we came back the next night, she greeted us like old friends!
Actually, without diminishing our excellent opinion of Denise, the other two bartenders, Thomas and Junior, were both very good also.
Denise had assured us the kitchen could modify menu items for my wife’s gluten-free requirements, so the next night we stopped in just for dinner. Well, and 1 drink. The gluten-free veal piccata, with oven roasted potatoes and green beans, was spectacular – better than anything we can find at the finest restaurants back home. I had pasta Bolognese that was out of this world.
Virgilio’s rotates performers, with different types of music, throughout the week (see their schedule at 6toejam.com and from there hit the links to look into the performers). We came again a couple of nights later and listened to Robert Douglas, who does Country, Rock, Pop and Blues. A superb performer!
On stage with him was a tall, lanky and very young lead guitarist who seemed so comfortable in his role. It was his youth that struck me: he did not look more than 18 or so. He reminded me of a very tall, very young Ron Howard with his boyish good looks. At break time I found out that Topher James was just 22!
In addition to playing at night, Topher works at The Grateful Guitar, repairing sick instruments and building new ones. At 22!
It was another evening of spectacular music!
If you get the chance, I highly recommend Virgilio’s for martinis, food and music.
To the management of Virgilio’s – do what you can to keep Thomas, Junior and especially Denise. We will be returning in May for the Songwriters’ Fesitval and cannot wait to see if Denise’s memory is long term. My bet is on her!
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