The Keys may be 4,282 miles from Dublin, but come March 17 patrons at every drinking establishment from Key West to Key Largo will be clad in green and raising toasts to friendships, sunsets, fishing, puppies, green food coloring and whatever else comes to mind. Jameson will fill glasses and drinking songs will float across warm breezes. Many restaurants and dinner cruises will serve up Irish fare, and a few will go a bit further.
Key Largo maintains two Irish traditions. March 11 brings the Upper Keys Irish Festival, with a parade, singing contest, live music, Irish dancing and plenty of corned beef, hosted at the the Caribbean Club (mile marker 104. Then on March 17 proper, Snappers Oceanfront Restaurant & Bar continues the party with their parade and celebration (mile marker 94.5)
The biggest party in Marathon lands in Key Colony Beach, with its annual parade, followed by, you guessed it, corned beef. Sparky’s Landing serves that up, but the party overflows from there into all of the nearby bars as well, turning the evening into one, big festive block party.
Lower Keys and Key West
Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge cuts straight to the libations with its annual St. Patrick’s Day dance and beer drinking contest. The rules: wear green, form teams of six, try to win (mile marker 33). Nearby Boondocks Grill goes Irish with food, music and mini golf (mile marker 27.5)
The biggest Keys’ Patty’s Day party, however, starts at mile marker zero. Every year Key West turns from “one human family” into one big Irish one. Not that anyone in Key West requires a holiday to drink and be merry, but this day comes as a fun excuse to bust out goofy hats, green Mardi Gras beads, green tutus, green… whatever hearts desire.
This year marks the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Bar Stroll, which is actually on Saturday, March 18. Walk from the Ocean to the Gulf, and stop at most of the bars in between. Local Rick Dostal started the beloved Key West charity event in 1979 and still diligently keeps it alive today. It was once a “run” between bars, but since running and chugging often ended with the beer back out on the sidewalk, it eventually became a stroll. A T-shirt and beer ticket is $30, and only an additional $10 for magic Irish boxer shorts. Don’t know what those are? Come by and find out!
For those who prefer a less-planned day, all that’s in order is a walk through Old Town. Merriment spills out of every bar along Duval, along with plenty of live music, dancing jigs and green drinks. There are three Irish pubs in town: McConnell’s Pub & Grill (900 Duval), Shanna Key (1900 Flagler Ave.) and the perpetually celebratory Irish Kevin’s Bar (211 Duval), all of whom up the traditional Irish food menu for the day. And don’t forget the sunset at Mallory Square — what better way to start off a lucky St. Patrick’s Day evening than by watching the elusive green flash at sunset.