“Watch that frigate bird,” yelled Capt. Mark Phillips! “He’s going to lead us to the fish.”
Quickly Capt. Phillips expertly maneuvered the 25-foot Contender offshore boat under the circling bird as boat owner, Kelly Bloomer, baited the unweighted trolling lines with recently-thawed ballyhoo minnows. Almost instantly, two of the rods were bent double and the reels were screaming. A pair of high-jumping mahi mahi (dolphin) could easily be seen as they fought for their lives 100 feet behind the boat.
Though it is said that eventually every seaman or angler worth his salt will spend time in Key West, which is a small island that dangles like a big toe between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the “Conch Republic”, which is now and has always been more like another country.
Since the first Spanish explorers took it away from the Seminole Indians, Key West has been inhabited by people of every type and almost every nationality, including pirates, fishermen, salvagers, ecologists, writers, poets, artists, national leaders, and many great and not so great seafaring men. Many of those, in the past and today, come here to forget or run away from something or someone, and are often only known by their first name.
Though Mark Phillips grew up here with a love for the sea and the multitude of fish that live in the fertile waters near Key West, he never had anything to hide. In fact, he first distinguished himself as a charter boat captain here before doing the same in the Pacific Ocean off Costa Rica, where he met, fell in love with, and married a beautiful American writer.
They decided to return to Key West to live and work. The setting and atmosphere of Key West was an excellent place for her to write about children and for Mark to continue his fishing. His success as an offshore captain, however, eventually led to another occupation.
Rather than waste some of the tasty fish that he was bringing ashore each day, Mark started packaging them immediately and sending them to friends around the country. Soon those friends had other friends asking for the packages of fresh fish, and Mark realized that he had started a business without pay. That’s when he decided to open an online company known as www.KeyWestSeafood.com, which became an immediate success.
It’s been more than three years since KeyWestSeafood.com was launched with the goal of providing the freshest premium seafood and other tropical treats from Key West. Though many things have changed as this business has grown, the basic premise has not.
Mark (center) and WorkersToday Mark Phillips provides extraordinary seafood, hand picked from the best of the day’s catch, then packed fresh and shipped overnight. His staff also carefully selects a delicious array of local sauces, seasonings, and marinades to compliment the seafood, and their Key Lime Pie is truly unforgettable. Each order is thoughtfully packaged and festively wrapped.
The success of the online business and his desire for perfectly prepared seafood to eat, forced Mark to also open a restaurant. Luckily, he found an ideal spot in a small alley between two other businesses that is on Duvall Street in the historical section of Key West.
The wonderful imagination of Mark Phillips has tastefully transformed this tiny nook into a secret, romantic, and very beautiful open-air garden with twelve cafe tables secluded among the gorgeous greenery. It is complete with the sights and sounds of fountains, stone angels, pagodas, and a pond with fish.
Instead of using fish that have been frozen or shipped in because they are not available at certain times of year near Key West, Phillips only offers types of fish that were caught that same day. Therefore, if the Mahi-Mahi are not schooling off Key West, the menu may offer tilefish, triggerfish, or cobia prepared with special herbs and sauces that make them melt in one’s mouth. The menu is always a pleasant surprise of the freshest fish that can be caught near Key West prepared to perfection by the best chefs in the “Conch Republic”!
Like many anglers and entrepreneurs before him, Mark Phillips has found his unique niche in the history of Key West. His love of the sea, his excellent fishing skills, and his desire to provide the great taste of fresh seafood done right has made him and his services popular throughout the Keys and much of the rest of the country!