No trip to the Florida Keys begins properly without making a stop at Alabama Jack’s to sample the best conch fritters in the world. Unless you’re a seasoned veteran of many visits to the Keys, or someone told you about this special place, however, you might become just another tourist.
To find Alabama Jack’s, one has to go off the beaten track and down the “old road to the Keys”. The touristy crowd always travels south from Miami on U.S. Highway 1, but the adventuresome folks veer to the left just past the center of Florida City onto Card Sound Road. It’s a narrow drive between huge Australian pine trees that were toppled by hurricane Andrew. A brackish water canal runs along most of the right side of the road and saltwater marsh is on the left. Just before reaching the toll-bridge that spans the inland waterway between the mainland and Key Largo, one will notice an old boat sitting in front of a place with the prominent name, Alabama Jack’s, clearly visible. You have arrived, so loosen up, walk right in, and allow the feeling of being in the Florida Keys to enter your mind and body.
Alabama Jack’s is a familiar old landmark that was built on a floating barge in 1953. Today, it is frequented by plenty of Harley riders, weekend Goldwing cyclists, a few lost sunburned tourists, but mostly a happy crowd who just want to drink beer and kick up some dust.
Since it has often been used as a haven for skydivers, those who saw the Wesley Snipes movie “Drop Zone” should recognize the open-air rustic bar and picnic tables. Glimpses were also shown of Alabama Jack’s unique ceiling fans that are patterned after the noses on World War II fighter planes.
During most weekends, the air is filled with great sounds from a country band, and cloggers usually do their stomping on Sundays. Also, dancing opportunities abound for the soft shoe crowd.
Most of the food served at the bar is great, but the conch fritters are the best choice. Hard liquor is not on the menu, but several selections of beer and wine are offered. Corona, however, seems to taste better with the entrees at Alabama Jack’s than any other beverage.
A visit to this famous watering hole gives a visitor the proper perspective for entering the “Conch Republic”, especially if it’s the first time. One needs to leave the troubles of the past at the toll-bridge, and learn to relax in a laid back atmosphere where people only use first names, dress as they please, and don’t care who you were or what you did in the past.
Alabama Jack’s is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, but the most active times are on the weekends. No credit cards are accepted, so bring cash or travelers checks. For additional information, call (305) 248-8741.