July 30, 2017

Perfectly prepared, but pleasantly unpretentious.

The description applies not only to the food at Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar, but to the overall feel of its waterfront surroundings at the new Perry Hotel at Stock Island Marina Village on Shrimp Road.

With boat propellers lining the wall behind the front desk, reclaimed wood wherever possible, a handmade Cuban dominoes table built by a local craftsman and a patina of salt-worn metal throughout the property, The Perry Hotel and Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen offer more than a passing nod to the property’s past and present as a working waterfront.

One can’t help but feel connected to the hotel’s and restaurant’s namesake, Commodore Matthew Perry, who in 1822 sailed his Navy ship, the USS Shark, to the shores of Key West, planted the American flag in the sandy ground and claimed the islands for the still-growing United States. 

Since May 1, the 100-room Perry Hotel, with Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen just off the lobby, has welcomed guests seeking a saltier and perhaps more authentic Keys experience. 

“At Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar, everything is simple, comfortable and delicious, but in a way you’d never expect,” the website accurately states. “Order a few dishes, and you’ll want to try everything on the menu. The ingredients speak for themselves. It’s American Coastal Comfort Food.”

And things don’t get any more coastal than the Commodore Tower, a cold seafood combination of sizable Key West pink shrimp, sweet little oysters on the half shell, cold-poached lobster tails, yellowtail snapper ceviche and tuna tartare. it’s all served in an classically cool, ice-filled metal tackle box, complete with the expandable, stacking shelves, such as those that would have lined the docks of Key West and Stock Island before plastic replaced everything.

“These are the real thing,” said Brad Weiser, one of the partners in the Stock Island Marina Village development project that includes the 100-room hotel, restaurant, 220-slip marina, liveaboard docks, dog park, and a craft rum distillery that’s still to come. “The tackle boxes aren’t even newly made to look old. We found the real things on eBay.”

Everything is authentic at Matt’s, including the locally caught yellowtail snapper fish tacos. 

The coastal and comfortable elements combine perfectly in dishes such as crab beignets, oysters rockefeller and grouper served with a crawfish thyme butter.

“The irony of restaurants is that great food can be destroyed by bad service, while mediocre food can be saved by excellent service,” General Manager Mike Hartman said over the Commodore Tower of seafood. “But we’ve been blessed with both excellent food and an amazing staff.”

As if on cue, server Kyle Hogue appeared to offer a mouth-watering description of the dry-aged sirloin atop a spicy chipotle sauce drizzled artistically around the plate. 

Yes, at The Perry Hotel and Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar, even the staff is perfectly prepared and pleasantly unpretentious. And they’re pet-friendly. It all just works. Rediscover the old Key West on a renewed part of Stock Island. 

Dinner is served from 6 to 10 p.m. while lunch is available at the poolside Salty Oyster Dockside Bar & Grill. Locals are welcome to use the hotel pool with the purchase of a $20 day pass that includes your first adult beverage.

For more information, go to perrykeywest.com or just head to Shrimp Road, where everything is always coastal, comfortable, and — thanks to Commodore Perry — American.

mmiles@keysnews.com