February 6, 2019

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Owner and head chef Arthur Paterson brings an authentic taste of the Caribbean to Arthur's Island Kitchen, open to the public at the Upper Keys VFW Post at mile marker 102.1 in Key Largo.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Owner and head chef Arthur Paterson brings an authentic taste of the Caribbean to Arthur's Island Kitchen, open to the public at the Upper Keys VFW Post at mile marker 102.1 in Key Largo.

KEY LARGO — After coaching soccer, Arthur Paterson has returned to cooking supper.

“Cooking was always a passion for me. It still is,” said Paterson, now owner and head chef at Arthur’s Island Kitchen, located at the Upper Keys VFW Post 10211.

In recent years, Paterson was best known locally as the girls soccer coach at Coral Shores High School and as a respected personal trainer for his favorite sport.

But he previously built a long Upper Keys career as a chef for several popular restaurants.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars building at 102255 Overseas Highway underwent a complete refurbishing in late 2018, which includes the open-to-all restaurant featuring Paterson’s “Floribbean” menu.

“The food is outstanding, really good,” Post Commander Dennis Ward said. “We’re very happy with Mr. Paterson being here. He’s a great chef and he truly cares about our veterans.”

A former standout soccer player in his native Grenada, Paterson learned his culinary skills at the Spice Island Inn, one of his home island’s premier resorts. Winning an apprenticeship was highly competitive.

“You could be there for years before they’d even let you make a salad,” he laughed.

Paterson worked on cruise ships and eventually moved to Cocoa Beach. He then was recruited by Henry Rosenthal to come work at the Green Turtle Inn in Islamorada.

“When I came down, it reminded me so much of my native country,” Paterson said. “That’s why I’ve been here for 30 years.”

He later worked at spots including Whale Harbor, the Ocean View Inn and Sports Pub, and the Plantation Key nursing home. Often he had to schedule around his soccer commitments.

“The opportunity came up for a partnership with the VFW. They had a vision for a change, so it’s a win for both of us,” Paterson said. “They had a lot of things already in place, so it was easier for me to get something going. And they get some amazing food.”

The menu includes Caribbean specialties like curry chicken or goat, Guyanese fish stew, Trinidadian macaroni pie, stews with conch or simmered oxtail, and Grenadian roti (a flatbread wrapped around a stew of curry chicken or goat).

Paterson recommends his Captains Catch Matecumbe Style, an $18.95 entree with scallops, shrimp, tomatoes, mushrooms and artichokes in key lime sauce.

An array of steak and chicken entrees are offered, with variations on the fish catch of the day and lobster or shrimp specialties. Patrons can bring their own catch for preparation.

Featured sandwiches offer burgers, wraps, Cuban sandwiches and a shrimp po’ boy. A soup selection lists Caribbean seafood chowder and “calalloo soup, a leafy soup made from the calallo plant” from West Africa.

Conch ceviche and wings are among the appetizers. Meal salads can be ordered with shrimp or grilled or blackened chicken. A children’s menu is available.

After last weekend’s Super Bowl party — “It’s gonna be gala!” Paterson promised a group making reservations — he started work on the upcoming Valentine’s Day Special. For $100, a couple will enjoy twin filet mignon and lobster, along with wine and flowers for the ladies.

Regular events planned are Italian Night on Thursdays with a seven-course meal; live music on Friday nights with local entertainers including Alan Truesdell; and reggae from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays with Yishka performing.

The VFW post shares in profits from the restaurant. Veterans, active military and local first responders get discount prices.

“Everything is done with them in mind,” Paterson said.

Ward credited post Quartermaster Jason Kendall, member Russ Ellis and Paterson “for basically putting the place together.”

Arthur’s Island Kitchen hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, call 305-922-2332.

kwadlow@keysnews.com