January 8, 2020

THERESA JAVA/Free Press
The view of Florida Bay was a big allure for restaurateur Tricia Johnson, who purchased Key Largo's Sundowners and adjacent restaurants last May.

THERESA JAVA/Free Press The view of Florida Bay was a big allure for restaurateur Tricia Johnson, who purchased Key Largo's Sundowners and adjacent restaurants last May.

KEY LARGO — It was the gleaming view of the Florida Bay that attracted Tricia Johnson to purchasing Sundowners. To her, great food is only made better by the views, and everyone loves watching the sunset.

“We have the best view of the sunset here,” she said. “And everyone wants to eat on the water.”

Johnson first started looking to purchase a waterfront restaurant four years ago when she moved to Key Largo. The purchase of the Sundowners complex took nearly two years to complete and was official last May. Since then Johnson has been making small changes and refining the menus of Sundowners and companion businesses, Señor Frijoles and Cactus Jack’s.

All three restaurant exteriors have been painted.

“We changed Señor Frijoles’ menu. We went through the last three years’ product mix and we scaled back the menu based on what was selling and what wasn’t. We also closed it to clean and paint the inside and we put a shade sail over the deck,” Johnson said.

“Sundowners has all new hurricane windows. We have 21 boat slips there now and added a tiki bar outside. As for CJ’s, we are going to replace the TVs with newer ones. We are working to transform it from being a late night bar into a sports bar.”

Stone crab claws have been added to Sundowners menu from October through May during stone crab season. Alternatively Jonah crab claws, which are similar to stone crabs, are offered year round.

Live music has been added to Sundowners from Thursday through Sunday and happy hour specials are offered weekdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

Sundowners also has plans for a sushi bar and staffing a sushi chef this spring, according to Johnson.

The changes that Johnson has made so far have increased business. The proverbial holiday season “hell week” that just passed brought consistently strong sales.

“We’ll take it,” she said of the influx of tourists between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Johnson has already enjoyed success at her other restaurants in the last decade. She, along with husband Matthew, own two well-established restaurants in Miami: Monty’s Raw Bar and Monty’s Sunset.

She has noted a few differences between the Miami and Keys locations.

“The summer season here has a swing with the boaters and there’s a dip in the fall. Miami is slower in the summer,” Johnson said. “It’s also harder for a lot of staff to find affordable housing here.”

Sundowners will continue to host an annual music fest and other events that the previous owners had initiated.

“This is our first venture into the Keys and we need to focus on getting these restaurants to run like well-oiled machines, and we will go from there,” Johnson said. “We want to be a part of the community. We want to keep going with all the traditions to show our appreciation of the locals.”

Sundowners, Cactus Jack’s and Señor Frijoles are located at 103900 Overseas Highway. For more information, visit sundownerskeylargo.com or find them on Facebook.

tjava@keysnews.com