By Fred Gonzalez
The goods: Key Largo has its standard restaurant fare – usually a local dive that serves great seafood and has a terrific view. The Big Chill, located at mile marker 104 on the bay side, hopes to change that trend. Part upscale bistro, part sports bar, part outdoor lounge, The Big Chill has something for everyone.
When you walk in you’re met by a mammoth-sized bar that cries for you to order a martini or rum drink. A turn to your right leaves you looking at the raw bar, which features fresh shrimp and oysters every night. Directly behind the raw bar is one of three dining areas, each perfect for a reception or banquet, and each featuring its own unique décor. As David Tool, one of the principal owners of the restaurant said, “No two rooms are alike. The floors change, the furniture changes, the colors change. You won’t see any fish nets hanging here. Nothing that looks like Key Largo.” To the right of the raw bar is the sports bar, an upgrade from most in Key Largo, with a pair of pool tables, 30 42-inch HD screens and plenty to choose from on tap.
Outside is just as spectacular, with a sizeable dining deck overlooking an unobstructed view of the bay (perfect for watching sunsets). Just as impressive is the massive tiki bar, with four “slushee” drink machines (perfect for making a pina colada). There’s a lounge area adjacent to the swimming pool and surrounded by seven tiki huts that can be reserved ($250) for VIP service on a weekend afternoon. Each tiki hut comes with its own seating and television screens. Also outside is a stage for live bands, which Tool said will be either Southern rock or blues on most nights.
The grub: The Big Chill will be known for its large, tasty steaks. Its menu is meat-heavy, with everything from filets to prime rib. The restaurant boasts one of the largest meat coolers in the Keys, and Tool is convinced his steaks will be among the most savory in the area. Several sauces are available, including melted bleu cheese crumbles that we chose for our prime rib. The restaurant will also feature happy hour daily from 4-6 p.m. with $1 off all beers and house wines and two-for-one well drinks. Signature drinks are $8.25, our favorite being the Mango Mojito.
The Verdict: The Big Chill will be a solid choice for travelers to the Keys, the options around the swimming pool will be enticing to a youthful crowd and the location is perfect for a road trip from Miami (approximage time 45 minutes). However, the success of this restaurant may depend on the support of the locals and the quality of the staff’s service.
The Big Chill, MM 104 Bayside, Key Largo. Open Sun.-Thurs. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11:30 a.m.–midnight.
The Raw Bar at the Big Chill.