History in a Strip Mall – Review of CoCo’s Kitchen

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Our nearest full grocery store is a few miles up the road on a different island. If you didn’t know where it was, you would never find it off US-1. Situated between two roads that form a point, a trip to this little shopping center feels more like entering the everglades than locating one of the area’s oldest strip malls. In fact, it butts up against a Key Deer habitat. If you visit Big Pine Key, it is more than likely that you’ll see one of the mini-key deer which are protected and endangered.

This particular shopping center has been around since my family lived here in the 80s if not longer. My mother tells me that she used to take my brother and I to this very grocery store where often the checking-out process took so long that she’d have to replace the ice cream which had all but melted. The check out process hasn’t sped up a lot since then, but Mr. Foodie and I enjoy chatting with the old ladies who run the day shift. As I’ve mentioned, our grocery store is going through a renovation which it desperately needed, but which also causes some problems for us since everything is moved around the store every time we visit. They are often out of things we need. In any case, each trip there has been a bit of adventure.

The other day we had several errands to run in that center, so we began with a trip to CoCo’s Kitchen which is a small, unassuming storefront next to the grocery store, but with claims to being a local favorite since 1969. It is tiny inside, but very clean and cozy with art on the walls and helpful signage. You can order your food to go at the counter or sit down. Everything on the menu is shockingly inexpensive. $3.50 omlettes, $4.00 breakfast plates. And free refills. They have daily specials, and a number of cuban-inspired dishes like Cuban French Toast which was unfortunately not available the day we were there. CoCo’s is open for breakfast, then lunch, and then they take a break and reopen for dinner. Mr. Foodie and I ordered two basic breakfast platters both of which were fine. Everything was cooked well and the portions were just right.

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Yes, that’s buttered cuban bread which came w/ our breakfast plates – #yum

We want to come back and try some of their lunch specials. If you’re passing through Big Pine Key and want to visit a local favorite, give this one a shot.

While we were there, Mr. Foodie and I also got groceries and had to wait 20 minutes at the checkout when the system suddenly failed and all the lanes were stalled. We didn’t mind – we just chit-chatted with the ladies about the renovation. They felt sorry for us, so they gave us an apple on the house lol We also swung into the tiny library located adjacent to the grocery store between a Chinese restaurant and the Tax Collector’s office because Mr. Foodie and I finally decided to get library cards! Though the library is small, they  have an impressive food writing section, so I was happy.

Later Mr. Foodie and I decided to explore our surroundings a bit more, so we drove out to the very tip of our island where we heard there was an old wooden bridge/dock still standing. What I thought would be a rather short jaunt to the shoreline turned into quite a trek over rocky coral, around mosquito-filled puddles, and through a mess of mangroves. Mr. Foodie was losing confidence in my plan with every step and we definitely heard a variety of animal sounds coming from the shrubs, but we forged ahead. So glad we did! IMG_20160818_192346.jpg

We found the old wood dock and climbed up the ladder to get a view of the sunset. We were not alone as another couple had the same idea. We were excited to finally meet another young couple, but sad to learn they were leaving the area the very next day. We still had a fun time chatting and watching the rather amazing sunset. They came prepared with a cooler and bug spray. We vowed to do the same next time.

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When we got home we jumped in the jacuzzi for a bit so  Mr. Foodie could see the stars come out – they can be quite brilliant down here thanks to the limited light pollution. Because the days are still so long, we didn’t stay until it was pitch dark, but we did end up seeing many of the brightest constellations before heading in. Not a bad day in paradise!

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