By Bertha Morales
There are many restaurants to choose from when you decide to go out to dinner, or when you are away from home on vacation, or just on a weekend getaway. And I must admit, I have spent quite a good amount of money stimulating my palate over the years in some of the best restaurants worldwide, while wining and dining international clients, and through my own personal travel.
Now that I am reviewing and writing about restaurants on a regular basis, I am very careful what restaurants I choose to write about. While I am not a restaurant critic per say since I will only write about those restaurants that fit into our “Best” category, and there will be no mention of restaurants that did not make the cut, when and if I write about a specific restaurant, you can rest assured I really did like it.
One of those restaurants I really like is Tavern N Town in Key West. Sure, there may be other good restaurants in Key West. In fact, I have been to some of them. But what I found at Tavern N Town was a combination of essential characteristics I need to have in order to enjoy my dining experience 100%, and I was able to find that at Tavern N Town.
When we walked in at Tavern N Town there were two ladies at the front who were talking among themselves what seemed to be a work-related conversation. The moment they saw us, they immediately stopped their conversation and looked up at us with a smile on their face, and one of them said “Welcome to Tavern N Town”.
We were then escorted to our table and while walking in we noticed a pretty busy bar, everybody seemed to know each other. I figured it was an in-house group staying at the hotel – Key West Marriott Beach Hotel, where Tavern N Town is located. Everyone was enjoying themselves and I was able to overhear two ladies say how great their drinks were. Tavern N Town has a great selection of cocktails, beer and wine.
We were seated and offered menus. Charm and grace were displayed every step of the way from Roy, our server, who is probably one of the best servers I have encountered in recent time. He went over menu items, answered our questions with great detail and we went on to order. “Good choices”, Roy said.
I drink a lot of water and not having more water brought to the table when needed, refilling my tea, or asked if I want a second glass of wine when done, although I more often than not only have one glass of wine, is a pet peeve for me. Having my soup come out warm, rather than hot is a real problem for me. In fact, I want my hot food, really hot and what’s supposed to be cold, …well, yes - cold.
Tavern N Town did not skip a beat on any of the items on my (mental) list of conditions when selecting a restaurant to write about.
Right before we started dinner, people on the table near us who apparently overheard our conversation asked, “Are you with Forbes or the Travel Channel?”, and my response was “No, we wish!” And I went on to tell them we were with “CouplesBest.com, a blog, a travel-related online magazine, a new website with a network of travel writers and travel enthusiasts sharing their experiences on destinations, hotels, restaurants and places of interest”.
…But the best part about our conversation with this very pleasant couple was the fact that they told us they were locals, living in Key West for years and that in the last few years they had been going to Tavern N Town for dinner as often as they could. We were not yet served, and they said, “you will not be disappointed”. They were right!
Our dinner included a perfect crab cake, which we shared, and the best French Onion Soup I’ve had in a long time. Our entrees, Plancha Pink Shrimp & Sea Scallops with Bourbon Mashed Yams and the Lobster, Crab & Pink Shrimp Fettuccini were delicious, and this was so much food and so satisfying we couldn’t have dessert, instead we had a delicious Cappuccino.
I then took the time to speak with Dave Talpasz, Director of F&B Operations and Rodrigo Alvarez, the Executive Chef (who happens to be from Chile, where I have enjoyed some of the best prepared seafood anywhere). They were both very gracious and took the time to tell me a little bit about the food preparation.
I also made it a point to ask for a couple of the other team players, Aaron Yeoman, Restaurant Supervisor and Denis Lebedev, Director of Restaurants. I was able to watch all of them in action interacting with the team during a very busy time in the restaurant. I thanked them and commented on the great job done by our server and how great the food was.
Everyone I met was very gracious, and not just to us, but the rest of the guests. Certainly, everyone we saw seemed to be enjoying themselves, and of course we wanted to hear and see and so we discreetly paid attention, as we so often do when visiting a new restaurant, we may want to write about.
We left Tavern N Town knowing we would want to go back, just like the very nice local couple I had spoken to who said I wouldn’t be disappointed. We were not disappointed at all. And we will be back to this restaurant when we visit Key West again.
Stimulate your palate, stay in a nice hotel, enjoy your travels and be safe!
An Interview with Dave Talpasz, Director of Food & Beverage Operations at Tavern N Town Restaurant in Key West, Florida.
Q: Dave, we know you are the Director of Food & Beverage Operations for Tavern N Town, as well as for all the food and beverage outlets at Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel. But tell us - who are you really? How would you describe yourself?
A: Passionate. I have a passion for everything that I do. With regard to “work”, if I didn’t love what I do, I simply wouldn’t do it. You must be able to wake up every morning wanting to go to “work”, simply because life is too short. When I am not working, I surround myself with my two amazing children – my son, Nicholas (8) and my daughter, Sienna (4).
Q: You mentioned you have worked in the hospitality industry since you were 13 years old. What were you doing at 13?
A: At 13 years old, I was working at a Mexican restaurant in South Florida – bussing tables, bar backing, washing dishes, etc.
Q: How long have you been working for Tavern N Town and the Key West Marriott Beachside?
A: I moved to Key West and joined Spottswood Companies Inc. in May 2012.
Q: This is the first time you have worked in a restaurant within a hotel environment. What do you like about working in a hotel?
A: The fact that there are so many aspects of a hotel and everyone must work together to be the best, and keep the property running on “all cylinders”! We all share the common goal or culture, if you will, that WE must take care of each other, in order to take better care of OUR guests.
Q: During our visit, we had an opportunity to watch your team in action prior to introducing ourselves, and it was quite obvious that everybody was attentive to all guests’ needs in a very busy restaurant. We even struck a conversation with a couple of your regulars and feedback was very positive. Aside from carrying the Marriott flag, where we know there are always going to be high standards of service, how do you keep your restaurant employees motivated to offer great service?
A: One word – CULTURE. Everything starts “at the top” and works its way through every single associate, then to our guests. Everyone that decides to dine with us at Tavern N Town has options when choosing to go out to eat; WE simply thank them for choosing to dine with us by providing excellent food and excellent service; if one of these aspects lack, the other lacks just the same. We provide an experience on a (very important word) consistent basis. This is what keeps our guests coming back! Consistency – either makes or breaks you.
Q: We made it a point to meet some of your team players at the end of our evening and visit to Tavern N Town: Aaron - Restaurant Supervisor, Denis - Director of Restaurants, your amazing Executive Chef - Rodrigo Alvarez, and Roy - our fantastic server, who we were able to watch handling many other tables expeditiously and with great finesse. Tell us how long have each of these amazing professionals been working with your hotel and/or Tavern N Town?
A: Aaron Yeoman, Restaurant Supervisor - 3 years. Denis Lebedev, Director of Restaurants - 5 years. Rodrigo Alvarez, Executive Chef - 8 years. Roy Svenningsen, Server - 10 years. And I must include our Sous Chef, Chilet Vertus (who actually cooked for you) - 5 years.
Our congratulations to Sous Chef Chilet Vertus. He is definitely part of the reason we will visit Tavern & Town again in the future and recommend it to our readers and our friends.
Q: What is your favorite appetizer, entrée and dessert from the Tavern N Town menu?
A: Appetizer: Lemon Crusted Sea Scallop ~ Vermont white cheddar grits ~ chive butter. Entrée (2 Favorites): Seared Yellowfin Tuna ~ warm rice noodles ~ spinach ~ orange mustard sauce and Balsamic Braised Bison Ribs ~ bourbon mashed yams ~ marsala mushroom demi. Dessert: Havana Banana Split ~ coulis collage ~ vanilla ~ macadamia nut ice cream.
Q: Is there a favorite entrée for your guests, one that you find is ordered more often than the rest?
A: Signature Prime Rib ~ garlic mashed potatoes ~ asparagus ~ horseradish cream.
Oh wow, just reading this makes me want to go back already. I am sure some of our readers will order exactly what Mr. Dave Talpasz’s favorites are. I know I will next time
Q: What is the best guest compliment you have received in recent time?
A: A guest of one of the owners of the property was staying with us and had dinner the night before I met him in the morning for a meeting. “Dave, we had dinner last night and nobody knew who we were or that we were guests of the owner. Dinner last night was absolutely amazing; between the food and the impeccable service, everything was top notch. I have been coming for 5 years now, and just to see the sheer volume the restaurant does now versus 5 years ago is a true testament to your leadership.” To which I quickly answered (and always do) – “It is truly the TEAM that has made Tavern N Town what it is today!”
Take the credit Mr. Talpasz, you said it earlier trying to give the credit to others then, as well – “Everything starts “at the top” and works its way through every single associate. ." Congratulations!
Q: We noticed you have a private room. What is the maximum capacity for group dinner in Tavern N Town?
A: We have two private dining rooms; one that seats up to 18 and another that can accommodate parties up to 35 – 40.
Q: Are there any days you would suggest potential guests to visit when it is less busy, but still a great atmosphere?
A: Typically, our slower nights are Sunday, Monday and Wednesday evenings; however, we always recommend reservations - especially in season.
Q: What does hospitality mean to you?
A: On an everyday basis, treat others as you would want to be treated. Hospitality can mean so many different things to so many and most believe that it just pertains to the “industry”. Be kind, thankful, and helpful whenever an opportunity arises. At the end of the day, the two most important things to remember are: “Please & Thank You.”
I saw truly genuine smiles on all their faces, the true desire to please guests, and the professionalism in which they all carried themselves and interacted, not only with guests, but with each other. It was a pleasure to have met them all. ...And it was just a fantastic dining experience from arrival to departure.
Q: Is there anything else you would like our readers to learn about you and Tavern N Town?
A: We never settle. We always strive to be better. At Tavern N Town, we continue to strive every single day and night, to ensure that our guests remember their experience and leave them with the desire to come back! As for myself, the goal as a leader is to develop those that want to learn, to one day be better than I can ever train them to be – that to me is the ultimate reward of being a great leader.
3842 N Roosevelt Blvd
Key West, Florida 33040
I don't know about you, but some of us really have a pet peeve with certain situations when out to eat. Being served appetizer and entree at the same time, being served a lukewarm soup, not having your server pay attention to your needs: water refill, warming up your coffee, picking up dishes shortly after you're finished. All these things can make or break what you expected to be a pleasant breakfast, lunch or dinner. And of course, you do not expect white glove service in a corner deli, but you do expect common sense.
I often check Yelp for reviews, but I have received my share of bad service when I am rushed and forget to look, only to later learn I would not have visited that establishment had I checked before walking in.
They couldn't make life easier for us! So we recommend you get the mobile app and make life easier for yourself: https://www.yelp.com/mobile
I think I digressed from the initial intention of this... blog, post, note, whatever it is we do.
So here it is - Yelp's Top Places to Eat in the U.S. in 2019.
Check out Open Table's list of the most romantic restaurants in North America. Their list is based on an analysis of 12,000,000 plus reviews of more than 26,000 restaurants submitted by verified diners. Click below to see the entire list and check out the pictures of those we are placing in our bucket list. We would love to learn which ones you have visited and which ones you would place in your bucket list.