A February 8th article in the New York Times Travel Section caught our attention: In Key West, A Taste of Cuban Coffee Culture.  We had an upcoming visit to Key West on a 7- Day Western Caribbean cruise, and we kept the article in our trip planning file to check out some of the places mentioned for Cuban cafe con leche and Cuban sandwiches.

Traditional Cuban sandwich

The Traditional Cuban sandwich at Five Brothers in Key West, Florida.

In our pre-trip research for Key West, we learned that thousands of Cubans fled northward during the outbreak of the Ten Years’ War with Spain during 1868-1878. Many Cubans came to Key West, bringing with them the cigar making industry and Cuban food and culture. By 1873, Cubans made up the majority of the population in Key West. Don Vicente Martinez Ybor was influential in bringing the cigar industry to Key West, and then later moving the family operation to the Tampa area, to what later was renamed Ybor City.

While the cigar industry moved to Tampa, the Cuban cultural influences did not disappear from Key, and today you can easily immerse yourself in cafe con leche and Cuban food.

After clearing U.S. immigration to depart our cruise ship, we headed to the Truman Little White House for a brief stop before heading out further into Key West in search of a taste of Cuba.

5 Brothers Grocery & Sandwich ShopThe 5 Brothers Grocery & Sandwich Shop at the corner of Southard and Grinnell Streets was our first stop for cafe con leches. The small grocery store has a busy food and coffee counter, with utility workers, mothers with strollers, and a wide assortment of other locals waiting for their sandwiches and coffee late on a Saturday morning. Originally, we just ordered two cafe con leches, but they were so hot, sweet and silky, we decided we needed to some food to accompany them.

5 Brothers Grocery & Sandwich ShopWe ordered one Traditional Cuban sandwich to split and two ham croquettes. Five Brothers is a cash-only establishment.

5 Brothers Grocery & Sandwich ShopThe ham croquettes cost $.65 each. We also tried to order a side order of Bollos, but they did not have them available on the Saturday that we were in Key West.

We sat on the chairs outside the shop, sipped our coffees, ate our food, and took in the local scene in Key West.

This is not a light meal, so when we finished, we were ready for some more walking.  We headed in the direction of White Street, passing by the slightly spooky Key West Cemetery.

Sandy's Cafe, Key WestOn White Street, we found Sandy’s Cafe, which is basically a to-go window in front of a laundromat. By now, it was past high noon and quite warm, so we opted for the iced cafe con leche with a light amount of sugar. As you can see from the sign, Sandy’s is also cash-only. The Mexican food looked good, but we weren’t hungry.

Sandy's Cafe, Key WestAround to the side of Sandy’s, we peeked into the M & M Laundry. Doing your laundry here would have to include coffee from Sandy’s.

We continued down White Street in search of a third establishment mentioned by the New York Times: the White Street Sandwich Shop.

White Street Sandwich Shop, Key WestThere is no sign that lets you know you’ve arrived at The White Street Sandwich Shop, but Google maps assured us we were in the right spot. The window is again part of a laundromat. By now, we ordered our cafe con leche over ice with no sugar.  The guy behind the window that served us was funny.

There is no where here to sit, except perhaps in the laundry area; we did not check, just got our coffee to share and continued on our walk through Key West.

Key West, FloridaEventually, we made it to the water, near the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria Resort. The view above is from the pier accessed at the corner of Reynolds Street and Atlantic Blvd.

Key West, FloridaAs we continued our coffee-fueled walk, we encountered numerous roosters roaming in Key West.

Key West, FloridaEventually, we made our way to the Green Parrot Bar, known for its live music, but great for a low-key cold beer on a Saturday afternoon. We were back to a more touristy area of Key West.

A side benefit of our day exploring Key West’s Cuban coffee culture was the 16, 544 steps registered on my Fitbit, a good workout to offset that sweet coffee and heavy Cuban food.

If you want to explore a more local side of Key West, check out some or all of these Cuban coffee spots.

What’s your favorite stop in Key West? Please share in comments below.

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Are you planning your next vacation or weekend getaway?

Do you have a trip planning file?

For every trip we make, long or short, we create two trip planning files. 

paper trip planning files#1 is a regular file folder, labeled for the trip. 

In it we put printed copies of the following:

  • airline ticket confirmations
  • hotel reservation confirmations
  • cruise booking receipt, and printed confirmations of all shipboard credits, perks, and pre-purchased items
  • train tickets and schedules
  • newspaper, magazine and blog articles on things at our destination that peak our interest
  • tour and activity confirmations: for example, if we book a food tour and pay via PayPal, a printed copy of the confirmation goes in the file
  • maps and directions
  • travel insurance card and policy information – either specific policy for that trip, or our annual travel insurance plan
  • a copy of our passports
electronic trip planning files

Screen shot of an electronic trip planning file.

#2 is an electronic file with all of the same details

  • We make PDFs of key documents, articles, receipts, etc. mentioned in #1 above.
  • We include copies of all confirmation emails
  • Mr. Jones creates a quick a .txt “cheat” sheet file with the international 800 #s for each credit card we travel with, as well as the record locator of each flight and the international # of each airline (If you have a flight program or lose/can’t use a credit card, this is what you need for a quick contact with the company.)
  • We both use Dropbox cloud storage accounts, and we create a shared folder (NOTE: You can get a Dropbox Basic accounts free with 2 GB of space.)
  • We put all items in a shared Dropbox folder, named for our trip, which we can access via our laptops computers, iPads or iPhones

Taking the little extra time to make both a paper and electronic file folder pays off when we travel. 

  • Paper copies work best with taxi or limo drivers to see an address
  • Paper copies often work best in foreign countries where there may be a language barrier
  • Electronic copies work best when there is a dispute: i.e. we pre-paid for something not showing as paid. The paper copy is nice, but the electronic copy can be forwarded, if the front line customer service person needs it to rectify an issue
  • Paper copies can get lost; electronic copies shared via Dropbox or another cloud service can be pulled up anywhere with internet, and can be saved on an individual device for reading/use offline.
  • During our travels, we add receipts and information that we want to keep to our paper file, which goes in the file cabinet for future reference when we return from our trip.

Issues can and do come up when you travel.  Our two trip planning file system keeps us and our pre-trip notes organized, saves us from hassles, and streamlines our paperwork upon our return from travel.

How do you keep your trip planning details organized? Please share your ideas in comments below.

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28 Fun Facts About Anchorage, Alaska

March 25, 2015

Anchorage, Alaska is a special place for Mr. Jones. He was born and raised here; his father was in the original military contingent that helped build the Alaska Highway (ALCAN). We thought we’d share some favorite fun facts. 28 Fun Facts About Anchorage, Alaska 1. English explorer Captain James Cook is credited with first exploring and describing the […]

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The Master Chef’s Table on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam

March 24, 2015

When we sailed on a 7-Day Western Caribbean cruise on Holland America’s Nieuw Amsterdam, we decided to participate in the Master Chef’s dinner in the Pinnacle Grill. The event began in the Pinnacle Wine Bar at 6 pm, with appetizers and a glass of rose champagne. It was held on Saturday night, the last evening […]

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