1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Jimbo's - a different sort of weird....

Friday, August 2, 2013

Jimbo's - a different sort of weird....

The 'restaurant' at Jimbo's
(This article was originally written for SAIL, but they chose not to use it - so here it is, for your enjoyment).

Jimbo’s Place. Getting there isn’t half the fun if you do it in anything much deeper than a canoe. It’s a nail-biting, unmarked channel that brings you in real close to shore, then sends you back to the middle, with nothing but a good depth sounder, a rising tide and luck between you and the bottom, because there are no markers.
I was fortunate in having visited briefly a few days prior to arriving in Gypsy Wind, my five foot draft Dufour 34, and gone out with some of the local boys for a ride on a shrimp boat. Jimbo’s son, Bobby, pointed out the way in for me. I’m not entirely sure I could - or would - have done it without his guidance. Still, approaching high tide you’ll find a minimum of six feet, provided you find the channel, and twelve feet in the very protected anchorage.
I ‘discovered’ Jimbo’s while waiting for a bus in downtown Miami. Two casually dressed guys on bicycles, wearing ball caps and one carrying a solar panel, pulled up to the bus stop. They had to be sailors and they were, on their way south to Marathon. 
John and Mike regaled me with tales of what an amazing place Jimbo’s was and I, being tired of No Name Harbour and the whole prissy Miami scene, decided then and there to visit this anomaly less than three miles as the crow flies from the glitz and glamour of downtown Miami.
Jimbo’s Place is a Miami oddity. To quote one visitor, “it’s a fire hazard, health hazard...but a fun place you must visit at least once”. 
Located on the northeast side of Virginia Key, Fisher Island is only a half mile away, although in attitude, it’s many light years distant. Watching the Melges 32s race offshore during Miami Race Week from the nearby beach was distinctly surreal.
Flashback to the 60s?
How can I put it? Jimbo’s makes Key West feel - well, normal. The bar, such as it is, is inside a corrugated steel container that might once have been hauled behind a transport truck.  In fact, it probably was. There are no seats, you pay for your beer and grab a seat at a picnic table outside with whoever is sitting there, like fellow sailors John and Mike. Or...whoever.
Over that weekend there was everything from travelers to transvestites, pretenders and poseurs, soup to nuts, or so it seemed, and a few I really couldn’t identify. Nor did I really want to.
You might see members of a swingers group that occasionally hangs out at Jimbo’s, or a group of frat boys out slumming with their pledges.  The Friday night both those groups were there together is the stuff that legends are made of I’m told. I’d love to provide the details I was given but, this is a family blog...
Photo shoot....
There were several young Cuban girls having glamor photos taken while I was there,  something to do with a rite of passage for Hispanic gals turning 15. They showed up in their sexiest clothes to have their photos taken by professionals, with lights, tripods, the whole setup no less - in front of a beat up dock, or a burned out bus, with pouty looks and sexy stances. Go figure. It was fun watching though. 

Most of the time, Jimbo’s is just people without attitudes or pre-conceived judgements on who you are. One of Jimbo’s regulars told me it’s the sixties, forty years too late, and that seemed pretty close to the truth. Even the duo playing on Sunday afternoon had a sixties feel, although their music ranged from classic to modern.
I had heard that the smoked fish was excellent, and it was. The conch fritters, cooked outdoors under an awning, are the best I’ve had anywhere, including the islands. Coupled with an ice cold Heineken, Jimbo’s is, as another regular told me, “the best place in Miami to get away from Miami.”

Of course, a gig like this wouldn't be complete without a cop in a Miami Dade police van showing up for a cold soda with friends hanging out there, listening to the band on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
It was quite the show.

Bobby, who ran the place, and myself
Two weeks after this article was written, Jimbos announced its closure. The iconic hangout, which in its day was a location for the movies Flipper, and Dexter, even Miami Vice, and horror sci-fi flick Island Crab, is no more, and we mourn its loss.