It’s a weathered, open-air, waterfront spot known for conch fritters, fresh fish and Keys ambiance.
~When I first planned a trip to the Keys, I mentioned to Bob Rountree, my partner in Florida Rambler, that I planned to stop at Alabama Jack’s, an open-air bar and restaurant on Card Sound Road.
“That’s a biker bar,” Bob laughed.
My husband’s response: “Yeah, all those dangerous orthodontists and personal-injury lawyers out on their Harleys.” (My husband David rides a Royal Enfield, a low-powered vintage motorcycle, and the subject of his blog.)
Alabama Jack’s has been an outpost for more than 50 years. It is located on Card Sound Road, a toll-road through the mangrove swamps where Miami-Dade County meets Monroe County.
If you’re not in a hurry, Card Sound is a good way to start a Keys trip because you are plunged into a vivid blue and green world, marked periodically by the dazzling whiteness of a Great White heron. It’s a great place to acquire that Keys attitude.
While Card Sound used to be a fishing community, there’s little evidence of it now. It looks like wilderness, and the “Crocodile Crossing” signs aren’t a joke. This area is one of the rare breeding grounds of the American crocodile, whose population grew so much at the nearby Turkey Point nuclear plant that the territorial reptiles have spread out into the adjoining areas.
Alabama Jack’s sprawls along the side of the highway, built on pilings over a waterway lined with wobbly floating docks, in what it proudly calls “Downtown Card Sound.” Calling it weathered is like saying a hurricane is windy.
On our visit, 11:30 a.m. on a Saturday, there were a few motorcycles out front, but the big surprise was inside. When we asked to be seated, we were told all the waterfront tables were reserved.
As we took an alternative table, the truth emerged: Alabama Jack’s was the site of a corporate event.
Pennants for Volvo-Penta (they make boat engines) were strung throughout and huge yachts from Boca Raton were pulling up and unloading well-dressed folks who did not look like they belonged in a swamp.
Now I don’t plan to hold this against Alabama Jack’s: The place has a great Keys ambiance and their conch fritters and sweet potato fries were as outstanding as had been promised. Folks rave about the grouper sandwiches and crab cakes, too.
Many people — me in the past — drive by Alabama Jack’s because of the “biker bar” image. Well, don’t worry. The place is full of all sorts of people, including many families whose kids delight in feeding the fish over the railing.
In the afternoons, crowds build at Alabama Jack’s and country music is performed live on a small stage. The place closes at dusk, when the mosquitoes would make you the entree at Alabama Jack’s.
58000 Card Sound Road
Resources for planning a Florida Keys vacation:
- Mile marker guide with dozens of stops to help make the most of your drive south.
- Florida Keys wildlife: Places to see animals
- Tiki bars: Soak up the Keys atmosphere
- 12 great kayak outings in the Keys
- Top 10 pit stops on Overseas Highway
- Free beaches in the Florida Keys
Things to do in Key Largo and the Upper Keys:
- Everglades National Park in Homestead is a half-hour away, along with my favorite fruit stand, Robert Is Here.
- Our visitors guide to the Everglades can help you plan your trip.
- Key Largo is a half-hour away, with great snorkeling possibilities at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
- An interesting stop in Key Largo is the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center.
- Original African Queen boat in Key Largo