Last updated on August 28th, 2019 at 11:16 am

Alabama Jacks overlooks a canal lined with mangroves next door to a wildlife refuge. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Alabama Jacks overlooks a canal lined with mangroves next door to a wildlife refuge. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

For many, it’s the traditional way to start a Florida Keys experience: take lonely, wild Card Sound Road from Homestead to Key Largo and stop at Alabama Jacks for conch fritters on the way.

Alabama Jacks has been an outpost in this mosquito-filled crocodile habitat since 1947.

It’s the sort of dive bar and restaurant that would get mentioned in a Jimmy Buffett song. Alabama Jacks is long on atmosphere and short on pretense. We’re talking plastic utensils and a roll of paper towels on the table.

Conch fritters and all things fried on the menu at Alabama Jacks near Key Largo. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Conch fritters and all things fried on the menu at Alabama Jacks near Key Largo. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

But the view overlooking a canal and the mangroves is beautiful and the prettiest red-wing blackbirds flit around the railing looking for a fallen French fry. In the water, hundreds of fish are visible circling with similar ambitions.  It’s decorated with license plates and it looks like the next hurricane will blow this shack away. Of course, it has survived dozens.

Alabama Jack’s attracts motorcyclists, but this is a family-friendly fish shack.

We stopped here recently in order to update the Florida Rambler story about Alabama Jacks.

If you’ve been around as long as Alabama Jacks, half the world says “it’s not what it used to be.”

I can’t vouch for what it was like in the 1950s, but if you stopped at the restaurant/bar a decade ago, I can assure you: it hasn’t changed much. And that’s a good thing.

Vintage sign at Alabama Jacks on Card Sound Road. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Don’t stop at Alabama Jacks because of the food. My conch fritters (for which Alabama Jacks is famous) were OK; the sweet potato fries were good. My husband really liked his mahi reuben.

No, stop here just because it’s authentic, and the world is full of places on the side of busy suburban highways that are trying to capture instantly the 70-year-old patina and ambiance that Alabama Jacks comes by naturally.

You can’t compete with the real deal, which is what Alabama Jacks is. It’s shabby and it’s proud.

Alabama Jacks is located in what used to be the fishing community of Card Sound. It’s right next to the toll booth for Card Sound Road, which is now your ordinary Sun Pass station. Until 2017, there was a human being stationed there, a retro touch that is now a thing of the past. The toll is $1.50.

The best time to experience Alabama Jacks is on the weekends when a live honky tonk band “The Card Sound Machine” plays from 2 to 5 p.m. and the place fills up with cloggers and dancers and day trippers from Miami. (The band has been playing weekends for about 30 years.)  Motorcycles line up out front and you may have to wait for a table and/or food.

The restaurant is completely open air, and thus closes at dusk, when the mosquitos would drive you away anyway. (Also, there are no lights on Card Sound Road.)

Red-wing blackbirds make pretty beggars at Alabama Jacks. (Photo: David Blasco)
Red-wing blackbirds make pretty beggars at Alabama Jacks. (Photo: David Blasco)

Alabama Jacks was named one of the manliest restaurants in America by the Travel Channel – but I don’t hold that against it.

Favorites include the conch chowder, conch fritters, smoked fish spread, shrimp-and-crab spring rolls, a variety of sandwiches and seafood platters.

Here’s what folks say about it on Yelp. They love it on TripAdvisor.

Alabama Jack’s
58000 Card Sound Road
Homestead
305-248-8741

 

Sign welcoming motorcycles at Alabama Jacks. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Sign welcoming motorcycles at Alabama Jacks. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Resources for planning a Florida Keys vacation:

Things to do in Key Largo and the Upper Keys:

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Bonnie,
    Here in the Fl. Keys we are quite happy with our unique restaurants amongst other things, so much so that we pay much higher prices to live here. Not sure if you’ve priced any homes here or groceries, etc. Keys residents like my self are more than happy for nonresidents to stay elsewhere. Our traffic is unreal with mainlanders and everyone else coming and filling our streets as well as our waters, and leaving their trash behind. So we will keep our mosquitos and restaurants and for those of you who don’t like them please do not come here we are over loaded with tourist.

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