When learning about all the different places to visit in Key West, Sloppy Joe’s Bar is probably one of the most legendary and traditional of all.
When I contacted Sloppy Joe’s, they recommended if you come with kids it would be better to come for lunch, at night it turns more into a live music nightclub with food. (Note after 9:30pm customers must be 21 years old).
Finally, for the first time in years, I was able to say it will be an adults night out (our mini-honeymoon) and we can enjoy live music and drinks.
Sloppy Joe’s is located on the fun side of Duval Street. When I say fun, this is where all main action takes place like bars, restaurants and tons of foot movement on the streets checking out all the shops.
We arrived to the restaurant at 6 pm and it was PACKED! I was so surprised and excited. It says to seat yourselves, but with all the commotion, I asked for help from the staff and they put us right in front of the stage. That evening it was a live music act by Pete and Wayne, which seemed to be a tradition in itself. They have been performing here for almost twenty years.
Maybe I don’t get out much, but they were so much fun! Their skits and songs were ingenious and racy. Exactly what I needed.
How To Enjoy Sloppy Joes Key West
When planning to come to Sloppy Joe’s, allot several hours. This is not the type of place to eat and run. And if they have a good act going on, you probably want to spend the full night there.
Even though they are best known for their Sloppy Joe sandwiches, which Ernest Hemingway recommended naming the place after, you don’t really come here to eat.
You come here for the yummy drinks and a great atmosphere.
The official beginning of Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the famous and infamous Key West saloon, was December 5, 1933–the day Prohibition was repealed. But it had already been around for a while.
The bar was destined to go through two name changes and a sudden change of location before it would become Sloppy Joe’s.
It’s first name was Joe Russell, but later became the Silver Slipper when a dance floor was added. But the name wasn’t well taken.
It was Hemingway, a favorite patron of Russell’s bar from the start, who encouraged its name change to Sloppy Joe’s.
Over the years Sloppy Joe’s, like rare Cuban rum, has gained a richness and flavor while essentially remaining unchanged
Sloppy Joe’s migrated across the street to its present location on May 5, 1937.
In true Key West fashion, the bar never actually closed during the transition–customers simply picked up their drinks and carried them, along with every piece of furniture in the place, down the block to 201 Duval Street.
The new Sloppy Joe’s boasted the longest bar in town.
When Hemingway left Key West in 1939, he left a number of personal effects stored in a house next to Sloppy Joe’s. After the house was sold, the effects were moved into the back room behind the bar at Sloppy’s.
Joe Russell died in 1941 of a heart attack. He was 53 years old.
Hemingway’s stuff remained there until 1962, a year after Hemingway’s death, when his widow opened the room and took possession of them. Some of the memorabilia was given to the then-owner of the bar to be displayed.
Hospitality remained the same over the years. Now, Sloppy Joe’s has three complementary divisions: food, beverage, and retail store.
More Fun Facts
Key West being a bastion of free thinkers even in the thirties, Prohibition was looked on as an amusing exercise dreamed up by the government.
Even Ernest Hemingway, who made Key West his home at the time, slipped over to Russell’s on occasion to buy illicit bottles of Scotch.
Hemingway once called himself a co-owner or silent partner in the enterprise.
- Hemingway met his third wife one drinking afternoon at Sloppy Joe’s – Martha Gellhorn.
Information to Visit Sloppy Joe’s
No reservations are taken, tables first come basis. You will always find a spot inside either by the bar, tables or standing room at the back of the restaurant.
If you only have a couple of nights to spend in Key West, make sure Sloppy Joe’s is on your list of priorities.
Address: 201 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040
Phone: (305) 294-5717