Relaxing at Hemingway’s Tavern
By Steven Hicks
You know the saying, “I know that place like the back of my hand”? And then, as the old joke goes, you notice something there you hadn’t seen before. Think of Hemingway’s Tavern as the restaurant version of that adage. Located in The Oaks shopping center, off Hibiscus Boulevard in Melbourne, set back in the trees, by the movie theater and Ben & Jerry’s, Hemingway’s is that proverbial place you may have never physically been, but in your mind you’ve been there before and you loved it – comfortable, welcoming, and really good.
The owners (whose other local endeavors include Meg O’Malleys and Long Doggers) have placed a great emphasis on “setting the table,” so to speak, by creating a tavern of the late 20s or early 30s, Ernest Hemingway’s era. The décor is eclectic like the Keys he loved. But it also has a European flair, with more than a little Cuba added to keep it fun. References to Papa Hemingway abound, and indeed, Hemingway’s Tavern is officially licensed by the Hemingway estate.
That it feels so warm and homey while having been open less than a year seems to be a contradiction, but Ernest Hemingway was as well, and the Tavern holds that contradiction dear. Need a quiet lunch to get away? It’s Hemingway’s. A place to take 10 friends to kick off a long weekend? Hemingway’s. Want to impress a client? It’s still Hemingway’s Tavern! Somehow it is shaping up to be all things to all people.
The tavern is run by Jimmy Tarasavage, with head chef Arthur Cox overseeing the kitchen. Walk in on any given afternoon, and you’ll find Jimmy at the bar going over orders for fresh local ingredients, that day’s schedules, or preparing the staff. Large monitors stream a live feed from Key West, alternating between Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street and the famous Southernmost Point buoy. Ceiling fans turn slowly overhead, creating that cool island vibe that just causes guest to relax a bit, it is that comfortable.
Island Tastes and Attitude
In Ernest Hemingway’s name, and honor, here lives what may be the best Cuban sandwich north of Miami (maybe even Havana), with real Cuban coffee to complement its flavors. But you’ll also find a hearty and tasty Niciose Salad and Zuppa Di Pesce in spicy diablo sauce. If your first lunch needs to be the Cuban, then your first dinner at Hemingway’s should probably be the Snapper Hemingway, a pan-fried fresh yellowtail fillet topped with a lump crab beurre blanc and shaved parmesan.
Besides great food, Hemingway’s Tavern has an exciting bar menu that includes THE best fresh margarita in town, made with fresh-squeezed juices every day (no sour mix in this refreshing classic). While the menu is broad, it doesn’t try to hit every food group like most places. According to Tarasavage, everything is prepared fresh daily, and mostly from scratch.
It will certainly bring out the writer in you — whether scribing a food review for a magazine or food blog or simply posting a comment on Facebook — and bring you back to this Tavern you’ve always known was here.
1800 W. Hibiscus Blvd.
Mon-Thu, 10:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Fri-Sat, 10:30 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Sun, 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.