There aren’t too many occasions where I can intentionally don my casual beach bum attire and plan for a night out.
Usually, I embrace my ripped jeans or shorts and worn band t-shirts just for hanging around my apartment or a jaunt to the actual beach.
This past Sunday, however, I had a reason to get comfy and through a couple random brands in some tousled, wavy hair. That reason was Skippers Smokehouse. Nick and I had purchased tickets for the Levon Helm and The Band Tribute Concert at Skippers, so we were prepared for a laid back night of food and tunes.
On first impression, I just laughed. But the dirt parking lot packed with cars hinted at something more, so off I went.
A ramshackle-looking exterior leads you to a maze of indoor and covered outdoor areas all surrounding a center courtyard that includes a stage and rows of bench seating over sandy earth. Large Florida Oak tree limbs hang over the center courtyard and are hung with miscellaneous adornments and long tails of Spanish moss.
It’s actually… kind of amazing. It brings me back to the bars and restaurants of Key West from my visit earlier this year, with only the roosters missing from the picture.
Once we had handed in our concert tickets and received our bright orange paper bracelets, we went in search of some eats.
I’m not going to lie, the gator on the menu threw me off a bit as my eye immediately identified the rather surprising offerings first. Once I figured out what “Basa” and “Wahoo” were though (both different types of white fish), I felt much more comfortable with the menu and was pleased to see so many options there for my pescatarian self to eat. No gator for this one.
I ended up giving the Blackened Wahoo Fish Sandwich a whirl after helping Nick devour a massive pile of onion rings (so tasty).
The fish was moist and covered in a tastebud-kicking rub, so it didn’t much else, just lettuce, tomato, a dash of tartar sauce and a soft bun. Yummy.
Once we had filled our bellies, we found our way back to the center performance courtyard, by way of the Oyster Bar (a close-quarters seated bar area, which may or may not serve oysters), and snagged one of the last open benches.
The bands were no one I was familiar with, but each had a distinctive style and chose very specific Levon Helm favorites to play for the crowd. Each band played 3-4 song sets and various hosts and band members got up to share their favorite Levon Helm stories with the crowd between sets.
It was these stories that gave you the greatest sense that you were in the midst of a true crowd of retired, acid-dropping, reminiscent hippies. Some forgot what they were talking about midway through their stories, while others would veer off on random tangents before circling back to “Man, those were the days” conclusions.
It all made it a very entertaining experience. Both Nick and I vowed we’d be returning to this surprising gem for future concerts.
Did I mention they have a reggae night? (Amazing!)
I even walked away a new fan of one of the bands that performed, Thomas Wynn & The Believers.
Have you discovered some surprising gems in your town?