DiscoverBackyards of Key West Podcast with Mark Baratto
Backyards of Key West Podcast with Mark Baratto

Backyards of Key West Podcast with Mark Baratto

Author: Mark Baratto

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Welcome to Key West – Paradise USA

As you enter the island of Key West, these words are the first thing you see in big bold letters on the famed ‘Welcome to Key West’ sign.

Whether it be the incredible sunrises or sunsets (we get both here), the charming Conch houses hidden around every turn, the chickens running wild, the flat ocean for miles or the island feel, it’s really the people that make Key West what it is.

If you have ever wondered what people do around here or wanted to know the story behind a restaurant, bar or local business, this is exactly why we started the Backyards of Key West Podcast. We are going to take you behind the scenes, so we can bring you the stories behind what makes Key West so magical, and how they juggle business life with Island life.

So sit back and relax and enjoy the chill vibes!
65 Episodes
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Grant Portier, the owner and chef of Poké In the Rear, an Asian-themed restaurant in its open-air backside bar in the famed Aquaplex. We talk about where he came up with the idea for the restaurant, and how he is taking a grassroots word of mouth approach to marketing. More on Poké In The Rear Some like it a little, others like it a lot! Poké, Naan Bread Pizza, Wings, and things... Instagram: Facebook: Website (coming soon): 504 Angela St, Key West, FL 33040 tel: +1-561-254-6798 Hours: 11:30 AM - 12:00 AM
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Johnna, one of the owners of Cruisin' Tikis, and Captain Ryan. Johnna tells her story of going from the retired life to the Tiki life while actually on one of their famed Tikis. More on Cruisin' Tikis Key West ENJOY A TIKI CRUISE IN BEAUTIFUL KEY WEST, FLORIDACruisin' Tikis Key West offers a variety of cruises from 1 - 3 hours with THREE locations to choose from. We  also offer private parties and special events including but not limited to: Birthday Parties Bachelor / Bachelorette Parties Engagements Retirement Parties Sunset Cruises Sandbar Cruises  Corporate retreats and events Let your imagination design your TIKI CRUISE today! Want to get married on a Tiki Boat? Two of our captains are officiates... so if you are looking for a laid back tiki wedding let us know. Or contact Ana at Key West Wedding Day to help design your perfect wedding package. We provide bottled water, sodas, cups, a cooler with ice, blender, Bluetooth Radio, and  USCG Certified captain! All of our cruises are BYOB, guests are permitted to bring the alcoholic beverage of their choice along with food or snacks. Website: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: COVID - 19 We are adhering to the guidelines provided to us by the CDC, State of Florida, as well as the county/city. To reduce the spread of COVID - 19 enhanced safety measures will be put in place for out crew and guests. All  guests will have temperature checks upon arrival. If an individual's temperature is 100.4 °F or higher, they will not be permitted to board. Social distancing procedures will be in place throughout the experience. Hand sanitizer will be available before, during, and after each trip.  We will be diligent about disinfecting all frequently touched objects. Guests are required to wear masks to and from the tikis (while waiting on the dock, walking down the dock, and leaving the dock).
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with artists Marianne van den Broek to talk about her amazing sand sculptures found around town in Key West. We talk about how Marianne began her journey as a sand sculptor, and how she turned a "summer job" into a passion project with a full-time residence at Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. More on Just Sand and Water Marianne van den Broek has been a sand sculptor since 1999. She has participated in many events around the world, working with different sculptors, learning from the best and continues to work with awesome people. She moved from the Netherlands to Key West in 2005 and now runs her own sand sculpting business out of Key West Florida. In addition to being the artist in residence for the Casa Marina Resort in Key West, she is a part-time educator and serves as the vice-chair on the City of Key West's Art in Public Places Board. She loves being on the water and is a charter boat captain on the side. Website: Instagram: Facebook:
The Gallery on Greene

The Gallery on Greene


In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Nance Frank, the director of the Gallery on Greene. This is perfect for all you Key West history buffs out there.  We dive deep into the history of Key West homes, the people and the art. We recorded this episode in the fall, before COVID-19 lockdown happened.  I am pleased to say that The Gallery on Green is fully operational and taking visitors on a daily basis. More on The Gallery on Greene The Gallery on Greene has consistently fomented curatorial and artistic practice through ambitious exhibitions programs, created in close collaboration with its artists with museums from New York, MCNY, AFAM, SSSM to Havana's National Museum of Fine Art. Our philosophy: The style pendulum swung away from overly furnished and cluttered interiors some time ago. The immediate reaction was one of clinical simplicity. We are now experiencing a hugely exciting period where key pieces of fine art or antiques are used to a stunning effect within contemporary interiors. This juxtaposition makes for an emerging sophisticated style, next to no other.  Now we can appreciate the best of both worlds. With the growing sophistication of the general public, people are looking more into expressing themselves at home than ever before. Comfort, style, quality, beauty, technology and investment are all keywords mentioned when furnishing and decorating a new home. The Gallery on Greene is ideally positioned to advise on the acquisition of such integral items to enhance your living space and daily lives. Website: Instagram: Facebook: Gallery On Greene 606 Greene Street Key West, FL 33040 (305) 304.2323 Havana - 011.535.413.362 Open 10am - 6pm Daily
Salt Island Provisions

Salt Island Provisions


In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with the owner of Salt Island Provisions, Laura Richardson. We talk about the origin story or Salt Island Provisions, how this island favorite is a hub for everything local; from salt to wine to honey to art. This spot is a MUST for every tourist and local alike! **Note that his episode was recorded before the COVID-19 lockdown, but I am pleased to say that Salt is still running at full steam! More on Salt Island Provisions SALT Island Provisions is a purveyor of fine goods handcrafted in and sourced from the Florida Keys. We offer the indigenous essences of sweet and savory: wild honey and sea salt, harvested in small batches from the sun-kissed islands. We believe in goods that are simple by nature and speak to the ‘spirit of place.’ It is our business to celebrate our island home by featuring local artists and artisans.  Website: Instagram: Facebook: Yelp: 830 Fleming Street   Key West, FL 305-517-6088 Open 10am - 4pm Daily
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Chief TuTu wearer, Jenn Stefanacci. We talk about how this Jersey girl made her way down to the Conch Republic and how she created her cult-classic bar, 22&Co. This was one of my favorite episodes I did, not only because of how cool 22&Co is but how cool Jenn is... bringing that NJ flavor all the way south. **NOTE** This episode was recorded before the pandemic, so hours are changed. As of September 10th, 2020 - their hours are: Monday - Thursday = 4pm - 12ish Friday & Saturday = 2pm - LATE Sunday = 12pm - LATE Light snacks served at the bar. More on 22&Co Fresh cocktails. Fun bartenders. Tutus. Flamingos. Unicorns. ...Need we say more? 22&Co Key West 504 Angela Street Key West, FL 33040 (305) 394-7244 Website: Instagram: Facebook:
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Scott, the owner of Bluesail Vacation Yachts & Sailing Academy. We talk about how he made the shift from working in Chicago to running a full-time business in Key West and what happened to his business when the Corona Virus struck. More on Bluesail Vacation Yachts Website: YouTube: Instagram: More information: 7005 Shrimp Road Key West, FL  33040 (813) 601-5243
In this episode, Mark Baratto sings down with musician Joal Rush to talk about his musical origin story (more than 20 years ago), the time he puts into his music, and where he is headed. We recorded this podcast for the Songwriters Podcast many months before the COVID-19 lockdown. More on Joal Rush Born & raised in Camden, South Carolina, Joal Rush began his musical quest at an early age(singing, drumming, playing guitar & bass, as well as dabbling on piano), and has been performing live for the past two decades, sharing the stage with nationally renowned artists Zac Brown Band, Jason Isbell, Darius Rucker, Lee Brice, Shovels & Rope, Sister Hazel, Drivin' n Cryin', Edwin McCain, Jay Clifford(Jump, Little Children), Jakob Dylan, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Styx, and Foreigner, while releasing a handful of albums along the way(Delightful Things, Imagination, Wares). Rush relocated to Nashville, TN in the summer of 2014, to focus on writing/recording the songs for his upcoming album, Kaleidoscope Emotions. Joal Rush uniquely blends influences of Folk/Pop/Rock & Soul, to create a style all his own. Website: Instagram: Facebook:  YouTube:
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with the co-owner of The Green Pineapple at the Perry Hotel, Rebecca Schwab-Talpas. We talk about her career start in retail, why she decided to open up the shop at the Perry, her yoga teachings, and her cookbook club :). This episode was recorded months before COVID lockdown and since then, Rebecca has taken most of her yoga classes online, so make sure to check out her schedule The Green Pineapple at the Perry Hotel The Green Pineapple offers a lovely blend of goods and services to help you feel happy and healthier. Our lifestyle boutiques feature men’s and women’s apparel, handmade jewelry, accessories and much more. Address The Perry Hotel 7001 Shrimp Rd, Key West, FL 33040 Facebook: Instagram: More on Rebecca Schwab-Talpas Rebecca is the owner of Salute to the Sol and has been teaching and practicing yoga in the Florida Keys since 2015. She is a certified yoga instructor, E-RYT 200, YACEP with Yoga Alliance. She enjoys creating an environment that allows you to tap into your inner and outer strength and flexibility. Although alignment is central to her classes, the joy of a yoga practice is that it is not taken too seriously. Smiling from the heart is where it is at! Website: Instagram: Facebook: Virtual Yoga Classes:
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with local artist Jasmine Jones. We talk about how she got started and how she is making a life for herself as an extremely talented artist. This interview was recorded before the March 2020 shutdown, so Jasmine's classes are on hold for right now, but all her amazing art is for sale! Shop: More on Jasmin Jones Hi there! My name is Jasmine Jones, I’m an abstract painter based out of Key West, Florida. I was born and raised here in Key West, growing up immersed in color. From the vibrant flora and fauna that thrive on the island, to the picturesque sunsets and ocean seascapes, there was always plenty for me to draw as a kid. The colors that occur naturally in the Florida Keys have been my main inspiration for painting. Whether it’s in the ocean or in the sky, the way the colors seamlessly blend and combine to create infinite and unique combinations is my favorite part of living in paradise. I create my artwork using a combination of alcohol inks, acrylic paint and resin layers to create a body of work with a greater depth than traditional two-dimensional paintings. Each piece I create is an original work of art, I do not make any prints of my paintings. I believe a painting should be as unique as the collector. Website: Instagram:
In this part 2 episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Jenny Lorenz, the Director of Marketing at The Perry Hotel Key West. We go behind the curtain in this interview, to get a first-hand experience of what all hotels had to go through during the pandemic, all the steps The Perry is taking to put their customers first, and how they continue to make changes for future growth. More on The Perry Hotel Key West Inspired by Commodore Perry, the father of the United States Navy, The Perry Hotel's easy, laid-back atmosphere has been thoughtfully cultivated to stay true to the seafaring roots of Old Key West. Discover a place transformed and a history reclaimed at the award-winning Perry Hotel, breathing new life into our beloved Stock Island. Some Hotel Amenities 100 guest rooms Water views all around Two restaurants, including pool/dockside bar Indoor/outdoor dining Waterfront swimming pool Outdoor fire pits Direct access to marina and ocean Water activities available onsite Dog-friendly hotel & rooms Two dog parks Local artist curations and studios On-site scooter & bike rentals Green Pineapple Boutique ADA Accessible Features Website: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: Location: 7001 Shrimp Road Key West, FL 33040  +1 (305) 296-1717  
In this episode of the podcast, Mark Baratto sits down with the Kiteboarder, Chef, and owner/creator of the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, Paul Menta. We talk about how Paul took a number of chances when creating his rum distillery and how his "failures" help him find success. In a post-COVID-19 world, Paul saw how hand sanitizer was hard to come by, so made his own product mixing 140 proof alcohol with aloe and transmission gel, used in ultrasounds. Menta gave away the 3-oz bottles around town to service workers, retailers, mail carriers, and anyone else hard at work in Key West during high season for tourists. Key West First Legal Rum Distillery WHAT IS CHEF DISTILLED? For centuries, Distillers have been making the sweet libation...Rum.  Some legal, some not so legal. One common task shared by rum Distillers and Chefs alike is cooking sugar cane in big kettles or "stills." We are Chefs first and Distillers second, so our process is called Chef Distilled! This combination of skill brings out the best flavors in our original white rums, made with Florida sugar cane and with infusions of Coconut, Vanilla Creme Brulee, and Real Key Lime. Our 6 times distilled specialty rums are sure to twist your taste buds on an adventure! We are still "Chefs," so we jar rum cakes, fresh fruits, and savory vegetables. Why is our craft different, you ask?  Because homemade has no preservatives! Taste History at the First-Ever Legal Rum Distillery in Key West Fla.  Chef Distilled means a whole new way to craft food and drink! YouTube: Website: Instagram: Facebook: Location & Contact Infor 105 Simonton Street Key West FLA 33040 T  /  305-294-1441      
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Square Grouper creator and owner Lynn Bell. We talk about how they got started, their expanding location plan, and how they are navigating the restaurant business in a new COVID-19 environment. More on The Square Grouper Bar & Grill The Square Grouper Bar and Grill is located at MM 22.5 Oceanside on Cudjoe Key, Florida. One of the Florida Keys most popular destinations for unforgettable fresh & local seafood, with an emphasis on consistency and quality. Lynn and her staff have a dedication to excellence paired with a focus on detail which has defined the Square Grouper Bar and Grill as a must-visit restaurant.  Come visit for a large selection of innovative small plates, ever-changing specials, homemade desserts, a boutique wine list, and a rotating selection of microbrews. The restaurant emphasizes being environmentally friendly and “green”, and all paper products and straws are made from corn products. Website: Instagram: Facebook: Address 22658 Overseas Hwy MM 22.5 Oceanside,  Cudjoe Key, FL 33042  Phone 305-745-8880 Email:
This episode is brought to you by The Marquesa Hotel. The Key West Hotel Marquesa and Café Marquesa are the finest small Key West hotel and restaurant on our island. Set in the center of the historic district of Old Town Key West, the Marquesa compound is set around a lush interior garden and sparkling swimming pools. Time slows down at the Marquesa where a quiet retreat awaits those looking for luxury, privacy, excellent food and service. This episode is also brought to you by ME 😎. Less than a year ago I started taking pictures of my favorite homes in Key West, sharing them on my social media account called Backyards of Key West; showcasing them to fans around the world. Since these adorable homes have been such a big hit, I decided to sell them as Limited Edition, numbered, signed, giclee print on canvas - all printed locally here in Key West, Why not take a little piece of Key West home with you to hang on your wall! You can find all the art at and can get 10% off any of the art by using the code: FRIENDS10 In this inaugural 52nd episode, Mark Baratto sits down with famed Key West influencers, Steven Dunbar, to talk about how he grew his massive Instagram account @VisitKeyWest, what trends he sees in social media, and how you can turn something you love into a viable business with just a little online perseverance.
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with owners and mother-daughter powerhouse, Jasmine and Morgan. We talk about how they got into the business, how they work together in a family business, and how their passion for the environment, spills into everything magical they do! *A little note that this episode was recorded before COVID hit, but they are still open and living the dream! More on AMRI We are an ethical and sustainable day spa, salon, and boutique located in the heart of Key West, FL.  We aim to always put people and the planet above all else. We accomplish this by thinking of the people involved in every area of our supply chain. From the people who make the products we sell, to our team members at our storefront in Key West, to you,  our guest! Our main priority is making sure Amri is impacting all of these people's lives and the planet in a  positive way. From making sure the factories our products are made in are up to code and the workers are getting a fair wage- to making sure the materials our products we sell and use in our Day Spa + Salon are good for the planet and every living thing in it. We couldn’t express our gratefulness to be apart of this One Human Family and for all of the support, we’ve gotten from the community during this time. Our heartbeat has always been people and the planet first, and it continues to be😊❤️. Please visit our website for more info on our covid precautions and protocols 😊. Website: Instagram: Facebook: Location 1204 Simonton Street Key West, FL 33040 Hours Monday - Saturday 10am - 6pm Phone 305.292.4000
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with owners Matt & Katie Wills of The Spice & Tea Exchange of Key West. This episode was recorded in December of 2019 and I wanted to wait for them to be back open after the COVID shut down. We talk about how they took a leap of faith to start a brand new business in Key West, how they work their family dynamic, and how a "little rub goes a long way 😎." More on The Spice & Tea Exchange At The Spice & Tea Exchange, we offer a variety of fine spices, handcrafted seasonings, loose-leaf teas, salts, sugars, gifts, and more! Explore gifts and accessories in the best local gift shop in town. Whether you’re new to the culinary scene, own your own food service business, or are simply looking to add a bit of spice to your life, our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you find the perfect menu additions! We’re known for our over 85 handcrafted seasonings, which we hand-mix in store daily. Stop on by to watch our Spice Masters at work! Website: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter: Pinterest: 511 Greene St, #102 Key West, Florida 33040 305-741-7352 Our doors are open and we're offering curbside pickup and Free Shipping over $50 on local phone orders!
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Steven, the food and beverage director for Matt's Stock Island Kitchen & Bar and the Salty Oyster Dockside Bar & Grill at The Perry Hotel. We discuss how these two restaurants get all their amazing food, the incredible brunch deal, and what the heck a fishmonger is ;). This episode was recorded many months ago and I'm happy to say that the brunch deal is still going on! More on Matt's Stock Island Kitchen & Bar At Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar, the ingredients speak for themselves. It’s American Coastal Comfort Food—simple, comforting, and delicious in a way you’d never expect. Whether you bring in your own fresh catch for us to prepare or come in to order just a few dishes, you’ll want to try everything on the menu. Plus, our gift cards make the perfect present for your favorite foodie Website: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter:
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Alex, the designer extraordinaire at Under The Leaf, located at The Art Shack on Stock Island. We talk about how she had the guts to jump headfirst into living her passion, some "kill proof" plants, and how such a tiny little plant could bring so many people so much joy. More on Under the Leaf Under the leaf is a plant shop specializing in beautiful drought tolerant and low maintenance plants for both indoors and out. Design, arrangement and art business inspired by mehndi, plants, and snails. Located in Stock Island at the @artshack complex. Hours: Tuesday - Sunday from 11am - 6pm Facebook: Instagram:
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Paradise Restaurant owner, Christian Velez. This was recorded before the pandemic shut down, and I hope they get as busy again as they were during this interview! This is one of the shortest episodes I've ever done because Christian was not only working the bar but helping take orders, serving food... this guy was really doing it all! More on Paradise Restaurant Website: Instagram: Facebook: It began with two brothers born in Miami, FL but raised in their family’s homeland in Medellin, Colombia. Christian Velez and Julian Velez, now 25 and 30, respectively. While living in Colombia, their family decided to move to Miami with hopes of building a life that included their dreams and visions. Once reaching the USA, their parents placed them in a soccer program known today as Kendall Soccer coalition, making great teammates that eventually turned into family along the way. This was the beginning of their soccer career and as time passed, they were granted the special opportunity to continue playing soccer at a university level with a scholarship. From Kendall Soccer Coalition to Florida Gulf Coast University, it was looked as a giant step with goals of making it professionally. Unfortunately, things took a turn when everything seemed so great when hardships and internal family matters broke up the unity amongst the Velez family. While Christian remained in school to complete his degree, his brother left to Colombia. Over a span of 5 years, the brothers were distant but remained in close communication with hopes to one day create a legacy together to honor the family and everything their parents sacrificed for them to be where they were today. Together they planned to move out of their comfort zone all the way down to Key West. Working counted hours and sleepless nights, they saved onto eventually open their one gift shop “Life in Paradise.” They recognized the amounts of visitors who showed up next door to their neighbor’s side, known as “Juan loves Lucy.’ A very popular restaurant that ran for more than six years. After years passed, they planned to one day envision a restaurant next door to accompany their citing store. A restaurant that encompasses the culture they've been able to ___? in Colombia and the melting pot up in Miami, they wanted to create a place for everyone and anyone. And so they opened an international cuisine for tourists from all over the world to have a taste of a variety of dishes ranging from Colombia, Cuba, Peru, USA, and Mexico. Today what you see is the work and labor that brings stout the restaurant, known as Paradise. For behind every storm, be sure to know there is a paradise waiting for you. We gladly welcome you to ours.
In this episode, Mark Baratto sits down with Casey Arnold of the Conch Republic Seafood Company. We talk about the history of the historic building, all the food options, and their infamous happy hour. Take note that this was recorded before the COVID lockdown, be as of June 5th, the bar at the restaurant will be open for business :) More on Conch Republic Seafood Company Experience true dock-to-dish dining as you enjoy the incredible views of the Historic Seaport inside our fully open-air restaurant! Often, you’ll see our very own fleet of boats unloading their catches of fresh fish, stone crab, and Caribbean Lobster! Website: Instagram: Facebook: Twitter:
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