"This isn't Tex-Mex, we like to call it Fresh Mex. It's a style of Mexican food that's layered, sophisticated in flavor, and completely original, and it's just coming into its own in the US," explains the acclaimed chef-owner of Old Town Mexican Cafe, Gail Brockway. "We use all fresh ingredients -- local wherever possible -- and make everything from scratch. We even roast our own chilies!"
Gail has been a prominent figure on the Key West restaurant scene since opening her first eaterie, Las Palmas del Mundo, in 1973. Over the subsequent four decades, she launched four other successful restaurants, and developed menus ranging from NY Deli to Southern Italian.
"In 1993 I sold Lighthouse Cafe and took a sabbatical, traveling through the Southwest and Mexico," she says, "I ended up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, working at a community development center called Sol y Sombre, on a beautiful mountain overlooking the city." During that time, Gail grew to truly love the complexity and variety of Mexican and New Southwest cuisines, and set about mastering them by joining forces with local chefs.
"Along with many inspired and inspirational personalities at Sol y Sombre, I was part of a chef collective responsible for preparing New Mexican lunches for staff and visiting celebrities and politicians. I also worked with other chefs at an upscale catering company called Adobo." Gail learned many secrets of Southwest cuisine, including traditional recipes from her friend's Mexican madre.
Since opening Old Town Mexican Cafe in 2000, Gail's New Southwest dishes have garnered numerous awards including Chef of the Year (2003, Key West Restaurant Association), Best Entree (2008, Key West Master Chefs Classic), and a People's Choice Award (2009, Key West Master Chefs Classic).
Now co-managed with her husband, Petr Benes, Old Town Mexican Cafe is entering its 15th delicious year, and continues to delight locals and visitors alike with its blend of traditional and contemporary, familiar and unexpected Southwestern flavors.