May 10, 2014:
We didn’t last long after the fun-loving Blue Dolphin Crew and their Roo showed us such a great time at the oyster warehouse and diner. It was a few hazy steps back to our boat docked right in the heart of downtown Apalachicola followed by a solid, sound night’s sleep at the City Dock. The sun creeped up over our sleepy little dock around 6:30 a.m. the next morning and made some exquisite silhouettes out of several of the Blue Dolphin boats that were anchored across from us in the Apalachicola River.
We made a tasty batch of coffee in the trusty French press on the boat and ventured out, two piping hot mugs in hand, to explore Apalachicola in the early morning light. Not too exciting, you might be thinking. That’s never the case. Ambling around, we stumbled across this new quaint little hotel in the historic Bowery District.
Phillip cracked the front door open, popped a shoulder and a coffee mug in and gave me a little head nod to follow.
It looked like it was built out of all reclaimed wood and metal. Old wavy sheet metal pieces lined the bottom of the hall under a thick piece of chair rail. Little antique trinkets and pieces adorned the walls, re-purposed in creative ways. After creaking over a few floorboards, Phillip and I stirred someone in a back office and he stepped out and welcomed us warmly. It was actually the owner, Poloronis himself,
and he eagerly gave us the grand tour. They have four rooms, exquisitely decorated, each with a kitchenette, refrigerator and master bath. And, most of the wood, countertops, furniture and decor are all reclaimed, refurbished pieces. Just spectacular. But, don’t take my word for it. If pictures are worth a thousand words a piece, here’s like a-quarter-mil. I give you the Riverwood Suites. Enjoy!
Poloronis also told us a little about the history of the building. Built in 1908, it was first used as a boarding house for the numerous shuckers that lived in Apalachicola and then as a used car parts warehouse.
The Suites were beautifully-done, rich with history, reasonably-priced, with a super-friendly staff and owners and located right in the heart of all the happenings in downtown Apalachicola.
Which, for future reference, here’s a great site outlining all of the amazing things there are to do in Apalach: http://www.saltyflorida.com/areas-to-visit/apalachicola/. It’s mind-blowing. One of which, our exceptional host on the Riverwood Suites tour told us about — BOWERY STATION. But, we’ll get there. I’m not sure you can handle Bowery Station just yet. Shit gets wild at the Station.
After the tour of the Riverwood Suites, we huddled up in a cozy corner of the Riverwalk Cafe to get some breakfast and spend a few hours working.
A little post-breakfast shopping and tinkering around (I just love the old-Florida “look” of Apalachicola), then,
also at the recommendation of our B&B tour guide, we decided to check out Up the Creek for lunch. Balcony seating on the back deck with a great view of the river.
We ordered up a half-dozen of their “Southern Fella” Apalachicola oysters (baked with collards, parmesan, garlic butter and bacon). Do I even need quote the well-known philosophy on bacon?
We’ve had oysters many ways, but the collards and bacon were definitely a unique addition. For lunch, Phillip ordered the gator burger which was great. The homemade coleslaw on the burger was a nice touch.
But, my dish, the grilled conch cakes took (no pun intended) the cake!
The conch cakes were incredibly rich and quickly earned the title as one of our best meals of the trip. We were also pleased to learn they were made with Tupelo honey, which we had discovered during our way down the coast was made right in our very own Port St. Joe!! Well, Wewahitchka, to be exact.
(Pronounced wee-wuh-hitch-kuh, if you were wondering).
It felt (and tasted) good to be eating local! The meal didn’t last long, though, and neither did the wine we ordered with it.
Our bellies full, we sauntered back to the boat for a siesta. This touring and eating is real tough work.
But it was a good thing we did. We didn’t know it yet, but we were about to fall head-first into a rowdy, raucous party at the Station. We ventured out around dusk to see what all the fuss was with this Bowery Station. On our way there, we passed this packed-out antique store, appropriately-named the Tin Shed. Trinkets, knick-knacks, old trunks, potted plants, anchors, port lights and other random items practically spilled out the door.
We had to poke our heads in. Just a quick breeze-through at the very least. You never know what kind of gems you’ll find in a place like this.
You see? “You said it, Annie. You’re never fully dressed without a belt!” So true.
But, this place was huge. I lost Phillip within the first five minutes and found myself stepping from one room to the next, through a thick labyrinth of antique marvels. There were entire rooms devoted to figurines, others to crystal, others to hats, others to old nautical pieces, others to antique Halloween costumes. It was wild. I probably could have spent another hour in there, thoroughly entertained, but I finally stumbled out into the first open area I’d seen since we stepped into this alter-antique universe and made my way toward welcoming music coming from the only outlet I saw available, a single open doorway.
I had to laugh when I blinked my way in and saw Phillip there at the bar, already ordering up two glasses of wine for us. It was Bowery Station! We hadn’t meant to, but we’d inadvertently stumbled upon the back entrance (connected to the antique warehouse). The gal behind the bar laughed and told us they get a lot of stranded husbands that way. Their wives drag them into the antique madhouse next door, and they eventually stumble their way in through the back entrance and enjoy a beer or two while the Misses continues blissfully poking around next door. Perfect. But, we had finally made it. Bowery Station.
The bar was built out of the old Wefing’s Marina Supply store on Water Street.
They still kept all of the old cubbies that were built into the back wall, originally to house marine supplies, but it now serves as a very functional and full-scale wine-rack!
They keep a huge tin barrel of peanuts out, complete with little tin buckets that you can dip in, fill up and take back to your table (which are also stand-up barrels) to share with the whole group.
No surprise, you’ll find the floor littered with smashed-up peanut shells, but they don’t care. It adds to the character “and helps with the acoustics” the barkeep said with a wink. They’ve got some great antique decor of their own,
and just a great casual feel. There’s even a gal out front with a nice rack who greets everyone that comes in.
Their hours are from 12-8pm, “because no one in Apalachicola really stays up past nine,” the barkeep told us.
And we were excited to learn that the couple who owned and worked the place every day had moved up to Apalachicola from Key West to open this bar. “Well, I’ll be … WE just came from Key West, too!” We had a great time reminiscing with them about some of the more questionable joints in Key West they used to frequent–Sloppy Joe’s, Hog’s Breath, the Schooner Wharf Bar. We had a great time chatting with the two of them as the place started fill up.
Then she told us about the hat. Yes, the hat.
See it there? Just behind the fan.
It’s just a regular old Bowery Station ballcap that they’ve rigged up on a pulley system to the center of the ceiling. This is Bowery Station’s unique version of “Happy Hour.” They raise the hat up to the center of room at 5:00 p.m., when they’re aptly named “Hatty Hour” starts and they slowly lower the hat as the hours tick by to remind the patron’s to keep getting drinks while the getting’s good.
Uh-oh, that hat’s starting to come down now. “Phillip, we better get another round.” During hatty hour, you get one chip with every drink that entitles you to a free ‘nuther.
They have live music every night too. But, at the Station, they don’t have a planned music act lined up every night. No, no. They prefer open mic night, every night. Anyone who wants to step up onto their makeshift stage and play something, sing something, hell, snap something, they’re more than welcome. The gal behind the bar told us they’ve just kept it open since they started and they have yet to see a night where the stage was empty. I was thrilled when I saw a washboard/banjo band setting up. We’re such lucky SOBs!
They were actually really good, and incredibly entertaining. Especially the chick on the washboard. That takes talent! We sat back on our stools, munched on peanuts, sipped our hatty hour drinks and had us a fine time.
The hat started to sink,
and the locals started to balk. It was all in good fun, though. Each time the owner or her husband would turn the crank a few times to lower the hat, the patrons would shout “Noooo!!” (and then happily order another round). Some of them protest, “Nuh-uh, Nancy, it’s not 6 o’clock yet on my watch!” they’d shout and the barkeep would give ’em a playful frown while pouring them another drink. The “wine chips” are a great idea, too, because people lose those left and right. You can find some on the floor, put yours down and someone will take it. It’s hilarious. But, the washboard band wasn’t the real highlight of the evening. It was just before the hat hit the wall that this wild, fanny-pack boasting broad found herself the perfect stage prop and started to it. Watch out now, she’ll sweep you right off your feet!
See? I told you. Times gets wild. Washboards and peanut shells, wine chips and hat tricks. Bowery Station has it all.