Full Moon Saloon Fish Sandwich

Fish Sandwich, Photo by Penny De Los Santos


Norman Van Aken © All rights reserved. 

No sandwich in the history of Key West was consumed by more drunks on premise than this one. No sandwich saved more people from a certain, potentially lethal, hangover. Essentially it is a fresh as can be fish sandwich but smothered in cheese and mushrooms. This bar from whence the sandwich was wrought survived during the most ‘party til you drop’ years of a very substantial partying town. The fact that many of the key players who managed and/or owned this saloon survive to this day may be, in part, to the restorative qualities of the Full Moon Fish Sandwich. Jimmy Buffett wrote “A Pirate Looks at Forty” about one of the most loyal customers; one Phil Clark. His ashes lived over the Full Moon Saloon’s cash register for a time. The famed Vietnam war writer Phil Caputo landed the Marlin that hung on the back wall of the bar for years. That was until my friend Danny McHugh and I liberated it and took it back to Danny’s home on Riviera where Danny took pictures of me asleep with said Marlin. 

Serves 1

For the Sandwich:

5 ounce grouper (or other fresh fish) fillet, somewhat thinly sliced


2 teaspoons lime juice 

salt and pepper, as desired

1 egg, beaten 

1 tablespoon buttermilk

1 teaspoon Tabasco or other favorite hot sauce


1/2 Cup beer 

4 Tablespoons A.P. flour 

4 Tablespoons cracker meal or panko bread crumbs


oil for frying 


1 hoagie roll (or hamburger bun)

2 Tablespoons butter 

1/4 small onion, sliced 

4 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced 

1-2 thin slices cheddar cheese (or other)

1 ripe tomato, cut into slices

lettuce, as desired 

1 pickle, sliced (or sliced pickles)

Heat the oil in a deep fryer (or heavy deep pot) to 350 degrees. 

Season the fish with lime juice, salt and pepper. 

Combine the egg and buttermilk in one bowl and the (batter) beer, flour, and cracker meal in a second one. Dip the fish in egg wash and then batter.  Allow the fish to soak in the batter a few minutes to help it adhere. 

Melt butter in a pan and sauté the onion until a bit caramelize. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for several minutes. Keep warm. 

Fry the fish for 3 to 4 minutes until golden brown and the fish is cooked through. Check by cutting off a small piece if you are not sure. 

Open the roll and toast it. 

Place the mushrooms and onions on the fish and top the fish with the cheese. 

Place under broiler to melt cheese. 

Serve with a garnish of pickle, tomato and lettuce or place them on the sandwich.

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© 2023 Norman Van Aken. All rights Reserved.