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May 2, 2010 01:17 PM

Key Lime Pie @ Bahama Grille in Salinas

The Monterey Peninsula is home to a mish-mosh “cuisine” that fuses Pacific Rim and Caribbean tourist trap favorites into a tropical island style of food that one might find at beach resorts. Burgers, ribs, sweet potato fries, fish tacos, and jerk chicken, jazzed up with gratuitous sweetness, mango, wasabi, hoisin sauce, salsa, coconut, or soy sauce pepper the typical menu. Now-closed Billy Quon’s led this pack, and lives on as Bahama Billy’s in Carmel. Hula’s in Monterey and Kula Ranch in Marina represent this genre, and now Bahama Grille in Salinas weighs in.

Located kitty-korner from City Hall, Bahama Grille opened last year. The interior is simpler instead of the tiki bar kitsch featured by its brethren. Serving beer and wine only, no parasol-decorated cocktails here either. Jamaica’s Red Stripe is the featured beer.

Mom and I gave it try last month for an early dinner. A basket of warm tortilla chips dusted with a sugary spice blend were offered up while we looked at the menus.

Mom tried the Fish & chips, $13.95. The fish was a bit overcooked but still enjoyable and a generous serving size. Not sure I like parmesan sprinkled on my fries but the skinny French fries themselves were good. We didn't like the weepy ginger-flavored slaw.

I had the Blackened mahi-maji after confirming with the owner that the fish was fresh and not frozen. Cooked medium-rare as ordered, the thick filet of mahi was quite delicious and meaty-textured. The wasabi mashed potatoes, made in a rustic and lumpy style, went way overboard with powerful wasabi. The broccoli & carrots sauteed with garlic were tasty. This was quite a nice seafood plate for $15.95. I’d order it again, but ask the kitchen to tone down the wasabi or substitute something else.

The highlight of the meal, however, was an excellent piece of key lime pie, $4.95. The fluorescent lighting messed up the color in this photo, believe me, it’s much more appetizing than this appears. Housemade in a tall-sided springform pan, the buttery graham cracker crust baked up crunchy and deep to contain the well-endowed key lime filling and whipped cream.

Mom reports that when she returned with my sister, the key lime pie wasn’t fully set and not nearly as good. Still, I’d go back to see if key lime pie goodness will strike again.

Bahama Grille
42 W Gabilan St, Salinas, CA 93901

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  1. Heading out the door for our trip to the Bay Area and you just gave us a great reason to stop here for dessert after our requisite dinner stop at Mo's in Pismo Beach ..... we might just have an appetite by then when we reach Salinas. Hope this is open on Sunday. Thanks for the tip.

    6 Replies
    1. re: glbtrtr

      According to the website, it's open until 9pm on Sundays (click on the blue Places link "Bahama Grille").

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Confirmed. This is one great key lime pie. Exactly as Melanie described it. Plus the menu is full of interesting choices and makes it a worthy short detour off Highway 101 for those traveling north to south and vice versa looking for something worthy for dining on this rather bleak stretch of road for dining highlights.

        Best access to Bahama Grille in Salinas may be taking the Main Street exit from 101 and heading into the downtown area where this restaurants is located near the city transit center, across from the Greyhound Bus Station and near the very intersesting and also worth a detour John Steinbeck Center and historic recreation of the old town of Salinas.

        So for us it did work on our typical drive from Santa Barbara to the Bay Area - our stop at MO's BBQ in Pismo Beach and then on to Salinas with still a little room for this excellent key lime pie for dessert.

        Thanks, Melanie. Great tip. Great pie.

        Bahama Grille
        42 W Gabilan St, Salinas, CA 93901

        1. re: glbtrtr

          I opened your post with a bit of trepidation, wondering where you'd come out on the key lime pie lotto. So happy to hear you enjoyed a good example.

          Thanks for laying out the geography too. There's a public parking lot across the street. City Hall and the Police Department are right there too.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I think the worst key lime pie I had was in Key West, Florida. It was one of those gloppy neon green affairs heavy with condensed milk and bottled lime juice flavors and a store bought industrial flavored crust.

            This one at Bahama Grille was full of fresh flavor, appropriate color and the day we sampled it, it was decadently dense and held its form. The crust was just a pure butter and graham cracker delight.

            Though it did appear from your photo you got a bit more whipped cream than we did (!), but no matter as this is not key to a key lime pie anyway. No reason to gild this lily.

            Bahama Grille
            42 W Gabilan St, Salinas, CA 93901

            1. re: glbtrtr

              As I always expect, the left coast reigns supreme!

              1. re: PolarBear

                This of course means "left" of Highway 101 as we bow in obeisance to our culinary betters from SF, right?

    2. So . . . the Bahama Grille re-opened a month ago on Mom's side of town. My mother and I checked it out at the one-week mark for a late lunch.

      We started with the deep-fried artichoke hearts served with ranch dressing. Fairly greaseless, moderately thin batter, but way too much of the leaves left attached to the hearts. What looks like a big serving for $9 is actually more than half stringy, inedible leaves that should have been trimmed down. We soon learned to take one, maybe two bites, then leave the rest of each piece behind. I made a point of showing our server the parts that were inedible on our plates.

      Tacos come two to a plate. I asked if we could mix and match, and the kitchen said, "no problem". Mom had a blackened mahi mahi taco and I opted for a shrimp taco. These come with one side, and I picked the crab bisque side soup, plus added sweet potato fries. Luckily we only ordered one apiece as the tacos are good size. Our order was split in the kitchen. On a crispy flour tortilla, the grilled seafood's garnished with shredded cheese, cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, and habanero aioli. On the side, some mango chutney and more habanero aioli. Here's the mahi one,
      and the shrimp one, The kitchen does know how to grill fish without drying it out, and the accompaniments make for a tasty taco.

      Sweet potato fries are the battered type. Unfortunately, these were underdone and semi-raw. The crab bisque ordered as a side soup was crowned with a dab of crab meat. However, the soup portion was thick butternut squash with a hint of mango and had more in common with the texture and weight of lumpy mashed potatoes than bisque.

      But really, I was here for the key lime pie. Alas, none available this day.

      Even at 2pm, the place was full and our waitress did a valiant job keeping up with the crush. I think I'll wait a bit before returning, maybe for happy hour. Here are the happy hour offers,

      And, I'll be sure to check in advance to make sure the key lime pie's on deck.

      Bahama Grille
      1104 S. Main St.
      Salinas, CA 93905
      (next to Baskin Robbins)

      3 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Our update 2013:

        We stopped going to Bahama Grille for key lime pie a few years back after our first very successful stop, when the cook proudly showed the bottle of key lime juice he was now using, which unfortunately had been obvious since this later versions had that awful industrial, metallic flavor that plagues most commercial key lime pies.

        We stopped going. Hope they bring back their original magic that made them a refreshing and original stop on the 101 corridor.

        1. re: glbtrtr

          Yup, here's your post from December 2010. BG closed shortly afterwards in the original location to be replaced by another cafe.

          It has reopened at a new location.

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          A year after re-opening, Bahama Grille closed without paying its employees.

          Ginger Thai Kitchen will be taking over the spot.