The Keys’ storied past is ripe with colorful tales and locations worthy of a Mickey Spillane novel. Islamorada’s highly acclaimed Ziggie & Mad Dog’s restaurant is no exception.

Originally built in the 1930’s as an outbuilding on a local pineapple plantation, the property first grabbed headlines in 1948 when the Miami Herald reported stories of police shootouts with gamblers and shady characters referred to as “The New Capone Gang.” Chicago Mob Boss, Al Capone was rumored to be involved in the high-stakes card games and casino action held in the back building before it morphed into a small restaurant in the 1950’s.

Then in 1962, Sigmund “Ziggie” Stocki, an alleged drifter, gambler and casino maitre d’opened “Ziggie The Conch Restaurant.” With its Formica-topped tables, paper placemats and lime green walls, Ziggie’s was a true no-frills joint but its “New World Fusion Cuisine,” which combined fresh local seafood with Caribbean-Asian recipes, was way ahead of its time. Soon, Ziggie’s became the hottest ticket in town attracting all kinds of celebrities including the legendary actor Paul Newman.

In the thirty years of operation, “Ziggie The Conch” was world-renowned as one of the finest dining experiences in the Florida Keys and his culinary influence are still evident today in many of the Keys’ best restaurants.

In 2005, the late Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich, a former tight end for the Miami Dolphins’ undefeated 1972 Super Bowl team, along with business partner, Randy Kassewitz, resurrected the popular Keys icon to its former glory days.

Today, the legend lives on and you can still rub elbows with an eclectic crowd of celebrities, sports stars and notorious fishing captains who glam to this popular hot spot for orchid-garnished cocktails, fine wines and outstanding steaks, chops and seafood.

FYI: Ziggie & Mad Dog’s opens nightly at 5 pm but get there early if you want to grab a coveted seat at the bar. I’ll be the one sipping the French 75.