By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians and author of Jim’s Gems in The easy Guide, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

OLIVIA’S CAFE

By Jim Korkis

The very first Disney Vacation Club resort opened on December 20, 1991 and was known only as Disney’s Vacation Club Resort up until January 1996. It was then renamed Disney’s Old Key West Resort to distinguish it from the newer DVC resorts.

The resort’s restaurant is Olivia’s Café, and according to the Imagineers, the back story of the restaurant was that Olivia Farnsworth, who was sixty years old, (“going on twenty”) lived in a small cottage along Turtle Krawl. She loved cooking, but did not have the money to open a restaurant of her own. She was very friendly and very proud of her cooking. Almost daily she would invite curious passers-by who smelled her cooking to come in to her dining room and pull up a chair to enjoy what she had prepared.

Soon, these visits became more and more frequent, both for the locals and for visiting out-of-towners as well. Olivia quickly ran out of room and everything else. People began bringing their own tables and chairs and even silverware and then left them there for their next visit. That’s why the silverware and the chairs in the restaurant are mismatched and add to a homey, family-type atmosphere.

Jim Korkis on Olivia's Cafe from yourfirstvisit.net

The Imagineers wrote: “Soon she began doubling recipes, then double doubling. Then triple doubling, until the math got ugly. She pulled up more chairs, added more tables, and sat people on the porch, until the floor plan got all cattywhumpus. Finally, to the town’s great relief, Olivia made it official, cinched up her apron and hung out her shingle.”

The Imagineers even included “A Little Note from Miss Olivia” herself on the original menu along with her photo:

“The long and short of it is, I never intended to be any kind of big-time restaurant owner. I just happened to have this cozy cottage I called home and my kitchen just happened to be on the leeward side where aromas could wander out along Turtle Krawl. Seems like every time I turned on the stove, ‘specially early in the morning, folks would drop by with a friendly smile and a healthy appetite. I didn’t mind. I’d just pull another chair up to the table. Then one more chair, and one more chair…

” ‘Course, I admit I’ve sure had my share of helping hands from more than a few friends along the way. Miss Vickey, for instance, is my kind of people. She may not exactly fit into any proper pigeonhole, but she’s been a true friend to me. In fact, I owe the whole look of Olivia’s to Miss V’s artistic eye for coordinated color combinations.

“Then there’s Captain Wahoo. He often doesn’t have a nickel to his name, but his fish tales have kept me laughing through some lean times, and he’s always made sure I get first choice of the bounty his boat brings home to the Flats.

“There are lots of others who made Olivia’s what it is — like Frenchie, who’s sometimes a pest but always a pal, and Hank, and… well, I could go on, but I’ve a kitchen to keep up with and a passel of people to feed. So let me let you get on with your life with this closing thought — you’re always welcome at Olivia’s Cafe, where the food’s always good and the atmosphere’s always 100% Conch Flats.”

The Gurgling Suitcase Bar next door has a story behind it as well.

Gurgling Suitcase from yourfirstvisit.net

During Prohibition, people would come down to Key West to purchase illegal alcohol. They would pack it using their clothes to cushion the bottles so the bottles wouldn’t break in their suitcases. Law enforcement officers soon caught on to this practice and when they stopped people, they would pick up the luggage and shake it to see if it “gurgled”, indicating that there was liquid inside.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for even more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, and The Vault of Walt: Volume 4, and his contributions to The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit, all published by Theme Park Press.

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2 comments

1 Jennifer { 07.24.16 at 8:54 am }

Popping in to say “thank you” to Jim and to you, Dave! I absolutely love Friday Visits, and can’t even begin to count the number of times they’ve made me say, “So THAT’S why it’s that way…” For someone like me who gets a kick out of knowing the behind-the-scenes info, these articles are just the best. 🙂

2 Dave { 07.25.16 at 11:30 am }

Thanks, Jennifer!!

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