Best of Lists

9 Florida Destinations Proud to Be Called Dive Bars

Florida
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January 2015
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By
Doug
Simmons

Some spots would bristle at being called a dive bar, others wear it as a badge of honor. Meet some of the loudest, rowdiest, most fun establishments on the water.

Flora-Bama - Pensacola, Fla.

Without doubt the root'n toot'n-nest dive bar on our list, Flora-Bama is like a nonstop beach party housed in a building designed by M.C. Escher. The all-wood, ship-like structure towers over the sand with multiple levels, stairways and decks most of them facing the big dance floor and stage. Live music happens daily, sometimes several times a day, and the crowd certainly isn't shy (clotheslines draped with bras hang from the balconies). Outside, a tent regularly hosts wet t-shirt and bikini contests. The annual interstate Mullet toss, where Florida and Alabama residents throw fish back and forth across the state line, is legendary. Flora-Bama has its own marina (251-980-5222, fishflorabama.com), or you can dock at nearby Holiday Harbor Marina (850-492-0555, myholidayharbor.com) just a short ride down the Old river.

Bonita Bill's Waterfront Cafe - Fort Myers Beach, Fla.

Don't be fooled by the froufrou name. Bonita Bill's is a dive of the highest (lowest?) order. There's nothing fancy about the joint, which is open air, cash only and dog friendly, so wear your flip-flops and drive your boat right up to the pier. An authentic south Florida atmosphere draws a congenial crowd of locals (many live-aboard boaters have their sailboats moored in the pass out back) and returning customers who can't get enough of the cheap food and drink, daily entertainment and ocean breezes. The grouper sandwich is said to be one of the best anywhere. Dock at the restaurant or just a short dingy ride away at Pink Shell Beach resort & Marina (888-222-7465, pinkshell.com) for some pampering. You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

Bert's Bar & Grill - Matlacha, Fla.

Bert's has had a colorful 70 years of history. One of its two buildings started out as a sweet shoppe in the 1930s. stories abound about the other building, the hotel, being a brothel and, later, a gentleman's club. If only the walls could talk. These days the waterfront hideaway is known for its ultra laid-back vibe, million dollar view, dockside dining, live music and a menu that features seafood platters, burgers and sandwiches, wings and homemade chips no fries. Bring your rod and reel and fish off the back deck. The village of  Matlacha has a notable artists' community and is close by the cruising meccas of sanibel and Captiva islands. A good base of operations is Olde' Fish House Marina (239-282-9577, oldfishhousemarina.com), and it is less than a half mile walk from Bert's.

The Green Parrot - Key West, Fla.

We all know what goes on in Key West. so, when we say the green Parrot is the oldest and divey-est bar in town, well, that's saying something. A shady ambiance operates in stark contrast to the sunwashed beautyof the nearby beaches. Add to that a serious curio fetish beat up guitars, placards and other old junk cover the walls a self-serve popcorn machine and Root Beer Barrel shots, and you've got yourself a funky oasis.A few tips: Don't wear a collared shirt (tourist!). Get there at 5:30 p.m. on weekends for the 90-minute sound check before the band really starts. And no snivelling. The marinas at the Bight are within walking and biking distance, including Conch Harbor Marina (305-294-2933, conchharbormarina.com).

Dockside Tropical Bar - Marathon, Fla.

It's so salty that you wouldn't be surprised to see notorious sailor and founder of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine Bob Bitchin sitting next to you at the bar. No, really, that's him. Along with owner/musician Eric Stone, Bitchin can sometimes be found hanging out here. Maybe it's the awesome pub food street tacos like you'd find in small-town Mexico and hog handles, which are smoked pork shanks rolled in a spicy jerk sauce. Maybe it's the dark ˜n' stormy served in a tall glass or the signature dockside punch. Perhaps it's because of the adjacent live-aboard marina. Whatever. Just be there. Tie up at Dockside Tropical Bar or at Marathon Marina & Boatyard (305-743-6575, marathonmarinaandresort.com) and dinghy over. It is just on the other end of Boot Key Harbor.

Alabama Jack's - Key Largo, Fla.

This is as Old Florida as it gets. And by Old Florida i mean faded, tilting, seaside cabin built on two floating barges. What Alabama Jack's lacks in frills it makes up for in dependability: it's been a watering hole for boaters, anglers and bikers heading from Miami to Key West and back since 1947. Dawg, the bartender, has been there forever so stay on his good side if you ever want to come back. the huge, handmade conch fritters are a must, as are the homemade conch salad and lima bean soup. there's live music on the weekends, and there's no shortage of entertainment from the crusty old guys at the bar. stay at Ocean Reef Club (800-741-7333, oceanreef.com) for all the amenities this dive does without.

Archie's Seabreeze - Ft. Pierce, Fla.

Archie's started in 1947 as a military shed that served beer to soldiers stationed in South Beach. Then, in 1994, Patty McGee bought the place and put her heart and soul into making it a fixture of the local beach bar scene. The ramshackle assortment of palm trees, umbrellas and bar areas sits across from the Atlantic, with license plates on the walls inside and marine paraphernalia scattered all around. Archie's is known for its killer burgers, which you can wash down with $1 happy hour drafts. There's live music most evenings, plus the biannual Hogg Wild festival with all-day bands and vendors. Stay at the Ft. Pierce City Marina (772-464-1245, fortpiercecitymarina.org) located on the west side of the ICW, about a seven-minute drive away.

Hurricane Patty's - St. Augustine, Fla.

A weather-beaten, tin-roofed shack on the property of Rivers Edge Marina, Hurricane Patty's is supposedly haunted and definitely can bring the ocean to your table with a finger-licking bill of fare that includes low country boil, crab legs, seafood platters and a raw and steamed bar. That's in addition to a drink list that takes up two full pages in the menu: 36 different beers, handmade hurricanes, dozens of frozen concoctions and specialty cocktails. Local musicians perform throughout the week, from southern rock to zydeco to karaoke. sit in the dark, wood-heavy dining room or out back on the covered patio. You can dock right at Rivers Edge Marina (904-827-0520, 29riversedgemarina.com) on the west side of the iCW.

Lou's Blues - Indianlantic, Fla.

It's almost like a tale of two taverns. Outside, Lou's Blues is a tidy, bright, two-story building with a wood deck running along the back facing the Atlantic. There's an open-air bar upstairs and another at ground level. Inside, though, Lou's evokes a showbiz pizza meets biker bar feel, with a retro-futuristic raised stage, a dance floor, bric-a-brac décor, neon lights, and a wraparound balcony. Every night brings live music, dancing or some other form of shenanigans (dirty bingo, anyone?). The food menu is mostly pub grub burgers, sandwiches, apps but, hey, pub grub! Telemar Bay Marina (321-773-2468, telemarbay.com) offers a convenient berth on the iCW and is just a six-minute drive from Lou's Blues.

Are you cruising to the Bahamas this winter? Stop by some of our favorite waterfront bars.

Abacos

  • Captain Jack's Hope Town Elbow Cay
  • Nippers Beach Bar Great Guana Cay
  • Pete's Pub and Gallery Little Harbour
  • Snappas Marsh Harbour

Exumas

  • The bar at Staniel Cay Yacht Club Staniel Cay
  • Chat N Chill Stocking Island

Eleuthera

  • Rainbow Inn's Seaside Bar Hatchet Bay
  • Sammy's Rock Sound
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Top 10 New England Sailing Regattas
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What do a media mogul, movie maker and American President have in common? Taking part in yacht racing, one of our nation's oldest sports, and New England, the cradle of this sport in America. Ted Turner won the 1977 America's Cup in Newport. Roy Disney sailed from Newport to Bermuda with record-breaking speed in 2002. And in 1936, JFK earned a winner's cup racing Stars in the Hyannis Port Yacht Club race to Edgartown.With more than 6,000 miles of shoreline, survival built on the sea from olden days of fishing and trading to today's seasonal tourist dollars, it's a natural that racing sailboats is a time-honored tradition and rite of passion for most New Englanders. Many sailors here boast blood as blue as the surrounding seas, yet everyone can find a home to race. Here's a sampling of some of the region's best-known regattas.

MAINE

Camden Classics Cup - new england regattas - marinalife
Camden Classics Cup | Alison Langle

Camden Classics CupJuly 28-30Competition and camaraderie combine in this relative newcomer event sailed in Penobscot Bay and celebrated shoreside in downtown Camden. Over 100 sailboats, everything from vintage yachts to very fast one-designs like J/46s and J/42s, race. Classes are available for day sailors and cruising yachts, too. Dockage at Lyman-Morse is included in the race fee, so the party starts ashore when the racing ends, says organizer Mackenzie Lyman, who adds the marina operator and boat-builders have rebuilt the waterfront after a fire in 2020. Spectators can have just as much fun. Maine's Wind- jammers offer two-hour tours to view the racing, while landlubber's best bet is watching the parade of sail as dressed yachts with costumed crew parade through Camden harbor on the morning of July 30. camdenclassicscup.comBoothbay Harbor Yacht Club Annual Regatta & Shipyard Cup Classics ChallengeJuly 23-24A trend toward classic yacht racing and a nod to the area's deep sailing roots combined for the first time last year at the Shipyard Cup. This new addition to the nearly 50-year-old annual regatta put lots of eye-candy on the water. The 1926-built NY-40, Marilee and 1937-constructed 12-meter America's Cup contender, Gleam, plus classic Boothbay Harbor one-designs like the 21-foot, Geerd Hendel-designed, 1938-launched sloops, are expected back this year along with contemporary race yachts. We invited several America's Cup contenders to join Gleam this year on the start line, says co-chair Bob Scribner. Spectators can observe from Spruce Point, McKeown Point or Southport. A narrated parade of participants in the inner harbor starts at 10:00 a.m. on July 24. boothbayregatta.com

MASSACHUSETTS

Marblehead Regatta - new england regattas - marinalife
NOOD Marblehead Regatta 2021 | Bruce

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series – MarbleheadJuly 28-31The 1889-founded Marblehead Race Week joined with National Offshore One-Design concept a few years back, and the result is close to 200 boats racing. We now have all our regular classes like J/70s, Rhodes 19s and Viper 640, plus there are usually one or two guest classes like RS21s, Skuds, 2.4's and J/24s, that hold regional championships as part of the week, says Leslie Rousseau, race committee chair for the host Boston Yacht Club. We expect to see the return of Jud Smith, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and local J-70 favorite. Spectators on land can get a bird's eye view of the racing from Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. Those with a fast center console can watch the boats line up to start off Turkey Point in Middle River or set their chutes at the windward mark in Middle River. sailingworld.com/regatta-series-marbleheadEdgartown Race WeekendJune 23-25Since 1938, celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard is home to this week of combo coastal, offshore and round-the-island racing hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club. The history, charm and summer activity on Martha's Vineyard is a meaningful draw, in addition to fantastic wind and ideal sailing conditions, says Alex Nugent, one of the event's co-chairs. Plus, we typically host a big welcome party that's sponsored by Mount Gay Rum. New is the ‘Round-the-Sound series of races, which features 20-some nautical mile coastal sprints around Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound and replaces the around-the-buoy series. There's monohull and multihull, racing and cruising, double-handed and many-handed entrants including teams from state and federal service and maritime academies. edgartownyc.orgNantucket Race WeekAugust 13-21Nine days of racing, parties and awards ceremonies take the concept of race week to the extreme. There's something afloat for everyone: kids in Optis and 420s, women in Rhodes 19s, kiteboarders, radio-controlled model boats and some of the country's top sailors competing in high-performance big boats and classic wooden yachts. This year we celebrate the 50th Opera House Cup Regatta, the grand dame of classic wooden boat regattas. The Cup, named after a legendary Nantucket restaurant, attracts some of the finest wooden boats on the East Coast and Europe. There is a big awards party on the beach after the race, says Diana Brown, chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. The Parade of Wooden Boats offers a brochure that describes each participating boat. The public can watch the parade from Brant Point Beach. nantucketraceweek.org

RHODE ISLAND

Annual RegattaJune 10-12Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) out of its facilities in Newport, this is North America's oldest continuously held sailing event going on its 168th year. The format features two days of buoy racing, prefaced by a race around Conanicut Island. The sight of 100-plus spinnakers running north in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from Fort Adams, Castle Hill or Beavertail Light is breathtaking. Entries are invited to one-design classes, and boats more than 24 feet race under a variety of handicaps. The Annual Regatta is one of my perennial favorites, says Paul Zabetakis, NYYC commodore and a regular participant on his Swan 42, Impetuous. The race management is impeccable with multiple course configurations. Few other venues offer the perfect combination of offshore racing in Rhode Island Sound and inshore racing on Narragansett Bay. The Saturday night regatta party is one of the biggest occasions of the Newport regatta season with sailors converging on Harbour Court for cocktails and dinner. nyyc.org/168th-annual-regatta

Edgartown Race Weekend - new england regattas - marinalife
Edgartown Race Weekend | Daniel Fors

Newport to Bermuda RaceJune 17The lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are ringside seats to watch nearly 200 vessels start in the East Passage on a 635-mile passage south to Bermuda. Fort Adams State Park also provides close-up views of many of the boats as they depart from Newport Harbor. The fleet then sails past Brenton State Park as it clears Brenton Reef and turns to the southeast. Charter boats and private yachts assemble to watch the start from the water as well, says John Burnham. It's one of the oldest regularly scheduled ocean races, happening biennially since 1906. This year, three high-speed multihulls – two MOD 70s, Argo and Snowflake, and the 78' trimaran Ultim'Emotion 2 – are entered, and each has a good chance of breaking the elapsed time race record of 34h:42m:53s set in 2016 by the 100' maxi yacht, Comanche. bermudarace.comIda Lewis Distance RaceAugust 18-20The fleet goes where the wind blows. The Ida Lewis Distance Race is like no other in that the Race Committee chooses from among four different courses, based on the weather. Each course incorporates some of the most storied cruising grounds in New England and is just long enough for the fleet to be offshore overnight, yet not so long to prohibit inviting family and friends to join for a first-time adventure, says Anselm Richards, event chair. The goal: get about 60-some teams to compete on race boats 28-foot and longer in double-handed, youth, collegiate and different handicap classes back to the dock in under 24 hours. The start happens off Fort Adams and ends inside Newport Harbor, where each team is handed a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco. ilyc.org/distancerace

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Block Island RaceMay 27Stamford is the start of this Memorial Day weekend regatta that for many sailors kicks New England's offshore racing season. The 186-nautical mile course down Long Island Sound and around Block Island and back also acts as a ‘warm up' for many teams that are racing some two weeks later in the Newport to Bermuda Race, says Kate Wilson Somers, who handles media for the event. The race marks its 75th anniversary this year and is organized by the Storm Trysail Club, based in Larchmont, NY. stormtrysail.org/regattas/block-island-raceCedar Point One Design RegattaJune 4-5A 20-year+ tradition on the first weekend in June, this one-design keelboat event hosted out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT, can draw as many as 800 competitors on over 100 boats. The key is that all the boats in a class are the same; no handicap scoring is needed. This makes it easy to watch, as first over the finish line is the winner. Currently, the event is open to J70, J88, J105 and J109, and Beneteau 36.7 fleets, but other fleets are welcome if they meet the requirements, says Joyce Oberdorf, who handles the club's communications. cedarpointyc.org/odr

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Caribbean Arts & Artisans to Treasure
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The Caribbean is an art and artisan lover's paradise. The hot sunlit hues, fragrant foliage and surrounding seas inspire everyone from painters to craftsmen who create body lotions, botanic edibles and model boats from local materials. Here is a sampling of eight artists and their treasures worth the hunt:

BILLFISH PAINTINGSby Carey Chen

Paintings of blue marlin so real that the fish seem alive and fighting is what has made Jamaican-born artist Carey Chen famous. While there are hundreds of wildlife artists, Chen is one of an exclusive few known for his marine art, specifically billfish, with anatomical details and amazing depictions using acrylics on canvas that are correct, highly collectible, and sought out by celebrities and everyday customers.[caption id="attachment_324633" align="alignleft" width="300"]

Artist Carey Chen - caribbean art - marinalife

Courtesy of Carey Chen[/caption]You have to be both a fisherman and an artist, says Chen, who worked as a mate on sport fishing boats out of Kingston as a teenager. His big break came when organizers of Puerto Rico's Club Nautico de San Juan invited him to be the featured artist for their prestigious International Billfish Tournament. This set off up to 30 tournament invitations annually in the Caribbean and around the world where Chen produces event T-shirt designs and fine-art paintings auctioned to benefit marine conservation. His marlin art has recently expanded to clothing and beverage labels. (careychen.com)

NAUTICAL FINE ARTby David Wegman

Walk down the street in Gustavia, St. Barths, to the eclectic eatery, Le Select. On the wall is a vivid mural of the establishment's first location nearby, with the owners playing old-time dominos and a young guitar-strumming Jimmy Buffett. This is one of the masterful works of Wegman, who paints annually in five studios in the United States and Caribbean.I don't paint portraits or telephone poles, I paint what happens in my life. Every painting tells a story, says Wegman, who counts Key West and Coral Bay, St. John, as inspiration as well as his eight-year circumnavigation in the 1990s aboard his sailboat, African Queen IV. Wegman's casual pieces like the Cheeseburger in Paradise sign he painted for Le Select are among the most photographed, while his fine art such as a storm-tossed sailboat at sea titled How Many Times I've Prayed are among his best-known. Wegman's works are available at galleries on St. Barths and online. (facebook.com/david.wegman.77)

LARIMAR JEWELRYby Angie Rodriguez

[caption id="attachment_324634" align="alignright" width="200"]

The Larimar Shop - caribbean art - marinalife

The Larimar Shop | Angie Rodriguez[/caption]Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but for Angie Rodriguez, who with her mother Cleo owns The Larimar Company, it's a light blue semi- precious gem that is their major amigo. On the Dominican Republic's southwest coast, the Barahona province is the only place in the world this crystallized mineral is mined. Larimar excavation started in earnest in the 1970s. For the last decade, the Rodriguezes buy stones direct from the miners and then work with local artists who fashion the Larimar into jewelry.Each stone is so unique that every design, even if it's the same style, is one-of-a-kind because of the stone's different blue hues and bold patterns, says Rodriguez. The duo's most popular pieces of Larimar jewelry are earrings, bracelets and heart-shaped pendants. They have an online store, yet you can see Larimar close up at the Larimar Museum in Santo Domingo. Visitors can also book guided tours of the Larimar mines. (thelarimarshop.com)

HAND-PRINTED FABRICSby Caribelle Batik

The best way to transform into a tropical state of mind is slipping on a brightly colored, bold-printed shirt, skirt or sarong made at Caribelle Batik on St. Kitts. Located in the 17th century Romney Manor, halfway between the capital at Basseterre and historic Brimstone Hill Fortress, British ex-pat Maurice Widdowson started his batik operation here in 1976. Today, he continues hands-on with his wife and adult children.[caption id="attachment_324636" align="alignleft" width="300"]

Caribelle Batik Store - caribbean art - marinalife

Courtesy of Caribelle Batik[/caption]I'm a mental artist, but rotten with my hands. For example, in batik, you usually can't go from darker to lighter. But I had an idea and we worked and worked and today the starburst is one of our most popular designs, says Widdowson, who adds that palm fronds and pineapple are other popular patterns. Ladies' wear, men's apparel, kid's clothes and accessories such as bags, fans and cushion covers are all part of the collection. You'll find a Caribelle Batik store at the Port Zante Cruise Pier in Basseterre as well as online sales. (caribellebatikstkitts.com)

BEQUIA MODEL WOODEN BOATSby Timothy Sargeant

[caption id="attachment_324635" align="alignright" width="300"]

fabric - caribbean art - marinalife

Courtesy of Timothy Sargeant[/caption]A tiny yet mighty armada of boats, some just hulls and others fully rigged, sit in the wood shack workshop that is Sargeant Brothers Model Boat Shop on the Grenadine island of Bequia. Far from kid's toys, the intricate made-to-scale detail of the vessels built by Timothy Sargeant and his half dozen fellow craftsmen, are indeed works of art. Sargeant's two older brothers, Lawson and Winston, started the shop in 1966. Nearly two decades later, Lawson presented his handcrafted version of the Royal Yacht Britannia to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited the island en route to see her sister, Margaret, in nearby Mustique.Whale boats fashioned out of coconuts is how the Sargeant brothers first started. Today, they use local gumwood for the hull and imported mahogany, white pine and red cedar to make everything from Oyster- and Hallberg- Rassy-brand cruising yachts to Windjammers and J-Class America's Cup boats. Buy one ready-made or send Sargeant your vessel's specs and he'll create a mini-me in up to six months. (bequiatourism.com)

SOAPS, HAIR & SKIN CARE PRODUCTSby Aquannette Chinnery

Bay rum bar soap, orange vanilla hair conditioner andpassionfruit hand lotion are among the hand-made, small-batch products Chinnery crafts in her small workshop on her native St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Chinnery, who earned a master's degree in biochemistry from MIT at age 21 and JD from Rutgers 15 years later, is also a gospel recording artist, painter and was a TV personality before her creativity and scientific curiosity lead her back to the lab to start JDNatlady's Creations a decade ago.I am inspired by local scents and incorporate those scent profiles into my products, especially lemongrass. I grew up loving the smell of lemongrass bush tea, says Chinnery of her customer-favorite Lemongrass Hand and Body Lotion. One of my popular locally inspired soaps is Coconut Sugarcake Soap, which smells just like the popular local candy. Chinnery's products are available in St. Thomas stores, resort gift shops and online. Next up, she'll be re-introducing art candles, body scrubs and lip butters. (jdnatladyscreations.com)

RECYCLED SAILCLOTH BAGSby Annie MacPhail

[caption id="attachment_324637" align="alignright" width="300"]

Annie MacPhail - caribbean art - marinalife

Coral upholstery remnant totes | Annie MacPhail[/caption]The British Virgin Islands boasts one of the largest sailing communities in the world, from private to charter yachts and the sailmakers who serve them. U.S. native, avid sailor and 20-year BVI resident MacPhail embarked on a plan to turn old sails – Dacron and high-tech sail, kiteboard kite, and other materials – into fashionable bags. I wanted to design products for everyday use, using the cloth but not pointing directly to the fact that the cloth is used sailcloth, says MacPhail.Success is evident in her burgeoning business, of which popular items include a beautiful white clutch with a bold interior, wristlets made from black carbon fiber stylish enough for a black-tie event, and laptop bags with colorful kite pockets. New for 2022 is a line called Eco-Beach Cottage featuring khaki cotton weave and recycled sailcloth door stoppers, wastebaskets, trinket trays and more. MacPhail's sailcloth wares are sold at her Nutmeg & Co. boutique across from the ferry terminal in Road Town, Tortola and online. (anniemacphail.com)

CONFECTIONARYby Grenada Chocolate

Known as the Spice Island of the Caribbean, Grenada is now emerging as an award-winning, tree-to-bar chocolate producer. Earlier this year, The Grenada Chocolate Company's 100% Dark Chocolate, 71% Dark Chocolate and 60% Nib-A-Licious Dark Chocolate bars won silver and bronze at the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London.What makes Grenada's chocolate unique is that the plantations grow with a mixture of plants, not just cocoa, so the flavors of nearby oranges, passionfruit and herbs naturally enrich the flavor, says Magdalena Fielden, founder of the annual Grenada Chocolate Fest and owner of the True Blue Bay Boutique Resort. The Grenada Chocolate Company, started in 1998 and now encompassing 200-acres of farms growing organic trinitario-type cocoa, is one of six small-scale producers on the island. Their six products, available at Grenadian stores and online, include the three award winners plus 100% Dark Chocolate, 60% Dark Chocolate and the 71% Dark Chocolate Salty-Licious made with Caribbean Sea salt. (grenadachocolate.com)

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