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Chowish in Key West

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We'll be in Key West for a few days soon... what are the Chowish must-hit spots? We're looking forward to some good Cuban, but all suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Here is a list that should help.

    Breakfast

    Blue Heaven - very funky, usually a wait for a table, great outdoor eating area. Not always the best service. Good for vegetarians. It’s the place with the chickens everyone talks about.
    Martins- Great Brunch only on Sundays, great benedicts, make reservations for anything at noon or later
    Harpoon Harry's - local hangout, cheap and quick
    Banana Cafe - fabulous crepes, Locals favorite. Usually a wait
    Pepe's - delicious but expect a wait, get the homemade bread
    The Deli - cheap but good and fast

    Lunch

    Alonzo's Oyster Bar – On the water. Try the lobster sand and the white clam chili. They are the only place in town that offers cold water oysters and most would agree cold is the best. Very good happy hour. Air conditioning!!! Mixed reviews on service..
    The Deli - cheap but good and fast
    Square One – nice little Brunch type menu. Nice salads. They have a new Chef there that is getting great reviews.
    Half Shell Raw Bar - locals favorite, best raw bar, great conch chowder and fritters. Good Happy Hour but it gets busy. Must do!
    The Grand Café – Nice lunch fare. Good people watching.
    Turtle Kraals - locals favorite, southwest flavor. Mixed reviews on service and food but worth a try if you like Southwest food.
    Banana Cafe - good salads and crepes
    Kyushu – Sushi Bar with really good lunch specials.
    B.O.'s Fish Wagon - delicious fish sandwich. Kind of funky type place. This place is a must do.
    Rusty Anchor - on Stock Island, locals favorite
    Louie's – O.K. for lunch, not dinner – if you must try it. Not as good as it once was. Very pricey for snobby, so-so service. Sit at the bar for better service. The Afterdeck Bar is a great place for drinks.

    Dinner

    Pisces - fine dining but worth it. Great wine list. Yellowtail Atocha and Lobster Tango Mango!!! Yum!!! They probably have the best surf and turf on the island. Wonderful desserts. Pricey.
    A&B Lobster House – Overlooking the water fine dining, get a pan roast but save room for the banana foster! Sit outside if available. Great views.
    7 Fish –Locals favorite. Make reservations a couple days in advance. Casual. Don’t miss. Closed on Tuesdays. Very reasonable. Beer and wine only. Can get noisy.
    Antonia’s - amazing Italian, upscale. Great specials. Make reservations.
    Ambrosia - Sushi!! Make reservations. Best sushi in town. The tuna will melt in your mouth.
    Michael's – Fine Dining. Great steak and duck. Chocolate Volcano!
    Alice's – funky, make reservations. Don’t miss her Artichoke. Locals favorite.
    Blue Heaven - Yellowtail!! Service can be a little hit or miss
    Santiago’s Bodega – Fun little tapas place. It’s the new hot spot. Don’t miss the bread pudding! Beer and wine only and the have great red or white sangria.
    El Siboney - Great Cuban! Locals’ favorite for Cuban food year after year
    Nine One Five –Don’t miss the Devils on Horseback.

    Dessert

    Flamingo Crossing Ice Cream – Best coffee ice cream you will ever have

    1. We were in Key West about a month ago. Based on the recommendations of this board we went to Antonia's (great), Alices (LOVED IT) & Pepe's (great breakfast spot). I'd go back to all 3 in a heartbeat.

      1. We're back. We *Loved* Blue Heaven. What a fun place. They really get the details right. Top quality ingredients, put together right, innovative dishes. The service was great (both times we went!).

        7 Fish was a disappointment. The Banana Chicken was very good, but my wife's scallops were terrible. The atmosphere is lousy... loud and dark, and the service was sort of cold.

        Alonzo's was OK, but the location is great. I had Stone Crab Claws (very good, but expensive), the wife had Florida Lobster (just the tail... suspicous... I think it was frozen).

        Thanks for the list!

        1. I can't say for sure whether your wife's lobster was frozen, but Florida lobsters don't have claws, so the tail is really the main part that's served.

          1. Suzie, thanks for your great list of eats in Key West. It was hard narrowing it down but we enjoyed eating our way through Key West. I was the benevolent food dictator on the trip, my poor husband having to walk over half a mile with a full bladder, past several bars and restaurants because I wanted us to try a chowhound's recommendation. Our food itinerary:

            Wednesday(1/17)
            Ran over to Alonzo's at sunset but the happy hour was over in 15 minutes. Waitress didn't want to seat us by water so we left and had dinner at El Meson de Pepe
            conch chowder
            lechon asado with fried plantains(very good), black beans, yellow rice.
            Filete Meson(steak) with yucca
            Dessert was at Flamingo Crossing with Cuban coffee and key lime ice cream

            Thursday (1/18)
            Dinner: Santiago's Bodega
            Dates with goat cheese and proscuitto(marvelous)
            The trio (regular hummus, hummus with roasted red pepper, olive tapenade) with pita bread
            lamb patties with thyme, oregano, feta and red onion
            grouper fillet with fennel rub (Phenomenal!)
            avocado and pear salad with mixed greens (red swiss chard?) pinenuts and goat cheese
            I was debating between Santiago's and 915 and walking by 915 several times, I am so glad I didn't eat there. It was more expensive and most of the people sitting outside were talking on cell phones. It was just a scene I was not interested in and the people at Santiago were warm and friendly. I saw a couple of the Santiago waiters around town, running errands.
            Dessert: Blonde Giraffe
            Key lime pie on a stick (dipped in chocolate) $4.95 so-so, not all that.

            Friday (1/19)
            Lunch: Little Palm Island restaurant, off of Little Torch Key
            foccacia bread with artichoke spread, basil garlic pesto, olive oil/balsamic. If you eat all 3 pieces of bread, they'll give you more and not charge you.
            Nicoise salad with shrimp, olives, hard boiled egg, french green beans, tarragon dresssing
            Tasting of 4 (grouper ceviche, crab fritter(very good, like crab cake), sugar cane skewer chicken(dry) and shrimp cocktail (enormous tender shrimp)
            coconut flan with tropical fruit compote (papaya, starfruit, mango, blood orange, grapefruit)
            The food was very, very good. I wouldn't say it was the most exquisite meal I've had in my life, but the boat ride and beautiful island coupled with good food and service made it a memorable meal.

            Dinner(5 brothers was closed at 8:30pm Grr!)
            Mangia Mangia
            Bolleta Misto de Mare (herb clam broth, paparedella pasta, scallops, shrimp, clam, salmon). Broth and pasta magnificent!
            Sea Scallop with spinach fettucini
            Key lime pie$6. Cheesecake like texture.
            Baby's midnight blend coffee

            Saturday (1/20)
            lunch: Blue Heaven
            gumbo with cornbread
            blackened mahi mahi sandwich with red potato salad
            While the ambiance was great, the food good and the chickens cute, I was struck how Blue Heaven was over run with tourists. I wasn't expecting a secret place that only locals go to, but every single person there and in many of the places we ate was a tourist. I realize that the sunshine tax (real estate, water, electric) is very high in Key West and many locals have to struggle to live there and can't afford to eat at many restaurants in Key West. But it just made me kind of sad that something is disappearing in order to cater to loud, annoying, brain-dead tourists. [/end philosophical rant]

            dinner: Ambrosia. Antisocial Latvian waitress but did her job. Sushi was incredible.
            Eel (inside out roll) It was so good we had 2 sets.
            conch sashimi
            toro sashimi
            tuna sashimi
            ambrosia roll (hamachi)
            key west roll(stone crab)

            Sunday (1/21) (5 Brothers closed again argh!)
            lunch: B.O's Fish Wagon
            Grilled mahi mahi with conch fritter(the best we had) and fries

            Dinner: Alice's- the pinnacle of our vacation
            cajun shrimp roll with blue cheese
            brazilian samba salad with heart of palm, mango, mandarin oranges
            Just ducky salad with figs, golden raisins, blue cheese
            wild boar ribs with hoisin sauce, almond rice and stir fry bok choy
            key lime pie with blackened bottom.
            Black Beauty(chocolate mousse)
            keoke coffee (white chocolate liqueur)
            I'm usually skeptical of fusion cuisine because it usually ends up being several cuisines done badly. But that girl Alice, she can cook. On the menu, it mentioned she worked at the Picnic Basket in New Hope, PA. My husband worked at the mule barge in New Hope in high school and the catering was done by that restaurant. We were wondering if they might have overlapped.

            On Monday, I was able to get the roast pork and BBQ pork sandwich at 5 Brothers. I was determined to get my Cuban sandwich and it was worth it.