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driving to the keys

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i have friends flying into MIA, renting a car, and driving to key west. What are the best lunch and dinner places in the upper keys to stop on their way down?

also, what are the best places in key west for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. $$$ is not so much of an issue.

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  1. I haven't been personally, but for lunch in the upper keys I've heard good things about Alabama Jack's in "downtown" Card Sound. (I use the quotes because it's a toll plaza and some boat slips, not quite my idea of a "downtown.")

    Taking either the Turnpike or 95, when you get off at Florida City, before you get on that loooooong stretch of US 1, you'll see a Long John Silvers and some other fast food joints. There will be a sign to turn LEFT for Card Sound Road (marked with a hurricane evacuation route sign). Take Card Sound across the water and turn right (south). You'll see a toll booth (I think it's a dollar) and Alabama Jack's is right there. Seafood shack. Afterwards continue on Card Sound and it links back up with US 1 around John Pennekamp, so you'll still make it to the keys. :-)

    1. Previous posts have revealed a few dissatisfied diners, but we like to stop for lunch at Islamorda Fish Company (on the water, behind Bass Pro Shops/Worldwide Sportsman in Islamorada). In Key West, breakfast at Ricky's Blue Heaven (Thomas & Petronia streets) is a must. Haven't been to Louie's Backyard recently but we've had dinner there before and loved the setting and the food.

      1. Frodsenor, Netmover...no suggestions..im sure both of you have some good suggestions!

        1. I regretfully haven't done a keys trip in a long time, and for some reason can never remember the names of the places we stop at along the way! Alabama Jack's is definitely an experience but I don't recall much about the food, honestly.

          Had one very nice meal at Louie's Backyard a couple years ago. I remember there's a crepe place that we always liked for breakfast but the name is not coming back to me.

          1. did that drive about 3 years ago...so memory is faded. i remember some good meals at mangoes, bagatelle, 2 others i can't recall.

            as far as the bars: i enjoyed irish kevins and hog's breath

            1. Here is a list I give people coming to Key West. I hope it helps.

              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
              Camille’s – Mixed reviews but worth a shot for breakfast. Most tend to agree it’s not as good as it was when it was located on Duval Street

              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.
              Half Shell Raw Bar - locals favorite, best raw bar, great conch chowder and fritters. Good Happy Hour but it gets busy.
              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.
              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. Voted “Top Food” and “Top Service” by Zagat 2003.
              Ambrosia - Sushi!! Make reservations. Best sushi in town. The tuna will melt in your mouth.
              Michael's – Fine Dining. Voted “best service” by Zagat 2003. 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 Reply
              1. re: Suzie

                Suzie, I've been doing a lot of research on Key West restaurants but you summed it up pretty well with your list. You are quite knowledgeable. Thank you for doing this for the chowhounds.

              2. We live in Islamorada. Our "regulars" In Key Largo from north to south: Hobo's for a good burger, Denny's for Cuban, Mrs. Mac's for funky Keys style. On Plantation Key, Chilli Willlies for a neighborhood grill and bar atmosphere. Then in Islamorada, Morada Bay just north of World Wide Sportsman, it is directly on a beach on Florida Bay, Midway Cafe for a funky eclectic but very good lunch, Lazy Days on the ocean just as you leave Upper Matecumbe, then on Lower Matecumbe, the Hungry Tarpon at Robbies Marina. Nothing after that until you get to Marathon. Don't know much about Key West.

                1. We've always been a huge fan of Mrs Mac's--I loved their fish basket, with their awesome onion rings. However, about a month ago, we were there and were greatly disappointed. Dunno whether it was an off night, or what, but the fish seemed overbattered/ubndercooked. Crispy on the outside, then a seemingly-uncooked layer of coating covering the fish. Ugh. The rings were still great, though!

                  1. Blue Heaven was always a hit with me and my wife for breakfast.