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The Florida Keys

I'm going to the Florida Keys for the first time and I was wondering if anyone knows any great "local" spots that I must go to. (for anything... breakfast, lunch, dinner, a drink)
Places that are not in the guide books.

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  1. Which Key(s) are you visiting?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Suzie

      All of them, but mostly Key West.

      1. re: nellyrose

        "all of them"? You know the Keys are over 120 miles long and there are many of them? Can you be more specific? Click on my name and you will find serveral posts about Key West. Here is a link with good info. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/348447

    2. Suzie said it first and I'll say it again...which key/s they're a lot bigger than they look on the map! Are you sure you want to hang with the locals??? They're pretty pickled down there! Viva la Republica Conch!!!

      Loralei, Tiki, Whistle Stop(very local)-Matacumbe Ziggy and Maddogs. Blue Heaven in Key West...

      1. Key West has some of the best restaurants in the Keys. One of the places that we always go to is the Turtle Kraal. There are several good restaurants along the boardwalk that lines the waterfront. The Kraal is very casual and has a southwestern flare to many of the dishes. Key West has a good mix of expensive and causal dining.

        Edited to add that if you are in the Islamorada area skip the Islamorada Seafood Company. I remember when this was a small place and just an extension of the seafood market. The food was okay and the service was typical keys. Now it's huge and the wait is long the food has gone down hill and the service was the worst I've had ANYWHERE. What is the attraction, I'll never know but there are better choices.

        1. Tower of pizza in Islamorada, locals pointed me there,and i was very happy with the food,not fancy,and certainly not touristy,but good reasonably priced food,and lots of it.

          18 Replies
          1. re: jword2001

            Tower of Pizza? Blech.
            Mrs. Mac's Kitchen at MM100 for lunch. Great stuff.
            Calypso's, also at MM100 on the ocean side. Dine on the water, not fancy, but Todd is one of the most creative cooks around (and a good friend). Excellent. No credit cards.
            Ballyhoo's, MM97 (or so). All you can eat stone crabs about $36. Great lunch specials and wonderfully fresh oysters on the half shell during happy hour for $4.20/dozen.
            The Hideout at MM103.5 has an all you can eat Friday night fish fry for $10, with FREE BEER. Somewhat rustic, but right on the H20.
            Great fish sandwich at Hobo's. MM102 or so. Steamers and chicken wings at happy hour are $.35.
            Num Thai at MM103.5 has the best thai and sushi in the Keys, bar none.
            The Sunday brunch at Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada is fabulous but $$$$$$$$$$.
            The Bagatelle in Key West, if it is still there. Been a while since I been down that far. Expensive.
            The Green Turtle in Islamorada has reopened but I have not been there.
            Some of the great old places have closed as they have sold out to developers.
            I live in Key Largo so I might have a better grasp on the Keys dining scene than some.

            1. re: keysrat

              You certainly have a better grasp than i do,I've been there on one vacation,and going back in November,I stand by the Tower of Pizza rec,good and reasonable the time we ate there,but you can bet i'm gonna try your rec's, thanks!

              1. re: jword2001

                Tower of Pizza has two restaurants, one in Key Largo and the other in Islamorada. The one in Key Largo is pretty dismal. They have a decent antipasto, but use pretty lame iceberg lettuce instead of a decent green. Their pizza and italian dishes are pitiful.
                I have not dined at the Islamorada TOP. I'm sure that you are correct that it is good, and my apologies.
                Decent Italian restaurants in the Keys are tough to come by. Greek is non-existant. What a shame.

                1. re: keysrat

                  keysrat, glad to know you live in Key Largo. We will be visiting in July, staying at the Holiday Inn. Would love you to give me as much info as you can about the food in Key Largo. Since you're a native you probably know the "best" places. We like everything,except for Thai. Also, I kknow that many of the restaurants have outdoor seating and that's great, but in July it can get very hot and sticky. Do these restaurants have indoor seating with AC or do many of them close up in the summer,off-season months? Any advice would be appreciated. We live in New Jersey and are familiar with the "hot, sticky" stuff that July brings so the weather won't bother us but I like to eat where it's comfortable. Thanks, Amy

                  1. re: amyr

                    All except Calypso's has A/C.
                    Nothing closes down for the summer. The Keys are always mobbed.
                    None of the bars I mentioned has A/C except Hog Heaven.
                    The Marlin has OK cuban food. Harriet's or DJ's for breakfast.
                    The Flamingo in north Key Largo had a fantastic rack of lamb on weekends, but not sure they are still open.
                    Got to go to work, I'll post more later.

                    1. re: keysrat

                      Thanks keysrat, your recommendations sound good. I've heard of Harriet's, but I've never heard of DJ's. I love to know about good breakfast places. Also, what's the hype with the Front Porch? Is it as good as people say.Thanks again. Amy

                      1. re: amyr

                        I have never heard of the Front Porch. Where is it located?

                        1. re: keysrat

                          I must have restaurant fog. Front Porch is a place in South Beach. We're going there also. The place I meant to ask about is the Key Largo Coffee House. Any good? Also what about Mrs. Mac's Kitchen. Thanks, Amy

                          1. re: amyr

                            Key Largo Coffee House used to be Frank Keys Cafe. I haven't been there since it changed hands.
                            Mrs. Mac's is a local institution. Locals flock to this place. Good food and inexpensive. At lunchtime you can get an grilled tuna steak served over a bed of fresh spinach, cucumbers and tomatoes for $8. Extremely casual.
                            If you are looking for a fancy place, this ain't it. Think diner or fish shack. But the food is great and the seafood is impeccibly fresh. Key Largo Fisheries is down the street from them so you know their stuff is fresh.
                            One caution-if you order the fish basket there, make sure it isn't "fish & chips" style. It has a super thick breading. Not good.
                            Even if it is warm, you owe it to yourself to visit Calypso's. It is more expensive than Mrs. Mac's but the food is inventive and delicious. Todd serves a fish sandwich he calls "wet black". It is dolphin or tuna, (he frequently has other selections- hogfish, snapper, etc...)your choice, that is grilled, then flavored with a zippy sauce, topped with feta and pepperoncini. Fantastic. His other stuff is at least as creative. The tuna tacos are the best in the Keys. Of course, they were his creation, and everyone else imitated it. He won the local restaurant cookoff so many times, they don't invite him anymore. Very casual, you dine open air (under a canopy), over looking the harbor. The occasional dog may stroll through, as many live aboard the boats in the harbor.
                            Down side- service can be spotty to bad. And Todd is an ultra-left wing conspiracy theorist who can say things that make Rosie O'Donnell seem conservative. But the food can't be beat.

                            1. re: keysrat

                              Thanks keysrat. You really gave me some good inside info. You're right, it'll be warm.... but we're use to hot, muggy weater here in New Jersey so we'll give Calypso's a visit. This Todd sounds like a character, but a great chef.
                              We're staying at the Holiday Inn so your recommendations are not too far from our hotel. Thanks again. Any time you want to add more recs, please do. Amy

                      2. re: keysrat

                        Nods to Harriets for breakfast. Was there a couple of weeks ago. Had the conch fritter special, with eggs, grits, biscuits. This NY girls was damn happy. I used to live in Fort Lauderdale for a few years and I miss conch and grits and good biscuits to no end. The biscuits were the highest ones I'd ever seen, picture perfect. And those conch fritters were to die for. Best breakfast I've had in years. And the services is as friendly as it can get, making it all a very worthwhile stop. Highly recommended!

                        1. re: keysrat

                          Calypso's has inside a/c seating as well as canopy covered patio dining w/ ceiling fans and waterfront non covered tables.

                          1. re: bron white

                            Sorry, Bron, I shoulda mentioned that.
                            How is the Big Fish doing? I ate there the other day, it was great!

                  2. re: keysrat

                    I am going for a week in Islamorada next week. Thanks for your recommendations. Aside from seafood places, any recs for Italian or steak places?

                    1. re: boonemom

                      Tower of pizza for good low cost Italian, it's not fancy ,but it is tasty.

                      1. re: jword2001

                        Thanks. Any recommendations for Cuban food near Islamorada?

                      2. re: boonemom

                        We had a great meal at Old Tavernier Restaurant a few weeks ago. Kind of has a Greek Diner feel when you first walk in but is NOT diner food at all. The menu is very ecclectic and yes, has Italian food on it. Overall a good food experience, although the waiter was a bit too "touchy-feely" (see my review). We would go back though.

                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/39267...

                        1. re: boonemom

                          Marker 88 is a fine dining institution. Classic european dishes and local seafood. Superb.
                          Just about anything you order at the Cheeca Lodge will be stunning. But you will be more stunned when you get the check.
                          Ziggies used to be great, but has changed hands a bunch of times. The original owner got himself killed one night chasing his dog through traffic while supremely intoxicated.
                          Do not eat anywhere in the Holiday Isle complex. TRUST ME.
                          Bentley's in Islamorada is excellent. Cioppino is a specialty. Not fancy.
                          If you must, there is an Outback at mm 80.
                          I can't say for sure if Little Italy south of Islamorada is still open. It used to be pretty good, but I haven't been there in years, so ask around first.

                    2. Caribbean Club in Key Largo for drinks. MM104.
                      Doesn't get anymore local than this.
                      This is where the Humphrey Bogart movie, Key Largo, was filmed.
                      VERY RUSTIC. VERY LOCAL. Can be intimidating to some. Bikers, locals and such, but quite harmless. The owner lives across the street from me. Great sunsets. You could meet anyone from biker dudes to the governor here.
                      Also try Gilbert's MM106, right before the bridge, great tiki bar right on the intercoastal.
                      Hog Heaven is a good sports bar in Islamorada.

                      1. Forgot to add the Barracuda Grill: MM 49. I haven't been there in a while but they were a little more upscale than most places in the middle keys. I found the food very good.

                        1. Hope this isn't too late; Louie's Back Porch in Key West. Try it for lunch to enjoy the deck out back at a most reasonable price.

                          1. the green turtle reopened?!?!?! thats great! whats the word on pierre's in islamorada, ive heard its pretty good.