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ISO best of the keys

Will be visiting the keys in the spring and will be driving from Ft Myers and then returning to Ft Lauderdale.
Will have a rental and plan to spend the day each way travelling through the keys with the other 6 days in Key West.
Looking for:
The best local food. Fresh fish simply prepared; places where the locals dine. Not looking for fine dining but casual fare, especially for lunch and breakfast.

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    1. re: Suzie

      Thanks Suzie - that way my OPing but didn't end up going. I just figured out how to look at my own posts. Took me a while!

    2. Calypso's, mm99 or so oceanside. Service is spotty at best but some of the best food in the Keys. Very casual. Open air dining over looking the harbor in Key Largo. Mrs. Mac's Kitchen on the bay side is also a great lunch spot. Ballyhoo's (mm98) for fresh oysters at happy hour, and at dinner, all you can eat stone crabs for $35. I had the stone crabs Monday night. Excellent.
      Pierre's, a fancy joint at Cheeca Lodge, is fantastic. But the prices are scary.
      Breakfast at Harriet's, about mm95 bay side.
      AVOID- Buzzard's Roost, Tower of Pizza in Key Largo, Pita, Etc...
      Enjoy your trip.

      1. Keysrat has some very good picks that I like and agree with. Bentley's in Islamorada is also a very, very good restaurant where locals and tourists dine. I've been there dozens of times with large and small parties and never a bad seafood meal. Voted Best of The Keys on several occasions. Casual atmosphere, upscale food. The Fish House in Key Largo is reliable but I think a bit pricey but still good. Like Bentley's best.

        2 Replies
        1. re: LargeLife

          I agree with you on Bentley's. I just got back from the keys and went to Bentley's twice - it was so good, we had to go back for a second time. Between me and my 3 travel buddies, we put away florida lobster, lobster chowder, 2 types of escargot, dozens of raw oysters, baked mussels, 5 types of crab, stuffed shrimp, tuna sashimi, and some wonderful key lime pie (we saw a box of key limes that had just come in, so this is definitely the real deal). Drinks were great, service was awesome (not a fluke, we had a different server each night and even the bus boys were attentive), and the atmosphere is nice although exclusively indoor. The list of nightly specials that your server will recite to you is dizzying. Prices were not cheap, however... unless you go there during happy hour 4-6? Oysters were dirt cheap during happy hour, as well as many other happy hour and early bird specials. No complaints on the drinks either. From what I've experienced so far, Bentley's is the best in the keys outside of Key West.

          1. re: LargeLife

            We had a family dinner at Bentley's this week and I am trying to understand what all the fuss is about. It has one of the more ambitious menus in the upper keys but ambition and execution do not meet at Bentley's. First crime: the lobster was overcooked by several minutes. Really, how does a serious seafood restaurant overcook a plain lobster? Second, I had the Chioppino; it had a basic marinara sauce with plenty of seafood. However, they couldn't manage the cooking process and the scallops were like little hockey pucks, the fish was well-done but the lobster, Alaskan King crab and clams were nicely cooked. I admit that I'm a fan of the west coast version of this dish and anyone expecting a tasty Spanish/Mexican influenced dish should stay away as this is a simple tomato sauce with little auxiliary flavour. We complained about the overcooking and were provided a discount on the bill but that didn't fix the food.

            One member of the group had the prime-rib (I don't agree with ordering beef in a seafood restaurant but here's the review) and he ordered medium and got well-done. To be fair, the starters were well executed if not exciting: tuna tartar was lovely, oysters were fine and stone crab was fresh. Another disappointment was that the first two Sauvignon Blancs we tried to order (out of the five on the menu) were sold out. A positive point is that mark-ups on wine are pretty reasonable at roughly 50% above retail on the products I was familiar with.

            Frankly the best thing on the menu was the kiddies’ fish'n'chips: the breaded dolphin (mahi-mahi) was gorgeous, lightly breaded and gently cooked. Everyone loved it except the kid.

            On the other hand, a very good find was the Village Gourmet in Islamorada @ MM82.7, they offer delicious breakfasts (big burrito, blackened grouper omelette), then they flip over to rustic Italian for lunch and dinner. We didn’t have dinner but the lunch was also great flavour for $: freshly made chicken parmesan sandwich and the special of the day was a blackened shrimp wrap. It’s not a formal restaurant by any means, there’s only space for 10-12 inside, everyone else sits on the patio. But there were a lot of locals there on both our visits.

          2. Below is a list I put together for good friends that were honeymooning in Key West. I hope it helps!


            Key West! Here are a few suggestions….

            Fine Dining:

            Square One – Romantic elegance right down to the piano bar; this is one of our favorite places to sneak off by ourselves. I almost always go for local fare but I will make an exception for the New Zealand Lamb at Square One. http://www.squareonerestaurant.com/

            Alice’s – In the heart of the Duval Street hubbub Alice’s is a quirky and fun escape with an interesting balance of Key West kitsch and gourmet cuisine. We shared several of the small plates which I thought were awesome. Alas, some of those were a little spicy for Kathy’s taste. The second time we visited she had a Mahi Mahi dish that she raves about to this day! http://www.aliceskeywest.com/

            Michael’s – Truly top shelf, this is one of the most popular high end restaurants in Key West, and with good reason. The pastas are awesome and the steaks incredible, with service to match. Don’t overlook the Martini menu! http://www.michaelskeywest.com/

            Louie’s Backyard - Go early, sit on the outside deck for drinks, watch the sun go down over the Southernmost Point and forget about life for a while. This is what the Keys are really all about. We have yet to have “dinner” here but have enjoyed a light meal of drinks and appetizers several times. http://www.louiesbackyard.com/

            Honorable Mentions:
            http://www.sarabethskeywest.com/ (Nice for Breakfast too!


            Off The Beaten Path:

            Seven Fish – Despite the tight quarters and lacking ambiance Seven Fish remains a favorite for “Key West Comfort Food”. The food is upscale and nearly 100% local, the value is hard to beat in this town. I always hope the Snapper in a Golden Curry Sauce is on the specials list but the Crab Cakes or the Gnocchi will do in a pinch. Don’t go here for the atmosphere…go for the food. http://www.7fish.com/

            Ricky’s Blue Heaven – Rustic and Rough around the edges…long before Jimmy Buffett ever played from the rooftop of the outdoors bar Blue Heaven was a whore house and that’s just an inkling of the true Key West history this place has to offer. Sometimes we go for breakfast (the Shrimp & Grits rock!) and sometimes we go for dinner (I almost always order the Fresh Yellowtail Snapper) but we nearly always go to Blue Heaven at least once a trip. http://blueheavenkw.homestead.com/Blu...

            El Meson de Pepe – I can’t mention Key West history without thinking of El Meson de Pepe. Our favorite place to recommend following sunset at Mallory Square or a visit to the Hemingway House, El Meson de Pepe was a military warehouse before becoming the processing center for thousands of Cuban immigrants as they disembarked at Mallory Square. The Roast Pork is my favorite dish and I always wash it down with one of the best Mojitos around. http://www.elmesondepepe.com/

            Casual Locals Joints:

            El Siboney – Family owned Cuban food so good you’ll swear they’ve got their Mom in the kitchen. I have tried several menu items through the years but I always gravitate to the “Siboney Steak”. It’s a perfectly seared Skirt Steak topped with a churrasco style chopped onion, garlic, and fresh parsley with lime. I dare you to eat the whole thing! http://www.elsiboneyrestaurant.com/in...

            Hogfish Bar & Grill – The Hogfish has become our traditional last meal before heading for home. I usually go for the Famous Hogfish Sandwich or the Lobster Ruben…the rest of the menu can be hit or miss. This place is true back roads Key West (even though it’s on Stock Island.) http://www.hogfishbar.com/

            Schooner Wharf – All outdoor dining with decent salads, good fish tacos and fries, and a sinful Mahi Mahi Melt. It’s very much a local’s joint. http://www.schoonerwharf.com/

            B.O.’s Fishwagon – Eccentric and junky looking place with very good food. Caddy corner from here is Kathy’s favorite little shop for clothes and etc so needless to say, BO’s is another place we go to nearly every trip. http://www.foodreference.com/html/kbo...

            Things To Do:

            The World Famous Conch Tour Train – I know, I know it corny, tacky, and touristy but I always recommend the Conch Tour, especially to newcomers. It really is a great tour and an awesome way to get a feel for the town and its history. It also allows you a good look at places you might want to visit later…places you might not have known about if you hadn’t gone on this corny but fun ride. http://www.conchtrain.com/

            Pirate Soul Museum – I love this place. It offers a fascinating, albeit short, walk through exhibits of genuine artifacts, embellished by videos, sound affects, and even a character or two. For me it’s a chance to revisit my youth when I was glued to the Saturday afternoon Errol Flynn movies or had my nose glued to some Howard Pyle or Robert Louis Stevenson Novel. http://www.piratesoul.com/

            Sunset at Mallory Square – You can’t visit Key West without spending at least one sunset at Mallory Square. There street performers and vendors, boats, planes, and bicycles, an eclectic and enthusiastic crowd and some damn good conch fritters to be had!

            Mel Fischer’s Maritime Heritage Museum – More history…go figure! Kathy puts up with me visiting this and Fort Zachary Taylor so that I’ll put up with her shopping. It’s a nice compromise.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LiveRock

              Thanks for the great list. I can't wait to eat fish, fish and more fish. If we can do it, we would like to eat fish for one meal every day; cheap and fresh and not deep fried (except for some conch fritters).

            2. We always stop at Coconuts on Key Largo on our way to Key West. Sit out on the deck. Very consistent; always good.

              In Key West we ALWAYS go to dinner at Louie's Backyard. The food is fabulous, the service excellent and you can't beat the ambience. Be sure to ask for an outside table to enjoy the view. Close to heaven. Last time I had lobster in a citrus cream sauce over angel hair pasta....to die for! (It was actually an appetizer, but I asked them to double it and serve as my entree. They are very accomodating.)

              1. I always recommend Blue Heaven for breakfast and Salsa Loco is a great place to get cheap, awesome mexican food! They have a great outdoor patio.

                And Schooner Wharf still has my prize for the best fish tacos in the land! Very simple and the fish is excellent.

                1. make sure you go feed the fish at the hungry tarpon in tavernier I think

                  1. The Hungry Tarpon is a must stop for breakfast or lunch....it is just south of Islamorada. on the bay at Robbies Marina. After eating you go out on the dock and for 2 bucks you get a bucket of fish to feed the 100 pound tarpon. Thats right,,,huge tarpon.

                    We like Bobalus in north Stock Island...great fish(homey and special)

                    Calypso's in Key Largo, Chef Todd makes it a gem.(fish house across the harbor)

                    Kaiyo in Islamorada...fresh local fish...cooked and sushi (superb place)

                    The Island Tiki in Marathon...Quick Reasonable Mexican w/ lots of fresh seafood

                    Herbies in Marathon...everything homemade homemade hot fudge for the sundae.

                    eat well

                    1. Thanks everyone. I am making a list as you write.
                      Next question: What gifts for foodies should I bring home?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: itryalot

                        Island Joes Coffee Beans
                        Coconut Strips
                        Key Lime things from Kermitts Key Lime Shop

                        1. re: Suzie

                          Thanks. I can't wait. Keep the suggestions coming.

                        2. re: itryalot

                          A whole key lime pie from Blue Heaven. It's the best. You'll need to order it a day in advance; talk to Theresa, the nice young lady who makes the pies there; she'll set you up.

                        3. I'm planning a jaunt along the Keys in March, coming from Naples. I'll spend a night or two in Key West but I thought I'd like to stay at other keys on the way and coming back. I know this isn't strictly food related, but any recommendations for where to stop. Food is a high priority, but I also like to see a little wildlife.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ccferg

                            Driving from Naples on Route 41, there is a "loop road" that takes you on an approximately one hour detour through some of south Florida's most pristine wilderness. In warmer weather, you'd see so many gators you'd wish you were a wildlife photographer; but this time of year the birds and the airplants are worth the drive. The terrain is a bit rough (part of the road is unpaved), and there's no food (and this is my first post on Chowhound), but it's one of south Florida's best spot for wildlife viewing.

                            1. re: kwamy

                              That definitely sounds interesting; if we are driving in daylight, we will take that on.

                          2. I will give you my TOP 3 if you tell me what the hell ISO means?

                            1. Calypso - upper keys. It was good to see this supported by many in this post.

                            2. Ricky's Blue Heaven - KW LIkewise good to see people posting on RBH's behalf!

                            3. Square Grouper - middle-lower keys mm 22. I didn't see this one mentioned, however I can assure you it is well worth a visit.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: netmover

                              Sqaure Grouper was highly recommended to us..but we never made it..closed when we went by.

                              I highly recommend Key's Fishery in Mararathon. It's a market, casual outdoor restaurant, and marina. We chartered a boat and shipped home a good amount of yellowtail snapper.

                              This place reminds me of Islamorada Fish Co..10+ years ago...before they were commercialized.

                              They have a specialty of lobster reuben; which I don't recommend..vile combo imo


                              Bahia State Park, just south of 7 mile bridge is a real nice take.

                                1. re: eatnbmerry

                                  thanks....as soon as I clicked the post button, it occured to me. That was after googling it unsuccessfully.

                                2. re: netmover

                                  Sure. It was about one year ago that I asked that very same question.
                                  In Search Of.
                                  Square grouper intrigues me. I am a huge fan of grouper and can't get it up here in the midwest. Can't wait.

                                  1. re: itryalot

                                    You can find grouper all over the Keys since it is a local fish. The name square grouper has nothing to do with the fish itself. It was a nickname that the locals used when they talked about the bales of pot that would wash up on the shores or they would find floating in the waters. They were square in shape.

                                    1. re: Suzie

                                      So in essence we touristas need to stay away from the square grouper, right? ;-)

                                      Thanks for all the suggestions. I'll be making the trek next weekend from Ft. Lauderdale to Key West. Should be a blast. I appreciate the help!

                                    2. re: itryalot

                                      A discussion about where to buy fish in the Detroit area has been split to the Midwest board:


                                  2. The best fish sandwich in Key West is served at the very rustic B.O.'s Fishwagon. We also like his conch when he has it. Waterfront Market is a vedgie/fish/gourmet shop on the waterfront which no foodie should miss. The Vedgetarian Cafe on Southard is very good. Santiago's Bodega in Bahama Village and The 915 on Duval both serve nice tapas and have good wine lists. Pepe's on Caroline Street is a local favorite for breakfast, lunch and dinner; the OJ and grapefruit juice are fresh squeezed at the bar. Origami in Duval Square has great sushi.

                                    1. Hi
                                      Can anyone add any chow worthy eateries in the Key Largo area?


                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: ptcandy

                                        I had a nice lunch at Alabama Jack's in Key Largo..casual seafood shack with great views.

                                        It's on Card Sound; and it's not on the main road. We stumbled on it, because US1 was closed due to a carjacking and we were in bumper to buper traffic on this alternate route.

                                        I would have stopped anywhere; just to get out of the car..and this place appeared like magic and I had read about it on this board.

                                        Good spot

                                        1. re: 9lives

                                          As you are heading towards Key West at mile marker 20(you will soon learn that everything is in relationship to mile markers ...MM) on your right is a place called Mangrove Mama's.. It's easy to miss, it look like an old house along the road.I think it was mentioned but you need to stop at Hungry Tarpon at MM 77 for breakfast , it's on the bay side. It is right next to Robbies, Pay a few bucks and hand feed the giant tarpon. A non- eating place to stop is Shell World at MM97 in the median. There are a few Shell World's but this one is the biggest and best. The No Name Pub is quite a dive also. Good wings and pizza, When you are there ask a local where you can go see the Key Deer.

                                          1. re: HotMelly

                                            Hey ccferq.....I like to stay at www.dropanchorresort.com Mom and Pop place , clean with large rooms on the ocean side. Around MM 84 or 85. Walking distance to the Island Grill, and Hog Heaven. Both have good food.

                                        2. re: ptcandy

                                          The two places that we like to stop in Key Largo are Buzzard's Roost and the Flamingo Cafe. Both are well off the beaten track and have very good food -- on Garden Cove Road: the last left off of Card Sound Road before you get to Route 1; or the first left off of route 1 after you pass Card Sound Road. They often park a truck with a big buzzard on top on the corner so you know where to turn. You can google either one for more info. As for Alabama Jack's, its location is magical and you certainly know you're in the Keys; but if you get good food, you really lucked out.

                                          1. re: kwamy

                                            I have been to Alabama Jacks many times over the years and have always had a good meal. Everything was always fresh and prepared as ordered. Its a wonderful place to eat at.

                                            1. re: kwamy

                                              At AJ's we didn't get too fancy...grilled and fried grouper..very fresh and done properly and conch chowder (so so)..fresh brewed iced tea. Didn't seem like the kind of place you want to get too challenging on the menu..:)

                                              No doubt, there was a certain serendipity in the way we came upon it..2+ hours in a rental car from MIA..and crawling at 3 miles an hour..and there it was. 1 hour lunch break and the traffic had cleared..and off we went. So the view and the circumstances contributed to my positive memories. It was a real welcome to the Keys.

                                              1. re: 9lives

                                                We too stopped at Alabama Jack's on the way down. We shared the fried platter for two and it was great. Sometimes you get fried items that are really greasy but it was actually really good. The only negative is that the crabcake had too much filler.

                                                We also stopped at the Hungry Tarpon on the way back. The food was relatively good (although I had a really bad cold and couldn't taste as much). Loved the atmosphere of the place.

                                                In Key West, we went to Pisces. Great food but rather expensive for what you get.

                                                Thanks for everyone's recommendations!

                                              2. re: kwamy

                                                Buzzard's Roost? Blech. Awful. It used to be decent but now it is pitiful.
                                                Flamingo has been closed for ages. The building is up for sale. I drove by it yesterday.

                                            2. What is Islamorada Fish Company like? Decent fish?

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: itryalot

                                                Many years ago I loved Islamorada Fish Company....But in the last few years I have not been impressed. The restaurant is affiliated with most Bass Pro Shops

                                                1. re: itryalot

                                                  I would second HM and add that it is overpriced as well.

                                                  1. re: itryalot

                                                    We love the Islamorada Fish co. Nothing fancy just plastic chairs and good fish. If you set outside you can often see them bringing fresh fish in and cleaning it. The fried yellowtail is killer here. I'm a little suprised any one could refer to this as over priced at around $10 for a fresh yellow tail basket. One of the few places that will cook your catch for you. I agree that in recent years it's not what it once was but I still find it a fantastic lunch spot for some fresh fried fish or stone crabs.

                                                    1. re: Docsknotinn

                                                      There is a link to menu below and not only are they not cheap for "plastic chairs" but take their value for flavor into account and the ratio is low as well. I admit that it was better years ago now and is still not a bad spot for a quick beer at sunset especially if you've been shopping for gear next door.
                                                      BTW, the yellowtail is listed as market price so maybe you won the lotto.


                                                      1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                        We'll just have to agree to dissagree. Less than $16 for a fresh fish basket IMO is a great value and I kinda like the plastic chairs on the dock. I've ate there many times. Here's a link to their fish counter and market price on Yellowtail is less than $15 a pound. I personally find it very hard to fault a restaurant selling fresh local fish for less than the average entree at some typical chain restaurant. As always theese things are subject to interpretation but until I actually have a poor meal there they will absolutly remain on my favorites list. Enjoy!


                                                        1. re: Docsknotinn

                                                          I thought your post was about Cooked seafood? But if you want to switch gears and talk about "Fresh", your "less than $15 a pound" for yellow tail snapper is no great deal. In fact, I can find the rarer and better tasting (the consensus of the fishermen/folks I know) fresh hog snapper for the same price usually.

                                                          Sure we can disagree, but numbers don't lie. And the IFC is overpriced for what they deliver food wise. In the end they have become a chain with too many of the "feed the masses" problems inherent in so many of them.

                                                          1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                            You indicated that the yellow tail basket is market price so I put up a link to their price. Not really trying to switch gears. You feel it's over priced and if your local this is understandable. As a tourist I feel it's more than fair and so far they haven't let me down.
                                                            Like others I'm sad to see this turn into a chain.
                                                            Either way I'd rather be off catching my own! Enjoy.

                                                            1. re: Docsknotinn


                                                              The price you put up is for the "fresh" yellow tail at the seafood market not the cooked "basket" at the restaurant. The latter remains, according to the menu I linked earlier, market price.

                                                              Good luck and may you catch your fill!

                                                              1. re: eatnbmerry

                                                                Is Kaiyo any good? Dawn Sieber was awesome when she was at the Cheeca.

                                                            2. re: eatnbmerry

                                                              Yeah, it is about cooked, but you know how it goes when you start talking about food prices.

                                                              1. re: itryalot

                                                                Cooked or not market price is market price. Since they actually have a seafood market the price is tied to the fresh per pound price.

                                                      2. re: itryalot

                                                        I just got back from a trip to the keys and the scuba charter we were using recommended Islamorada Fish Co. We decided to try it out despite the warnings I'd seen on Chow.com. The atmosphere is beautiful, with a huge outdoor dining area right by the water. Tiki torches, live reggae music, and island decor is everywhere. The food was rather uninteresting though, and definitely not worth the price. The conch chowder was bland and the cracked conch I had was poorly battered. Their raw oysters were fresh, but cost more than other places nearby. I would've asked our server for something other than cocktail sauce for my cracked conch if I thought she would've been receptive to the request. The service was some of the worst I've ever experience. Our server was extremely unfriendly, unattentive, and probably overworked. I strongly recommend going to Bentley's instead, which is where we went the following night (get there during happy hour!!). Maybe go to IFC afterwards for a couple beers and soak up some of the island feel (their cocktails weren't very good either). This opinion was shared by the other divers in my group as well.

                                                      3. We liked the Wooden Spoon in Marathon for breakfast.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: pringle347

                                                          Anything in particular to recommend?
                                                          RE:Islamorada Fish Co - We would be stopping at the one in Ft Myers when we land for a quick bite.

                                                          1. re: itryalot

                                                            We really like the fried yellow tail basket although we have never been to that location. Enjoy the Keys!

                                                        2. Probably too late for your trip but I have always had a great grouper sandwich at The Wreck and Crew on Grassy Key. My wife and I, on our too infrequent visits to the Keys, always time our driving so we can have lunch there.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: SonyBob

                                                            Which Mile Marker or area is that?

                                                          2. Hi
                                                            Got back and realized why we don't like the keys. Onlhy good meals we had were at the Fish House in Key Largo. Only complaints we had were that they rush you through dinner and although there is water everywhere, the restaurant is on the main road with no view. We also hit Alabama Jacks and it is an unusual place on the river on Card Sound, just north of the toll booth. As for the food, it is mostly fried and nothing special but it is an interesting place with interesting people. I'm sure there are nice places to dine but we didn't find them.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: ptcandy

                                                              Most of your better restaurants in the Upper Keys are not on the water. Most waterfront property is residential.
                                                              Pilot House is on the harbor and it is OK, Bayside Grill is pretty good too. Both Calypso's (casual) and Marker 88 (fine dining) are on the water- both are excellent. It is a shame that Papa Joe's closed down.
                                                              Fish House is decent but there are others that are much better.
                                                              If you want to see the water, go to the Caribbean Club after dinner for a drink.

                                                              1. re: keysrat

                                                                We did hit Marker 88 for lunch. Fell into it by accident when Route One backed up due to traffic. We were hungry and the drive was right there. They have some tables outside and the food was fine. Menu looked interesting but it was our day to leave so we will save it for another time.

                                                            2. In KW, you must try Half Shell Raw Bar. This place is an institution for pink KW shrimp and freshly chucked oysters. For seafood with Cuban flavors, try El Siboney which is a family run establishment with delicious and affordable fare. Last, if you like sushi, try Ambrosia. The owners are very gracious and the kitchen will win you over with their mouth-watering rolls, slabs of fresh sashimi and large offering of premium sakes. By the way, the Conch Republic's motto is: "Slow down, you are no longer in the main land!" Enjoy.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: creamy

                                                                the Conch Republic's motto is: "Slow down, you are no longer in the main land!"

                                                                That's a new one on me and I've lived here 35 years.

                                                              2. We were just in Key West in November and there was not a bad place that we tried. Most tourist destinations seem to have a few restaurants that are just in it for the money: high prices and undistinguished food, but we were impressed with each place we tried.

                                                                On the way down we stopped for lunch at The Fish House between mile marker 104 and 103. The seafood was good and fresh and we enjoyed the yellow tail snapper, the fried shrimp and the fried clam strips, but the best of all was the homemade coconut ice cream!!! It was served in a half coconut shell and was sooo good we made a point of stopping there again for lunch on the way back. The have a seafood market in the restaurant also and sell excellent smoked fish and their key lime pie to go.

                                                                We did the tourist thing and ate at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville and that is probably the closest thing to a tourist trap for food, but the Cheeseburger in Paradise was good even if it cost about $9.

                                                                We stayed at a house managed by the Andrews Inn about 8 blocks up Duval Street from the main waterfront destination for tourists. We sampled several places nearby along Duval Street during our 5 day stay and we were never disapointed. The accomodations at the Andrews Inn were excellent. Jorge (he pronounces it George) was a helpful and accomodating host at happy hour each day at the Inn.

                                                                We had dinner at Mangoes and it was delicious and very creative food. The outside dining atmosphere was very pleasant.

                                                                We had breakfast at Croissants De France and everything was great. The outdoor dining just added to the pleasure.

                                                                We also ate at Duffy's Steak & Lobster House and enjoyed their food as well.

                                                                El Siboney was authentic Cuban food, was off the beaten path and was low priced. It was as good as any local Cuban restaurant that I have tried in Tampa or anywhere else.

                                                                We never got to try Seven Fish (you definitely need reservations) but judging by the crowds it is probably very good. We tried to "walk-in" around 6:30 and were told they might be able to squeeze us in around 9:30.

                                                                Lastly, the boat trip to the Dry Tortugas is a must. We felt it was definitely worth the cost.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Geeyum

                                                                  Geeyum.I'm so glad you had a great time.........Even if it is a tourist trap........It is usually fun in Key West. .Just don't wear black socks with sandals, flowered shirt with a 15 pound camera around your neck.

                                                                  1. re: HotMelly

                                                                    The digital camera has probably lightened the load, but I guess there will always be those who love the black socks and sandals look. We didn't see too much of that while we were there, but there certainly were lots of hawaiian prints shirts. The Jimmy Buffet influence I suppose.

                                                                2. I know this is an older thread, but I had to throw this one in for best of the Keys. For the best Cuban Mix and strongest coffee, you cannot beat Sandy's Cafe.

                                                                  Sandy's Cafe is attached to the M&M Laundry on White St. Do not let the appearance of the place deter you, the coffee is the best. Sandy's is not a traditional cafe; there are no places to sit, so its grab and go. I suggest getting a Colada, milk chug, and Cuban Toast for breakfast (<$10 US) and enjoy by the waterfront.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: exkwco

                                                                    I was in KW in November for a couple days, couldn't decide what I wanted to eat and was just scootering around town when I stumbled upon Sandy's. Just what I needed, a good Cuban sandwich. There are in fact a couple stools at the window but the neat/weird thing is that on the other side is a window to the attached laundromat that patrons can also walk up to. Very cool and non-touristy.

                                                                  2. I know that you have already taken your trip but I wanted to add my two cents about our favorites in the Keys. We go every year, from Tampa, and drive down through the Keys to Key West, where we stay. We love to get to No Name Key and have the best pizza in the Keys if you can find the No Name Pub, which is a challenge. Also, Square Grouper is fabulous for lunch or dinner. If you are planning to go there, call first, because they close some days of the week and some holidays. I think they are at about MM 28.5. No Name Key is in that general vacinity. Just before Key West is a little "seedy" area called Stock Island but they have a good restaurant there called the Hogfish Bar and Grill. They are known for the hogfish sandwiches but if you are going for that menu item, you may want to call first because they don't always have that particular fish. Their other menu items are good too and they are one the water but not particularly scenic...rustic and fishing village in atmosphere. If you like kayaking, there is a company called the Blue Planet that does a really Eco friendly, educational kayaking excursion that we love where they take you through the mangroves and show you different types of wildlife. We do the one in the morning and then have lunch at Hogfish. As far as restaurants in Key West, our favorite "fancy" restaurant is Micheals. It is not on the water but it has a lovely garden dining and bar area with prime beef served. The drinks are fabulous and it is off of the noisy Duval St. area but close enough to walk there after dinner of from there if that is where you are staying. Seven Fish totally rocks. We have been going there for years and the menu hasn't changed much and the quality has stayed impeccable. You MUST make a reservation. It is very, very small. If you are going for an intimate conversation, this might not be the place. You get really cozy with the people in the table next to you. However, you will not be disappointed with the food. We love to do El Siboney for lunch. Since we usually only stay three or four nights, we like to keep those nights for places like Micheals and Seven Fish but if you like Cuban food, you cannot go wrong with El Siboney. I am a Tampa native and we have some of the best Cuban food in the world on our doorsteps so I was reluctant to go to this restaurant but I must tell you ....I don't know what they do that is different but their food is just exceptional. Be sure to get the plantains. I have eaten many plantains in my life and these are by far the best. Pepe's is a little restaurant and bar on Caroline Street. We love going there for happy hour. They serve great drinks and at 4:30 they always serve some hearty appetizers, free with your drinks. We do this on evenings when we are going out to some nice dinner at 7:00 because those appetizers definately spoil your appetite. I haven't had a meal there but we are going to KW tomorrow and we will be having breakfast there, which I hear is a treat.

                                                                    1. At the risk of blowing it for the locals, here is a list (partial and far from definitive) of wonderful dining options while visiting Key West. For breakfast check out Camilles on Simonton St. Great pancakes, Godiva Chocalate french toast, omelette specials and other morning goodies. Pepe's on Caroline St. serves a great breakfast. They make a homemade bread of the day and have a daily omelette special that sometimes sounds a little over the top but it's good and filling. If you're hungover order the Dutch omellette; 2 eggs scrambled and a Heinekin. Another breakfast spot is The Banana Cafe on upper Duval St. It's run by a French lady named Dani and they have the best crepes around; homemade sauces etc. It's small but well worth the wait. Finally Blue Heaven serves a killer breakfast. Great pancakes and homemade banana nut bread are just a couple of items. There are alot more good breakfast places. I'll have to get back with you about lunch and dinner in the near future.

                                                                      1. Love Camile's for breakfast.

                                                                        Key West:
                                                                        Seven Fish
                                                                        B.O.s Fishwagon
                                                                        Blue Heaven
                                                                        Two Friends
                                                                        Half Shell

                                                                        My parents live in Key West during season and this is where we always eat.

                                                                        One really fun thing to do is to have Sunday Brunch at Little Palm Island. So totally worth it.

                                                                        My dad loves to take first timers to Latitudes on Sunset Key for the experience. Food is okay, not out of this world but the experience is nice.

                                                                        Other Keys:
                                                                        Mangrove Mama's
                                                                        No Name
                                                                        Alabama Jacks

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: BlueHerons

                                                                          Blue Heron...The p.s. post of Other Keys caught my eye....
                                                                          Mangrove Mama's at MM20.I love it... 10 years ago I drove by it 4 times til I realized that little green house was the restaurant.

                                                                          No Name....Ran over 3 deer, and one bum to get there..But I loved it.

                                                                          Alabama Jacks.......Loved the beer , and Conch.....This Biker Mama wanted to stay there the whole weekend.