Key West - Masshole's Take
Have spent two weeks over Christmas and New Years' in Key West sampling the chow - good stuff, pricey for what it is (slightly above average food), but worth the nickel b/c the atmosphere is worth the premium - I thought I'd log a report: The best find for us has been a new fish market located on Eaton Street along with The Paradise Cafe on same street (around Grinell cross street), Louis Backyard and Pepe's Steakhouse. Paradise Cafe has great sandwiches - always ask for "toasted" as they are way too overstuffed to manage in the un-pressed state (plus the cuban bread taste better with a little hardness to the bite). They also have good cuban coffee, but its really the sammys that are worth the trip (they deliver also). Louis Backyard was a very nice spot for dinner - request Stacy and table 41 if you think of it - nice outside w/sound of the waves lapping the shore to go with the good seafood and reasonable wine list. Pepe's is well worth the trip - steaks were just OK, but the scene is worth the price of admission x2 - great drinks (fresh squeezed juices) and very, very reasonable prices (my mom and I split the pork chop smothered steak for two - much better than splitting a doughnut!). As for markets, the Eaton Street Fish Market was our saviour since we came down here avec la grand famiglia and wanted to utilize the gourmet kitchen our private house rental afforded. The proprietors, Andrea and Sean, kept us healthy and happy in fresh black grouper, yellow tail and "devil's on horseback" (ie, a key west pink prawn bathed in horseradish and wrapped in bacon). On NYE they prepared Stone Crabs for us and cracked them also - great with champagne! Also, don't visit w/o buying the smoked fish dip - great on Carrs crackers - which they also sell. Fausto's Market was another good local market - open "everyday" - that's full of good wines, meats, produce and the nice little gourmet goodies that accompany a lovingly prepared meal. The best Key Lime Pie we found was at the Blond Giraffe, but most of the pie places down by the wharf area had great stuff also (we preferred the merrang topping to the whipped cream). As for sunsets - again go to Louis Backyard - they have a great bar called the Afterdeck - one the water, which is uncrowded compared to Mallory Square and serves good stiff drinks. One other place worth visiting was Schooner Wharf - down and dirty bar and barfood. Can't wait to return!
Was there just before X-mas and agree Peppi's is the best in key west. I tried Grand on duval and was VERY disappointed. Especially since the conciere recommended it. Everything about key west was disneyfied down to the amature wait staff in almost all of the establishments. Food is mediocre at best. Stick to bar food and you should be ok. Jimmy buffett didn't write Cheese Burger in paradise for nothin!
Many thanks for your kind words about your visit to our seafood market during the Christmas and New Year's holidays. We are happy that you enjoyed the fresh fish, the angels on horseback, and the smoked fish dip. We look forward to a return visit.
Be sure to try our ceviche next time. For your convenience we feature a special order menu which allows us to provide the freshest seafood specialties made to order. Remember to support our local Key West fishermen!
Kind regards, Andrea and Sean