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Islamorada Restaurants

My husband and I will be in Islamorada for 3 nights in March. We are serious foodies....we typically travel to as many restaurants on Gourmet's Best Restaurants in America (we love The French Laundry, Alinea, Chez Pannise, etc). Where should we go for our 3 dinners while in the area?

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  1. Marker 88 is a fine dining, gourmet restaurant that's very well thought of. We love Bentley's too. I wouldn't call it fine dining per se but it's consistently one of the finest restaurants in the Keys and their escargot (which is presented in oil with sliced mushrooms) is to die for. Those are two winners for you. Important to note that Islamorada isn't necessarily a bastion of fine dining establishments but Markeer 88 and Bentley's are consistently voted amongst the Keys very best.


    1 Reply
    1. re: LargeLife

      If I were able to eat at only one restaurant anywhere in the Keys it would be Marker 88--especially any of their yellowtail snapper entrees.

    2. Then stay away from the Islamorada Seafood Co. You will not find fine dinning like the restaurants mentioned in the Keys. Key West has some of the better upscale restaurants in the Keys. I hear Norman Van Aken is back in Key West with Tavern N Town. Maybe on the way down stop at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink or Michy's

      1 Reply
      1. re: scubadoo97

        I agree that Islamorada Seafood Co is atrocious. I made the mistake of trying to eat lunch there--my entree was so inedible that I sent it back and left hungry.

      2. Bentley's is very noisey and tables are close to each other. The Atlantic Edge at Cheeca Lodge is very good. I think the best restaurant in town is Ziggy and Mad Dogs. Ziggy's has been a Keys landmark for years and has been purchased by Jim Mandich, a former Miami Dolphin. The food is outstanding as is the wine list. I highly recommend it for its food and atmosphere.

        1. Bentley's loud? Maybe...But tables close to each other? At 6'7 and 300lbs. I'm pretty self-conscious about places that are small and tight and Bentley's is neither....And the food there is extremely good...Voted "Best of The Best" many, many times...I've dined there with senators, judges, dive buddies and boat crew members and every time has been nothing less than excellent....and consistently so....Ziggys is a nice place...and love Jim Mandich...but it's just a step below a Bentley's and two steps below a Marker 88.......Ziggy's is a '3'....Bentely's is a '4'.....and Marker 88 is a '5'......Still love The Mad Dog and listen to him every day....ridin' around with the windows down!


          1. Man I have to disagre with some of this. Bentley's is OK and Marker 88 is quite good but Ziggy and Maddogs is far better. Maybe back in the day 88 had it all but not now. There is absolutely nothing at Z&M that isn't superb.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Keysmickey

              Keysmickey...you're welcome to disagree....that's what we do here....Afterall, it's a matter of taste....Kind of like when I show my dogs in the ring....I show my dogs to judges that have the same taste I do!!....(LOL!).....Perhaps we can agree that Bentley's, Marker 88 and Ziggy & Mad Dog's are all pretty good places to visit....And you really can't go wrong with any of these choices....And how you rank them is up to you!....This is what makes chowhound.com so interesting....Wouldn't be that much fun if we all agreed all of the time....now would it??


              1. re: Keysmickey

                Marker 88 could certainly stand to update its 70s decor, I agree, but the food remains outstanding, IMO.

              2. Having lived in the Upper Keys for seven years (and loved every minute of it), the one thing I can tell you about virtually all the restaurants there is that they suck. Some just suck harder than others. If you frequent restaurants like French Laundry, Chez Panisse, etc., you will be savagely disappointed. That said, there are a few that range from passable to pretty good. Morada Bay is pretty decent, sister restaurant Pierre's is quite good, tho very expensive. Ziggy & Maddog's is okay (they do a great burger). IMHO, the two best restaurants in Islamorada are Island Grill, almost under the Snake Creek Bridge (get the seared-raw tuna "nachos") and Braza Lena, a Brazilian rodizio that's better than most of the ones in Miami or Broward. Two possibles are Chanticleer South, French chef from Nantucket doing fairly traditional cuisine. Was disappointing when it first opened but have heard better things about it lately. Also Kaiyo, which was very good when Dawn Sieber was the chef but she got tossed (nasty backstory there) and haven't heard anything about it since. As for Atlantic's Edge, find out who the chef is, what his/her bona fides are and whether he/she will be cooking the night you're going. Then you might (might) get a good meal. Otherwise, the kitchen crew there is useless. Skip Bentley's and Marker 88... 70s food at 08s prices. And for Careme's sake, avoid Isla Fish Co... there's one word that describes the food there perfectly... vile. Good luck.

                3 Replies
                1. re: eatswrite

                  Thank you for your candid comments. I guess I have to go to Grande Case in St. Maartin to get both warmth and great food! I have booked Chanticileer South and Pierre's...and for our third night will try the Island Grill based on your suggestion. I love tuna and Tuna nachos sound right up my alley! thanks!

                  1. re: eatswrite

                    I'm a south Florida native and a 35 year resident of Key Largo, and I respectfully disagree with the opinion that all restaurants in the Upper Keys are bad. You need to put things into the proper perspective.
                    For a wondiferous restaurant as you allude to survive in the Keys, it would need a massive infusion of wealthy tourists year round. That is not the case in the Keys. In the winter months there are large numbers of tourists, but most are not wealthy and would not dine at a restaurant such as this. In the summertime the place would die. The local business would not be enough to keep it afloat. Such is the reality of the Keys. Locals prefer the laid back, funky joints that are the ones that survive year round down here.
                    The restaurant at the site of the Island Grill was originally a floating barge, known for its poor cleanliness. It sank years ago and I cannot bring myself to return to the scene of the crime.
                    Marker 88 has 70's food, perhaps, as it is classical cuisine. What else would it be? It is quite good. Does it compare to French Laundry? I have no idea, as I have never heard of the place.
                    Bentley's was originally in Key Largo, at a location where many previous restaurants had failed. They started off doing lunch, a big happy hour with wings, oysters, steamed clams, etc... and a limited dinner menu. When they became popular and successful, the property owner hit them with a huge increase in rent, so they moved to their current location in Islamorada, previously called the Galley. I have found Bentley's quite good for local fare, but confess it has been some time since I have been there.
                    Ziggy's was originally run by a Islamorada couple and was likely the best place in the upper Keys. It was taken over by their son, who got himself killed one night chasing his dog through traffic while supremely intoxicated.
                    It changed hands many times and closed for a while. I haven't been there in it's most recent incarnation. I will give it a try.
                    The Pilot House was originally owned by Mr. Ernie Bean. He was a pilot for National Airlines and thus the name of his establishment. The bar top had pilot's wings and other memorabilia embedded in it. Pilot House's specialty was shrimp scampi- excellent. Ernie later opened Senor' Frijoles ( Mr. Beans). Poor Ernie died young from complications from appendicitis. Pilot House changed hands numerous times and closed for years before reopening. The place originally (before Ernie) had a license as a strip joint
                    Ballyhoo's was the Rock Harbor Lodge for years- a place for really bad Chinese food. Ballyhoo's had the oldest liquor license in the Keys until a former manager caused them to lose it for not paying the state their share. All you can eat stone crabs in season and fresh oysters at happy hour.
                    Garden of Eatin' was originally a place called Tugboat Annie's (yes, there really was an Annie). It was pretty good, but changed hands over the years to become the dismal place it is now.
                    Calypso's used to be a dive shop. Ocean Divers. Very good. Todd, the co-owner and chef, also runs The Big Fish.
                    Flamingo was run by my friend Jean, who was a former co-owner of Osteria del Teatro in Miami Beach. Flamingo is closed now and Jean is a charter captain.
                    Snook's used to be fabulous. But the owners had a side business in importing that led to them becoming guests of the criminal justice system. I haven't been there in ages.
                    Holiday Isle was a little dive where you went to to play darts. They had three old church pews for seating and all cocktails were made using miniatures.
                    I wouldn't eat anywhere in the Holiday isle complex.
                    Gilbert's used to be Tommy's Jewfish Creek marina. Across the waterway was the Unwinder, notorious for the wet t-shirt contests that left nothing to the imagination. Bar food is the norm at Gilbert's, but they do have a sit down restaurant, mostly aimed at guests at the hotel. Marley's, near the site of the old Unwinder, is a good lunch spot.
                    Paradise Pub was Porter's Pub for years. The owner, who was also (reputedly) in the import business, got himself shot to death in the Caribbean Club one night after he picked on the wrong guy.
                    So, if you are looking for Miami Beach-style dining, by all means, go there. I worked on MB for 27 years and quite frankly, I would rather have root canal than to go back there.
                    Most people who live in the Keys do so for the ocean and the relaxed, laid back atmosphere. Most of the dining establishments reflect this.
                    So, relax and enjoy!

                    1. re: keysrat

                      Gibert's was Gilbert's. Tommy's was on the other side of Jewfish Creek Right next to the Unwinder, and yes the wet tee shirt contests were great fun.

                      I worked at Tommy's and lived upstairs in 1977.

                  2. TypeA, I would like to hear about your experience in March. Hubby and I just returned from Islamorada today and, as usual, the only good meal we had were the ones that I cooked myself. This trip, we tried Bentley's (walked out without even looking at the menu), Marker 88 (too gross for words and the service was pretty bad), Pierre's (always a good bet, but nothing to spectacular), Islamorada Fish Company (rude staff, overpriced), and the Island Grill (good for lunch on the beach). The only bright spot this trip was the Ahi Tuna Poke appetizer that we enjoyed at Zane Grey's lounge upstairs at the World Wide Sportsman. It was deee-lish! I am lucky to have a kitchen when we visit Islamorada because I, too, am a total foodie and we live in the mountains of Costa Rica where I cannot get most of the ingredients that people in more developed countries take for granted. So cooking with all of the great stuff I can buy stateside is a real pleasure for me. Oh, and don't tell Costa Rica Customs about the dried chanterelles, Drunken Goat cheese, leeks, and rice wrappers that I smuggled back to Costa Rica in my luggage today....

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: chefmurray57

                      It has always amazed me in my 24 years living in Palm Beach county Florida...I live only 100 yards from the ocean and still in awe that the seafood is frozen from some unknown place I hate to inquire about. As for the Florida Keys, I do not expect too much. But the Island Grill in Islamorada is a standout, The Tuna Nachos are very good. Chef Murray , my wonderful husband has said exactly what you quoted. If he wants GREAT food I need to prepare it. I don't know if it is the mass production of restaurants, but if I am in the mood for love, I make a great conch chowder with Oysters Rockefeller

                      1. re: HotMelly

                        Keysrat, I totally enjoyed your piece on the Keys....I was born and raised in Homestead and we were in The Fabulous Florida Keys....and your piece took me down memory lane....I didn't remember the chinese at Rock Harbor in the early 70s to be that bad but kids will eat anything (LOL)....and Yes...I do remember the wet t-shirt contests at The Unwinder...No Skin / No Win.....The Pilot House?.. Ate Grits N Grunt there on many, many Sunday mornings......Anyhoo....that was a great trip down memory lane that I enjoyed very much.....

                        I will respectfully disagree with chefmurray on Bentley's.....If I've eaten there once...I've eaten there 100 times.....and have never, ever had a bad meal there.....Who knows? Maybe I'm just lucky that way!......Maybe it was just your bad day there....But I've entertained doctors, lawyers and indian chiefs there with great success over the years.....And I love a great conch chowder so maybe I'll see you in Costa Rica sometime soon.....


                        1. re: LargeLife

                          I thought I'd report back. While in Islamoroda, one of the best meals I had was at Kaiyo. For those who enjoy sushi, Kaiyo is a "must" when visiting the Florida Keys. The execution of our meal - both the food and the service - was flawless. Expect to pay a premium; dinner for two was $147 before tip, well worth the price given the experience.

                          For ambiance, my favorite spot was Pierre's Restaurant.Pierre's dishes are classic French, with Asian and Caribbean influences. Local ingredients prevail in many of the Chef's creations, resulting in fresh, creative fare - the best I found in the Florida Keys. Watching the spectacular sunset from Pierre's second story veranda is the icing on the cake.

                          Chanticleer South was a disappointment. They offer above-average contemporary French cuisine (minus the breadsticks), and a delightfully cheery decor, however, the service was abysmal during the two hours we were guests.

                          If you're interested in more extensive descriptions of my experiences at these restaurants, you can visit www.typeadiversions.com


                          1. re: TypeA

                            TypeA.....I have to respond to your website. It is fantastic.Here I am a south Florida girl that enjoys a great burger and beer, raw oysters, and here you are a culinary delight. Thanks for sharing.

                    2. We took a trip down to the Keys about 3 years ago... 2 days in Key West & 4 in Islamorada. We live in Chicago and are so fortunate to have just about any type of food at any level of atmosphere & price whenever we have a taste for it. However, we both agree that some of the best meals we'd ever had anywhere was in Islamorada. Now keep in mind, we were concentrating on seafood though. I recall Marker 88 being top-notch & are best meal by far, although from what I've been reading it may have changed since then. Papa Joe's was also wonderful; is the restaurant still open? All I'm finding is info on the Marina. We tried getting into Lazy Days, but it was always too crowded with a lengthy wait. Island Grill was good. Don't recall Bentley's.

                      We are making a repeat trip in 3 weeks and are staying in Islamorada the entire time. We hope to do a fishing trip or 2 (the waters were too choppy last time) and cook up some of our own or have Lazy Days do the cooking for us.

                      Does anyone have some good advice for us on where else to dine in the Islamorada vicinity?? We also may take just a day trip down to Key West. All I can remember about our dining experience there was breakfast at Blue Heaven? (very casual, sat outdoors, with roosters & cats joining us) & I had the most delicious Lobster Benedict!! Loved the place. I recall there being a Pepe's; might that be a good choice this time around.

                      Also, any suggestions on what fishing charters to take in Islamorada?

                      Oh, and how can I forget about this?? Can anyone please share some personal info on the full moon party at Pierre's/Morada Bay? We planned our trip during the full moon to be able to attend. I've been reading some mixed reviews from publications & would like to hear some first-hand reviews. Our Eco-tour guide from our last trip told us about it and it sounded like a great time.

                      Thanks to anyone who can provide any amount of info to help us enjoy this well-needed escape from reality!!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: wineaux

                        I've been to Morada Bay numerous times but infortunately, never for the full moon party. My advice, get there early or plan on a long (albeit pleasant) wait. The food is excellent-- all of the fish dishes are superb. The view is absolutely breathtaking as well. For a VERY casual breakfast I absolutely love Mangrove Mike's - just across from the Cheeca Lodge.

                        If the seas are too choppy to go offshore, you might consider fishing in the "backcountry". Any of the hotels can make arrangements and you'll very likely catch fish suitable for cooking up.

                        You got lucky if you had a good meal at the Island Grill. You should also give Uncles a try.

                        1. re: wineaux

                          For the past half dozen years I have been going to Islamorada for a two day fishing trip with a bunch of old farts from our area (Naples). The very bad part of our fishing trip is having to get dragged into Mile Marker 88 every year to eat "low grade dog food". I'm serious, I have tried to like this place because these other guys take me there but I'm telling you - I have never had a decent course there let alone a decent meal. How they stay in business is beyond me. Then to have to cough up about 80 bucks for my part of the bill is the final insult.

                          What is great is fishing with Ron Allen on "Fish Tales". 50 foot boat, great mate & captain and good fishing - try him for a wonderful experience. Here's his website: http://www.fish-tales.net/index.htm. As for dining, this is the Keys. Be happy to find a place that grills a great fresh fish & has cold raw oysters and drinks that make you smile after a long day on the water. Lazy Days is such a place. Save your money and go to the Oyster Bar at Shaw's on Hubbard when you get back to "dine" on some of the best seafood in America.

                          1. re: twistnolive

                            twistnolive...I am terribly sorry you have have become one of the common breed know as an old fart. It usually happens to a male 60+ years old here in the keys. It usually is involved of a male that wears sandals and black socks. Please don't ask me why .88 is not what it was a few years ago. I don't remember the mile marker but I believe it is around Tavernier. It is Chad.Great pizza and very relaxed. I am not a big spender so I usually stop at Hog Heaven for a relaxing night of wings and Bud Light Lime.

                        2. Enjoyed take home stone crabs and lobsters from Mr. Lobster, breakfast at Bob's Bunz, lunch at Island Grill and dinner at Hungry Tarpon.

                          Island Grill
                          85501 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL

                          Hungry Tarpon Restaurant
                          77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

                          Bob's Bunz
                          81620 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: The Chowfather

                            I'm heading back down to Islamorada next week. Did I miss anything in November? is the Marathon Seafood Fest worth checking out?

                            1. re: The Chowfather

                              Very good oyster and shrimp po'boys at Ma's Fish Camp.
                              Great French @ Chanticleer South

                              Chanticleer South
                              81671 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

                              1. re: The Chowfather

                                Hey Chowfather--heading to Cheeca next weekend. Usually do Green Turtle, Island Grill and Snapper's. Where is Ma's Fish Camp? Any other off the beaten pathy places that you absolutely love?

                                1. re: HabaneroJane

                                  Ma's Fish Camp is just South of Cheeca. I can't vouch for anything other than the po'boys but they were very good. Didn't find much else worth recommending down there besides Chanticleer South. The Grand Marnier soufflé served with rasberry sauce is a must do. I saw people going late night just for dessert. We had a nice lunch at Made 2 Order in Tavernier but the service was painfully slow even for the Keys...I heard their breakfast is very good.

                                  Chanticleer South
                                  81671 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

                          2. If you're looking for the best restaurants in Islamorada you MUST, MUST, MUST
                            go to Ziggie & Mad Dog's for the best steaks around.
                            If you like Asian and/or Sushi then go to kaiyo Grill or Nikai Sushi Bar at the Cheeca Lodge & Spa.
                            Hidden Gem: Taster's Grill & Market in Tavenier
                            Great Overall: Green Turtle Restaurant

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: BUZZZbabe

                              I've had the best rib eye I've ever had in my life at Ziggies ... And the absolute worst. I'm a reasonable guy, especially when it comes to beef. I understand there will be ups and downs BUT when I received my bad rib eye (over 50% inedible) management did not stand behind it. John belittled me in front of my daughter and offered no replacement, reduction in my bill, not even an offer for a free desert (which wouldn't have been acceptable). Very sad.

                            2. we're heading to Islamorada next week. it's interesting to see the evolution of this thread which originally recommended Markeer 88, Ziggy and Maddogs and Bentley's but these places haven't been mentioned much in the last couple of years.

                              would love to hear current suggestions around breakfast, fresh fish and shellfish. Or really anything outstanding.


                              1. Sunrise Supermarket & Restaurant ( 9 miles north of Islamorada )

                                HIDDEN GEM - Nothing hoity toity here ! Just the BEST rottisserie chicken I have ever had.
                                The oven it is cooked in is ancient.
                                Plus all the Cuban fixings you could possibly want.

                                The last time I went there, we got 5 whole chickens + 3 lb pork + 7 different fixings for under $70 to feed 9 people and 1 Great Dane <---- loves chic, yuca and plantains.

                                For breakfast their pastries and muffins (<--- K e y
                                L i m e) can't be beat, but go early !
                                Lunch is always cafeteria counter style. Outside tables are also available.
                                Dinner - go there early in person (few speak English) (pointing works well here) and PRE-order dinner for you to pick up later.

                                You will NOT be disappointed ! ( unless you require white tablecloth dining )

                                We have gone to most of the restaurants previously mentioned, but never again.
                                When we go to the Keys for 3 days, we bring our own and cook at the hotel BBQ pits.

                                The only 2 places we go to now are Sunrise Supermarket & Bob's Bunz for take-out Sunday breakfast (they allow dogs - - but she is too big for their patio LOL)

                                Sunrise Supermarket & Restaurant
                                91885 Overseas Hwy ( MM 91)
                                Tavernier, FL 33070
                                (305) 852-7216

                                Key Lime Cafe
                                211 Colorado Ave, Stuart, FL 34994

                                Bob's Bunz
                                81620 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036