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Marathon for foodies... please guide our week!

We will be in Marathon for one week... the third week of may. We will be a group of 7... we will do some cooking at home (hopefully) with the fish we'll catch... and love to dine out as well. We prefer to frequent only local and independent restaurants and markets.

Please recommend:
Tasty lunch and casual dining.
Fun happy hour
Delicious seafood
Favorite dinner spots
Anything else we shouldn't miss...

Thank you so much for guiding our dining!

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  1. Try "Keys Fisheries" -- a few minutes away and not visible from the road. You can ask around to get the location, it's pretty well known. There is not a more casual and fun seafood place anywhere. They are famous for their lobster reuben but there is a huge list of unbelievably fresh choices. You order at the counter. Don't give your name, just your favorite movie/TV character. When your number comes up, they'll yell it out, Lots of fun, right on the water--get there early if it's busy down there.

    1. Head up to Islamorada and watch the sun set at The Lorelei. It is a tradition.

      Will you have a boat? Anchor out at the sand bar off Holiday Isle. It is about a mile off shore. A houseboat restaurant will drive out, drop anchor, and start serving burgers and such. Food not so hot but the experience is cool.


      1. Also in Islamorada is Marker 88. Go early for one of the shady seats to enjoy a view of the water, and order the yellowtail snapper with one of their wonderful preparations.

        I was just in the Keys last week, and the BEST meal we enjoyed by far was at Alice's on Duval in Key West. If you venture that far south, do NOT miss Alice's for a fab dinner.

        1. The best in Marathon is Frank's Grill (small and casual and reservations are usually needed). Also, The Butterfly Cafe is very good (more upscale and pricey). For lunch there is Fish Tales and Herbies (both offer an old Keys feel but are loved by locals). Barracuda's is loved by tourists and usually gets good reviews. Locals have found it very inconsistant but they step up tot he plate more often than not..

          If you're venturing to Islamorada I personally prefer Ziggie & Maddogs. I have never had anything less than superb at this joint.

          I concur that Alice's in Key West is very good as is 7 Fish and Michaels. Do Louies for for drinks (you can risk dinner and probably be OK but it can be hit and miss with somewhat arrogant service). Also try El Siboney for Cuban food (a real locals restaurant).

          4 Replies
          1. re: Keysmickey

            Been a Fish Tails Market and Eatery fan for many years. We use to go to Barracudas years ago. It was one of the more creative restaurants in the area. I've also heard that it suffers from inconsistancy.

            We always eat there when in the area or passing through. Favorite place to buy fresh snapper.

            I would certainly consider myself a foodie but when in the Keys my passion is for simple fresh fish done well. A piece of very fresh fish or shell fish cooked correctly is a beautiful thing. Usually when traveling by car in the Keys I have a cast iron skillet, cutting board and chef knife in tow along with the dive equipment.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              Most restaurants in the keys will cook your fresh catch for you. Common practice because so many people fish.

              1. re: BlueHerons

                how do you go about having a restaurant cook your catch for you? (sorry if this is obvious in the keys, but seems so foreign here in Colorado!) any specific ones that you know do a good job?

                1. re: foodissexy

                  Most will cook your catch for you and charge like restaurants do for corkage fees. You will pay about as much as an entree but you know how fresh the fish is.

                  I have never done this since we usually stay in a condo with full kitchen.

          2. I would recommend The Island Fish, Co. in Marathon. They have a huge menu and daily specials. They have a website you can visit showing most of their menu. http://www.islandfishco.com/

            1. Breakfast - Stuffed Pig
              Conch - Herbies
              Bar - No Name Pub on No Name Key ( over the Bridge to Big Pine)
              You can eat well in the immediate Marathon area without fighting the traffic up to Islamorada or the long drive to Key West - enjoy Marathon while you can - it will be just a memory like the rest of the Keys soon enough

              5 Replies
              1. re: eimac

                I'm confused, having lived here 27 years I can reliably say that Marathon is already like "the rest of the Keys". What was once a sleepy fishing community is now primarily a winter getaway of second homes and condos (check the number of private jets at our airport on the weekend).

                I agree with Stuffed Pig for Breakfast although Stouts is also great.

                Keys fisheries is a tourist place with mostly fried food that, while tasting good, never sits well with me. Shuckers, which I assume is aka Island Fish, is OK, especially for the boisterous, partying dinner...No "chowhound" food here but I've heard quite good things lately (although I personally have not been in awhile).

                1. re: Keysmickey

                  thanks for the reply, keysmickey. As a long time local, is there something you can recommend that we should not miss? I will be with my family (grandparents, parents, anunt, uncle) so we have a large range of ages, but are up for great eating and drinking between fishing and enjoying the FL sunshine.
                  It is my first time to marathon, but everyone else has been, though we are always looking for new experiences.

                  Is the fish tales market and eatery really a market or just a cute name? Is that where we should go for good groceries?

                  Where should we go for a good local happy hour? what is the best tourist happy hour?

                  1. re: foodissexy

                    Fish Tales is an active seafood & meat market (they also sell Prime beef). The owners for years owned and ran the Grassy Key Dairy Bar which was THE middle keys staple for many years.

                    The best happy hour will probably be at either Shuckers or Cabana Breezes in Key Colony Beach. Check the wind direction before deciding which of these to go to (one's on the Bay and the other is on the ocean).

                    Just for food I would reccomend Frank's Grill BUT it's not keysey and has no view (but is hard to get into, nuff said?). If Keys ambiance IS in the mix of criteria, you may check out The Butterfly Cafe or The Hideaway Cafe on Grassy Key, both are more pricey though. I have had two great meals at Butterfly Cafe and Hideaway Cafe sits at about 75% over the years.

                    Mind you though, while there are very nice dining opps, there will be no mindblowing, Chowhound dining found in Marathon,

                    1. re: Keysmickey

                      Besides No Name, I love eating at Mangrove Mama's. Way south of Marathon.

                      There are some fantastic restaurants but you have to drive. As keysmickey said, Marathon doesn't have anything really great.

                      1. re: Keysmickey

                        RE: Shuckers's, I totally lost about 10 years as the place IS now known as The Island in it's current location oceanside...Locals still sometimes call it Shuckers but it's probably mostly me. lol.