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Never been to the Keys!

Im going to embark on my first trip to Key West for a week in Jan. I have no idea where to eat and dont want to just pick from the guide books. Any sugesstions on local , fun and yummy places to chow down?

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  1. BO's Fishwagon, Alice's, El Siboney, for a start, are all great. I'm heading back down in couple of weeks myself and look forward to hitting all of these again.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bostonbroad

      Thanks for the list, Ill give one or all of them a try !

      1. re: michyphilly

        michy....I visit the keys quite often. I live in Palm Beach county. From the beginning of the keys til Key West is over 100 miles on a mostly two lane rd. US #1. There are many places to stop on the way down. Key Largo to Key West.MM#0. bostonbroad mentioned my favorite in Key West. (BO's Fishwagon.) I am assuming you are flying into Miami airport.At M M94 is Snappers on the oceanside. , sit at the bar, it is great. Great drinks, great view, great locals.Food is soso. You will hear bay side & ocean side. If you are heading towards Key West ocean side is on your left. When you get to Islamorada you will see the big sign for Hog Heaven...Turn there and go to "Island Grill" Waterfront and good food. At MM20 on the bayside is Mangrove Mamas. Looks like a house and it is easy to miss. Ask the locals where to go see the Key deer. You will want to take one home with you. Have a great time and don't forget the Duval crawl.

        1. re: HotMelly

          Thanks for your suggestions....I will be flying into S. Carolina and then into the Keys. I wish that I was road tripping so that I could try all of your favorites. Mabey next time !

    2. A must try......conch fritters. To be honest, some of the best I had was at the Key West Airport while waiting for my wife and kids to fly in. Their assortment of hot sauces (a very necessary additive) was phenomenal

      5 Replies
      1. re: FriedClamFanatic

        Oh , conch fritters sound gooood! Ill keep my eye out for them.

        1. re: FriedClamFanatic

          You're right, actually, the conch fritters at the airport are surprisingly good. I haven't been in a while but other favorite fritters came from BO's Fish Wagon (although I'd rather have the fish sandwich there), the stand outside the Aquarium and the stand in a little alley off Duval Street.

          Other favorite KW chow: dark chocolate dipped Key Lime pie on a stick from Kermit's Key Lime Shoppe... dinner at Ricky's Blue Heaven, breakfast/lunch at Pepe's, ropa vieja at El Siboney..

          1. re: Chris VR

            Key Lime pie dipped in chocolate and on a stick ! Im going to check that out. Thanks

            1. re: michyphilly

              This sounds ridiculously good. My boyfriend and I are traveling to Key West in October for the first time. Thanks for the choco-dipped KLP suggestion, Chris VR. He's going to love it.

              1. re: valerieolivia

                You have to eat it fast though, as it doesn't want to stay on the stick once it starts to warm up.

                Hm, I'm not getting back to the Keys any time soon. Perhaps a little mail-order is in my future... http://www.keylimeshop.com/html/key_l...

        2. Snappers in Key Largo, just okay. The joint relies more on the setting than the food. Uncle's in Islamorada was top-notch though I've heard a few complaints, just a few, lately. Don't know from recent experience. In Key West, Pepe's for sure. It's been awhile since I've been to Louie's Backyard but it was a standard a few years ago. Blue Heaven has also been high on the list but haven't been in over a year. I've heard that Kelly's (as in Kelly McGillis) was good now though when I was there awhile back it was just okay. Have fun. And don't do like some do, go on vacation and leave on probation!

          1. BO's is my FAVORITE place! Must visit 1/2 Shell Raw Bar and Grill, The Bull and Sloppy Joes for barcrawl/drinks. Don't forget Mallory Square at Sunset to see the dancing cats!

            1. It's been a few years, but Seven Fish and Louie's Backyard, both in Key West, are 2 of the few restaurants whose names I can remember from my travels, and are both in my top ten. (I write food and travel, so I've had a good meal or two.) Enjoy!

              1. Louie's Backyard (Waddell) - Cocktail at sunset out on the deck and pretty darn good food for lunch and dinner.
                Cafe Marquesa (Fleming) - I think THE best restaurant in KW. Innovative, local goods, lovely dining room.
                Pepe's (Caroline St) - awesome freshly squeezed juice and good breakies. Veggie sandwich that makes me drool thinking of it for lunch. Oldest Restaurant in KW. Eat out on the patio. Don't be put off by the front.
                El Sibonay (Catherine St.) - Off the beaten track. Not fancy. Authentic Cuban. Locals for lunch. Order ahead for paella.
                Blue Heaven (Thomas St) - If you are not a sanitary freak, you have to go because it is traditionally keysie. Chickens scratch around your feet. Kids will adore it. Good homemade bread.
                I have not been to Kelly's in eons - mostly because it was always sucky so I gave up. Maybe things have changed.
                B.O.'s Fish Wagon (Caroline St.) - fish of course. You might have a go at the fritters there. Cheap. Good fritters are fried in old grease and are light and airy (not like a hush puppy) and have lots of conch and maybe some red pepper running thru them. Should be dark brown.
                Camille's (Simonton) Breaky. it would be choice three after Blue Heaven and Pepe's.

                Wear your grubbies in KW and you will fit right in. Only the tourists wear fancy sandals and tucked and starched duds! Dress smarter for C. Marquesa. YUM!

                1 Reply
                1. In Key West, the restaurant next door has better food. In other words, you really are a captive guest in Key West and word gets around fast if you don't serve great food. I wouldn't miss Blue Heaven. My last trip for breakfast was Lobster Benedict w/ a Lime Hollandaise! It was outstanding.

                  Pack your wallet.....things can get very expensive there!! Have a great trip...wish I could join you.

                  1. El Siboney...is the best!!

                    Toastones, Snapper...whoo..hoo..

                    Key West Travel Tips

                    Best Restaurant in Key West: “El Siboney” located at the Corner of Catherine & Margaret

                    Rusty Anchor 5510 3rd Ave, Key West, FL (305) 294-5369
                    Restaurant is located on Stock Island (part of Key West) Excellent Seafood (get the Yellowtail Snapper
                    )Used to be frequented by a photographer from the Key West Citizen and many pictures from the Newspaper are preserved on the walls)

                    BO’s Fish Wagon

                    Hit the Juice Bar in the Waterfront Market:

                    Good places for Happy Hour (usually 4 pm to 6:30 pm):

                    Half Shell Raw Bar ▪ Lands End Village at the Historic Seaport ▪ 305-294-7496
                    Discounted appetizers and $2 domestic bottled beer. If you are a runner they sponsor a very cool half marathon in January.

                    Conch Republic Seafood Company ▪ 631 Greene Street ▪ 305-294-4403
                    Two for one bottle beer.

                    Schooner Wharf Bar ▪ 202 William St. ▪ 305-292-9520
                    Cool place to sit and listen to the band

                    Great place for a beer and to listen to some good music

                    Green Parrott Bar 601 Whitehead St. Key West, FL 33040 305-294-6133

                    Good places for breakfast:

                    Blue Heaven 729 Thomas St. Key West, Florida 33040 (305) 296-8666
                    Corner of Petronia and Thomas (going north on Whitehead make a left on Petronia


                    Camille’s 1202 Simonton Street Key West, FL 33040 (305) 296-4811
                    Kim’s Kuban’s
                    2300 N Roosevelt Blvd
                    Key West, FL 33040
                    (305) 296-2878
                    Great stop for:
                    • Quick Breakfast (or take-out…take to the Bach/garden
                    )• Bollos (Fried Black Eyed Pea Fritters)
                    • Conch Fritters
                    Butterfly Conservatory:

                    West Martello Garden:



                    The Key West Museum of Art & History in the Custom House:
                    This is a really cool building and a very nice museum/art gallery.

                    Key West Memorial Sculpture Garden Key West's 36 Most Influential People
                    36 people have made a major impact and were the first to be chosen to sit in the garden by the Key West Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden Selection Committee.

                    There is a sculpture of my Great Great Great Grandmother in the garden
                    Elisabeth Merklin Knight Beiglett Smith

                    Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
                    Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, Florida's southernmost state park is popular for recreation, as well as U.S. military history. The fort was one of a series built in the mid-1800s to defend the nation's southeastern coastline. Completed in 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor played important roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. A beautiful beach at the southern end of the park provides opportunities for picnicking, swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Visitors can also enjoy a short nature trail and bicycling within the park. A refreshment stand at the beach offers snacks, cold beverages, beach sundries, and souvenirs. Guided tours of the fort are available daily. Located in Key West at the end of Southard Street on Truman Annex.

                    Dry Tortugas

                    Garden of Eden:

                    1. Thanks to all for your fantastic suggestions , I will be going the week of Jan. 25 and I am ready for some good eats, thanks to you Chow Hounds !

                      1. Everyone has been so helpful , I cant thankyou enough! Im going on Jan. 25th so I report back.... Thanks again Chowers!!!!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: michyphilly

                          What about Keys Fisheries in Marathon, where Joe's get's alot of their stone crabs..? They have a restaurant? Any opinons?

                          1. re: janie

                            Yep. They have a restaurantish. Walk up. Order at the window. They call you and you eat on the water on picnic tables

                            I think Keys Fisheries is excellent and it is indeed where Joe's gets their stone crab (and where we used to get ours for our restaurant). It is very Keysy so people might get put off by the... Keysiness, but there is no fresher seafood (unless you catch it yourself) down there.

                            1. re: Sal Vanilla

                              Finally took two of our boys to the Keys last year 17 and 20 told them that when picking great food in the keys pick the places that look like they will get blown away in the next storm, thats where the great food is.

                        2. I have just returned from a trip to the Keys and would like to share my findings.

                          Marathon - enjoyed a meal of steamed shrimp and chicken wings at the Hurricane located next door to the Banana Bay Resort - great food and funky place.
                          Had lunch at Key Fisheries - excellent conch chowder, stone crab and sides. Large portions and a fun atmosphere.

                          Key West - drinks at Sloppy Joe's. This was an great experience - lots of action on a Tuesday afternoon. A cruise ship had docked with a wedding party who brought the group to Sloppy Joe's. The glowing couple had their first dance to a live performance of the singer of the day and then the bride threw her bouquet. Great drinks and lots of fun.

                          We then had dinner at Ambrosia which was recommended on Chowhound and by local friends. I was quite disappointed. We ordered tea which came in individual pots with all different types of tea bags - I guess I am used to the house blend that has been steeped for the restaurant. The spicy tuna hand roll was tasteless baby food textured tuna on rice with a chewy wrapper. The surf clam was off in the deluxe sashimi platter and something else might have been as well as I unfortunately lost my meal in the Atlantic and was ill all night. My Hubby was not much better.

                          The following day I had a hot dog at Mile Marker 0 from a hot dog stand that was truly divine. Steamed hot dog, chili, cheese, onions, jalapeno peppers. Exquisite.

                          Dinner was at Turtle Kraals - again good conch chowder, fish tacos, stone crab, ribs and snapper.

                          The following day we had Cuban sandwiches at a little spot called The Cuban Coffee Queen - we should have shared one as it was huge - for only $6 and great Cuban coffee.

                          That night we had dinner at Latitude's on Sunset Key - upscale but excellent food and service.

                          Enjoyed my visit and would enjoy returning.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: juliewong

                            thanks for the report, and wow, a hot dog the next day after being ill all night.....you are a real chowhound!

                            1. re: juliewong

                              So glad you had a good time Julie... outside the barfing. ; )

                              1. re: juliewong

                                The Turtle Kraal is my wife's must go to restaurant in Key West

                                Key West Cafe
                                2413 S Highway 77, Lynn Haven, FL 32444

                                Turtle Kraals
                                1 Lands End Vlg, Key West, FL 33040

                              2. You should try the Key Lime Pie at the Blonde Girraffe Key Lime Pie Factory off of Duval St. in Key West.