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Hidden Gems/Must do's in South Beach, Cozumel, Cayman, Ocho Rios, Florida Keys

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Please Help!!! I'm heading to;

Miami South Beach (for 3 days)

Then on a seven day cruise stopping at)
Cozumel (1 Day)
Cayman (1 Day)
Ocho Rios (1 Day)

Then ending with 3 days in the
Florida Keys (Driving down from Miami for 3 days, will be in Key West for 2 days)

I love ANY cuisine, from simple home cooking to elaborate and creative/ethnic, and always prefer to try the local cuisine when traveling. Would really love good inexpensive seafood recommendations. Please list any must try dishes!!!

I am also a huge ice cream/gelato fan... so any recommendations are appreciated!!!

Thanks in advance!!!

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  1. In Key West - the chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick from Blonde Giraffe is pretty much all it's hyped up to be. A very nice treat. Also, I can't remember the name of the bar, but I do remember it's next to the strip club called Scarletts (I think) that serves the best Key Lime Coladas! I was there at least once a day on my last trip.

    I also had a delicious grilled Mahi Sandwich at Guy Harvey's when I was in Key West. The waiter said it had been caught at 6am that day and it definitely tasted that way. Freshest tasting fish I have had in years. Simple but nothing beats fresh fish.

    4 Replies
    1. re: nmurawsk

      Thanks nmurawsk!

      Have been to Key West once for 2 nights about 8 years ago, but really did not hit any great spots, with one exception... the Blonde Giraffe! First time around we tried the key lime pie (and it was amazing!) will not miss the treat frozen on a stick this time! (isn't all food better on a stick?)

      Guy Harvey's is on my list - I agree entirely with your fresh fish comments. The picture in my signature is my backyard, the lake is stocked with rainbow trout and they make a fantastic meal moments after they are caught!

      1. re: MartinT

        We spend 3 months in Jamaica in the winter and by far the very best Restaurant is "EVITA'S...a short taxi ride from where the cruise ships dock (don't pay more than $500 JA or no more than $10.00 US$) It's terrific, the food is very good and the ambience is FABULOUS..it's a might pricey but not outrageous. Our other place is withing walking distance of the cruise ship dock (ask the locals and do not take a Taxi.).walk..it's easy and paved...it's called "COCONUTS"...it's fun and the food is pretty good plus you get to see more local stuff.. EVITA"S is really nice but you cannot walk ...it's up a very MAJOR hill!!!

        1. re: pearlD

          TY pearlD !!! We have sufficient time to try both places, I will add to my list! Let me know if any "must try" dishes or if we should stick to the daily specials or if everything is just excellent!

          1. re: MartinT

            EVITA'S is all round good...maybe not their 'saucy' things like alfredo..cream based whatever..I even found the Lasagna too cheesy for my taste...Fish is always good (specify if you do or do not want it with head & tail on your plate..I have a thing about it 'staring at me'....Fish & Seafood are always fresh & tasty.
            COCONUTS has amazing Oxtail with the best Rice N' Peas in Ochi, very coconutty...Soups are always good in Jamaica in particular...Red Pea, or Pepperpot..if you have never had ACKEE you must try it..it is a vegetable that tastes like 'scrambled egg'...usually made w ith 'salt fish'(preserved salted Cod (usually called Baccala by Italians/Portugese) but you can request it made with Bacon...My preference is Bacon...it is SO GOOD! Jamaican pastry/cakedesserts are generally an aquired taste but some of the ice creams...fresh coconut, mango are really good but hard to find in restaurants (buy containers in the supermaket, J'can brand "Dairy Maid' is very good . Seek out a J'can ice cream bar called "Devon..Tropical Treats" a little off the main street but worth seeking out (safe & close-by downtown)....Stay out of the 'Craft Market'....it is not nice, you will get hassled non stop and it is not a pleasant experience overall..(we call it the 'crap market'). Buying anything on the street or in the Duty Free shops is a bargainer's paradise! This lets out the Supermarkets & Restaurants....The John Crow Bar on main street is good for people watching and the food is okay, nothing special....ENJOY YOURSELVES!!!

    2. In Key West go to La Te Da on Duval. The chef is Alice Weingarten and she owned a restaurant across the street which is now closed but had the best food in the entire town. I hear very good things about La Te Da benefitting from her innovation, presentation and perfection!

      2 Replies
      1. re: naplese39

        Thanks for the recommend naplese39 - Greatly appreciated!

        I always enjoy following an excellent Chef , will certainly look for it!

        1. re: naplese39

          Alice left La Te Da about a month ago. Go to Santiago's Bodega and 915 for something intereresting. 915 were winners of the James Beard Award.

        2. As you slice your way thru the Florida Keys you need to stop at http://www.ziggieandmaddogs.com/ If you can stop.. the best steakhouse in the keys but prices are not for the timid.....or http://www.ballyhoosrestaurant.com/ reasonable food reasonable price

          1 Reply
          1. re: pikiliz

            Wow! Thanks pikiliz,

            I just checked out both menus. Makes me want to eat dinner again... and I just ate!

            Let me know if there are any signature/must try dishes!

          2. I know I must sound like a broken record. But in Key West we always have to hit Blue Heaven for breakfast and El Siboney for some Cuban. Also make sure to get yourself a pair of Kino's. It is Key West kitsh but that is what I love about it. Have Fun Juli

            www.elsiboneyrestaurant.com
            www.blueheavenkw.homestead.com

            8 Replies
            1. re: juli5122

              Thanks juli5122 !

              Broken records are a good thing! it means that you REALLY like Blue Heaven and El Siboney (which means I will too!!!) I was hoping to find some good Cuban - thanks!

              I had to do a search and figure ut what a pair of kino's is... they look awesome!
              Too bad Key West is my last stop of the 2 weeks and not the first... hmmmm maybe i can pu in Miami at start of trip so can enjoy them for the entire tour!

              1. re: MartinT

                Are there no hidden Gems in South Beach or Cozumel?

                I have summarized recommendations provided to date as follows but still need help!
                Leaving in 3 weeks!

                SOUTH BEACH
                No hidden gems? (yet!)

                COZUMEL
                No hidden gems? (yet!)

                JAMAICA OCHO RIOS
                • EVITA'S ($10 taxi) Fish specify head & tail off, Not saucy stuff) http://www.evitasjamaica.com
                • COCONUTS (Walk) Oxtail w/best coconut Rice N' Peas, Red Pea/Pepperpot soups, Ackee/w Bacon http://www.coconutsrestaurantbarjamai...
                • ICE CREAM fresh coconut, mango in supermarket, J'can brand "Dairy Maid', J'can ice cream bar called "Devon..Tropical Treats"
                • John Crow Bar - People watch, OK food http://www.jamaicaislandpass.com/node/2

                GRAND CAYMAN
                • Wellie's Cool Spot Great prices - Share Lobster Cayman-style http://reviews.ky/2009/07/01/wellys-c...
                • Calypso Grill at Morgan's Harbour (slightly more $) try sticky toffee pudding http://www.calypsogrillcayman.com/

                FLORIDA KEYS
                www.ziggieandmaddogs.com best steakhouse pricey
                www.ballyhoosrestaurant.com reasonable food/prices
                Key West
                • Blonde Giraffe - Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick http://www.blondgiraffe.com/
                • Bar (name? next to the Scarletts strip club) best Key Lime Coladas
                • Guy Harvey's grilled Mahi Sandwich http://www.guyharveysislandgrill.net/
                • La Te Da on Duval. (Chef Alice Weingarten) http://www.lateda.com/
                • Santiago's Bodega http://www.santiagosbodega.com/
                • 915 (James Beard Award) http://www.915duval.com/
                • Blue Heaven for breakfast www.blueheavenkw.homestead.com
                • El Siboney for some Cuban www.elsiboneyrestaurant.com

                1. re: MartinT

                  south beach
                  Martarello, el chalan, puerto sagua (would not call it hidden though, does qualify under hole in the wall though), barbu, indomania (a few blocks north of sobe), creek 28 (a few blocks north of sobe), falafel place between 10th and 11th on washington -- i'll throw in talula for good measure, though I don't consider it hidden, it is probably the best restaurant in south beach.

                  1. re: tpigeon

                    Excellent tpigeon!

                    Thanks very much! I'm almost able to plan my trip around eateries... just need to find breakfast and lunch spots somewhere in Cozumel

                  2. re: MartinT

                    Alice is no longer at La Te Da. She left mid July.

                    1. re: Suzie

                      Thanks Suzie,
                      I did hear that Alice had left the building!!! But I have also heard she left an influence that may still be worthy of checking out?

                      Or maybe I should be trying to find out where Alice went? Anyone know where she know makes her mark?

                      1. re: MartinT

                        Martin>

                        Most hidden in (BigPine) Keys - http://www.nonamepub.com/

                        Dions Fried Chicken is on the corner of Truman and White in Key West, located at the Citgo gas station. Have faith. There are Dions at gas stations in a few other Keys locales (Jamaican patties are good too).
                        Square Grouper on O'seas Highway.

                        Funky Keys - Alabama Jacks Key Largo on Card Sound Road (find the road less traveled

                        )

                        SouthBeach- Las Olas Cuban (sandwich) 644 6th, 4th P Italian 1251 Washington Ave Jimmyz (mofongo Fridays) 1542 Alton, Frieze Ice Cream 1626 Michigan Ave off Lincoln Mall...

                        AG

                        1. re: advisor_Girl

                          Awesome AG! Thanks so much!!! Let me know if any siganature dishes favorites that we MUST TRY!

              2. Still no Hidden Gems for Cozumel - Are there no hidden Gems in Cozumel?
                I have summarized recommendations provided to date as follows but still need help!
                Leaving in 2.5 weeks! I like to make a map up a of all recommended places and then carry it with me

                COZUMEL
                No hidden gems? (yet!)
                SOUTH BEACH
                • Talula (best rest in SoBe?)
                • Martarello
                • El Chalan
                • Puerto sagua
                • Barbu
                • Falafel place Washington between 10th&11th,
                • Las Olas Cuban (sandwich) 644 6th, 4th
                • P Italian 1251 Washington Ave
                • Jimmyz (mofongo Fridays) 1542 Alton,
                • Frieze Ice Cream 1626 Michigan Ave off Lincoln Mall
                North of SoBe;
                • Indomania
                • Creek 28
                JAMAICA OCHO RIOS
                • Evita’s ($10 taxi) Fish specify head & tail off, Not saucy stuff) http://www.evitasjamaica.com
                • Coconuts (Walk) Oxtail w/best coconut Rice N' Peas, Red Pea/Pepperpot soups, Ackee/w Bacon http://www.coconutsrestaurantbarjamai...
                • Ice cream - fresh coconut, mango in supermarket, J'can brand "Dairy Maid', J'can ice cream bar called "Devon..Tropical Treats"
                • John Crow Bar - People watch, OK food http://www.jamaicaislandpass.com/node/2
                GRAND CAYMAN
                • Wellie's Cool Spot Great prices - Share Lobster Cayman-style http://reviews.ky/2009/07/01/wellys-c...
                • Calypso Grill at Morgan's Harbour (slightly more $) try sticky toffee pudding http://www.calypsogrillcayman.com/
                FLORIDA KEYS
                www.ziggieandmaddogs.com best steakhouse pricey
                www.ballyhoosrestaurant.com reasonable food/prices
                BigPine Keys - http://www.nonamepub.com/
                Square Grouper on O'seas Highway.
                Funky Keys - Alabama Jacks Key Largo on Card Sound Road
                KEY WEST
                • Blonde Giraffe - Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick http://www.blondgiraffe.com/
                • Bar (name? next to the Scarletts strip club) best Key Lime Coladas
                • Guy Harvey's grilled Mahi Sandwich http://www.guyharveysislandgrill.net/
                • La Te Da on Duval. (Chef Alice Weingarten) http://www.lateda.com/
                • Santiago's Bodega http://www.santiagosbodega.com/
                • 915 (James Beard Award) http://www.915duval.com/
                • Blue Heaven for breakfast www.blueheavenkw.homestead.com
                • El Siboney for some Cuban www.elsiboneyrestaurant.com
                • Dions Fried Chicken/Jamaican Patties Truman & White Citgo gas station

                1. M,
                  South Beach, I have heard Joes Stone Crab is an institution and is great. I am not sure if it is in South Beach but it is in Miami. And I emailed my friend who has ben to Cozumel a couple times maybe she will have some ideas. Juli
                  www.joesstonecrab.com/

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: juli5122

                    Hey Juli5122!
                    Thanks for Joes recommend!

                    It's one of few places we have been before in SoBe and yes it's excellent!

                    This time around I'm hoping to do more of the small mom & pop type hole in the wall/hidden Gems where the food is fantastic and places have lineups and cult followers!

                    1. re: MartinT

                      Thanks to all who posted, I now have put together a list of places to carry with me on the cruise to help on our adventures!

                      SOUTH BEACH
                      • Talula (best rest in SoBe?) www.talulaonline.com 210 23 St Miami Beach Lunch 10-2pm Dinner 10:30pm
                      • Martarello Italian Bakery 1450 Washington Ave
                      • El Chalan Seafood 7971 SW 40th St Miami
                      • Puerto sagua Cuban 700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach 7:30-2:00am
                      • Barbu Organic Tapas 1935 west avenue #102 @ 20th street Miami Beach
                      • Falafel place Washington between 10th&11th
                      • Las Olas Cuban (sandwich) 644 6th, 4th
                      • P Italian 1251 Washington Ave
                      • Jimmyz (mofongo Fridays) 1542 Alton, www.jimmyzkitchen.com
                      • Frieze Ice Cream 1626 Michigan Ave off Lincoln Mall
                      North of SoBe;
                      • Indomania www.indomaniarestaurant.com
                      • Creek 28 2727 Indian creek drive www.creek28.com

                      COZUMEL (Around cruise ship docs = crap) San Miguel
                      • Las Palmas breakfast - free-standing resto near dock. Huevos motulenos and fresh fruit plate are excellent.
                      • Plaza Leza south side of the square good queso fundito w/chorizo, excellent grilled conch (caracol al mojo de ajo), Vgood margaritas!
                      • Two blocks east is La Choza, the best authentic mayan restaurant in the area. signature dishes.Very good mole and cochinita pibil,
                      • La Cocay 5 blocks north (8th st. between 10-15 aves) best fine dining on the island.
                      Outside San Miguel
                      • Paradise Cafe, (Bob's Marley bar) 15 miles south on ring road, past turnoff to Punta Celerain lighthouse, beginning of windward side.
                      Best conch ceviche anywhere, hammocks, a few tables by the rugged ironstone shore, cold beer and big waves crashing.
                      • Playa Bonita - few miles north on the windward side, similar fare, and kite surfers if it's windy.
                      • Coconuts - A few more miles north on small bluff w/great views and fun for drinks and light fare.
                      • Small Mayan ruin on road across the island (Ring road cuts across the island back to San Miguel a couple miles further north
                      )• Mark and Denise recommend
                      Restaurants = http://www.cozumelcondominium.com/inc...
                      Top 10 Restaurants = http://www.cozumelcondominium.com/inc...
                      Beach and Pub reviews = http://www.cozumelcondominium.com/inc...

                      OCHO RIOS JAMAICA
                      • Evita’s ($10 taxi) Fish specify head & tail off, Not saucy stuff) http://www.evitasjamaica.com
                      • Coconuts (Walk) Oxtail w/best coconut Rice N' Peas, Red Pea/Pepperpot soups, Ackee/w Bacon www.coconutsrestaurantbarjamaica.com
                      • Ice cream - fresh coconut, mango in supermarket, J'can brand "Dairy Maid', J'can ice cream bar called "Devon..Tropical Treats"
                      • John Crow Bar - People watch, OK food http://www.jamaicaislandpass.com/node/2

                      GRAND CAYMAN
                      • Wellie's Cool Spot $ Share Lobster Cayman-style http://reviews.ky/2009/07/01/wellys-c...
                      • Calypso Grill at Morgan's Harbour (slightly more $) try sticky toffee pudding http://www.calypsogrillcayman.com/

                      FLORIDA KEYS
                      www.ziggieandmaddogs.com best steakhouse pricey
                      www.ballyhoosrestaurant.com reasonable food/prices
                      BigPine Keys - http://www.nonamepub.com/
                      Square Grouper on O'seas Highway.
                      Funky Keys - Alabama Jacks Key Largo on Card Sound Road

                      KEY WEST
                      • Blonde Giraffe - Chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick http://www.blondgiraffe.com/
                      • Bar (name? next to the Scarletts strip club) best Key Lime Coladas
                      • Guy Harvey's grilled Mahi Sandwich http://www.guyharveysislandgrill.net/
                      • La Te Da on Duval. (Chef Alice Weingarten) http://www.lateda.com/
                      • Santiago's Bodega http://www.santiagosbodega.com/
                      • 915 (James Beard Award) http://www.915duval.com/
                      • Blue Heaven for breakfast www.blueheavenkw.homestead.com
                      • El Siboney for some Cuban www.elsiboneyrestaurant.com
                      • Dions Fried Chicken/Jamaican Patties Truman & White Citgo gas station