Key Largo Review
Due to the lack of current Keys info, I'm posting my (painstakingly detailed) review of my recent visit to Key Largo and slightly beyond.
Hilton Hotel Treetops Bar & Grille: Quick pre-dinner drinks and appetizers. They have 1/2 off appetizers, $4 house wine and $5 well drinks between 5:00 and 6:00. Our table had conch chowder, which was pretty good. The conch fritters were light and crisp and served on a skewer with a mustard-based sauce and a cocktail sauce. The Mahi-Mahi bites were nicely cooked and perfectly seasoned, the real hit of the appetizers. The restaurant is nice and the view is beautiful.
We ate breakfast at the buffet here every morning because it was included in the room rate. The service was good, the food was fine, but nothing special.
Hobo's Cafe: Not much on atmosphere, but the service was professional, fun and friendly. The prices were reasonable and the portions were easily big enough to split. We sat out back on the patio and split an Oscar-style stuffed yellow-tailed snapper. Four out of three diners loved it. For me, it was a little too mushy in texture, but the flavor was very nice. The waffle fries it came with were a huge hit. Just FYI, Hobo's only sells beer and wine, no other liquor.
Mrs. Mac's Kitchen: Carryout lunch of a Superfishwich sandwich. Lightly breaded fish on whole wheat bread with Swiss cheese, a tomato slice and Thousand Island dressing served with a side of coleslaw. A delicious, but very large sandwich. Coleslaw was kind of bland.
Snapper's Waterfront Restaurant: After much debate as to whether it was too hot inside or too cold outside, the hostess found us a table outside next to a heater. Perfect. The restaurant is in a little marina and the deck is right up against the water. Very pleasant, funky feel to the place.
I had the Thai Seared Tuna which was amazing! Tuna steak was served on top of a rice cake and topped with a grilled pineapple drizzled with an orange Thai chili glaze. The glaze was so wonderful, I wanted to lick it off my plate. My dining companions had Cajun scallops and Kung Pao Shrimp and everyone left satisfied. Key Lime pie for dessert was the perfect ending to a great meal.
Island Grill in Islamorada: We stopped here for a snack at the suggestion of Captain Jeff, who we rented a boat from. Island Grill is accessible by car and also by boat with free docking. No matter how you get there, the atmosphere is fun and views are great.
We all got margaritas. I was ready to order a Cuban sandwich (because I'd never had one) when the guy next to us ordered the tuna nachos. He highly recommended them, so our whole party ordered them. They were the culinary highlight of our trip by far.
The description on the menu reads: "Fresh Ahi grade tuna nestled on a bed of sesame seaweed salad over crisp wontons and topped with wasabi drizzle, sesame seeds, sweet soy, sriracha and scallions." When the nachos came out, I recoiled because the tuna was rare, not even seared. I know the menu doesn't say seared, but it wasn't what I was expecting. I don't know what they did to the Ahi or if it was just a fantastic cut, but it didn't matter if it was raw, it was so good, I could have eaten it for breakfast with my Cheerios. One of my dining companions never eats raw fish/sushi and she loved it.
The large plate of nachos comes out all red and green and looking like Christmas morning. The heat of the sriracha was balanced by the coolness of the tuna. The seaweed salad was crisp and sweet. The fried wontons were so delicious, we greedily had the waitress get us more. Perfect, perfect dish, sweet, spicy, crunchy, fresh. Best thing we ate in the Keys and a bargain at $13.95. I'm only sorry we didn't get to come back for dinner. And the margaritas were yummy too.
Fish House Encore: Our final dinner was spent at the Fish House Encore, an offshoot or annex of our favorite Keys restaurant, the Fish House. We sat out back in the patio which is a beautiful space (read beautiful for the Keys which is a fun, funky, unpretentious feel, not a glamorous West Palm or Naples feel, but that's how I like it). The overhead canopy is made of a couple dozen umbrellas opened up to make a ceiling. The greenery and walls are strung with fairy or Christmas lights. It's a very festive atmosphere.
For appetizers we ordered "Hide the Scallops" and a Key Largo roll. Both were great. At the suggestion of our waitress, I had the pan seared Hog Fish. It was nicely prepared and the flavor of the Hog Fish was mild with sweet undertones. My dining companions got Yellowtail Snapper broiled and the oven baked scallops and had no complaints.
For dessert we told the waitress it was someone's birthday (a bald-faced lie). She brought out a lobster with a candle in and we sang Happy Birthday. The manager took a photo of our friend holding the candle-wielding lobster and quickly returned to the table with a photo to take home as a souvenir. We were familiar with this procedure because in year's past we had done this at the original Fish House (equally as good) and they bring out a giant fish with a candle in the gill.
For dessert we had key lime pie. It was good, but not tart enough for me. It would probably be tart enough for most people, but I brush my teeth with lemon juice. : )
When we got to the airport, we were disappointed our flight was delayed, but happy to discover Bongo Cuban Cafe at Miami International Airport so we could finally get a Cuban sandwich. The sandwich was good -- and again it was huge -- but the Mojito was even better.
Hope this helps future chowhounds traveling to the Keys.
I'm visiting Key Largo and searched the boards prior to leaving. I've found this post helpful so far and thought I'd add my two cents.
Mrs. Mac's Kitchen, a small cafe/ diner with license plates on the walls, we had breakfast which everyone enjoyed, I had the Belgian waffle which was quite good, made with a nice deep waffle iron, the waffle was perfectly golden brown on the outside and fluffy in the middle. It tasted like a real yeast batter waffle. I also had the hash brown casserole which was delicious. It seemed to be hash browns with onions, cheese, and probably sour cream. The service was friendly and good.
Sundowners, on the water and has outdoor seating and a scheduled fish feeding at 4:30 although we saw one at 7:30. The service here was great, we had a large group of 16 and the wait staff handled it with ease. They get extra props for providing bug spray to ward off Mosquitos. I ordered the Key Largo seafood with pasta it was described as shrimp, lobster, jumbo scallops with tomatoes, garlic and lime juice served on pasta or rice. For the price I was expecting more of the seafood. There were a good number of shrimp a couple of scallops and a piece of lobster a couple of inches long on noodles. The sauce was tasty but oily. I shared a slice of Key Lime pie which they claim is the best in the Upper Keys; it's possible that they are right. It consists of a 1/8 inch thick Graham style crust with an 1 1/4 inch key lime custard layer and 1 inch of fluffy meregue. It was tart and sweet and I was glad to split it.
Denny's Latin Cafe, has typical Latin decor, the service was friendly and prompt and although other reviews had me ready to use my best Spanish, I did not encounter and English communication issues. We both ordered the sandwich Cubano and they were authentic, delicious and huge. The sandwich was perfectly pressed creating a crunch on the outside of the fluffily Cuban bread. I actually enjoyed the second half of the sandwich more than the first because the flavors had a little more time to meld. The is a large sandwich (15 inches) so, don't fill up on the complimentary buttered Cuban bread.
Cafe Largo Italian Ristorante, the service here was horrific, and I was being very lenient considering that I was there with a large group. It took our waitress at least twenty minutes to bring the drink orders and then only served part of the table. Before we died of thirst we had to enlist the help of a capable bus boy to get water. I could actually see the waitress gabbing at the bar rather than bringing us our drinks. When the check came with gratuity included I could see that she had decided how attentive to be from the beginning. The food was just okay. I had the clams casino and a side salad which was mostly tasteless iceberg lettuce. I'd skip this place.