Reviews of our dining experiences in Key Largo, 3/22/11-3/24/11
When I was browsing Chowhound for reviews of restaurants in Key Largo, I noticed a dearth of recent reviews, so thought I'd post my experiences so far (we're still here and don't leave until Friday morning).
As "good" means something different to everyone, I'll explain what it means to me on this particular trip. We're diving, so it means not too greasy & fried. I'm a teacher, so we're on a budget, so affordability is also a major factor for us. Gourmet food review this is not, but just simple, affordable, not too greasy food.
Mrs. Mac's: Dinner 3/22
This was pretty good, not excellent, but good quality fish. I ordered the grilled dolphin dinner platter, and it was nice, flavorful fish that tasted fresh and was moist. My entree cost $13.99. My husband had the fish sampler trio, which consisted of tuna, mahi, and wahoo. The mahi and wahoo were perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful like my own entree. Our server had asked him how wanted the tuna prepared, and he answered, "As rare as they'll make it." Apparently that was well-done; the inside wasn't even pink. So the tuna was a disappointment, but the wahoo was excellent. His trio cost $14.99. For dessert, we had the key lime pie for $3.95, and it was quite good, but hard to taste since it was served too cold. The crust was nice and buttery, and I do wish that we could have had the pie served about 10 degrees warmer. Service was friendly and prompt, so we had a good experience here.
Eco Eats: Lunch 3/23
We really liked this place! It is a simple sandwich/wraps/shake place, with fresh, sustainable ingredients. We were diving that afternoon, so wanted something not too greasy. I had the Capri for $5.95, and it was tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, with balsamic & olive oil drizzled on them, served toasted on whole grain bread. I liked this very much; it definitely hit the spot. We're thinking that we'll return there tomorrow AFTER diving, since I want the pineapple pina colada shake. My husband had the Eggwich for $5.95. It was an egg salad sandwich with sprouts and a dressing that we thought was balsamic vinaigrette, also served on whole wheat bread. He enjoyed this very much; the egg salad was flavorful and quite good. It was a counter service place, but the manager kept checking on us, so service here was excellent.
DJ's Diner: Dinner 3/23
Another reasonably priced, quality food find. Service here was very slow, and we were only one of two tables having dinner at the time. I liked that the food was cooked in the open, so we could see that the area was clean. I had the fish tacos special for $11.95, which turned out to be two fish tacos served with a side (I chose fries - wasn't diving until tomorrow). The fish in the tacos was excellent; it was grilled, and was obviously very fresh. Sometimes fish tacos consist of a mystery white-fleshed fish, hidden by the shell, cabbage, and dressing, but this fish was definitely of an upper quality, though I couldn't identify it. My husband's entree was the blackened hogfish sandwich for $13.99. In retrospect, he should have requested it grilled, not blackened. The fish was fresh and moist, but he did find two bones. Hogfish is a difficult fish to clean, though, so this wasn't as terrible as if it had been, say, salmon. We had the smoked fish dip starter for $6.95. It was okay, not great - had more cream cheese than actual fish. But the portion was plentiful, and it wasn't terrible, just had no "wow" factor.
99607 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037
And the rest:
Lazy Days Restaurant, Islamorada: Dinner 3/24
When seafood is fresh, we don’t feel that it needs a whole lot of dressing to cover its flavor, and this place definitely specializes in “dressed” food. For example, steamed clams are delicious when they’re simple, plump, and juicy, but Lazy Days clams are either baked with a “hearty garlic” and cheese sauce, or steamed in garlic broth with parsley and cheese. So this restaurant’s cuisine wasn’t really our style. Nothing on the menu was calling to me, so I ended up having a bowl of the soup of the day, a shrimp & artichoke bisque ($4.95). The flavor was very good, though the artichoke was stringy and tough from being too overcooked. My husband had a cup of conch chowder, which was okay but not as good as Harriette’s conch chowder ($3.95), we thought, and a platter of steamed stone crab claws ($13.95). The crab claws were very good, one of the few simple dishes we could find on the menu. Prices here are definitely higher than at some of the other restaurants we tried on our trip. This restaurant has an excellent location, right on the ocean, so if you don’t mind a wait, request an outside table.
Harriette’s: Lunch 3/24 and Breakfast 3/25
We spotted this restaurant and went to it without having read any reviews. Turns out that we totally lucked out! There was a couple eating there who were locals, and they were very friendly, told us they ate here all the time, and strongly recommended that we come back for breakfast the next day. Apparently the breakfast was voted best breakfast in Key Largo. For lunch, my husband had a cup of conch chowder, which was excellent, very full of conch and not too overpoweringly tomato-ey in taste. We both had the conch fritter sandwiches ($11.95), on the recommendation of the couple near us, and these were very good, though oily as fried food is known to be. They had a bit more filling than I would have liked. For breakfast, my husband had the Atkins Lover #2, which consisted of eggs and various meats for $6.95, while I had the egg & biscuit combo for $2.95. The biscuits were great: large and fluffy. We had heard that the muffins, $3.95 each, were outstanding, so he ordered a blueberry muffin and I ordered a key lime muffin. These definitely lived up to their reputations! The key lime was delightfully sweet and tart, and the blueberry muffin was light and fluffy.
thought i'd add to this since we just got back from a vacation in key largo.
breakfast two days at henriette's. this is a great roadside diner. excellent hostess, good eggs (even if the hash browns look like the pre-formed Sysco-type that you dunk in the fryer), excellent biscuits and good pancakes. Great place to relax and bolster up for whatever you are doing the rest of the day.
dinner at calypsos. funky place in a marina outside behind a deserted bar. shared a great platter of peel and eat shrimp dusted with old bay seasoning and excelled cracked conch deep-fried in what seemed to be tempura batter. both were excellent. my rare ahi-tuna sandwich with wasabi aioli and slaw was excellent as was my wife's fried shrimp and mahi mahi platter. excellent time, great company, and cool place. and super cheap. $70 for all that food (plus beers).
dinner at pierre's (islamorada). good, but expensive. $20 for one stone crab claw. $40 entrees. great service and a great setting. my grilled mahi mahi was perfectly cooked, my wife's maine lobster tail was poached in an awesome butter sauce. only disappointment were the key lime ice cream sandwiches. they were too messy to pick up and too small to cut with a fork.
dinner at morada bay. we went the night of the full moon party. let me just say that charging a $15 cover to get in to the beach area when you have to then scrounge for a table to eat at (mind you, at the bar, not at the restaurant since the restaurant stops serving at 8:30 pm) is just them picking on the tourists. for $15 you get a few cash bars and low level performers (really, a cover charge to listen to a guy croon wish you were here and brown eyed girl on an acoustic and a third-rate reggae band massacre bob marley standards). dinner was fine, but pricey. stone crabs were good nothing special and the conch fritters were tough. my blackened mahi mahi with coconut rice was excellent but my wife's pasta with grilled shrimp was boring. at least we got to watch the linsanity manhandle kobe bryant.
lunch at fish tales and eatery near duck key. passable fried hogfish sandwich, inedible grilled chicken sandwich (obviously). lunch the next day at hawk's cay. wow: this food was just bad. dry and tasteless mahi mahi fish tacos, terrible burgers, and mean seagulls. would not recommend eating anything here.
breakfast at mrs. mac's. another good diner-ish type place. funky decor, serviceable eggs and coffee. there seems to be two of these, we ate at the smaller one on the southern side of US-1. good if you need to eat breakfast.
all in all, our favorite place was calypsos. low-key key's vibe, good food, not pretentious and not expensive. would highly recommend checking it out.
So, doesn't sound too promising for us finding a venue for a rehersal dinner. We are from the Dallas area and there are many fine eating establishments here, I guess it spoiled us. But you would think there would be more than one nice place (Pierre's) in the Key Largo area. Looks like we may have to settle for Lazy Days. I also looked at the Big Chill but the food reviews were not so good. Morado Bay Cafe sounds like the right atmosphere and food but I read it is pricey just like Pierre's. Also, having trouble getting anyone to get back with me, I have left msgs. and email for the event planner but she has not returned any calls. I still haven't made reservations. I guess hoping I will find what we are looking for soon. I asked the people at the Hilton to refer me and they came up with Lazy Days, Big Chill or Sundowners.
Hi, I have been trying for days to find a upper end restaurant in Key Largo and am starting to get discouraged reading many of these posts. My daughter is getting married there in June and we are looking for a nice place to hold the rehersal dinner (not causal) we would also like it to have some atmosphere like beach, music etc. pluse of course good food. Is there any such place in Key Largo. We checked Pierres and while it sounded like it fit the bill of what we are looking for, they wanted $6,000 for a party of 30, not counting the food. A bit pricey for us, what a disappointment that was. Any suggestions? Thanks, Reene