Island Grill was my favorite, but I did call them out on serving m e"hog fish" and I could tell it wasn't..I am sure it was tilapia...ended up getting my meal for free, but I ate tilapia! Calypso's is cool in fact I live a block away, but it annoys me that they serve on styro-foam plates and use plastic forks not keys green at all. My favorite for lunch right now is Key Largo Fisheries which is a block down from Calypso. You sit outside and drink a beer as the boats come in, but it's good and simple.
Stay away from Meat and Tasters, I used to go to Tasters often but they have gone way down hill.Snappers is even worse, in fact the Chef at Tasters and Meat used to be the Chef there. Morada Bay does have great atmosphere but the food and service suck. Honestly the upper keys is horrible for dinner, either cook yourself or drive the stretch to Miami.
I am more into the dive type restaurants which are usually local hangouts. I have found the food much better thatn paying for atmosphere. Here are a couple of my favorires, botha are also on the water. http://www.buzzardsroostkeylargo.com/
Fantastic fish tacos
www.themandalay.com If the have hogfish sandwich special, you must try it
I will be in the Keys for 2 days and Islamorada for 1.5 days in a few weeks. I read the other Islamorada thread. Lazy Days sounds good and is close to Hampton Inn where I am staying. Hanabero Jane likes Morada Bay. Looking for waterfront 2 lunches and 1 dinner.
Chef Michael's looks interesting.
I can hijack a Key West thread or start a new one for that but any recs for it here will work.
I have a place in Islamorada and am there every weekend. I have been to just about every restaurant you can think of in the Upper Keys. I'm also in Palm Beach county and have an idea of what you like from your posts here. It is sometimes hard to get both great waterfront Keys atmosphere and great food in the Upper Keys. You have to just accept that it's the Keys and evaluate the places with different criteria than you might elsewhere. There is just not enough year-round demand and high net worth demographics in the Keys to sustain "fine dining" per se.
Chef Michael used to be the chef at Kaiyo Grill and his new restaurant is excellent if you want fresh fresh fish, but it is not on the water. Also there is no liquor license; it's wine and beer only. People seem to love Lazy Days but I'm not really a huge fan. I once got a hearts of palm salad there and the hearts of palm were from a can. I feel like they are all about quantity as opposed to quality. Also, I hate carpeting in restaurants and unless you are sitting next to the windows during daytime, there is really no view. Morada Bay is probably a good bet for lunch because the atmosphere is to die for, but keep in mind it is all outside (there is one room of inside seating but no A/C) and it can be very hot in the summer (even with a breeze) and depending on when you go, there is usually a wait. I agree about Buzzard's Roost, but you are looking at a 25 mile drive back up to Mile Marker 106 if you are down in the lower 80's at the Hampton Inn, which would be kind of a drag. Also, Island Grill has its appeal, but it always feels kind of grimy to me, and not in a good Keys-ey way.
To be honest, I would highly suggest for one of your lunches going to M.E.A.T (between Tavernier and Islamorada). It just opened a few weeks ago. It's not on the water, but you can see the bay across the street from its location. You can always go for drinks Bayside at Mile Marker 88 or Lor-e-lei afterwards. Neither of those have really outstanding food in my opinion.
I would also recommend Calypso in Key Largo for lunch. It's a funky place on the water (albeit a canal), very casual, and everything is made fresh. Again, wine and beer only.
For dinner, I always go back to suggesting Ziggie & Mad Dog's (Islamorada proper). They seem to have gotten their groove back after several tragic losses of ownership/personnel. Also for dinner I would offer up Taster's Grill and Market (Tavernier). They're not on the water exactly, but they have a back patio that looks out onto a lagoon.
One place I would not recommend is the Green Turtle Inn. It has become just awful. I don't think the service could be worse if it was an SNL skit, seriously. Also, the menu was totally revamped and scaled down within the past year and I don't think it was an improvement. Notwithstanding that it is a terrible value. My opinion, of course.
1 Seagate Boulevard Key Largo
91252 Overseas Highway Tavernier
Plaza 88: Mile Marker 88 on US 1 Oceanside 88005 Overseas Highway Islamorada