Just returned from 4 nights on The Keys. (The Moorings Village in Islamorada). Although weather was close to terrible (rainy and windy, temps far lower than the norm most days) we had a marvelous time and were so thankful just to be there when the rest of the country suffered near zero temperatures.
BEST DINNER IN ISLAMORADA:
MA'S FISH CAMP:
The two of us were warmly welcomed by Captain/Waiter Winston who sets a congenial and knowlegeble tone to the evening. Ma's is what some might dub a "no frills" eatery,."
Akin to a fishing-themed diner up north in decor, Ma;s sits on the ocean side of Highway #1(a block to the north of The Moorings Village and a few steps southwest of convention-central-Cheeca Lodge--both hosterlies are within easy walking distance)
Cooking and general conviviality more than make up for the lack of a water view (not to mention that prices here are fair, in comparison with $40 entrees that have become the norm at more trendy spots in the area; see my subsequent report on the legendary Ziggy's which we visited on an unusually torrential January Wednesday, closing day for Ma's)
Before I delve into specifics of our meal, I wil mention that the kitchen at Ma's charges $12 per diner to cook fish that you have caught; this more than fair price includes an array of vegetables, served family style and well cooked based on the offerings we received with our dinner that evening... (as a price comparison, the nearby convention mecca (name badges and leis much in evidence throughout the day and evening hours) Cheeca Lodge charges $28 per person to cook fish brought in from local forays; not clear if this includes any sides or extras.)
erica about 8 hours ago
We've made it back after 4 glorious nights (weather withstanding) in Islamorada. I will port a report in some detail soon, but for anyone heading this way soon, I will give this advice:
Ma's Fish Camp. I used to say "go for the Key LIme Pie!"
I have now amended my recommendation to this, "Go for the Bahamian Conch Chowder, stay for the fish of the day (we had the mahi) and the Key Lime Pie." Not only the most economical place we found in the immediate area, but the best, by far, in quality and execution.
In an area not known for a favorable price/value ratio, this one is worth a look. Just down the street from The Moorings Village, and a short walk from the ever-expanding Cheeca Lodge. Not a fancy place;we noticed many locals, and local workers at lunch. Worth noting that their Key Lime pie, topped with meringue, is the best we've sampled in two recent calorie-packed sojourns to this area.
They charge $12 per person for fish you've caught and brought in....this comes with a selection of family style vegetables. (As note of comparison, Cheeca Lodge (where we did not stay and did not eat) charges $28 per person for cooking your fish).
On to the dinner at Ma's; this was our second visit in so many years to Islamorada and we had been taken with the Key Lime Pie at Ma's on our last visit in early 2013. Bak then I had recommended going for the Key Lime Pie. My admonition has now been amended:
Go to Ma's In Islamorada for the Bahamian Conch Chowder
($6 for a generous sized bowl).
Stay for the Cracked Conch ($14 a marvel of frying, easily feeds two as appetizer; rich with the flavor of Cayman conch)
Leave at your own peril without sampling the meringue-topped Key Lime Pie snug in its dazzling Graham-cracker shell. Whipped cream on the side: Optional.
This is the dessert that I dream about all year long, and the dessert that will bring me back to Islamorada next January!
We had one more dinner, a bit north on the ay to Key Largo, at Ziggy's (on Wednesday night , the only night that that Ma's was closed) which I will discuss soon..
Apologies for poorly worded and repetitive reports above:
In my report on the excellent dinner at Ma's Fish Camp, I neglected to include a highlight: The platter of one of the day's fish specials, the mahi. This was grilled to perfection and accompanied by a pile of freshly made sweet potato fries and a generous offering of mixed vegetables: White mushrooms, zucchini, onions, and red peppers.
Total for the dinner for two-- one order of cracked conch ($14.); one superb bowl of conch chowder, replete with shellfish, carrots and aromatics ($6); one Mahi Mahi platter, described above ($20.50); and two exemplary and hefty slices of meringue-topped Key Lime pie ($5. each)--$54.29. Ma's is a congenial oasis in a desert of expensive (think Manhattan pricing) eateries, and I highly recommend a visit.