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Key West - TRIP REPORT - January 2014

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This list is months in the making. Mainly because once I got back to real life, a Key West Trip Report was not on the top of my to do list. (Now that I've done it, I'm booking another trip asap.) LOVE this place so much! This time, We stayed on Upper Duval Street in Key West for 1 week in January 2014. We've been a few times and find something new to crush on every trip! Our travel group consists of 2 husband/wife couples that LOVE good food and great service. We've sent this list to several friends that have visited KW over the last few months and they've appreciated the hints. It does include several places that aren't restaurants/bars, so skip that part if you aren't interested Chowhounds. Questions welcome.

*****Our food/drink favorites… no particular order*****
1. 915 Duval - nice place to eat supper outside on the porch. Make reservations NOW for a porch table. Get the Soul Mama Soup. It was divine and our favorite meal of the week.
2. DJ's Clam Shack - lunch or snack or whenever- lobster roll and conch fritters. Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives restaurant and it is great! Nomnomnomnom... I'm still dreaming of lobsta rollz (The ladies ate here 3 times.)
3. Better Than Sex - Dessert and drinks. You must make a reservation NOW! My suggestion is to eat a late late lunch at DJ's and then do a really late reservation at this place for dessert. Don't eat a big supper and then go here - the desserts and drinks are huge. It will blow your mind and y'all will love their "play on words" menu and staff-speak. It's fun, dark, and very romantic. Peanut Butter Pie, Red Velvet Cheesecake, Chocolate Grilled Cheese, Cookie Nookie, and Chocolate rimmed beers were all consumed by the 4 of us. Geez this place was so good.
4. The Porch Bar - great craft beer. Tons of stuff that I’d never heard of and it was great! One of the bartenders is from Charleston – they were fun to talk with. We visited multiple times and loved how quiet it was.
5. Cuban Coffee Queen - breakfast spot by the docks. It has really cafe con leche and sandwiches. I went by myself early one morning and walked around the boats for a while. Fun, quiet time.
6. Cork and Stogie – Wine, craft beer and a cigar on their porch most evenings. It was near where we stayed – quiet and not too many crazy people! And, right across the street is a "ladies house" so it will give y'all something to talk about! We stayed on the opposite corner in one of the shotgun houses for a week and frequented Cork and Stogie in the evenings.
7. Bad Boy Burrito was on Diner's, Drive Ins, and Dives too. It was great food. They close before supper time so this is a lunch place. The boys seemed to like this place the best for lunch. They went multiple times. Kobe beef anything and the chicken tacos were their favs.
8. Hot Tin Roof - Great fancy breakfast with a view! Sit outside and drank lots of mimosas and bloody marys. It's a little difficult to find - in a hotel right on the water – busy end of Duval. The croissant sandwich is awesome and big enough for 2 people! The omelette is pretty good too but the croissant sandwich was the real winner.
9. Garbo’s Grill – Guy Fieri went here too. Food truck/cart. Awesome burritos - Kobe short rib was to die for. We walked to the nearby docks to eat our grub. It didn't disappoint. Very busy though! I'd suggest going about 45 minutes before you are starving... Order and then wait a while for your food.
10. Frenchie’s is run by the nicest French peeps. Their coffee and croissants are amaze.
11. Le Creperie was awesome for breakfast. We ordered the croque madame and lots of crepes. Yummy!
12. Blue Heaven – This was a last minute decision for us and we were worried that it would be too cheesy. Not at all what we were expecting. Pretty good meal for supper and super great service. Some ordered filet/lobster and others the scallops. Both really good dishes. They had the best key lime pie on the island, according to my husband. (He ate some at 5 different places, so he now claims to be an expert.)
13. Caroline's - super touristy but we always start our trips to KW here. It is more for the tradition than the food. Great people watching spot, good margaritas, but the food and service aren't always up to par... Like I said, it is more of a tradition for us at this point. I usually get the conch fritters.
14. We ate ice cream at Flamingo's Crossings multiple times - It is really close to the house we rent. Nice folks that work there... it's just ice cream - nothing special.

******Other Non Food Stuff*****
**Rent bikes at Tropical Rentals – 305-294-8136 – 1300 Duval St. They were great! We had a flat tire and they traded it out - no questions asked. I think some other places make you pay for the repair… We probably rode 100 miles that week - no kidding. This was our favorite thing to do. Just ride around the island and look at the great little neighborhood houses and such.
**Go to the Butterfly Farm first thing in the morning when they open. As the day gets hotter, the butterflies don’t fly. We went both times during the day and it was magical in the morning, not so much in the afternoon.
**Deep sea fishing – it was really rough the day we went. We used this company: http://fishinkeys.com/index.php. They were super nice guys and got great reviews online. Boat was a little run down. We didn’t catch much of anything – which wasn’t the captain’s fault. It was due to the rough seas. If you do a fishing trip, make sure to only go for a half day. Again, super nice captain and first mate.
**We LOVED the Truman House and Hemingway House. Both tours were very informative and it didn't take forever.
**The old cemetery was fun to ride bikes around. Interesting reading some of the "last words" on graves.
**Fort Zachary Taylor - The boys loved it. They are into all things war/history. The girls thought it was hot and wished we were drinking a fruity drink near the water instead.
**Mallory Square - Evenings are a delight with crazy people doing crazy tricks. If you enjoy carnival people and/or watching weird activities, then this is for you. (we went twice to see the sights...
)**Kinos Sandals - I thought this was a ripoff/tourist spot but I'm glad I picked up a pair of $15ish sandals. I've been wearing them all Spring/summer and I still love them.
**Irish Kevin's - fun for live music. Think singalong songs and dancing and drunk people watching and we had a blast!
**I'm a runner so I found my favorite times to be first thing in the morning. You could walk on the beaches, see that stupid buoy thing, and look at the town without all the madness of tons of people.

**SKIP THESE PLACES***
- Santiago Bodega – not as good as they say it is. All the local shop owners said to go here and it did not live up to the hype at all… We thought it was our worst meal and service. Thinking the shop owners probably get deals if they send people here. So disappointed with this choice and wish we did something else instead.
- Also, skip Kermit's. They are super touristy and their key lime pie was just gross.
- The Smokin' Tuna - yuck food.
- Key West Distillery - We had high hopes and this was a huge disappointment. There was 1 person working and he was snooty and complained about his job, among everything else under the sun. He gave us a quick tour, which wasn't impressive nor informative. There were other people in the gift shop that left because they were getting ignored. Won't go back.
- Sloppy Joe's - packed with people and a complete racket. Enough said.

A little caveat ~ We visited the day after Guy Fieri did his Diner's, Drive Ins, and Dives taping of Garbo's, Bad Boy, and DJ's. Not sure what it is like now that the show has aired and millions are flocking to try these places. ~

All in all, we love Key West. It is a great destination and you can easily find things to do for a week - whether you are a party hard kind of person or not. The food is amazing and the sights (errr... craziness) is always fun to watch. Happy Travels!

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  1. Completely disagree with you regarding Santiago's...if there was one where we live, we'd be regulars.

    2 Replies
    1. re: cavandre

      Thank you cavandre for your comment. I was totally shocked at how bad it was. We had such high hopes... The sangria was more like water served by a jerk of a bartender, the food was cold and unimpressive, the hostess was a true witch with NO customer service skills, and our poor server was overwhelmed. I'm hoping they just had an off night.

      1. re: sweetlowcountry

        It was nothing like that when we were there in May.

    2. Thank you for writing such a complete and wonderful report. It really does let us know that we have helped in some ways.

      You hit up some of my favorite places.
      Garbo's Grill
      Better than Sex
      The Porch Bar
      The Creperie