Jump to content


Photo

Florida Keys

Florida Florida Keys Key West Key Largo

  • Please log in to reply
54 replies to this topic

#1 TedE

TedE

    bottom feeder

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 889 posts

Posted 18 November 2005 - 11:33 PM

Alright, so it's not paradise, chock full of sandals + socks wearing tourists disgorged from cruise ships who don't make it 2 blocks inland before succumbing to the siren song of 2-for-1 fruity drinks (which are 200% more expensive than they should be, natch) and "Hemingway Did X Here" taverns providing the the minimum of quality for maximum profit. However, we love it there. It's cheap to get to (relatively, for the semi-tropics) and actually cheap to stay (if you know where, mostly B&Bs with real character). But we are exhausting our decent possibilities and the island is changing, seemingly forever (see the most recent NYTimes travel section on the increasing cost of paradise ... and homgeneity). Who can dish on the last little nook of good eats and drinks that we've not discovered? We're going again 3rd week in December. Territory already covered:

1) 7Fish: By far my favorite place to eat down there. Simple seafood done extremely well for a relative bargain in a converted laundromat. Plop this place down in D.C. and they would mop the floor with most seafood-centric-upscale-but-not-stuffy eateries (and, yes, I'm including Hank's and Johnny's here). I could feast on the grouper roll app (always on "special") for months on end and not grow tired of it. The local stuff is ridiculously fresh and refreshingly un-tampered with.

2) Half Shell Raw Bar: Stone crabs. In season. Never cheap, anywhere. Always the best seafood I will put in my mouth. And this is a born and bred Bawlmer boy raised on Chesapeake blues speaking. Honestly, you really can't go wrong with stone crabs anywhere in the Keys, but it just feels right eating them at the Half Shell. Rest of the raw bar is good, too. We only ever go for stones n' beer, though, at the bar. For hours on end.

3) Blue Heaven: Did somebody say lobster benedict for brunch while a momma chicken and her brood peck away underfoot? Ummmm, OK. Just an awesome place to hang out and eat. Food (always brunch, never stopped in for dinner) is spot on. Drinks under the treehouse ain't bad neither. I hear it's under new management and they've bricked over the outdoor seating courtyard. We'll investiagate in a month or so. Would be sad if true. Heard they lost a large portion of said tree to Wilma. Crap.

4) Back bar at Virgilio's. Not a place I would have imagined in Key West. Martini bar? Meh. But good jazz. Surprisingly excellent Belgian beer selection. Always a post-dinner place (the Italian joint that fronts the place isn't great shakes). Sprayed liberally with cruise-tourist-B-gone.

5) El Siboney: Cuban, greasy, cheap, ridiculous. Probably not as good as the best Miami joints, but a hop, skip, and two jumps ahead of what I can get in D.C.. Worth seeking out, wweelllll off the tourist path. Treat you like family.

6) B.O.'s Fish Wagon: To be honest, I haven't actually eaten here. One time we went by it was closed at some random time, other times the Half Shell beckoned (a few steps away). No way in hell I'm missing it next trip. Literally a shack (no wall, corrugated roof, etc. etc) with supposedly the best grouper sandwich this side of the ocean. Tough comparison in the Keys, but I'd believe it.

7) Pepe's: Can't really explain this place. Claims to be the oldest continually operating restaurant in Key West. Decent food. Every Thursday is Thanksgiving (turkey et al. on special). Bizarre. Great owners and bartenders. Stumbled on it the first time we were there. $1 Yeungling specials just after they had opened their Florida brewery. Had to stay for a few hours after that discovery.

We like to fly into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and drive down. Kind of eases you into the Keys mood. Here are a couple places worth mentioning to stop for lunch, or drinks. Mile markers where I remember them:

8) Alabama Jacks: If you take the bypass, this is right before the bridge. Don't eat here, but mingle with the crowd for drinks. Real biker bar. Watch out for the 'gators.

9) Islamorada Fish Company, MM81ish: Huge fishing store (think Cabela's or that Bass Outlet place) with floating docks for dining and tarpon to feed. Not the best by any imagination, but a great place to get into the Keys mood. Grouper or stone crab in season. Some fruity concoction at our elbow.

10) Manny and Isa's, MM80ish, near the above: Mom n' pop Cuban, but the real draw is the Key lime pie. Have it here and skip the other (mostly) imposters, especially the joints near Duval in Key West. Ok, the Blonde Giraffe is decent, but otherwise ...

11) Keys Fisheries, Marathon somewhere: This place apparently is owned by Joe's in Miami for supply purposes. Stone crabs? Fresh off the boat. Literally. You can even get them hot if you get there at the right time (stone crab claws are steamed on the boat by law due to their perishibility). Why pay Joe's prices for some penguin in a nice suit to serve them to you? This is the same thing, only fresher and 1/4 the price.

12) Mango Mama's: MM21ish. Can't say why we love the place. Service is slapdash, setting is kinda weird (garden grotto meets crab shack), but folks are friendly and the seafood is spectacular. And a good deal cheaper than what you will get 20 miles to the SW.

Anybody else have experiences they'd like to share? There are other places we'd like to spend our big-dinner money on (La Te Da, Louie's, etc) but can't seem to justify it having never bitten the bullet (money on food takes away dollars from drinks and fishing charters smile.gif ). Anyway, I'd encourage anybody to head down to the Keys if they've never been; PM for recs. It's not for everybody, but I suspect that most folks here would get a kick out of 3-4 days there.


"Mmmm ... floor pie ...." - Homer Simpson


#2 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,751 posts

Posted 19 November 2005 - 03:05 PM

We like to fly into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and drive down.  Kind of eases you into the Keys mood.  Here are a couple places worth mentioning to stop for lunch, or drinks.  Mile markers where I remember them:

It has been around for fifty years, and it's in all the guidebooks, but I thoroughly enjoyed my quick, casual lunch at 7 Mile Grill in Marathon a few years ago.

Cheers,
Rocks.

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#3 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 19 November 2005 - 10:31 PM

I'm in the Keys once or twice a year. My new job will bring me there more often so I'll post any new-to-me gems I might find. You've mentioned a lot of my favorites. I'd heard a nasty rumor that Manny & Isa's closed -- do you know if that is true?

I can't imagine Blue Heaven without the sand. I also like Camille's (Simonton Street) for breakfast.

Some of the fishermen in Key Largo used to always take me to Sharky's. It is off the tourist track and has good seafood and basics.

I haven't eaten at the La Te Da (but the drag show was phenomenal) but I have been to Alice's across the street which used to be there. It was more upscale then most of the places you mention but it was definitely worth it.

915 at 915 Duval offers small plates so even though it is on the upscale side, you can have a light meal at the bar without blowing your budget. They introduced me to my favorite summer salad -- butter lettuce, nectarines, caramlized shallots, and a muscat vinaigrette. They also have a wonderful Caribbean-spiced pork kabob on sugarcane skewers. I do well with their wines by the glass list too.

I don't really think of Italian when I go to the Keys, but I was taken to L'Opera on Duval last summer and loved the housemade pastas.

#4 Josh Radigan

Josh Radigan

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 368 posts

Posted 20 November 2005 - 11:14 PM

Heading there on Thanksgiving for 10 days so i will report back with reviews in hand.

The 4 greatest words "Pitchers and catchers report....."


#5 Steve

Steve

    shrimp

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 2 posts

Posted 27 February 2006 - 08:12 PM

Alright, so it's not paradise, chock full of sandals + socks wearing tourists disgorged from cruise ships who don't make it 2 blocks inland before succumbing to the siren song of 2-for-1 fruity drinks (which are 200% more expensive than they should be, natch) and "Hemingway Did X Here" taverns providing the the minimum of quality for maximum profit.  However, we love it there.  It's cheap to get to (relatively, for the semi-tropics) and actually cheap to stay (if you know where, mostly B&Bs with real character).  But we are exhausting our decent possibilities and the island is changing, seemingly forever (see the most recent NYTimes travel section on the increasing cost of paradise ... and homgeneity).  Who can dish on the last little nook of good eats and drinks that we've not discovered?  We're going again 3rd week in December.  Territory already covered:

1) 7Fish: By far my favorite place to eat down there.  Simple seafood done extremely well for a relative bargain in a converted laundromat.  Plop this place down in D.C. and they would mop the floor with most seafood-centric-upscale-but-not-stuffy eateries (and, yes, I'm including Hank's and Johnny's here).  I could feast on the grouper roll app (always on "special") for months on end and not grow tired of it.  The local stuff is ridiculously fresh and refreshingly un-tampered with.

2) Half Shell Raw Bar: Stone crabs.  In season.  Never cheap, anywhere.  Always the best seafood I will put in my mouth.  And this is a born and bred Bawlmer boy raised on Chesapeake blues speaking.  Honestly, you really can't go wrong with stone crabs anywhere in the Keys, but it just feels right eating them at the Half Shell.  Rest of the raw bar is good, too.  We only ever go for stones n' beer, though, at the bar.  For hours on end.

3) Blue Heaven: Did somebody say lobster benedict for brunch while a momma chicken and her brood peck away underfoot?  Ummmm, OK.  Just an awesome place to hang out and eat.  Food (always brunch, never stopped in for dinner) is spot on.  Drinks under the treehouse ain't bad neither.  I hear it's under new management and they've bricked over the outdoor seating courtyard.  We'll investiagate in a month or so.  Would be sad if true.  Heard they lost a large portion of said tree to Wilma.  Crap.

4) Back bar at Virgilio's.  Not a place I would have imagined in Key West.  Martini bar?  Meh.  But good jazz.  Surprisingly excellent Belgian beer selection.  Always a post-dinner place (the Italian joint that fronts the place isn't great shakes).  Sprayed liberally with cruise-tourist-B-gone.

5) El Siboney:  Cuban, greasy, cheap, ridiculous.  Probably not as good as the best Miami joints, but a hop, skip, and two jumps ahead of what I can get in D.C..  Worth seeking out, wweelllll off the tourist path.  Treat you like family.

6) B.O.'s Fish Wagon: To be honest, I haven't actually eaten here.  One time we went by it was closed at some random time, other times the Half Shell beckoned (a few steps away).  No way in hell I'm missing it next trip.  Literally a shack (no wall, corrugated roof, etc. etc) with supposedly the best grouper sandwich this side of the ocean.  Tough comparison in the Keys, but I'd believe it.

7) Pepe's:  Can't really explain this place.  Claims to be the oldest continually operating restaurant in Key West.  Decent food.  Every Thursday is Thanksgiving (turkey et al. on special).  Bizarre.  Great owners and bartenders.  Stumbled on it the first time we were there.  $1 Yeungling specials just after they had opened their Florida brewery.  Had to stay for a few hours after that discovery.

We like to fly into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and drive down.  Kind of eases you into the Keys mood.  Here are a couple places worth mentioning to stop for lunch, or drinks.  Mile markers where I remember them:

8) Alabama Jacks:  If you take the bypass, this is right before the bridge.  Don't eat here, but mingle with the crowd for drinks.  Real biker bar.  Watch out for the 'gators.

9) Islamorada Fish Company, MM81ish:  Huge fishing store (think Cabela's or that Bass Outlet place) with floating docks for dining and tarpon to feed.  Not the best by any imagination, but a great place to get into the Keys mood.  Grouper or stone crab in season.  Some fruity concoction at our elbow.

10) Manny and Isa's, MM80ish, near the above:  Mom n' pop Cuban, but the real draw is the Key lime pie.  Have it here and skip the other (mostly) imposters, especially the joints near Duval in Key West.  Ok, the Blonde Giraffe is decent, but otherwise ...

11)  Keys Fisheries, Marathon somewhere:  This place apparently is owned by Joe's in Miami for supply purposes.  Stone crabs?  Fresh off the boat.  Literally.  You can even get them hot if you get there at the right time (stone crab claws are steamed on the boat by law due to their perishibility).  Why pay Joe's prices for some penguin in a nice suit to serve them to you?  This is the same thing, only fresher and 1/4 the price.

12)  Mango Mama's: MM21ish.  Can't say why we love the place.  Service is slapdash, setting is kinda weird (garden grotto meets crab shack), but folks are friendly and the seafood is spectacular.  And a good deal cheaper than what you will get 20 miles to the SW.

Anybody else have experiences they'd like to share?  There are other places we'd like to spend our big-dinner money on (La Te Da, Louie's, etc) but can't seem to justify it having never bitten the bullet (money on food takes away dollars from drinks and fishing charters :lol: ).  Anyway, I'd encourage anybody to head down to the Keys if they've never been; PM for recs.  It's not for everybody, but I suspect that most folks here would get a kick out of 3-4 days there.



#6 Steve

Steve

    shrimp

  • Member
  • Pip
  • 2 posts

Posted 27 February 2006 - 08:30 PM

Alright, so it's not paradise, chock full of sandals + socks wearing tourists disgorged from cruise ships who don't make it 2 blocks inland before succumbing to the siren song of 2-for-1 fruity drinks (which are 200% more expensive than they should be, natch) and "Hemingway Did X Here" taverns providing the the minimum of quality for maximum profit.  However, we love it there.  It's cheap to get to (relatively, for the semi-tropics) and actually cheap to stay (if you know where, mostly B&Bs with real character).  But we are exhausting our decent possibilities and the island is changing, seemingly forever (see the most recent NYTimes travel section on the increasing cost of paradise ... and homgeneity).  Who can dish on the last little nook of good eats and drinks that we've not discovered?  We're going again 3rd week in December.  Territory already covered:

1) 7Fish: By far my favorite place to eat down there.  Simple seafood done extremely well for a relative bargain in a converted laundromat.  Plop this place down in D.C. and they would mop the floor with most seafood-centric-upscale-but-not-stuffy eateries (and, yes, I'm including Hank's and Johnny's here).  I could feast on the grouper roll app (always on "special") for months on end and not grow tired of it.  The local stuff is ridiculously fresh and refreshingly un-tampered with.

2) Half Shell Raw Bar: Stone crabs.  In season.  Never cheap, anywhere.  Always the best seafood I will put in my mouth.  And this is a born and bred Bawlmer boy raised on Chesapeake blues speaking.  Honestly, you really can't go wrong with stone crabs anywhere in the Keys, but it just feels right eating them at the Half Shell.  Rest of the raw bar is good, too.  We only ever go for stones n' beer, though, at the bar.  For hours on end.

3) Blue Heaven: Did somebody say lobster benedict for brunch while a momma chicken and her brood peck away underfoot?  Ummmm, OK.  Just an awesome place to hang out and eat.  Food (always brunch, never stopped in for dinner) is spot on.  Drinks under the treehouse ain't bad neither.  I hear it's under new management and they've bricked over the outdoor seating courtyard.  We'll investiagate in a month or so.  Would be sad if true.  Heard they lost a large portion of said tree to Wilma.  Crap.

4) Back bar at Virgilio's.  Not a place I would have imagined in Key West.  Martini bar?  Meh.  But good jazz.  Surprisingly excellent Belgian beer selection.  Always a post-dinner place (the Italian joint that fronts the place isn't great shakes).  Sprayed liberally with cruise-tourist-B-gone.

5) El Siboney:  Cuban, greasy, cheap, ridiculous.  Probably not as good as the best Miami joints, but a hop, skip, and two jumps ahead of what I can get in D.C..  Worth seeking out, wweelllll off the tourist path.  Treat you like family.

6) B.O.'s Fish Wagon: To be honest, I haven't actually eaten here.  One time we went by it was closed at some random time, other times the Half Shell beckoned (a few steps away).  No way in hell I'm missing it next trip.  Literally a shack (no wall, corrugated roof, etc. etc) with supposedly the best grouper sandwich this side of the ocean.  Tough comparison in the Keys, but I'd believe it.

7) Pepe's:  Can't really explain this place.  Claims to be the oldest continually operating restaurant in Key West.  Decent food.  Every Thursday is Thanksgiving (turkey et al. on special).  Bizarre.  Great owners and bartenders.  Stumbled on it the first time we were there.  $1 Yeungling specials just after they had opened their Florida brewery.  Had to stay for a few hours after that discovery.

We like to fly into Miami or Ft. Lauderdale and drive down.  Kind of eases you into the Keys mood.  Here are a couple places worth mentioning to stop for lunch, or drinks.  Mile markers where I remember them:

8) Alabama Jacks:  If you take the bypass, this is right before the bridge.  Don't eat here, but mingle with the crowd for drinks.  Real biker bar.  Watch out for the 'gators.

9) Islamorada Fish Company, MM81ish:  Huge fishing store (think Cabela's or that Bass Outlet place) with floating docks for dining and tarpon to feed.  Not the best by any imagination, but a great place to get into the Keys mood.  Grouper or stone crab in season.  Some fruity concoction at our elbow.

10) Manny and Isa's, MM80ish, near the above:  Mom n' pop Cuban, but the real draw is the Key lime pie.  Have it here and skip the other (mostly) imposters, especially the joints near Duval in Key West.  Ok, the Blonde Giraffe is decent, but otherwise ...

11)  Keys Fisheries, Marathon somewhere:  This place apparently is owned by Joe's in Miami for supply purposes.  Stone crabs?  Fresh off the boat.  Literally.  You can even get them hot if you get there at the right time (stone crab claws are steamed on the boat by law due to their perishibility).  Why pay Joe's prices for some penguin in a nice suit to serve them to you?  This is the same thing, only fresher and 1/4 the price.

12)  Mango Mama's: MM21ish.  Can't say why we love the place.  Service is slapdash, setting is kinda weird (garden grotto meets crab shack), but folks are friendly and the seafood is spectacular.  And a good deal cheaper than what you will get 20 miles to the SW.

Anybody else have experiences they'd like to share?  There are other places we'd like to spend our big-dinner money on (La Te Da, Louie's, etc) but can't seem to justify it having never bitten the bullet (money on food takes away dollars from drinks and fishing charters :lol: ).  Anyway, I'd encourage anybody to head down to the Keys if they've never been; PM for recs.  It's not for everybody, but I suspect that most folks here would get a kick out of 3-4 days there.


Hi Ted.

So, is it true that Blue Heaven has new management? If so, how's the food now (we always loved it before)? I also heard 7 Fish has new owners and is not as good - - do you know anything about that? Do you have any other new recommendations?

I know it's too late for your trip, but for next year: on the drive down, try Morada Bay Cafe in Islamorada for lunch. Also, the Islamorada Bakery Cafe has great baked goods and breakfasts. Leigh Ann's in Marathon has great con leche and chocolate happies. In Key West, I think Kermit's is better than the Blonde Giraffe for key lime pie on a stick - - extremely delicious in my opinion. For the best brunch, drive over to Little Palm Island on Sunday (well drive to their reception center and catch the shuttle out to the island) - - expensive but worth it.

#7 TedE

TedE

    bottom feeder

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 889 posts

Posted 28 February 2006 - 06:59 PM

Hi Ted.

So, is it true that Blue Heaven has new management?  If so, how's the food now (we always loved it before)?  I also heard 7 Fish has new owners and is not as good - - do you know anything about that? Do you have any other new recommendations?

I know it's too late for your trip, but for next year: on the drive down, try Morada Bay Cafe in Islamorada for lunch. Also, the Islamorada Bakery Cafe has great baked goods and breakfasts. Leigh Ann's in Marathon has great con leche and chocolate happies.  In Key West, I think Kermit's is better than the Blonde Giraffe for key lime pie on a stick - - extremely delicious in my opinion.    For the best brunch, drive over to Little Palm Island on Sunday (well drive to their reception center and catch the shuttle out to the island) - - expensive but worth it.

Not sure about the Blue Heaven management change, but it was a little off when we dropped in for lunch (service issues mostly, but then again it's never been the most attentive service). I could have sworn the menu was changed, but I may have been confusing it with the brunch menu. I think we'll only go back for brunch the next time down.

We did hear about the ownership change at 7Fish, but didn't notice any drop off in quality.

B.O.'s was everything I'd expected. Best fish sandwich down there.

We really didn't cover any new ground except Conch Republic Seafood Co.; won't go back, there's no reason to pick it over the Half Shell.

If we can tear ourselves away from the Keys Fisheries we might try Morada Bay :lol:

"Mmmm ... floor pie ...." - Homer Simpson


#8 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 02 March 2006 - 04:32 PM

Went to Keys Fisheries for the first time last week. Beautiful setup with picnic type tables right on the water. Watch the tarpon cruise by. I had a crabcake sandwich that was mighty tasty. Others had the hogfish and grouper sandwiches -- not a crumb was left. This would be a great casual watch the sun set kind of place.

#9 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 25 July 2006 - 07:46 PM

Duck confit salad small plate at 915 (915 Duval St, Key West) turned out to be a rather large duck leg, fall off the bone tender with crispy skin atop a bed of mixed greens, shallots, dried cherries, and a sherry vinaigrette. Not so small a plate. I thought the shallots were a little too strong a flavor and overwhelmed the duck. I just ate around them.

Eating at the bar, I was able to witness a series of wine purveyors come in to do tastings with the owner/manager/guy in power. I half expected jparrot to saunter in. When the power guy noticed me paying attention, he poured me a few samples. Sadly, I didn't catch names but enjoyed the gesture.

#10 CrescentFresh

CrescentFresh

    Sacred Cow

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,408 posts

Posted 25 July 2006 - 09:30 PM

I miss the days when I had to go to Key West regularly for business. :)
"Give me a Sandwich and a Douchebag and there's nothing I cannot do." -- Lord Salisbury

#11 dinwiddie

dinwiddie

    hammerhead

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 707 posts

Posted 26 July 2006 - 08:58 AM

There are a couple of places in Key West that I have fond memories of:

I agree on El Siboney at 900 Catherine St. Down home Cuban cooking. No wine to speak of (Sangria and table wine) but the food was good, cheap, and plentiful.

Blue Heaven for breakfast was a joy. Had shrimp and grits for breakfast (Sunday bruch really) and a fish sandwich for lunch 5 days later. Both were out of this world. I wonder if the new management has changed things.

The Banana Cafe had wonderful food and great local jazz on Thursday nights.

If you like ice cream, you have to go to Flamingo Crossing on Duval St. (1105) Best ice cream I have eaten in a long time. Wonderful passion fruit icecream, huge portions, and just the thing for a hot (and I mean HOT) day.

Mangia Mangia. We went twice since we enjoyed it so much the first time. The menu is spare, but I had a great Tuscan Duck and the escargot was fantastic. Pastas are made fresh every day and delicious. But the wine, oh my, the wine list. It is quite long and extremely well priced. (You have to ask for the reserve list however, or you get just the ordinary list) Unlike most places, the prices for older wines have not risen as they value has. I had a 93 Bongiovianni Borolo for $55 and a 94 Bernardus Barinus for $40. Exceptional prices for older first growths and at $275 the Gaja was very well priced. The list goes back to the 50s. French and CA wines are very well represented. The 97 Tapestry was $62 and the 96 $55.

#12 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 26 July 2006 - 09:38 PM

I miss the days when I had to go to Key West regularly for business. :)

I'll be back in 3 weeks. I guess there are a few good things about this job!

Mangia Mangia. We went twice since we enjoyed it so much the first time. The menu is spare, but I had a great Tuscan Duck and the escargot was fantastic. Pastas are made fresh every day and delicious. But the wine, oh my, the wine list. It is quite long and extremely well priced. (You have to ask for the reserve list however, or you get just the ordinary list) Unlike most places, the prices for older wines have not risen as they value has. I had a 93 Bongiovianni Borolo for $55 and a 94 Bernardus Barinus for $40. Exceptional prices for older first growths and at $275 the Gaja was very well priced. The list goes back to the 50s. French and CA wines are very well represented. The 97 Tapestry was $62 and the 96 $55.

Very good to know. I have passed by this place dozens of times and for whatever reason never gone. Something about the Keys doesn't scream pasta to me. But since I'm going so regularly now I need to branch out. A little at least. I'm not going to stop hitting Keys Fisheries for a shrimp stop on the drive. Today was the start of the lobster mini-season. An astounding number of boats on the water. I went for lunch around 1:30 on the way back north and ran into a slew of officers who'd docked for a break. They had faboulous stories of the morning patrol.

#13 CrescentFresh

CrescentFresh

    Sacred Cow

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,408 posts

Posted 26 July 2006 - 10:02 PM

There are a couple of places in Key West that I have fond memories of:

I agree on El Siboney at 900 Catherine St. Down home Cuban cooking. No wine to speak of (Sangria and table wine) but the food was good, cheap, and plentiful.

Thirded. It was a regular stop on my visits there. Off the beaten path, always busy, and wowed you in that different sort of way that didn't require linen tablecloths.
"Give me a Sandwich and a Douchebag and there's nothing I cannot do." -- Lord Salisbury

#14 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 13 August 2006 - 10:09 PM

Mangia Mangia. We went twice since we enjoyed it so much the first time. The menu is spare, but I had a great Tuscan Duck and the escargot was fantastic. Pastas are made fresh every day and delicious. But the wine, oh my, the wine list. It is quite long and extremely well priced. (You have to ask for the reserve list however, or you get just the ordinary list) Unlike most places, the prices for older wines have not risen as they value has. I had a 93 Bongiovianni Borolo for $55 and a 94 Bernardus Barinus for $40. Exceptional prices for older first growths and at $275 the Gaja was very well priced. The list goes back to the 50s. French and CA wines are very well represented. The 97 Tapestry was $62 and the 96 $55.

I went here for the first time tonight. Instead of building a meal around the carpaccio appetizer which was calling my name, I opted for pasta to test my earlier assertion that I just don't think pasta when I'm in the Keys. I was right. The fresh pasta was quite delicious and a reminder that I need to put our pasta class back to work and make some soon. But the dish was just too heavy for summer heat. While the sauce was a summer-friendly pomodoro, when it is 90 degrees and the garden seats are awash in salty air, I want lighter food. The grilled housemade sausage that came with it was nicely spiced with a nice amount of smoky char. I did like that in a nod to the Keys culture the garlic bread was Cuban bread. I did enjoy reading through the wine list and went for a glass of very lovely chianti they were featuring.

Tomorrow I'll go with your suggestion of El Siboney.

#15 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 14 August 2006 - 07:40 PM

I had a very tasty grilled pork chop smothered in onions at El Siboney tonight. Came with a massive mound of plantains and yellow rice. I passed on the black beans. The food was very good and I made note of several other interesting dishes I saw people eating that I'd like to try next time. But, the service was awful. It took 15 minutes and two asks to get a menu. My waitress brought my food but not my drink and then disappeared until 10 minutes after I'd finished eating. Surrounding tables served by other people seemed to be faring much better with their service. I'm chalking it up to someone having a bad day and I'll be back on future visits.

#16 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 10 December 2006 - 11:09 PM

Hit the Islamorada Fishing Company for stone crabs and Key lime pie tonight. Caught the end of sunset and the start of the live music. Salty breeze was a nice contrast to the 20 degree (no joke) weather we had last night in Tallahassee. It has been a very good stone crab season. No hurricanes to mar the start of the season and no traps to replace mean lower prices. Eight large claws ran $28. That is a great price for medium claws in a typical season. The crab was sweet and served with a great mustard sauce. They did a nice job cracking the claws so I never had to use the mallet and make a ruckus at the table.

The Key lime pie was not so good. It is made in individual portions in big mugs. Looks cute but means the crust is not baked. I like the toasted graham flavor. Also means it is a fridge-set custard. I prefer the smoothness of a baked filling. I should have waited until I made it to Key West and stopped at the diner for pie.

#17 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 11 December 2006 - 09:37 PM

With the temperature now a chilly 72 (hey, I've acclimated) I decided I was ready to give Italian food in Key West another shot. A friend steered me to Abbondanza on Simonton. When I drove up, I was tempted to go to Camille's next door but decided that in the name of science I had to continue with my experiment.

I really enjoyed it.

I had about 2 pounds of fettucine (no joke - this was a ridiculously large portion) with shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce with just a hint of cream and a sprinkling of spinach. At first I was put off by the spinach being limited to the top layer but then I realized I'd never get past the surface so it didn't matter. I really enjoyed the sauce -- the hint of cream gave it a nice richness that complimented the pepper without being too heavy. This was served in a large bowl. Great for containing the sauce on such a large portion but it made it difficult to cut off the shrimp tails. I need some traction!

Added bonue -- non-metered street parking. If you are heading to Key West and plan on parking on the street bring a ton of change (25 cents for 10 min) or get a parking card.

#18 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 12 December 2006 - 10:43 PM

I was going to check out 7 Mile Grill for dinner on my drive from Key West to Key Largo tonight, but there were absolutely no cars in the lot. I just find it odd to sit in a totally empty place. So I figured I'd hit one of the dives along the way. The great thing about Keys dives are that they are the exact opposite of mainland dives -- best places for seafood. Then I realized I was wearing my agency logo shirt because of the public meeting today. Decided I didn't need to invite trouble.

Which is my long-winded way of saying I ended up at Marker 88 for dinner. Having heard some great stories in a session with long time fishermen about the changes in fisheries, I felt compelled to enjoy some crustaceans bayside. I had the Key lime seafood pasta -- shrimp, lobster, and crab in a Key lime-garlic sauce over penne. You could have fed two or three people with this portion. I had to eat strategically. The shrimp looked suspiciously non-local -- far too big for this time of year -- so I focused on the lobster and crab. The sauce was slightly overspiced but nice and limey -- like someone hadn't quite converted proportions properly for using dried spices when they are used to cooking with fresh. I hate when things labeled as Key lime don't have a decidedly lime flavor.

One service quirk. When my otherwise wonderful waitress brought another glass of iced tea she took the straw from my old glass and put it in the new one. Ick.

#19 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 14 January 2007 - 10:19 PM

Just back from another trip to Key West. Since I had to give up my weekend for work, I opted to spend the extra money and fly all the way rather then drive from Miami. My bag didn't make the flight home (despite having only 2 people on the plane) so I guess that will teach me.

Dinner the first night was at Camille's on Simonton. We had a large group and overwhelmed them a little. I had a shrimp scampi served on a mountain of pasta. There were a few shrimp hidden in all of that pasta but a few more would have been nice. The sauce was lighter then you normally get for a scampi and a welcome twist. One of the party had a phenomenal lamb chop and spinach salad that I'm sure to try next time if still on the menu.

Our event ended at 2-ish yesterday and I had already reached saturation for small talk so I stopped by Matheson's on White St to pick up a chicken salad wrap and an iced tea. This is a great little place with a soda fountain feel (cherry red counter stools and a few booths). They have housemade ice creams that looked wonderful but I didn't taste since I'm getting fit for summer. This is also one of the few places in the area that asks if you want sweet or unsweet tea. The Tea Line is somewhere around Orlando. It is sort of a second Mason-Dixon Line. It is the point where you've gone far enough south that you are in a northern culture again. Anyway, this place does chicken salad right -- just a hint of mayo, big chunks of chicken and onions, not celery. Took my feast out to Ft. Zachary Taylor and sat under the shade of the invasive Australian pines, grateful that headache isn't my problem.

I'd intended to have dinner at the annual Seafood Festival but I got a late start and and the good looking booths had run out of shrimp. So I headed over to Sarabeth's on Southard St. I've wanted to go for a while since I have fond memories of a meal at one of the NYC Sarabeth's. This was delightful. I had a table in the garden out front so I could enjoy the beautiful, clear night. The manager brought over a copy of the latest issue of Key West magazine "to keep you company" since I was dining alone. It was a nice touch. I had shrimp and crabcakes with a mango-jicama slaw. The crabcakes had almost no binder and I spent the meal trying to guess how they got them so large and cooked in perfect form when they crumbled as soon as the fork touched them. The cakes had corn, peppers, and cilantro mixed in and a cornmeal crust which made for a slightly spicy contrast to the mango-jicama slaw. I exercised admirable restraint and only ate one of the two large crabcakes, not that I was still hungry but these were good.

And I got through the weekend without a single serving of pie. If that isn't willpower then I don't know what is.

#20 DanielK

DanielK

    leviathan

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 4,471 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 12:27 AM

And I got through the weekend without a single serving of pie. If that isn't willpower then I don't know what is.

I couldn't make it through a day in the Keys without a slice of pie, diet or not. I'd skip meals to feed that indulgence.

#21 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 15 January 2007 - 01:53 AM

I couldn't make it through a day in the Keys without a slice of pie, diet or not. I'd skip meals to feed that indulgence.

Ordinarily I think you should have multiple pieces of Key Lime Pie a day when in the Keys. I don't have a fever, so the only other rationale I can come up with is that the frequent trips make the need to cram unneccessary. I know another piece of pie is just around the corner (also known as February 18th).

#22 TedE

TedE

    bottom feeder

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 889 posts

Posted 19 November 2007 - 04:11 PM

1) 7Fish: By far my favorite place to eat down there. Simple seafood done extremely well for a relative bargain in a converted laundromat. Plop this place down in D.C. and they would mop the floor with most seafood-centric-upscale-but-not-stuffy eateries (and, yes, I'm including Hank's and Johnny's here). I could feast on the grouper roll app (always on "special") for months on end and not grow tired of it. The local stuff is ridiculously fresh and refreshingly un-tampered with.

Update: 7Fish is off the list. We were down there at the end of October and can't recommend the place anymore. At all. It was sold, but I guess the timing of our last meal down there was fortunate. A lot of the same staff appear to be there, and the menu reads the same, but the food coming out of the kitchen was completely uninspiring. No, it was downright bad. Fish was overcooked and the sides were just not good. We're sad to see it devolve so much, but our next trip down won't include a meal there.

On the other hand we still like the Half Shell, El Siboney is still great Cuban, Blue Heaven still serves a fantastic breakfast, and B.O.'s still knows how to put together a great fish sandwich. There is a new place called Santiago's Bodega that we heard of on the way out of town and we're sorry we missed it. We heard good things.

"Mmmm ... floor pie ...." - Homer Simpson


#23 Gubeen

Gubeen

    grouper

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 72 posts

Posted 20 November 2007 - 04:34 PM

If you were going out for one special / really nice evening dinner closer to Key West, where would you eat? why?
Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds, if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon!

#24 ol_ironstomach

ol_ironstomach

    Wunderpus photogenicus

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,352 posts

Posted 07 December 2007 - 04:08 PM

Key West - the stream-of-consciousness version.

Arriving Monday evening at the B&B, our hostess was unequivocal that 7Fish (corner of Elizabeth and Olivia) was her favorite. It's still a popular spot with the locals; thanks to her call, they held the last two seats (at the bar) for us as we hustled around the block. Wish I'd remembered TedE's post. I didn't think it was actively bad, but it wasn't particularly inspired. Cooking solid, rustic, but a bit ham-handed. Ceviche could have used more steeping time, whereas fish entrees somewhat overdone. Conch chowder a little too dominated by the tomato. Service was excellent however, with the bar seating offering a good opportunity to gab with your barman - Fred was both friendly and full of suggestions. Overall though, the food reminded me a bit of the old O'Donnell's two iterations back...safe for the whole family, but not likely to set foodie hearts aflutter. Also note the unusual hours - they're closed Tuesdays.

Tuesday lunchtime, we promised some friends we'd taunt them from the raw bar at the Hog's Breath Saloon, your quintessential KW tourist trap. Dodging the smoke from the tipsy 50-something ladies getting their lounge lizard on to the beat of the Skynyrd cover band, we grabbed a dozen oysters, fries, and some booze and SMSed some chilly friends up here to check the webcam. Otherwise, it's what you'd expect from a tourist bar.

That evening we hit 915 (915 Duval St) for dinner. The menu is divided into small plates (median about $9), large plates ($25-35), and lighter plates ($20-ish), with small plates approximating tapas portions. In addition, 915 has one of the lengthier wine lists in town, complete with a few Parker-pointed items for those who shop that way. We started with a cone of excellent fried calamari served with a mild aioli, the devils-on-horseback (nice smoky bacon, dates almost too sweet), and a plate of sweet baby radishes with slices of rustic brown bread and butter. Mains were much less consistent. Gubeen opted for the dazzling whole yellowtail "Thai-style", which was somewhat overfried on one side, and quite a bit overfried on the other. Served on a bed of shredded cabbage with a bowl of rice on the side, it never quite went anywhere, apart from looking good. My main, on the other hand, was a new addition to the menu this week, and terrific - stuffed quail and merguez with roasted root vegetables. The quail ballotine was perfectly tender and savory, but the house-made merguez was especially good. I suggested to Stuart, the co-owner, that he should seriously consider offering a version as a small plate. For dessert I had the pear cobbler with ice cream, another slightly uneven concoction. The cobbler was delicious, individually portioned in a ceramic crock, with a layer of marzipan adding a nice dose of almond to the pear slices. The ice cream however, was a bit like eating butter...perhaps too much milkfat or simply over-churned. The main downer was service; the seating layout, wrapping around the porch of a converted house and spilling into the front lawn, didn't lend itself to convenient oversight, but we still saw our server only twice during the first forty minutes, several items failed to show up "due to computer problems", and overall it took us nearly 2.5 hours to complete a simple dinner. My overall impression would be very promising, especially in the kitchen, but with some rough areas to work on.

Sitting on our hands between courses, we had plenty of time to chat with Michael and Ray, local foodies at the next table who had plenty of great info about dining in Key West. Progressive meals seem to be the winning plan...hopping from restaurant-to-restaurant for the one or two dishes that each excells at, and bypassing the also-rans. Ray, who has worked at a variety of Key West restaurants over the years, highly recommended trying hogfish (a large wrasse, although locally referred to as hogfish snapper) wherever it could be found. They had good things to say about most of the places we'd heard of, but strongly suggested lunch (but not dinner) at Louie's Backyard (700 Waddell St), for reasons of value. So that's what we started with on Wednesday. Louie's was probably our favorite overall in Key West, a sharp-looking dining room located directly on the Atlantic, with very good cooking all-around. I kicked off with the Bahamian conch chowder served with a cruet of bird-pepper vinegar. Great seafoody base to the chowder, with a kick of spicyness even if you don't add a bit of the vinegar, and a sizeable enough portion to make a light meal out of by itself. The local snapper sandwich was superb - delicate, extremely fresh, with carefully prepped toppings on a good soft roll. Gubeen's conch fritters were marvelously light with a crisp batter shell, and her scallops with citrus vinaigrette and grilled endive were perfectly done. We'd definitely hit Louie's again.

We got married on a sunset cruise that evening :( If you like the water, we highly recommend looking up Captain Carla, who offers charter tours on her 31' catamaran Java Cat. It's not a fancy high-frills boat, but with a capacity of 6 guests, a shallow draft and the ability to haul her sea kayaks on the fore trampoline for daytime eco-tours, Carla is an excellent skipper and host. Java Cat docks directly behind the Turtle Kraals restaurant.

Alice's Key West (1114 Duval St) was our last dinner stop in town. In honor of Repeal Day, we started off with a negroni and a "Church Lady martini". I usually avoid coconut shrimp as a clumsy over-battered over-sweetened dish, but Alice's coconut and nut-encrusted version is terrific. Served with a mild horseradish sauce and streaks of sriracha, with coconut rice and stir-fried vegetables. Gubeen wasn't as fond of her ceviche, which was dominated by grapefruit juice, which clashed with the shrimp. Bartender "Tonto" mixed us up a couple of good drinks, but I'm a little skeptical about the rye Manhattan on the drinks list, as there was no straight rye anywhere at the bar, only Canadian whiskey.

Alice's and 915 were the most ambitious kitchens we tried, but also more prone to stumbles than Louie's. Any of them would make for an interesting meal, but Louie's was clearly the blue-chip choice. Key West chefs also seem to favor imported dungeness crab over anything more local, apart from expensive stone crab claws.

Oh yes. No trip would be complete without a sampling of Key lime pies. Interesting to see that the local style is always lightly baked, resulting in a slightly fluffier texture than what I've seen elsewhere on the east coast. Texture seemed uniformly good on all pies tasted.
Blonde Giraffe: ubiquitous and heavily promoted. Pastry crust, heavy meringue topping. Didn't try.
Alice's black-bottomed pie (as seen in Southern Living, 2002): can't count me a fan. Chocolate flavor distracts from filling, which was already noticeably lighter on key lime flavor.
Key Limes-n-More: baked graham crust, whipped cream florets on rim. Excellent lime flavor. Very good overall.
Kermit's Key (West) Lime Pies: unbaked graham crust, whipped cream florets on rim. Excellent lime flavor. Favorite overall, with the crust giving it an edge over the others.

Finally, we were able to get our hogfish on, at Keys Fisheries (end of 35th St on Marathon) on our way back to Miami. It's exactly what you hope for from an outdoor fish shack - order at the window, then grab some utensils and condiments and stake out a piece of park bench. Blackened hogfish sandwich is delicious, but fried is to die for. A must-do.

Pics later.

Dave Hsu
--------"Cuisine represents a knife edge that separates attractive stimulation from death."--- Art Ayers


#25 jparrott

jparrott

    A stew called New Orleans

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,894 posts

Posted 07 December 2007 - 04:31 PM

We got married on a sunset cruise that evening :(

Oh you coy boy.

Million congrats. Especially on taking joint ownership of THAT Scotch collection :(.

Jake Parrott
Haus Alpenz
Importers to the trade, serving the adventurous palate
Follow me on twitter: @jakehparrott
Anyway, I need f (4, 2) resolved to an integer value....


#26 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 07 December 2007 - 08:49 PM

That evening we hit 915 (915 Duval St) for dinner.

Sitting on our hands between courses, we had plenty of time to chat

We got married on a sunset cruise that evening :(
Kermit's Key (West) Lime Pies: unbaked graham crust, whipped cream florets on rim. Excellent lime flavor. Favorite overall, with the crust giving it an edge over the others.

Finally, we were able to get our hogfish on, at Keys Fisheries (end of 35th St on Marathon) on our way back to Miami. It's exactly what you hope for from an outdoor fish shack - order at the window, then grab some utensils and condiments and stake out a piece of park bench. Blackened hogfish sandwich is delicious, but fried is to die for. A must-do.

Pics later.

I like 915 quite a bit but typically only sit at the bar because otherwise the slow service gets to me. I know it is Key West, but come on. I also tend to order a drink and chat up the bartender before ordering food and let him steer me towards what the kitchen is hitting stride on.

Can't believe you chose getting married over going to the Fish Commission meeting. I suppose congratulations are in order == but just this once!

Clearly you have a keen key lime palate. Kermit's is my favorite as well.

Isn't Keys Fisheries the best? I could live on their dock. You've got the water, the food and they have some decent key lime pie too. They supply some of the top places in Miami. They are a working fish house and one of the last few in the area as development is squeezing out the working waterfront. You may have noticed the big development going in next door. That used to be a commercial marina. I'll be swinging by here for dinner on Wednesday as I hightail it from Key West to Naples.

#27 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 10 December 2007 - 10:56 PM

Slight change in travel plans had me swing by Keys Fisheries for dinner tonight. My first time going there in the dark and the setting loses something. I really like the boat watching during the day.

There is a bit of chill in the air so I opted for lobster bisque. Absolutely wonderful. Sometimes the cream can overpower the lobster but not in this chowder. I went back and forth trying to decide between stone crab soup and lobster bisque. I almost got both but I needed to leave room for a slice of sweet tart key lime pie and still be able to drive to Key West. This place is now open for breakfast. I have a meeting every other month that brings me to the Keys and the next one will be in Marathon. Is it wrong to count down the days until a breakfast in February?

#28 ol_ironstomach

ol_ironstomach

    Wunderpus photogenicus

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,352 posts

Posted 11 December 2007 - 02:08 AM

I have a meeting every other month that brings me to the Keys and the next one will be in Marathon. Is it wrong to count down the days until a breakfast in February?

You'll get no disagreement from this quarter! It was your mention of Keys Fisheries, actually, that compelled us to go there. Our boat captain also recommended it, but in a roundabout fashion - he couldn't remember the name, but his directions (and description of the extra "deck") were easy to match to the address. The place has an honest, working-class charm about it.

The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the dining deck was the sight of other tourist diners flipping crumbs into the water just to watch the birds and/or fish feeding. The pelicans and gulls really don't need any further incentive to hang around either the fish house or the surrounding marina...I wonder how they'd feel if somebody scattered some sort of birdshit-attractant around their car? :(

Dave Hsu
--------"Cuisine represents a knife edge that separates attractive stimulation from death."--- Art Ayers


#29 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 11 December 2007 - 07:58 AM

The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the dining deck was the sight of other tourist diners flipping crumbs into the water just to watch the birds and/or fish feeding. The pelicans and gulls really don't need any further incentive to hang around either the fish house or the surrounding marina...I wonder how they'd feel if somebody scattered some sort of birdshit-attractant around their car? :(

As much fun as it is to pick on the tourists (I kid -- come, spend money, save me from another budget cut), there are a fair number of locals who do it too. With no water to gaze at in the dark, I noticed more about the place including the contradictory signs about feeding the critters. One said don't feed the birds/feed the fish. The next one said don't feed the fish. Any way you look at it there are always some nice size tarpon hanging around.

Glad you enjoyed the place. It isn't the easiest to find. I always remember to turn at the pig sign and keep going past the mound of traps. One of these days I'll have to go into the place sporting the helpful sign. I don't know the name or the type of food. By the time I see it I'm usually salivating over Keys Fisheries.

#30 kturkey88

kturkey88

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 108 posts

Posted 11 December 2007 - 02:54 PM

I'm thinking of giving a gift certificate to the parents who will be spending a long vacation in key west for the jan-march season. Any recommendations? The description above and menus at Louie's seem up their alley. Thoughts? Any other advice?

Thanks in advance.
leave the gun, take the cannolis.

#31 ol_ironstomach

ol_ironstomach

    Wunderpus photogenicus

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,352 posts

Posted 11 December 2007 - 10:17 PM

Glad you enjoyed the place. It isn't the easiest to find. I always remember to turn at the pig sign and keep going past the mound of traps. One of these days I'll have to go into the place sporting the helpful sign. I don't know the name or the type of food.

Click -> Posted Image

Dave Hsu
--------"Cuisine represents a knife edge that separates attractive stimulation from death."--- Art Ayers


#32 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 12 December 2007 - 12:17 AM

Click -> Posted Image

I see a breakfast in my future!

On my drive to Naples tonight (yes, 5 hours in a car through the swamp in the dark after an all day meeting that ran until 5), I saw a wonderful sight -- the rebirth of Manny and Isa's in Islamorada. Certain I'd made a mistake, I had to do a u-turn and check it out, especially since it was around dinner time and a good place to stop. It does appear related to the place of many, many fond memories - my first post-certification dive celebration meal when I was 14 and my first slice of real key lime pie (even if it does have a meringue top), but sadly it was not open tonight. I wonder if I can convince my brother that we need to drive down from Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday?

So I went to The Fishhouse in Key Largo. A friend met me and we chose this place because they'll cook your catch and he'd done some fishing this afternoon. Also known as taking field samples. I had some peel and eat shrimp and he had blacked grouper. He wolfed done the smoked fish dip so I'm guessing it was good, just not my thing. I lingered far too long considering I still had a few hours to drive. This is a classic Keys place, not fine dining, but very good to great fresh food with its own fish market. I'm always happy to stop by.

#33 laniloa

laniloa

    grunt

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 793 posts

Posted 12 December 2007 - 12:26 AM

I'm thinking of giving a gift certificate to the parents who will be spending a long vacation in key west for the jan-march season. Any recommendations? The description above and menus at Louie's seem up their alley. Thoughts? Any other advice?

Thanks in advance.

I keep telling myself I'm going to splurge on my next trip and go for a really good dinner. And then I stick to the low key places. But the places on my growing list for this outing are Louie's, Grand Cafe, Opera, and Prime 951.

#34 MugZ77

MugZ77

    clam

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 38 posts

Posted 18 December 2007 - 03:14 PM

I had a decent meal at Louie's Backyard for lunch on Saturday, while I was briefly in town for a wedding. The outdoor setting is really incomparable -- on a beautiful house's outdoor deck, right on the water. I had the Key West shrimp salad sandwich, which wasn't overrun by mayonnaise and had lots of flavor. My girlfriend had the grilled grouper sandwich. Not flashy choices, but each was better than it ought to have been. What's more, their wine list is better than one would expect in those parts. My one gripe was the service, which was OK if only you could get it.

On the way out, we stopped at the aforementioned Alabama Jack's in Card Sound, on the way up to Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The first poster advised not to eat here, and, unless you prefer all of your food fried hard, he's generally right. But two notable exceptions are the outstanding conch fritters and the onion rings. Of course, the best thing about Alabama Jack's is the clientele; it's a roadhouse, and you find all sorts of characters there.

This site tends to focus on food, but, if you ever participate in the "Duval Crawl" while in Key West, a great first or last stop is the Smallest Bar in Key West. It is precisely that -- tucked into a covered alleyway between two buildings. If Alabama Jack's is a small cavalcade of personalities, the Smallest Bar is the Rose Bowl parade of interesting folks. The bartender provides non-stop verbal entertainment, and locals and quasi-locals actually drink there (we met the owner of a local pawn shop and his Harley-riding pal).

On a side note, I noticed that Yuengling is on tap or available by the bottle everywhere in Key West. Having gone to school in Philadelphia, I'd thought that Yuengling was more or less a regional beer. Why the strong presence so far south?

Michael

#35 susanmab

susanmab

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 219 posts

Posted 19 October 2009 - 01:45 PM

Heading to Key West for a few days over Thanksgiving week. Flying into Miami, driving down. Thinking we'll stay somewhere on the way for the first night, then 3 or 4 nights at what appears to be a quiet little B&B on Key West, then either a night on the way back up (or in Miami).

This thread is a little stale - can anyone opine as to places to hit (or miss?). We're looking for more quiet than nightlife-y, casual is cool but a splurge is nice as well.

#36 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,751 posts

Posted 19 October 2009 - 05:18 PM

Heading to Key West for a few days over Thanksgiving week. Flying into Miami, driving down. Thinking we'll stay somewhere on the way for the first night, then 3 or 4 nights at what appears to be a quiet little B&B on Key West, then either a night on the way back up (or in Miami).

This thread is a little stale - can anyone opine as to places to hit (or miss?). We're looking for more quiet than nightlife-y, casual is cool but a splurge is nice as well.

You can sift through here and find a couple things (mostly to avoid!).

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#37 Steve R.

Steve R.

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 179 posts

Posted 20 October 2009 - 07:12 AM

We had a nice meal at Seven Fish (quiet, New England-y place) in Key West (off the main drag by only a block or two) last February. I'd recommend it... although the chef did seem to have a tendency to put a couple too many ingredients into each dish, most of what we ate was fresh & flavorful.

In Miami, our 2 meals at Talula were the highlight and I'd return there in a minute.

#38 susanmab

susanmab

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 219 posts

Posted 22 October 2009 - 07:23 AM

great. thanks and thanks.

#39 lggl

lggl

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 160 posts

Posted 22 October 2009 - 11:38 AM

I highly recommend Nine One Five in Key West. The whole fish was phenomenal, followed by the steak option (I can't remember the cut). The wild mushroom risotto was acceptable. Decent wine list.
Seven Fish came highly rated. The fish was fairly decent but presentation was horrendous. I agree with the bove poster that there was just way to much going on on the plate. Even more horrendous was the fact that they tried to rush us out of there with appetizers and deserts in under an hour. Even after we ordered a second bottle of not so cheap wine. I think we spent 10 bucks a minute to be there.
Go to Sarabeth's for breakfast or lunch. Awesome muffins, pancakes, fresh squeezed juices.
Oh, and Finnegan's Wake for irish car bombs if it is raining.

#40 susanmab

susanmab

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 219 posts

Posted 30 November 2009 - 11:21 AM

Just had a pretty decent week of eats in Key West.

After departing at 6am from DCA, we hit a greasy spoon for breakfast/lunch in Key Largo on the way down - Don's Diner. Hot damn, everything I wanted in a diner Benedict - eggs on a huge thick single slab of ham on top of biscuits. Gah.

Thanksgiving at Louie's Backyard. A friend said "don't let the name fool you" and was very very right. Swordfish on top of wild rice with pomegranate. My date had the "turkey dinner", and let me tell you I'll be thinking about preparing the confit next year. yum.

Brunches at Cammile's, Sarabeth's and Blue Heaven - I was afraid that last one was overrated but the key lime hollandaise on the poached eggs was pretty awesome. A memorable dinner at Nine One Five.

Best dish though had to be the hog snapper sandwiches that the proprietor of the small guest house where we were staying made. He caught it spear fishing the previous day and set it up sauteed with a little panko, on french with L&T and a little mustard. Wickedly good. BTW, I highly recommend this tiny place as somewhere to stay for anyone looking for the quiet part of the island. Atlantis House. The fresh key lime pie as a departure morning breakfast was pretty swell as well.

#41 ol_ironstomach

ol_ironstomach

    Wunderpus photogenicus

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,352 posts

Posted 23 November 2010 - 11:08 PM

FYI, ubiquitous pie shop Blonde Giraffe folded this month, blaming two employee lawsuits and a dramatic drop in tourism in 2010.

Dave Hsu
--------"Cuisine represents a knife edge that separates attractive stimulation from death."--- Art Ayers


#42 DonRocks

DonRocks

    leviathan

  • Admin
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,751 posts

Posted 23 November 2010 - 11:18 PM

FYI, ubiquitous pie shop Blonde Giraffe folded this month, blaming two employee lawsuits and a dramatic drop in tourism in 2010.

No loss.

dcdining.com - Restaurant Reviews - Facebook <--- LIKE Meeeeeeee! Twitter <--- FOLLOW Meeeeeeee!

If you're a member here, please Friend me personally on Facebook (send me a message with your screen name, please, so I know which member you are!)


#43 Anna Phor

Anna Phor

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 12 March 2012 - 04:13 PM

Any recent experiences in the Keys? Headed down there Memorial Day weekend with 4 adults and 2 young 'uns (both under 3), so family-friendly recs definitely appreciated.

#44 JimRice

JimRice

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 452 posts

Posted 06 April 2012 - 03:45 PM

We were there last fall, and Keys Fisheries was a stable, rustic, option on the gulf side of Marathon. And oh, darn, we were there at the opening of stone crab season. Kids will enjoy eating outside, and when it gets dark out the lights are turned on and you can see tarpon swimming around, waiting for a bucket of fish scraps from the kitchen.

Alabama Jack's on Card Sound Road in Key Largo still makes excellent conch fritters. I don't think it was quite as scary as billed above, but we were there for lunch. There was a family with kids eating there when we were there.

We had lunch on the way back at Mrs. Mac's in Key Largo. I remember it being good, and crowded, but for the life of me I can't remember what I had.

My hovercraft is full of eels.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Overheard at Clyde's: "Cantaloupe? It's like the banana of the melon family!"


#45 Anna Phor

Anna Phor

    ventworm

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 02 June 2012 - 06:01 PM

So here's the round-up of our recent Keys trip. Based in Key West, but a couple of places from up and down the highway are listed below, pretty much in the order that we went. We had two small kids in our party, and all of the places that we went were accommodating; we generally ate early in the evening for dinner (around 6).

We flew into Fort Lauderdale, and our first stop was the Hungry Tarpon (http://www.hungrytarpon.com/) in Islamorada, at MM78. When we parked here, we were 80% sure it was closed--it looks like a shut up beach shack. Once we walked around the back, however, we saw the picnic tables under the trees on the sand, and the water birds strutting along the dock, and the tropical masks and lights strung through the trees--and a hundred pounds of city stresses and work worries fell collectively from shoulders. The ambiance of this place is just gorgeous. It's also great for kids; there are giant tarpon to feed off the docks (baitfish supplied) and pelicans and herons circling around in the water. The adults in our party went for the grouper sandwich, save the smartest, who ordered fish tacos, which were by far the better dish.

Pie report: the Hungry Tarpon does a cream-topped pie (the whole top, not just around the edges) with a standard graham cracker crust. The cream is not real whipped cream; the filling was creamy and not particularly tart.

Our hotel was located at Smathers Beach, on the south side of the island. The stretch of A1A that runs alongside the beach attracts food trucks, and this was one of our real finds. There's a little yellow painted truck with the banner "Smathers Food Cart" that sells a burger/fries/soda special for $5. Eat this. It's fabulous. Big juicy burger, grilled to order, with your choice of toppings, on a hearty bun. We were tipped off by the fact that the letter carrier had pulled up her van to grab her lunch from this spot (if the locals are going there, that's a good sign, right!) and the guess paid off. When we were there, the cart was parked just west of the Sheraton. They don't seem to have a web presence at all.

Dinner at El Meson de Pepe (http://www.elmesondepepe.com/) was not as great as I recall our last visit there. My lechon asado was dry and not particularly flavorful. The ropa vieja, on the other hand, was excellent, with a broad spice profile and complex flavors. Nonetheless, I'd recommend this spot in Mallory Square for its live music and proximity to the heart of town.

Pie report: El Meson de Pepe does a meringue topping to their pie. Filling was creamier than some of the others (almost cheesecakey), but the crust was super-crumbly.

Trying to avoid parking and crowds, our next dinner saw us venturing off Key West proper to Stock Island, a short bridge away. We went to the Hogfish Bar and Grill (http://hogfishbar.com/), on the water with a bunch of boats docked on their pier. Clientele included a variety of beaded and bearded sailors, plus a guy sitting at the bar with a parrot on his shoulder. The speciality of this place is their hogfish sandwich, with swiss cheese, onions, and mushrooms, on cuban bread. Consensus was that the cheese did not improve the fish, and that the sandwich was not as fab as it was hyped up to be. The fish of the day, on the other hand, was a freshly caught grouper, served with piping hot and garlic laced grilled zucchini and squash, and a mango salsa.

Our next find was a late breakfast/early lunch at Ana's Cuban Cafe, at the corner of South St and Simonton, 2 blocks from the southernmost point. This is a combination deli/grocery store and cafe, with a bunch of picnic tables set up on a shady porch outside a window where you order food. Sandwiches here were sublime--on the freshest pillowy-crispy cuban bread that you could imagine, laced with generous slabs of pulled pork and dressed with large slices of perfectly ripe avocado. This place was so good that we went back for dinner for sandwiches to eat on the beach. They serve eggs and omelettes at breakfast, cafe con leche, a variety of sandwiches, and pie.

Pie report: A cream topped pie with a deep lime flavor, and a crust that was more crumb that crust. The pie arrived with some frozen spots, which IMO, is not such a bad thing.

After leaving El Siboney (http://www.elsiboneyrestaurant.com/), there was general amazement that we were able to walk into a place so good and so cheap and get a table at lunch on a Sunday. The Cuban sandwiches here are made on a press; the fish entree tasted like it had been caught that morning, and came with mountains of rice, beans, and plantains, and the ropa vieja was similarly dressed. Six of us walked out stuffed to the gills for around $15 per person.

Pie report: Meringue-topped (is this a Cuban thing? it may be apostasy, but I like it this way best), very lime-y flavor, crisp graham cracker crust. My winner for the best of all. Our party declared a tie between this pie and Ana's for best of the trip.

Our last meal on the island was at Turtle Kraals (http://www.turtlekraals.com/), and they didn't disappoint. The ceviche had layers of fish, lime, and pepper, and we could have sat and ate it with spoons all night. The peel and eat shrimp special (which we caught at half price for happy hour) was divine. Fish tacos popped with a spicy/creamy sour cream and cilantro, grouper filet was fresh and firm (and we could see staff gutting fish on the docks outside). The barbecued brisket was tasty, although the sauce was slightly sweet.

Additional Pie research:

Kermit's (http://keylimeshop.com/)
provides a recipe with their key lime pie, and generally hit on the kind of filling consistency that I was aiming at--I might add a little more lime. I'm also partial to the meringue topping, although I understand purists may disagree (but it gives you something to do with the extra egg whites. What *do* they do with all those egg whites when they make cream-topped pie?)

I didn't see any clear difference between Kermit's and the Key West Key Lime Pie Co. (http://www.keywestkeylimepieco.com/)--both were crowd-pleasers with cream topping, firm filling, and a good graham cracker crust.

Driving back up the highway to Fort Lauderdale, we were swayed by the sentimentalism of the football contingent, and stopped at Shula Burger (http://www.shulaburger.com/). Don't allow this to happen to you. Service was slow, burgers were dry (and all served well-done, without the waiter asking how we wanted them cooked, which is ... odd), and when I asked for vinegar for my fries, I was given a vial of balsamic.

#46 Joe H

Joe H

    leviathan

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,747 posts

Posted 02 June 2012 - 08:09 PM

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed reading your report. I also cannot tell you how jealous I am of where you went! For everything that is written about Europe, the South Pacific and the Outer Banks (?!?), the Florida Keys are equal to any.

A real pleasure to read. The pie report was especially invaluable. Next year we will have (many) calories to spend.

#47 goodeats

goodeats

    Certified geek.

  • Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,672 posts

Posted 03 June 2012 - 09:07 PM

A real pleasure to read. The pie report was especially invaluable. Next year we will have (many) calories to spend.


Seconded! Awesome report.
Taste. Feel. Be comforted.

Am not a fan of finding out that I started a new topic...

Oh ply me with barley,
Or ply me with rye,
Just don't expect to hear
A coherent goodbye.

Twitter

#48 And

And

    Quarter

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 25 posts

Posted 18 October 2012 - 09:49 AM

Headed down to Key Largo from Miami for a couple of nights. Any reccomendations outside of Mrs. Mac's, Alabama Jacks, Don's Diner, and The Fishhouse?

Thanks in advance.

-AC

#49 New Foodie

New Foodie

    hammerhead

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 515 posts

Posted 14 December 2012 - 07:51 PM

I've read through the posts above quickly, and will be going back over them more carefully before our trip, but we're tentatively planning a "Babymoon" to the Keys over President's Day weekend and would love more recommendations. Right now the thinking is flying into Miami and driving down to Key West for two nights, then coming part way back to stay either in Key Largo or Islamorada for two nights. With a baby on the way, unfortunately wine programs and tropical drinks won't be the most important thing on our list. So we're looking for maybe a nice dinner or two, along with some good casual spots, both in Key West and further north.

-Jenny

"Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. ~Jim Davis, Garfield"


#50 KeithA

KeithA

    hammerhead

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 518 posts

Posted 25 March 2014 - 11:12 AM

Heading down to the Keys for the first time soon next month. I've read through the rather good thread above but there has been nothing in almost 2 years. Can anyone provide an update on any of the recommendations above or any thing new? We are driving down from Miami and staying a night in Key West and then several nights in Marathon with 2 adults and 2 toddlers. Thanks.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Florida, Florida Keys, Key West, Key Largo

0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users