Jump to content

Recommended Posts

DanielK   

Louie's Backyard is probably the best restaurant on Key West. Stunning views, very good seafood, marred only by sometimes indifferent service. Fairly expensive, but in line with other upscale places on the island.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
laniloa   

Keys Fisheries in Marathon was as good as ever when I was back there this fall. I sent a friend there about a month ago and he said he went back again for more the next day.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
KeithA   

We were in the Keys for week and mostly ate passable, but overpriced fish.  Think high-end DC dining for a piece of plain fish with plain sides.  Unfortunately, we never made it to either of the two recommendations above so that was partly our mistake.  One place that is worth recommending was Morada Bay in Islamorada.  It is literally on a manicured beach with tables in the sand and nice chairs, picnic tables off to the side to watch the still bay waters - perfect for sunset and a place to let the kids run among the palms. They had a decent guitarist playing music too and since they have two stages it looks like this is a regular occurrence. The food was better than most other places but still pricey around $25 for the daily catch with 1 sauce and 1 side (extra $5-7 for the second side - so you pick starch or vegetable or like us split it between the couple). I really liked the blackened grouper with thaichili dipping sauce and pretty good coconut accented rice.

There is also a more fine dining sister restaurant next door called Pierres that we didn't try but we heard was popular.

One night we went to a locals place called Castaway in Marathon which is pretty forgettable except for the bread they serve - honeybuns.  These are small white bread rolls that are lightly fried (no extra coating, just drop in for probably less than a minute) and then served with a syrup jar of honey to dip in.  Simple, yet delicious.  I don't know if this is common or not, but something to try at home.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DanielK   

We're going to be in Key West next month. Anyone been recently?

 

Louie's Backyard is still the only great restaurant on Key West.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been putting this off since our trip last month. Apologize for the brevity:

Blue Heaven - We ate dinner here our first night, and it was our favorite meal of the trip. I'd call Blue Heaven the best laid back, shabby, fine dining experience I've ever had. You're eating outside, with chickens walking around, and eating just incredible food. Loved it. No reservations, but we were able to walk in and be seated after about a twenty minute wait, which we were able to spend at the bar.

Louie's Backyard - Probably our second favorite dinner we had in Key West. Would have been better if it wasn't raining, and we could have really taken advantage of their huge deck. Great service, very good seafood dishes, cool atmosphere.

Nine One Five - Eh. It was as expensive as the first two spots, and not nearly as good. I doubt it would disappoint, but really my only memory of this place at this point is that it wasn't memorable.

Half Shell Raw Bar - It's a typical island fish sandwich and beer bar, and we quite enjoyed it. Their oysters are cheap (I think $4.50 for a half dozen) and tasty, and they've got a list of specials, from which we ordered our sandwiches. It's right on the water, and the beer is cold.

Andy's Cabana - Same owners as Blue Heaven, it's a lunch-only taco place, and it was fantastic. Like at Blue Heaven, you're eating outside. The shrimp and fish tacos that we had were both great.

The Lobster Shack - We ended up here for a quite early lunch as we were trying to get out of town, and chose it entirely because it was right across from our hotel (Southernmost Beach Resort, which was fine, but nothing to write home about). The Key Lime Lobster Roll was quite good!

Alabama Jack's - This bar/restaurant is located in Key Largo, and we stopped down for lunch on the drive down to Key West. It's got a ton of personality, and we would have enjoyed it (and the drive down frankly) a lot more if it weren't freezing cold, and raining sideways. You're right on the water (or would be if it weren't raining so hard), they've got live music pretty much all of the time, and you feel like you're on vacation while you're there.

And a few thoughts on some bars we visited:

Green Parrot, Capt Tony's Saloon, Sloppy Joe's and Willy T's - I'm grouping them together because they're all very similar bars grouped near one another on (or just off of) Duval Street. Capt Tony's probably has the most history (It was Hemingway's favorite bar as the original location of Sloppy Joe's), Sloppy Joe's had the best beer selection but felt too large and lacking in personality for my tastes. Green Parrot was probably our favorite of the four, but they will all get the job done, and I think you can have a good time at any of them.

Caroline's Other Side - We were looking for a cocktail, rather than beer, and ended up here. It's hard to find, but if you go to the host stand at the regular Caroline's, they'll lead you up to the bar. It's got all of the "speakeasy" cliches, including tattooed, mustachioed bartenders, but they do deliver fantastic drinks. It was slammed when we were there, however, (including a guy nearly passed out in a full shark outfit and two dudes in tank-tops trying to order various shots) meaning that service was slow. I'd go back, however, as they know what they're doing on drinks.

Orchid Key Inn - I think we saw this place recommended in the New York Times for great cocktails. It's a hotel bar, and the bartender on the night we were there was very nice (in fact it was just him and three friends of his keeping him company before they went out). The drinks were perfectly fine. If I were staying at this hotel I'd go back.

Rum Bar - This place is in the Speakeasy Hotel, and we ended up there at the recommendation of our bartender at the Orchid Key Inn. It's one of my favorite bars that I have been in. Some of that is because I was on vacation in Key West, but a lot of that is due to Jill, the bartender all three nights that we were there. Incredible rum selection, including many I haven't seen in other places, and the drinks were surprisingly affordable (in that you could get a rum that retails for like $90 a bottle at $11 for a two-ounce pour). Loved this place.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Several recent(ish) trips led me to the Middle Keys.

Islamorada

MA's Fish Camp - MM 81.5 Oceanside

Went in around 8:30 or 9pm on a Sunday night. Not too many people and we were afraid we had taken a chance on a place that wasn't going to be that good. I had a blackened fresh catch with vegetables. Nothing mind blowing, but good ingredients, simply prepared will always be good. (For the life of me, I cannot remember what my friend had, but probably would have if she had complained about, so I'm going to go ahead and assume it was good.) We shared an excellent piece of Key lime pie topped with a giant mound of meringue.

Chef Michael's - MM 81.7 Oceanside

Went around 8:30 on a Monday night, glad they were open and thinking that it wouldn't be too crowded. But we were wrong. We were able to snag a table on the side porch. Luckily we got our order in before the table of about 20 next to us! I had a catch of the day (grouper, I think) Juliette, which was "seared with shrimp, scallops, chardonnay butter and toasted almonds" according to a menu I found online. (Menu on website doesn't work. I remember this was the case when I went as well.) Friend had a seafood pasta which she enjoyed. A little more expensive than MA's Fish Camp, but could have been due to difference in entrees. I feel the same way about this place...good ingredients, prepared well, will be good. More upscale environment than MA's Fish Camp. Also more lively, but could have been the night/time/other diners.

Shula Burger - MM 84 Oceanside

This is listed as a Shula's 2 and was on property for the hotel we were staying at. They had half price burgers all day Tuesday, so we took advantage for lunch. I had the French Onion burger (described here) and it was awesome. Well seasoned and cooked to the requested medium rare. Bonus: They have sweet potato fries, which have become a recent favorite of mine.

Sidenote on the hotel: This is my second time staying here, but I am hesitant to recommend because of current construction and, which, when completed, will most likely bring higher prices, making this property far less appealing.

Lorelei - MM 82 Bayside

Outdoor bar with great sunset views. For sunset, get there early if you want a table. We got there about 20 minutes before sunset, which was just enough time to grab a drink and find a seat on the rocks by the water (no tables and didn't want to stand around, blocking someone else's view.) Basically, this is Mallory Square at a bar. After sunset, we were actually able to grab a table (first come, first served), but regretted it. We only had appetizers and the service was off and the food was not that great.

Marathon

Key Fisheries - MM 36-37? Bayside

We went to the upstairs raw bar for oysters, shrimp and stone crab ($1.50 per large claw!!! I think this was a special. Other info shows $2.50) before heading back downstairs for a blackened fish sandwich. The raw bar menu (which also included steamers, mussels and a few other items) was only available at the upstairs bar. You could bring food from the regular menu (order at the window) up though.

Not really the Keys, but on the way if you're coming from Miami and points north...

Homestead

Mamma Mia

After spending the day in Everglades National Park, we ended up at this place. Seemed like mostly families and most of them were ordering pizzas, which looked pretty good, but we went with entrees. Entrees come with (a lot of!) garlic rolls and a choice of soup or salad; I got salad, the BF had the pasta e fagioli, which was pretty good. For entrees we had the chicken parm (a whole breast, split) which came with a side of pasta, and the Trinacria risotto, which is described as being served with "crumbled sausage, prosciutto, peas, onions and mushrooms...in a light cream sauce." The sausage wasn't really crumbled, as the texture was more like a cured sausage. The sausage was not mentioned as being spicy, but it was. We were a little unsure about this dish after the server said she hadn't tried it before, but were pleasantly surprised. Left stuffed and with leftovers. With wine, under $50 for the two of us.

Robert is Here

Rather extensive fruit stand. They have your typical oranges, grapefruits and mangoes, but check out the other, more exotic tropical fruits. Signage is helpful. There are often samples and they will cut some fruits and wrap them if you're on the go. We got several cut mangos and put them in a cooler. It was so great to be able to stop for a picnic in the Keys break out our fresh cut mango! The smoothies (not milkshakes...too sweet) are amazing. Everything is a bit overpriced but not so much so that it stopped me from buying anything.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just returned from four nights in Key West.  Louie's backyard is a prime location with a stunning view, but I was not blown away by the meal.  Their conch chowder was fantastic, but after that, everything was just "fair."

Favorite meal was at Santiago's bodega.  Great service. Excellent, bold flavors. The daily special of ropa vieja on a chick pea purée was outstanding. The dining room with the bar is more warm and intimate than the front dining room.

http://www.santiagosbodega.com/

For a very casual meal we liked Charlie Mac's.  Their daily special of half-price smoked wings attracted us in, and the wings were killer.  Decent selection of local beer on tap, too.

http://www.charliemacs404.com/mobile/

Breakfast at banana Café is fun… Lots of French inspired options.

It's easy to get a mediocre meal in Key West.  The cruise ships belch out waves of tourists who flock to places like sloppy Joe's and Hard Rock Cafe.  Quality doesn't have to be very high to draw crowds.  When I return, I would like to check out some of the smaller places off the beaten path.

And by the way, the two hour sunset catamaran cruise offered by Sebago  is a really good deal. $40 on-line price includes all you can drink beer, wine, sodas and margaritas.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DonRocks   
2 minutes ago, dcandohio said:

It's easy to get a mediocre meal in Key West.  The cruise ships belch out waves of tourists who flock to places like sloppy Joe's and Hard Rock Cafe.  Quality doesn't have to be very high to draw crowds.  When I return, I would like to check out some of the smaller places off the beaten path.

It's easy to get a mediocre *everything* in Key West. However, it's *so much fun* renting a moped there for a couple of hours.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, DonRocks said:

It's easy to get a mediocre *everything* in Key West. However, it's *so much fun* renting a moped there for a couple of hours.

Next time!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DonRocks   
5 hours ago, dcandohio said:

Next time!

Did you at least see the six-toed cats? (And wonder why you paid money to go there?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did visit the Hemingway house, as it was right across the street from our inn.  I don't mind paying admission to maintain a historical site, but the entire visit probably took no more than 15 minutes.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Next trip, try (in no particular order) - having been to Key West many, many times, these are tried and true, consistent places where the locals tend to eat.  The first 3 have excellent food and cool atmosphere. The last is more for area/view as it is right off the water, but food is decent too - Ricky's Blue Heaven is a great way to start the day with "breakfast with the roosters."

7 Fish

Great Italian - Fresh Pasta

Blue Heaven

Pepe's Cafe

Turtle Kraals

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
dcs   
On 12/11/2006 at 9:37 PM, laniloa said:

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!

Does anyone know why restaurants and others insist on serving shrimp with the tails on?   Am I the only one who finds this practice both useless and extremely annoying?  If it is a passed shrimp at a cocktail reception you are left standing there like an idiot with a drink in one hand and a shrimp tail in the other.  Your fingers are still "dirty" as it no doubt came in contact with whatever they used to prepare the shrimp, so don't tell me it is a convenient "handle."  When it is served in a sauce/jambalaya/paella you have to cut off the tail (an awkward process as you try to salvage as much of the meat inside as possible) and then you have to start a pile of shrimp tails on a corner of your plate.  Who wants that?  Don't get me started about those bastards who toss shrimp in soup with the tails on.  How am I supposed to deal with that?

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DonRocks   
3 hours ago, dcs said:

Does anyone know why restaurants and others insist on serving shrimp with the tails on?   Am I the only one who finds this practice both useless and extremely annoying?  If it is a passed shrimp at a cocktail reception you are left standing there like an idiot with a drink in one hand and a shrimp tail in the other.  Your fingers are still "dirty" as it no doubt came in contact with whatever they used to prepare the shrimp, so don't tell me it is a convenient "handle."  When it is served in a sauce/jambalaya/paella you have to cut off the tail (an awkward process as you try to salvage as much of the meat inside as possible) and then you have to start a pile of shrimp tails on a corner of your plate.  Who wants that?  Don't get me started about those bastards who toss shrimp in soup with the tails on.  How am I supposed to deal with that?

For chilled shrimp, I *like* using the tails as handles; for cooked shrimp, eat the things, man! My rule with seafood is: If you can chew it, eat it (this includes bones).

I doubt you want to see me eat a pot of mussels. :mellow:

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, dcs said:

Does anyone know why restaurants and others insist on serving shrimp with the tails on?   Am I the only one who finds this practice both useless and extremely annoying?  If it is a passed shrimp at a cocktail reception you are left standing there like an idiot with a drink in one hand and a shrimp tail in the other.  Your fingers are still "dirty" as it no doubt came in contact with whatever they used to prepare the shrimp, so don't tell me it is a convenient "handle."  When it is served in a sauce/jambalaya/paella you have to cut off the tail (an awkward process as you try to salvage as much of the meat inside as possible) and then you have to start a pile of shrimp tails on a corner of your plate.  Who wants that?  Don't get me started about those bastards who toss shrimp in soup with the tails on.  How am I supposed to deal with that?

You make a persuasive case.  You should be given credit when restaurants finally decide to remove shrimp tails once and for all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×