When you live in paradise, you’re bound to have friends and family pop in for a visit now and then. Last month both my brothers visited me — just one week apart from each other.
As you may have noticed from my past blogs, I almost always mention something about Key West’s incredible food and drink offerings. Well, the apple does not far fall from the tree when it comes to my siblings, who share my love for mouthwatering food and libations.
I’m guilty of what I call “food texting,” where I send pictures of my entrees while dining out at some of my favorite island restaurants. The texts usually result in replies such as “wow, that looks so good” or “I SO need to get back to Key West for a dine-around.”
Over the years I’ve gained my friends’ and family’s seal of approval for always recommending the best restaurants during their Key West visits — which is actually pretty easy with all the world-class chefs on the island.
Key West has so many options, running the gamut from a vintage trolley pizzeria with a wood-fired brick oven to fine dining on a secluded island with spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico. The city is well known for its over-the-top fresh seafood and delicious island-influenced cuisine — but we also have stellar eateries showcasing cuisines from around the world including Italian, French, German and Cuban specialties.
I’m one of those people who can’t decide on just one particular entree to order. That’s where two of my favorite restaurants come to the rescue by offering tapas-style dining or small plates. Guests can sample several dishes at one sitting (virtually guaranteed to send your taste buds into overdrive!).
Santiago’s Bodega, located at 207 Petronia St. in the Bahama Village section of Key West, has been wowing its diners for over a decade. The incredible artwork and decor throughout the restaurant create a warm and welcoming ambience that makes for a very relaxed yet elegant dining experience.
I usually start by ordering the melt-in-your-mouth mozzarella burrata salad with a walnut pesto, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette, followed by a petit rack of lamb encrusted with a heavenly combination of Dijon mustard, pecans and thyme.
On his last visit, my brother opted for the French onion soup, beef carpaccio, and oven-roasted brussels sprouts (which we happily shared) with a great bottle of wine, of course.
Nine One Five Restaurant and Bar, located at 915 Duval St., comes in a close second in my book with more delectable tapas. Some of my favorites include the Sichuan eggplant and tofu dish and the grass-fed burger with truffled mozzarella and caramelized onions, served on a brioche bun.
I actually watched my brother discover “food heaven” as he took his first bite — and gave me a big nod of approval and smile that meant his cuisine-centered vacation was now complete.
Are you ready for your own special Key West dining experience? Well, a tasty event is coming up that can make that happen. The annual WineDine KeyWest restaurant month is scheduled Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, “cooked up” to showcase indigenous cuisine and the talents of Florida Keys chefs.
Participating restaurants are to offer three-course meals priced at approximately $20 per person for lunch and $35 per person for dinner. So make plans NOW to be here — and discover your own foodie favorites during the culinary celebration.