I always get a little extra spring in my step during the month of April. As the days become longer, I have more time to revel in our island’s spectacular springtime weather — with average daytime temps in the mid-70s to low 80s, and low humidity. It’s a fantastic time to enjoy the wealth of outdoor dining options available in the Florida Keys.

Taste of Key West food

“Taste of Key West,” a foodie’s delight at Key West’s Mallory Square, is an annual fundraiser for the Florida Keys’ AIDS Help organization.

On April 16 Mallory Square, home to Key West’s world-famous sunset celebration, transforms into the venue for the 23rd annual “Taste of Key West.” The open-air food extravaganza is set to take place from 6 to 9 p.m. and typically showcases more than 50 local restaurants and catering companies. It’s a one-stop foodies’ delight, offering attendees the perfect opportunity to sample an amazing variety of our island’s primo cuisine — against a backdrop of the fabulous sunset.

Restaurants and food vendors from across the Lower Keys and Key West donate their staffs’ time and extraordinary culinary talents to create delectable small plates, with all proceeds benefiting the Florida Keys’ AIDS Help organization.

Our world-class chefs serve up scrumptious food selections including fresh “just off the boat” seafood, often prepared in Key West style with Caribbean flair. The numerous selections are sure to please people with even the most discerning palates, from meat lovers to vegetarians.

(However, just a warning from one foodie to another: you may be tempted to overindulge, so please be sure to leave room for the decadent desserts that are there for the tasting.)

In addition to the scrumptious food, libations are free-flowing throughout the event. A selection of wines from across the globe is donated by a local liquor distributor. Connoisseurs can expect to be wowed with vintages from some 100 vineyards and wineries.

Restaurants and food vendors from across the Lower Keys and Key West donate their staffs’ time and culinary talents to create delectable small plates for the open-air feast.

If wine is not up your alley, no worries — a vast selection of beers is also offered. You can even purchase a collectible beer pint glass benefiting the 2018 Southernmost HIV/AIDS bike ride, which helps fund Florida agencies serving people living with HIV/AIDS.

The tasting event is also very much a social event. As I make my way around the booths offering various foods and wine, I always bump into a friend or two. Food and friends are a compelling combination!

Gates for “Taste of Key West” open at 6 p.m. I recommend either biking or walking to the event to burn off some of those calories (wink, wink!) — but, if you want to drive, limited parking may be available at Mallory Square. Also, just a reminder that the complimentary Duval Loop Bus has a stop just a short walk from Mallory Square (stop 4, to be exact).

Tickets are sold for $1 apiece and can be exchanged for beverages and “tastes” that usually “cost” three to six tickets each. If you prefer to purchase tickets in advance, the cost is $25 per person and includes $20 in food and beverage tasting tickets and a “Taste of Key West” wine glass. Advance tickets are available online.

From culinary delights to awe-dropping sunsets, the Florida Keys are sure to dazzle your senses. Come down soon and discover for yourself why our al fresco dining options are second to none.

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