Stone crab claws offer sweet and scrumptious meat that’s among the Florida Keys’ most popular delicacies. Once the stone crab harvest season begins each Oct. 15, the savory claws appear prominently on Keys restaurant menus — triggering a veritable stampede of eager seafood fans. There’s even an annual Stone Crab Eating Contest in November.
Some people who come to the Florida Keys are hungry for adventure in the island chain’s turquoise waters. Some are hungry for time to recharge in nature, or share sun-splashed romance with that special someone. And others are hungry for something more elemental: the chance to enjoy the Keys’ enticing seafood-based cuisine.
In the Middle and Lower Keys and Key West, personal renewal, wellness, mindful pursuits, and enriching experiences take center stage to create an unforgettable vacation. Visitors can stroll a historic bridge between seemingly endless sea and sky, taste tropical fruits in a hidden grove, kayak to discover secret mangrove realms, and much more.
Commemorate the Florida Keys’ bicentennial with a sunset celebration on the Middle Keys’ Old Seven Mile Bridge, a gala sea-to-table dinner in Islamorada, a family-style waterfront picnic in Key Largo, and Lower Keys festivities and fireworks featuring the creation of the world’s largest Key lime pie. All activities salute the Keys’ 200th birthday.
John Mirabella, owner of the Castaway restaurant in Marathon, could well be called the “Lionfish King” of the Florida Keys. The affable natural storyteller is known as a pioneering lionfish hunter, recognized for spearheading efforts to remove the invasive non-native species from Keys waters — and for serving the flavorful fish in numerous ways.
A subtropical setting and a celebration of cuisine and libations await food fanciers Jan. 25-29, when the Key West Food & Wine Festival is staged in the inviting island city. Acclaimed as one of the United States’ leading wine and cuisine events, the festival salutes Argentine flavors and vintages throughout its 2023 schedule.
From Key Largo to Key West, the calendar is packed with events designed to spread seasonal cheer — including a traditional Islamorada favorite that features actual snow. Yes, despite the Keys’ typically balmy winter temperatures, grownups and kids of all ages can delight in snow Friday, Dec. 2, during Islamorada’s Florida Keys Holiday Fest.
In the Florida Keys, fresh fish and seafood are menu staples at most popular restaurants. It’s easy to find just-caught snapper, grouper and mahi-mahi served grilled, blackened or fried. In addition, many chefs and restaurateurs in the island chain enjoy showcasing “only in the Keys” dishes, unusual species or innovative preparation techniques.
For foodies seeking authentic Keys-style dining experiences, Upper Keys food trucks present creatively prepared fare that provides a quick and fun alternative to boring fast-food joints. Operated by hands-on local residents, the venues serve personalized, freshly made specialty dishes. The colorful trucks offer a convenient, inexpensive way for visitors to sample Keys-crafted cuisine.
From shrimp to traditional Cuban food to Key lime pie, the Florida Keys have a wealth of unique culinary treats to sample. Fish and seafood dishes are a standout on many restaurant menus, for good reason: the incredibly fresh fish diners are served at night was probably unloaded at the docks that morning!