The Florida Keys & Key West

Florida Keys News

Hidden Foodie Favorites Flavor the Florida Keys & Key West

In the Florida Keys & Key West, fresh seafood tops the list for every meal, and with the abundance of fish and seafood in Keys waters, it’s no wonder the island chain’s indigenous cuisine relies on it. Keys restaurants range from gourmet hotspots to dockside seafood “shacks” and trendy food trucks where guests can choose from a wide variety of options.

Many excellent restaurants along the historic Florida Keys Overseas Highway provide tasty temptations. But if diners venture into less-explored areas the possibilities truly become endless.

Tucked among the trees off the Overseas Highway in Key Largo is the family-owned and -operated Key Largo Conch House. Opened by Ted and Laura Dreaver in 2004 as a coffee house, it now serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Though best known for its conch fritters, the restaurant also offers a Keys spin on traditional breakfast fare, like cracked conch eggs Benedict or Key lime macadamia pancakes — light and fresh pancakes topped with Key lime juice and coconut milk. A visit to the Key Largo Conch House is like sitting in the Dreaver family’s living room, and that’s exactly the way they intended it.

Continuing south to Islamorada leads visitors to another local favorite: Bad Boy Burrito. Located off the highway, it’s a worthwhile excursion for people seeking authentic Mexican food combined with fresh local seafood.

Favorites include Cayo Hueso Fish Tacos, grilled local fresh fish served on handmade corn tortillas with special verde sauce and a choice of toppings, and Baja Fish Tacos, fried local fish served on flour tortillas with freshly made pico de gallo and chipotle mayonnaise. Meat lovers can sample one of Bad Boy’s signature burritos with either pork carnitas, ground Kobe beef or skirt steak complete with a choice of toppings. Patrons can pair their meal with a refreshing watermelon agua fresca or limeade.

The emporium has been featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — and as show host Guy Fieri can attest, a visit to Bad Boy is well worth it.

Hidden away on the Boot Key Harbor Waterway in Marathon stands the Chiki Tiki Bar & Grille at Burdines Waterfront. Locals who frequent the restaurant just call it “Burdines” and its reasonable prices and delicious food make it a favorite.

The Chiki Tiki is up a flight of stairs, which means diners can enjoy a lovely breeze and a great view of the Florida Keys’ famous sunsets. Delectable dishes include fresh dolphin (mahi-mahi) sandwiches, certified Angus beef burgers and the signature tower of fries.

And while Key lime pie can be found on almost every menu, the Chiki Tiki’s version is fried! Rolled in batter and then deep fried, this unexpected take on Key lime pie keeps locals and visitors alike coming back for more.

Another great “off-the-beaten-path” spot is No Name Pub in Big Pine Key. Opened in 1931 as a general store and bait-and-tackle shop catering to local fishermen, the pub has evolved into a Keys favorite known for its signature pizza and walls decorated with dollar bills.

The cozy restaurant also serves fresh seafood and silver dollar fries — round potato pieces fried until golden and delicious. Other popular dishes include the pub’s tasty chicken wings and a selection of stacked “pub burgers” with a variety of toppings.

Patrons customarily acknowledge that they’ve found the secluded No Name Pub by writing a message in ink on a dollar bill and hanging it from the ceiling or a wall. It’s definitely one way to leave a mark in the Florida Keys.

Rounding out the list of foodie favorites is Michael’s Restaurant in Key West. Opened by Michael and Melanie Wilson in January 1997, Michael’s has been a staple of the Key West culinary scene ever since.

The restaurant stands on a picturesque street in Key West’s Old Town and offers a traditional steakhouse menu with an island twist. Classics include the filet al forno with roasted garlic and Roquefort cheese, a house-made meatloaf with a blend of Wagyu and USDA prime beef, and the Wilsons’ signature dessert: the Volcano, an individual chocolate cake erupting with warm chocolate and a scoop of Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

Michael’s also offers a delicious array of seafood options such as Key West pink shrimp with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach and Key lime parmesan sauce; and Snapper Meuniere with artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper and lemon brown butter. The cuisine and charming Old Town ambiance make Michael’s a wonderful treat for those who venture off Duval Street.

With a range of options for even the most discerning diner, it’s easy to see why taking the road less traveled in the Florida Keys can lead to some truly outstanding culinary experiences.

Bon appétit!

 

The famous Key Largo Conch House.

The famous Key Largo Conch House.

Don't miss Bad Boy Burrito as you roam Key West.

Don't miss Bad Boy Burrito as you roam Key West.

Snapper is a popular go-to seafood dish, and is prepared in several yummy ways.

Snapper is a popular go-to seafood dish, and is prepared in several yummy ways.

Fried Key lime pie. 'Nuff said!

Fried Key lime pie. 'Nuff said!

Steak Nicoise at Michael's Restaurant in Key West.

Steak Nicoise at Michael's Restaurant in Key West.

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