By Laura Myers
Romantically beautiful and sophisticated Islamorada is all about its bountiful fish and exquisite dining. It’s also known also for local breweries, a lively art scene, enticing boutiques and newly luxe resorts. Often called the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, Islamorada features an abundance of restaurants that will cook your straight-off-the-boat catch in a wealth of ways. The most popular restaurants among locals include:
Hamburger-sized cinnamon and sticky buns, dubbed the “best Bunz in town,” are crafted by owner Robert “Bob” Spencer at mile marker 81.6 bayside. Newly added is a popular dark and white chocolate cinnamon bun with dark chocolate chunks. For breakfast, locals love Bob’s BBS or filling two-egg skillet dish, bread pudding French toast made from left-over cake scraps, and a blue crab eggs Benedict. A Ruben of the Sea sandwich combines fried fish and Russian dressing. Grab some to-go treats that include brown bags with petite Key lime cookies, homemade with Key lime white chocolate chips and a hint of coconut. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 305-664-8363.
Key West is known for its close ties to Cuba, but you can also get savory Cuban comfort food at mile marker 73.5. Cuban coffee is a staple for early risers throughout the Florida Keys and an active day in or on the water works up a hearty appetite. Habanos satisfies patrons with generously portioned Cuban favorites and seafood such as grilled lobster tail. A “cook your catch any way with two sides” option includes black beans and sweet or fried green plantains. A Cuban hamburger is made with a mix of ground beef, pork and spicy chorizo. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday. Call 305-517-6313.
It’s usually crowded and you’re likely to see a favorite charter captain dining here — both good indications that Lazy Days features fresh, hearty fare. Diners can sit on the beach or outside patio, inside side porch or main dining area, or at the bar. Keys favorites abound including fried cracked conch, conch chowder, pink shrimp, and fresh catch fried, grilled, broiled or blackened. The extensive menu also features Angus steak, pasta and chicken entrees sure to please the most selective eaters. Specialty fish “Lazy Days” style includes panko bread crumbs, olive oil, Key lime white wine sauce and Parmesan. The restaurant is located at mile marker 79.9 and reservations are recommended. Call 305-664-5256.
Self-proclaimed as the “pulse of Islamorada” and known for its Florida Bay sunsets, the longtime favorite is marked by a supersized mermaid at mile marker 82 bayside. Attractions include beach dining and live entertainment. The Cabana Madness appetizer will feed a crowd, and chowder is served three ways: Keys conch, New England clam and stone crab. A Lorelei’s World Famous fish sandwich is not to be missed. The popular Tiki bar offers a daily 4-6 p.m. happy hour (“because therapy is expensive”) and Sunday School with $3 bloody marys, screwdrivers and mimosas from 7-11 a.m. on Sundays. Not only can you eat your fish at the Lorelei, but you can also charter a captain to catch it. Plus, the restaurant has eliminated disposable plastics and Styrofoam products. Call 305-664-2692.
The always-crowded outdoor venue at Robbie’s of Islamorada, a popular Upper Keys attraction at mile marker 77.5, packs in diners with simple, tasty, affordable meals in a fun, lively atmosphere. Once described by the Miami Herald as a “gourmet joint under a bridge,” it’s known for conch chowder, cooking up your catch and homemade mango Key lime pie. Early and hearty breakfasts are served from 6:30 to 11 a.m. The Trailer Trash bloody mary may be a meal in itself, since it’s loaded with bacon, celery, stuffed olives and a jumbo shrimp. Conch-Amole is house-made guacamole and conch ceviche, and the blue cheese wedge salad is enormous. Call 305-664-0535.
Owner-chef Lynn Bell has opened her third venue, converting a bayside boathouse at Islamorada Marina at mile marker 80.4. Her son Joe and daughter Sarah, who returned home to the Keys after college, help run the restaurant. A Key lime martini is the house signature cocktail. Oysters Rockefeller come with Key lime butter sauce. Seafood stew is a tasty appetizer, and a tropical-style Thanksgiving-style feast includes almond-encrusted grouper with warm Caribbean cranberry-pineapple relish atop a homemade sweet potato mash. The newest venue is a sibling to the popular Square Grouper Bar & Grill and My New Joint 420 Lounge on Cudjoe Key in the Lower Keys. Reservations are not accepted. Call 786-901-5678.
Self-proclaimed as the “pulse of Islamorada” and known for its Florida Bay sunsets, the longtime favorite is marked by a supersized mermaid at mile marker 82 bayside.
Hamburger-sized cinnamon and sticky buns, dubbed the 'best Bunz in town,' are crafted by owner Robert 'Bob' Spencer at mile marker 81.6 bayside.
Keys favorites abound at Lazy Days Islamorada including fried conch ceviche, cracked conch, conch chowder, pink shrimp, and fresh catch, pick your style.