Best Restaurants in the Florida KeysOur favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.
By Inspector 420
as told to Patricia Miller
Housed in a 1930s “conch house” from a rustic fishing camp, Sal's Ballyhoo in Key Largo has retained its comfortable décor, down to the wood-beamed ceilings. The friendly staff in the food place will help narrow down your choices on an extensive list of fresh seafood from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. You can't go wrong with the catch of the day—served many ways—or all-you-can-eat stone crab. Yummy pretzel rolls are a special touch, and the wine list has choices to complement every selection.
Where to Eat Seafood in the Florida Keys
Moor your yacht to the dock in front of the Islamorada Fish Company . This open-air eatery serves nothing but the freshest fish, assured by daily deliveries to the fish market next door. Try the stone crab claws, Florida lobster and fried fish sandwiches; the burgers and chicken dishes also are good. Sit dockside for an amazing view of the bay; it's what to do when the sun slowly sinks below the horizon each evening.
Barracuda Grill isn't your typical seafood shack with beer signs and fishing nets on the wall. Minimalist yet cozy décor and innovative meal presentations set this Marathon food place apart. You'll relish the “tipsy olives” appetizer, marinated in a secret recipe. The seafood dishes are savory, and the rack of lamb or aged Angus beef are a refreshing change of pace. The wine list leans toward California wineries.
Roosters roam the courtyard of Key West favorite Blue Heaven Restaurant & Bar , but it's the food that makes this a memorable place to go. Take your place in line for tasty breakfasts including made-from-scratch “Richard's Very Good Pancakes” and a variety of Benedicts served with lime hollandaise. Fresh herbs and spices lend high flavor to equally scrumptious lunch and dinner items with a Caribbean influence, such as Jamaican jerk chicken. Vegetarians will savor such dishes as carrot and curry soup and tofu stir-fry.
Like most restaurants nearby, the fish is fresh and the servers are friendly at Conch Republic Seafood Company . Large aquariums, nautical décor and local musicians playing cover songs complete the casual setting on the marina. The Floridian and Caribbean cuisine features such favorites as Key West shrimp, grilled dolphin and tuna, conch chowder and fritters and blue-crab cakes. Bold diners may indulge in the raw bar and a rum bar with more than 80 varieties.
Local Restaurants to Try
At Key West's dockside Half Shell Raw Bar , you might be overdressed if you're wearing long pants. Breathe in the salty air and watch boats slowly rock in the marina while you dine at simple wood tables. The down-to-earth menu features fresh oysters and shrimp served many ways, including raw, fried, steamed or in a po’boy sandwich. Oysters Rockefeller is about as fancy as it gets. Drink it all down with an ice-cold beer.
A short boat ride from Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina transports you to Latitudes , located on an island just off Mallory Square. Tiki torches and a beachfront view of the Gulf of Mexico create a romantic backdrop and make the experience among the most fun things for couples to do; the cuisine (and the mood) is Caribbean travel-lite with Asian and American accents. Menu highlights include butter poached lobster, seafood ravioli and ginger-braised short rib.
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The Florida Keys, FL
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.