There is a lot more to the food scene in Key West than just cheeseburgers in paradise. The city now has nearly 400 restaurants in just over four square miles. If you are in town for a few days, you can only taste a small sample of the best places to eat in Key West. So if you are wondering where to eat in Key West, this guide covers a range of some of the best restaurants — from fine dining to casual street food — including some local favorites that are off-the-beaten tourist track.
When you visit the Florida Keys, there are a few must-try Key West foods that you need to sample. Of course, there are numerous takes on key lime pie, but the real star is the fresh local seafood. So save your cheeseburgers for LuLu’s in Orange Beach and if you are visiting one of the best restaurants in Key West, make sure you get a chance to order some of the following:
- Conch (try it in fritters, ceviche, or conch chowder)
- Grouper (mild-flavored fish somewhere in between seabass and halibut often served grilled)
- Mahi Mahi (firmer fish, similar to swordfish, often served grilled or blackened)
- Key West pink shrimp
- Royal Reds shrimp
- Caribbean spiny lobster
- Stone crab claws (in season from mid-October to early May) with Key West mustard sauce
- Authentic Cuban food (Cubano sandwich, ropa vieja, and camarones al ajillo)
- Smoked trout dip
Where to Eat in Key West
I’ve visited Key West on a family trip and also recently on a Florida Keys road trip with my friend Kim and we got a ton of recommendations from locals to find those hidden gems. Eating is one of my favorite things to do in Key West. These were some of our recommendations, as well as those from friends who visited recently, for the best restaurants in Key West.
First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery
First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery has a fun and interesting history. The building was the original home of Pan American World Airways and the place where the first tickets were sold in 1927. A little over 20 years ago, the building was purchased by actress Kelly McGillis and she started brewing three small-batch beers before craft breweries were a thing.
Today the restaurant is under new management, but it maintains its history with the decor and the beer. But to classify this restaurant as a brewery would be doing it a disservice. We expected burgers and beers and were surprised by a nice wine list and a variety of delicious fine-dining options. The fish tacos were good and the Caribbean lobster tail with preserved lemon butter, garden risotto, and grilled asparagus was delicious. Service was attentive and prompt, and the restaurant has a relaxing environment, offering a bookshelf of games to borrow and a beautiful deck and beer garden in the back.
First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery is located at 301 Whitehead St
Key West, FL 33040
Garbo’s Grill food truck is another local restaurant with an interesting history, located right across the street from First Flight. The couple that owns Garbo’s Grill was looking for a way to open a restaurant in Key West without paying the $50,000+ monthly rent the town demands. So they opened a food truck and share space with Hank’s Saloon. It is a nice synergy and locals line up for the Korean-American fare.
When Guy Fieri was in town filming Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, he took notice of the line and jumped in to try the Umamiburger. He ended up also trying the fish tacos and decided to feature Garbo’s on the show. I guess the rest is history, but it remains a favorite for locals and tourists alike. The fish tacos with mango, jalapeño, cilantro, onion, and house Caribbean sauce were absolutely delicious. It was no wonder the local police were lining up for lunch here.
Garbo’s Grill is located at 409 Caroline Street, Key West, Florida
It seems like every good restaurant in Key West has an interesting backstory. Bagatelle is no exception. The building on Duval Street that houses the restaurant used to adjoin the local library. The town sold the building to the restaurant owners, on the condition that they move it to make room for a library expansion. It was quite an effort to relocate the building down the narrow streets of Key West but today it holds a prominent place on the busiest street in town.
But unlike some of the tourist traps that line Duval Street, Bagatelle offers a fine dining environment. I’m usually a lobster purist, but their lobster mac and cheese is decadently-rich and delicious. It is a good thing it is an appetizer because I can’t imagine eating a full portion.
Bagatelle is located at 115 Duval Street, Key West, Florida
Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen
If you are willing to venture out of downtown, Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen in the Perry Hotel offers marina-facing, indoor-outdoor dining in a modern and stylish setting. Local businesses are investing in Stock Island to make it an up-and-coming location just 20 minutes from downtown Key West (with free parking.) Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen also offers live music outdoors on most nights, adding to the relaxing ambiance compared to the hustle and bustle of downtown.
They are known for their cheeseburgers with bacon jam and bacon salt fries, but everything we tasted was delicious. My favorite was the tomato and avocado salad. It was light and fresh, with a citrus vinaigrette, making it perfect for the heat and a dish I would happily eat every day. You can get the catch of the day prepared in a number of ways, including grilled, pan-seared, blackened, or fried, with a variety of sauces (the crawfish butter was my personal favorite, although I had to try them all.)
Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen is located in the Perry Hotel at 7001 Shrimp Road, Key West, FL 33040
Blue Heaven is famous for its garden setting and breakfast with roosters. Now it is big with tourists but in the past, it has been a brothel, pool hall, boxing ring, and cock fighting arena. You need to go early because there will inevitably be a line for brunch.
The restaurant is famous for its homemade banana bread and seafood eggs benedict. My personal favorite was the light and fluffy pancakes, although next time I would skip adding the pineapple. If you can handle dessert for breakfast, check out their meringue-topped Key Lime pie.
Blue Heaven is located in the historic Bahama Village at 729 Thomas St, Key West, FL 33040
Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe & Cafe
Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shoppe now has an outpost near Mallory Square, but the original is located near the marina where the boat tours are based and is a popular coffee and breakfast joint with captains and sailors. Between the pie and gift shop and the cafe, you will find a tranquil garden complete with a koi pond and waterfall, plus a few of the ubiquitous Key West chickens.
Don’t be surprised to see 75-year-old Kermit around in his bright green chef’s hat. The breakfast sandwiches are very tasty and if you go in the mood for dessert, don’t skip the frozen chocolate-dipped Key Lime pie on a stick!
The Original Kermit’s is located at 200 Elizabeth Street, Key West, Florida 33040
Cuban Coffee Queen
Coffee lovers will definitely want to try the brew at Cuban Coffee Queen, but even if you aren’t a fan of that strong espresso taste, Cuban Coffee Queen is a go-to for authentic Cuban cuisine. From classic Cuban-pressed sandwiches to breakfast options and the yummy Shipwreck sandwich, there is something for everyone at three Key West locations. The original location on Margaret Street is a walk-up shack but has picnic tables to enjoy your meal by the waterfront.
Cuban Coffee Queen is located at 284 Margaret St, Key West, FL 33040
Lagerheads Beach Bar
Lagerheads Beach Bar and Watersports is a popular hangout spot for locals. Put on your bathing suit, rent a chair, and hang out on their small beach. Or if you are just going for lunch, get there early before the line, especially if you want to eat inside out of the sun.
The food isn’t fancy, but it is good. Try a Cuban sandwich or fish tacos, or sample some local specialties like the smoked trout dip and conch ceviche.
Lagerheads Beach Bar is located at 0 Simonton Street, Key West, Florida
If you are looking for a spot to celebrate a special occasion while in Key West, book a reservation on OpenTable for lunch or dinner at Latitudes. Latitudes is the fine-dining restaurant at the Sunset Key Cottages, the exclusive, luxury resort on Sunset Key. As you can imagine, this is an amazing place to see the sunset, but access to Sunset Key is restricted to resort guests unless you have a reservation at Latitudes. You can board a ferry boat off Front Street just before your reservation, but you can take any return shuttle to Key West after your meal.
Latitudes serves up fresh, local island cuisine with creative takes on fresh fish and fruit. You can dine outside and enjoy Key West’s famous sunset, along with views of the Gulf of Mexico, or move inside to the Ernest Hemingway Room. Just keep in mind that the dress code for dinner is “country club casual.”
Latitudes is located on Sunset Key, 245 Front Street, Key West, FL
Eaton Street Seafood Market
If you are renting a house or staying in an Airbnb, purchase some fresh seafood to cook at the Eaton Street Seafood Market in Old Town. The catch is different every day, so stop in and see what catches your eye. You can also get some delicious Key West pink shrimp or the larger Royal Reds. Just keep in mind that pink shrimp already have that lovely pinkish color before they are cooked — but you still need to cook them before you eat them, just not as long as you might other types of shrimp.
If you don’t feel like cooking, you can also pick up cooked seafood and sandwiches to eat at the few tables they have on-site.
Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant is located at 801 Eaton St, Key West, FL 33040
I have friends that just spent a week in Key West and they absolutely fell in love with Lola’s Bistro. This bohemian BYOB restaurant doesn’t have a set menu, but rather offers daily specials featuring local fish and shellfish. The restaurant is small and cozy, so you can see Chef Richard at work in the open kitchen.
There are just 10 tables with two seatings a night for an intimate experience. Each day you will find four appetizers and four entrees, but leave room for dessert — especially the tiramisu.
Lola’s Bistro is located at 728 Simonton St, Key West, FL 33040
Old Town Bakery
Located not far from Eaton Street Seafood Market, Old Town Bakery is the spot to go for coffee, pastries, fresh bread, and sandwiches. They also happen to have the most delicious brownie with chocolate ganache filling — but make sure you have a friend to share it with because it is huge!
Old Town Bakery also had their take on Key Lime pie, but their twist is with a ginger snap crust, giving it a very unique flavor.
Old Town Bakery is located at 930 Eaton Street, Key West, Florida
Best Bars in Key West
There is no shortage of places to drink in Key West, including old-time popular places like Sloppy Joe’s. However, here are some of my favorite finds.
Hog’s Breath Saloon
The Hog’s Breath Saloon is right off Duval Street, just steps from Mallory Square. It is popular with cruise ship passengers squeezing in their last drink before racing back to the boat before it leaves. There isn’t anything special about the beer selection, but the live music is lit. Apparently, everyone who is anyone has played at Hog’s Breath at some point in their career.
Hog’s Breath Saloon is located at 400 Front Street, Key West, FL 33040
Opened in 2015, Waterfront Brewery holds an excellent location on the marina. They brew a large selection of beers, from lagers to IPAs, stouts, reds, blondes, shandies, and more — assuring something for every beer drinker.
Of course, it isn’t just a place to drink. Waterfront Brewery also has a full restaurant and a large game/entertainment space, making it fun even for families.
Waterfront Brewery is located at 201 William Street, Key West, Florida
Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort and Spa is a perfect spot to enjoy a drink while waiting for the sun to set. Just be sure to get there early enough to claim a table at the rail on the ocean, giving you front-row seats to Key West’s famous sunsets.
Sunset Pier is located at the Ocean Key Resort and Spa at 0 Duval Street, Key West, Florida
El Mason de Pepe
This Cuban food restaurant off Mallory Square is a great spot to grab a drink before enjoying the sunset celebration. Even though Key West technically has an open container law, they generally tend to look the other way if you are behaving yourself. You will see many people getting their drinks in a to-go cup, slipping them into a koozie, and strolling over to enjoy the street performers or stake their claim on the pier to view the sunset.
El Mason de Pepe is located at 410 Wall Street, Mallory Square, Key West, 33040
Margaritaville Key West
Bistro 245 at Margaritaville Key West offers seats right along the edge of the pier, across the sidewalk from the hotel and restaurant. Go early to get the best spot for sunset or head upstairs to the Sunset Deck. Just keep in mind that there may be a cruise ship or their rope lines partially blocking your view on some nights.
Margaritaville Key West is located at 245 Front Street, Key West, Florida
Looking for more?
- Try the best key lime pie in Key West
- Get tips for planning a Florida Keys road trip
- If you are heading to Southwest Florida, find out where to eat in Naples Florida
- Find out things to do in Marco Island Florida
- Learn what you shouldn’t miss when sightseeing in Miami
PIN THIS FOR LATER
The post 17 Best Places to eat in Key West, Florida (including local favorites) appeared first on We3Travel.