One minute you’re minding your own business, enjoying the warm sunshine and salty sea air, thinking about what it would be like to skip your return flight, quit your job, leave your life behind and start over in Key West.
It’s a tropical paradise! You could get a job teaching tourists to read or something. You’d get a cute, colorful little house just down the street from the beach, and you’d ride a vintage blue bike all over the island, casually waving to the locals (who now recognize you as one of them) while the sea breeze twirls through your hair, giving you the perfect beachy waves.
When suddenly, some sort of demon starts growling menacingly from inside your stomach. Its power begins to grow and you feel your thoughts turning dark. Everything seems too loud, too bright, too much. The beast is in your mind!
Not today, Satan! Just pick one of these Key West restaurants before you burst into flames, and the beast will be silenced. Then you can get back to cultivating your tropical fantasy while stuffing your face with some of the freshest, most divine food on the island. Boneappletea!
Although technically not on Key West, Latitudes is just a quick ferry ride over to nearby Sunset Key. The ever-evolving menu features fresh-caught seafood, locally-sourced produce and seasonal ingredients. Try the pan roasted Caribbean lobster tail with sweet potato risotto or the mushroom ragu linguini with soy smoked tofu and spicy pickled mushrooms.
The indoor dining room is adorned with photos of local legend Ernest Hemingway, while the patio opens out onto breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico and those classic Key West sunsets. The perfect spot for a romantic dinner or to celebrate a special occasion.
Address: 245 Front St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open every day 7am-2:15pm and 5-11pm
Photo courtesy Latitudes
Tavern N Town
Located in the Marriott Beachside Hotel, Tavern N Town features a grand dining room with an open kitchen that serves everything from tapas and pizza to steak and seafood.
Start with the jumbo lump crab cake with key lime mustard. Then try the balsamic braised bison ribs with bourbon mashed yams or the seared yellowtail snapper with herbed fettuccini. Finish the night off with a slice of classic key lime pie or vanilla crème brulee with chocolate almond biscotti.
Tip: make reservations as it gets busy early.
Address: 3841 N Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL
Hours: Open every day 7-11am and 5-11pm
Photo courtesy Tavern N Town
If you want uber fresh Caribbean-American cuisine, this is the place to go. The seafood was caught yesterday and the local fruits and vegetables were delivered just hours after being picked.
Louie’s serves classics like steak, lamb chops and free-range chicken, but one of the best dishes on the menu is the cracked conch with hot pepper jelly and wasabi cream. For dessert, the chocolate brioche pudding with espresso bavarian cream will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. There’s also a wine bar and a sweet multilevel deck overlooking the Atlantic.
Address: 700 Waddell Ave, Key West, FL
Hours: Open every day 11am-1:30am
Photo courtesy Louie’s Backyard
This is the classic steakhouse experience featuring choice meats, locally caught seafood and an international wine list. You can’t go wrong with classics like filet mignon, yellowtail snapper or the nightly pasta special. Just be sure to order a side of truffled mac and cheese – omg, noms.
The intimate dining room is filled with warm woods and cozy lighting, as any good steakhouse should be. There’s also a patio for dining al fresco.
Address: 951 Caroline St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open every day 6-10pm
Photo courtesy Prime Steakhouse
If you’re looking for Caribbean cuisine with a hippy-dippy Key West vibe, you gotta go to Blue Heaven. Located in Bahama Village, this casual restaurant is a landmark known for its funky decor (including a cemetery for some of Key West’s most famous roosters), live music, tropical patio and, of course, delicious food.
Breakfast features classics like pancakes and build-your-own omelets as well as the Rooster Special – two eggs any style, potatoes or grits, bacon or sausage and banana bread or pancakes. For lunch and dinner, they serve cheeseburgers, seafood, delicious salads and more.
Address: 729 Thomas St, Key West, FL
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-4pm & 5-10:30pm, Sun 8am-2pm & 5-10:30pm
Photo courtesy The LG Report
The Flaming Buoy Filet Co.
Eating at Flaming Buoy is like going to a dinner party where the chef entertains you with charming stories while cooking up modern twists on old family recipes. Owners Scot Forste and Fred Isch become instant friends with everyone who visits while serving gourmet New American cuisine made with fresh, local ingredients.
Hook yourself up with the appetizer trio: lobster mac and cheese, Key West pink shrimp with lime chutney and caprese salad. Then try the Filet Co. three way: ground beef chili with dark chocolate and spices over spaghetti with onions, cheddar cheese & sour cream. Uhmazing. For dessert, get the avocado cheesecake or spicy chocolate quesadilla. Or both!
Address: 424 Eaton St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 6-9pm
Photo courtesy The Flaming Buoy Filet Co.
Located in Bahama Village, Santiago’s has over 30 Spanish-style tapas dishes plus mouthwatering soups, salads and a noteworthy wine list. They’ve been around for over a decade, serving their delicious small plates in a warm, eclectic setting.
Try the pan grilled shrimp and chorizo, bacon and basil wrapped mushrooms, mini cheese and fruit quesadillas, or smoked salmon carpaccio. The great thing about tapas is you can try multiple dishes without feeling like you’re going to have a food baby.
Address: 207 Petronia Street, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 11am-10pm
Photo courtesy Santiago’s Bodega
The Thirsty Mermaid is a bright, modern spot known for its oyster bar, local seafood and craft beer. Favorites include sauteed Bahamian conch with marinated artichoke salad, yellowfin tuna with jasmine rice and wok-fried vegetables, and the good ol’ boy cheddar and smoked bacon burger.
The best part is their happy hour (4-6 daily), when you can get scrumptious bites like mac and cheese croquettes and Apalachicola oysters for just $5, plus $2 pints of Mermaid Lager. Mmmmm, Mermaid Lager.
Address: 521 Fleming St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 11am-11pm
Photo courtesy Thirsty Mermaid
BO’s Fish Wagon
No smelly fish jokes – the BO actually stands for Buddy Owen, owner and local legend. This cash only fish stand may look pretty ramshackle (it’s mostly made out of driftwood and old crab traps), but it’s where you’ll find the best fish sandwich in the Florida Keys (and perhaps the world). This incomparable grouper sandwich is made with tasty Cuban bread, key lime aioli, lettuce, tomato and onion. *kisses fingers in Italian*
BO’s also serves burgers, hot dogs, conch fritters, chili cheese fries and other hangover-curing staples.
Address: 801 Caroline St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 11am-9:30pm
Photo courtesy BO’s Fish Wagon
Date & Thyme
Housed in a former gas station, Date & Thyme is now a cafe, organic market and juice bar loved by health nuts near and far. The airy space is all exposed ceilings, warm woods and potted plants. The cafe serves organic, all natural dishes plus organic smoothies and coffee.
Stop by for breakfast and grab a yogi latte (espresso, steamed milk, honey and chai tea) to go with the delicious avocado toast or acai bowl. Or try the island burrito: house-made black bean patty, brown rice, salsa, avocado, cilantro, jalapenos, greens & spicy vegan mayo wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Or if you like Thai, get the Thai curry bowl: coconut curry mixed with vegetables over rice or quinoa.
Address: 829 Fleming St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 8am-6pm
Photo courtesy Date & Thyme
Duetto Pizza and Gelato
You think you know what pizza is supposed to taste like? You know nothing! At least not until you try Duetto’s pizza. Their New York-style pies are to die for. Seriously. Trip Advisor named their pizza one of the top 10 in America.
You can order by the pie or by the slice, and they’ve got more toppings than you can shake a stick at. They also offer fresh-baked paninis, plus their famous house-made gelato. It’s literally Italian heaven.
Address: 540 Greene St Suite 1, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 11am-10pm
Photo courtesy Duetto’s Pizza & Gelato
Frita’s Cuban Burger Cafe
One of the most unique restaurants in Key West, Frita’s serves up Cuban street food from a tiny, historic conch-style house next to a food truck kitchen. The outdoor seating area is filled with kitschy décor and hand-painted picnic tables, all nestled under a magnificent bougainvillea tree complete with twinkle lights.
But the Frita Burger is the star. It’s a tasty beef and pork patty seasoned with Spanish spices, topped with onion, fried julienne potatoes and Frita sauce, served on a fresh-baked Cuban roll. Frita’s also serves Cuban tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches and salads, plus Cuban cigars and sangria slushies! They know how to party.
Address: 425 Southard St, Key West, FL
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun 9am-10pm
Photo courtesy Frita’s Cuban Burgers
Bad Boy Burrito
Get pregnant with your very own food baby by eating one of Bad Boy’s “phatties” or build-your-own burritos. They specialize in house-made salsas and healthy meat and veggie options like duck confit, Key West pink shrimp and organic tofu.
Bad Boy also serves tacos, salads, smoothies and juices. Order at the walk-up window on Simonton Street, then head to the shady back patio to eat.
Address: 1128 Simonton St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 11am-10pm
Photo courtesy Historic Key West Inns
Seeing as how Pepe’s has been around for OVER 100 YEARS (established in 1909), they must be doing something right. Breakfast is their most popular meal, with classics like omelets, pancakes and french toast. But lunch and dinner are also excellent, featuring tasty grilled burgers, homemade chili, steaks, pork chops and Apalachicola oysters.
Everything is fresh (order a mimosa and you’ll see the bartender squeeze an orange right into your glass), and the vibe is laid back. You can dine inside the air-conditioned dining room or outside on the covered patio.
Address: 806 Caroline St, Key West, FL
Hours: Open daily 7:30am-9:30pm
Photo courtesy Josh and Joe Travels