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What to order can be just as important information as where to dine. My lists not only recommend where to eat, but my suggestions of what to eat while there. The restaurants in my culinary tour reflect everything from the best in high-end dining, to restaurants with picnic tables or a restaurant attached to a laundromat, a good sampling of the variety Key West has to offer. No list can encompass all the delights available in Key West, but one could do worse than to make these lists the starting point while discovering one's own personal favorites
A tip: when trying to live on a budget, you might choose to have some of my lunch choices for dinner instead of some of my pricier dinner selections.
Louie's Backyard is such a renown place that most people will feel the urge to dine there at least once. I would suggest lunch to take advantage of the ocean view. The famous Conch Fritters with hot pepper jelly and wasabi are among the best I have tried. Add the Catch of the day, which is a different presentation daily. Louie's also has one of the best mojitos on the island and a delicious Key Lime Pie.
The view is beautiful, the food tasty, the service friendly and attentive. What more can one ask? I am a devoted fan, and like to save it for my last day. Lingering there over a leisurely lunch is a pleasant, satisfying and memorable way to say good-bye to the island until the next trip brings us back "home".
It was my wife's birthday and we were invited to a party that evening so we made her celebratory meal a lunch at Latitudes new restaurant with a table on the sand among the many palm trees. The view is much improved at their new site and sunsets will now be viewable from your table. Given the wonderful view and the occasion, we wanted to linger and so I chose a bottle of Sancerre, one of my favorite wines, to accompany the delectable artisan cheese platter
We started with the Artisan Cheese Platter- imported and domestic cheeses paired with sweet & savory sides, warm baguette & sesame crackers 24
I then ordered the Sunset Key Shrimp--crabmeat stuffed, wrapped in maple barbecue glazed bacon, key lime mustard and passion fruit slaw 14
And my wife ordered Latitude's Seafood Salad -Seafood cocktail, jumbo lump crab, Maine lobster, tropical island dressing, fresh asparagus, toasted luau bread 18
It was huge and I had to help her finish it.
It won't take us a special event to return for this meal now. It is simply a wonderful way to spend an afternoon any time.
I normally eat a late lunch here, but order enough tapas that the meal also can also serve as my dinner, for unlike most of the fine dining restaurants in Key West, Santiago's offers the same menu all day long beginning at 11 am.
My recommendations for lunch:
the trio-traditional hummus, roasted red pepper hummus and black olive tapanade served with pita 10
the cheese plate (ask your server for the daily offerings) -- when we were there: bosima, a soft sheep cheese; roaring forties, a brie; and beaster, an aged gouda. The three cheeses were accompanied by caperberries, dried apricots and dried cranberries and water crackers 11
beef tenderloin - seared and topped with a bleu cheese butter / 13
Add a glass of their white sangria 5/glass 20/pitcher
Sure Half Shell is the place to go for 50 cent raw oysters during happy hour, but I can't resist making another trip there to have lunch. In fact, Half Shell is often my choice for that first stop upon arriving on the island. Once you have those oysters and shrimp, you know you are in Key West. I get the Oyster Sampler: 2 Oysters Rockefeller, 2 BBQ oysters and 2 Garlic Oysters (8.95) and the Raw Bar Sampler of 2 Raw Oysters, 2 Raw Middleneck Clams and 1/4 lb of Peel n Eat Shrimp (9.95)
Colombian Grace is an exciting new restaurant in an invigorated Bahama Village, the area that is becoming the hub of Key West's culinary world. It is a beautifully decorated restaurant in a beautifully painted building. They serve the best sangria I have ever had.
Bandeja paisa is a high calorie, high protein meal stemming from the agricultural community in the Antioquia region of Colombia. It is traditionally the midday meal for the farmers working the fields and has been named Colombia's national dish. I normally follow that tradition and eat lunch here, but the restaurant is only open for lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Bandeja paisa- red beans, white rice, chorizo, fired pork belly, shredded beef, sweet plantain, green plantain, one fried egg, one little white corn cake with cheese, arepa and avocado 22
My lovely wife made a couple of requests for this trip, one of which was to eat under the tree at Roof Top Cafe. Wish fulfilled! I was surprised to find that their famous Chesapeake Bay Eggs were no longer on the menu, but one can substitute their Awesome Crab Cake Sandwich with their famous shrimp & crab cake served with creole remoulade or another fine selection is the Sunset Salad --Candied pecans, gorgonzola cheese, mango, red peppers, balsamic vinaigrette I also added their Key Lime pie.
A great location, good service, good view. a lunch time winner.
I have always been a big fan of bagels and lox so when I saw the LeNorvegienne crepe on the menu, my choice became simple. I loved the balcony seating as well.
Le Norvegienne- Norwegian salmon, sour cream & carmelized onions served with a salad 12.80
I had originally intended this as my breakast stop, but the salad that accompanied it resulted in its serving as my lunch as well.
My wife loves BLT's and this year I suggested she try the one at Banana Cafe after a local couple told us about it. It is amazing. We counted the slices of bacon so we could be accurate. There were 22 slices on that sandwich. I got to crumble up a few onto my salad and make it even more wonderful. And we each ate several slices by themselves. There was no way you could eat that sandwich with all that bacon on it. You couldn't even tell where the bread was.Get it to go and you could have bacon for breakfast throughout your vacation. LOL
This trip we decided to make our final stop on our way to the airport a lunch at Salute, my first time dining there. I had the yellowtail snapper salad and I chose to mix all the other salad ingredients together as a very good mango salsa salad, but to save my yellowtail to eat alone and concentrate on each delicate bite. The salad was huge, so much so that I couldn't quite finish it, knowing I had to save some room for dessert when I remembered that since Richard Hatch now owned the restaurant, I could enjoy the same wonderful Key Lime Pie I loved at Blue Heaven here. The meringue was even higher than I remembered. It must have towered a good six inches. But it was just as delicious as I recalled and definitely one of my favorite Key West desserts. Good food on a beach. What's not to like?
My favorite way to spend an afternoon in Key West is listening to Michael McCloud or Raven while drinking a Dark and Stormy or a Schoonerita or a bucket of Kalik and if you want more than a liquid lunch, you needn't move from your seat, for they serve one of my favorite fish sandwiches: the blackened Key West Mahi Mahi Melt (15.50). It comes with some great fries as well. And this year I discovered their Fish Tacos (9.50) which also come with fries. Yummy!
Hogfish would rank higher on my list if it were easier to get to, but Hogfish Bar & Grill is on Stock Island, so if you don't have a car, will involve a cab ride at around $20 each way. We found a cheaper solution by using the city bus and we found that very entertaining actually, a bit like taking the conch train or trolley tours, just without receiving all that good info from the tour guides. It does let you see a good part of the city, however, and takes only around a half an hour each way. The important thing is that you go regardless of your mode of transportation.
I naturally felt obliged to order its namesake: the "World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich," smothered with onions & mushrooms on fresh-baked Cuban bread (14.95). It deserves its fame. The sandwich is huge and comes with a truckload of fries. Their baja fish tacos and peel n eat shrimp are other popular choices. Well worth a trip!
When I first heard the description of this sandwich and that it was topped with a sunny-side up egg, I said I am there. Their re-do of the former location of Salsa Loca is very modern and trendy. It reminds me of Martin's. I love it! Another winning factor to me is that their breakfast, lunch and dinner menus are all available at their 11 am opening.
Blackfin burger- bacon, swiss cheese and sunny-side up egg 13
The helpings are good size, so those of you with smaller appetites might prefer El Siboney for dinner, but it has lunch time prices, so that is when I eat here. My favorite choices are #1 Roast Pork (9.95) and #7 Siboney Steak (14.50). Both entrees are served with your choice of Yellow or White Rice with Black Beans, Sweet Plantain and Cuban Bread or French Fries, Salad and Cuban Bread. Add a glass of Sangria (2.95 a glass, 9.95 a half pitcher, 12.95 pitcher) and a cup of their very good conch chowder (2.95/ cup or 3.95/ bowl) Good, authentic Cuban food at reasonable prices.
This funky fish shack is renown for its fried grouper sandwich (12). Order it as a special and you will get a side of excellent "hand-pulled" fries with it free of charge. Add a side of some of the best conch fritters in town (4.25), and try the limeade. Then go across the street to Pepe's for some great Key Lime Pie.(6.25)
This year I made a new discovery here: their famous grilled hot dog all the way. (4.75) Warning: they are addictive. After having tried one, I couldn't get near the place without stopping in even if I had already eaten. So I got another the following two days and just told myself I was having a "snack."
Azur is one of my favorite restaurants in Key West whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. When I can't work it into my dinner plans on a trip, I can always substitute a lunch there and still enjoy my favorite salad of Warm Goat Cheese Boucherondin- baby arugula, with walnuts, shallots and rosemary infused honey (11.95) or have their Crab Cake BLT- lump sauteed crab cake on a ciabatta roll with applewood smoked bacon, beefsteak tomatoes, and salsa verde mayonnaise (14.95)
Note: they also normally offer a $6 dollar lunch menu during the summer months.