The Florida Keys is just a short, scenic drive from Miami, yet a world away. This string of islands — each distinct in its unique atmosphere and offerings — provides the perfect respite from city life. Pick a Key and find the key to paradise, where shorts and flip flops are the required attire and unwinding, recharging and relaxing are a way of life. The drive to the Keys affords 360 degree views of the ocean and multiple dining options to fit every budget and palate.Read More
The Florida Keys’ 14 Essential Restaurants
Eat like an islander
1. The Fish House
The first stop on any Keys road trip, the Fish House is close enough to the mainland that South Florida locals can get the Keys experience without going too far. The family friendly atmosphere embraces the casual “Keys lifestyle,” offering a bevy of seafood like yellowtail snapper, mahi mahi, grouper, Florida lobster, stone crabs, and the conch salad, which is a favorite on-the-go choice.
2. M.E.A.T. Eatery and Taproom
Counter service restaurant, M.E.A.T. Eatery And Taproom, is the brainchild of restaurateurs chef George Patti and sommelier Tom Smith. On the menu expect dishes like the Inside Out Juicy Lucy burger, smoked pulled pork, lobster rolls, and wings and pork rinds that were featured on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives, plus sodas, floats and desserts.
3. Ciao Hound
When one thinks of dining in the Keys Italian food isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but with the addition of Ciao Hound at Postcard Inn, that is quickly changing. Italian favorites like lobster ravioli, calamari, and its popular flatbread pizzas fill the menu, all washed down with Italian style cocktails like negronis and peach bellinis.
4. Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar
This rustic outdoor restaurant and bar, hosts a daily sunset party complete with live music (from 6 to 10 p.m.), casual fare and views of the sunset over the ocean. Dine on bites like cracked conch, tuna nachos, and stone crab chowder, while the sun sinks below the horizon. And word to the wise, this perpetually busy sport offers seating on a first-come, first-served basis, so get there early to snag a table.
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While casual, "toes in the sand," restaurants abound in the Keys, Pierre's sets the bar high for fine dining in the area. Popular dishes include the rack of lamb, seared scallops, octopus tiradito, along with a must-try key lime tart. Downstairs, Pierre's boasts a sexy lounge, the Green Flash Lounge, perfect for a nightcap and for late night dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.
6. Chef Michael's
Home of the hogfish — it's even on the sign — Chef Michael's serves the largest variety of fish in Islamorada. This charming restaurant is packed from opening to closing daily but diners who plan ahead will be rewarded with Chef Michael’s creatively prepared Florida Keys cuisine. The hogfish tends to sell out quickly, but steaks are another popular choice along with its key lime pie.
7. Lazy Days Restaurant
Situated right on the sand, Lazy Days invites guests to stay for a while and dine on dishes like shrimp panko-crusted and drenched in key lime butter and garlic sauce alongside burgers, pastas, alligator bites, cracked conch and other island favorites. The restaurant is located near Robbie's, where guests can feed giant tarpon and near Bud and Mary's Marina, ground zero for sport-fishing charters, making it a solid spot to dine after nearby adventures.
8. Angler & Ale
Housed inside the expansive Hawks Cay Resort, Angler & Ale offers panoramic water views along with a variety of dishes like broiled Florida lobster, grouper cheeks, whole roasted snapper and a “Hook N Cook” option, allowing guests to bring in their catch and have a chef prepare it. Angler & Ale also has an extensive beer selection with Angler’s own Ale brew and enough cocktail options to keep guests in the Keys state of mind, seven days a week.
9. Keys Fisheries
This casual island favorite is the front house for one of the coast’s largest fish exporters. Therefore, the food is literally "fresh off the boat." Locals swarm here for no-frílls seafood creations, like $2 stone crabs during season along with an order of its much talked about Lobster Reuben.
10. Barracuda Grill
This cozy, family friendly restaurant filled with art and decor from local artists is a favorite among locals and Keys regulars. For more than a decade the restaurant has been a reliable destination for seafood like shrimp scampi, sweet and spicy snapper, and scallops large enough to share, plus entrees like seared duck and cooked-just-right racks of lamb. Unlike most Keys restaurants, reservations are strongly encouraged but take out options are also available.
11. Milagro Restaurant and Bar
Big Pine Key doesn’t have a huge assortment of notable eateries, but that is changing with the addition of Milagro Restaurant and Bar. Its global menu offers fare like wood-fired octopus with bacon polenta, rosemary roasted prime rib, and even options like pizza and tacos, meaning no matter the craving it’ll be easily satisfied at Milagro.
12. Square Grouper Bar and Grill
As addictive as the "square" after which it's humorously named, Square Grouper is located 22 miles north of Key West on Cudjoe Key. A destination unto itself, its menu offers a large selection of small plates like fried conch and buffalo shrimp, blue plate specials, sliders, salads, and desserts like its “magical” brownie and fondue.
13. The Thirsty Mermaid
An oyster-lovers paradise, the Thirsty Mermaid features a large selection of oysters from the east and west coasts, which rotate daily. Plus the menu includes interesting twists like caviar service, a lobster BLT, skirt steak, plus a thorough selection of wines and craft beers.
14. Blue Heaven
To dine at Blue Heaven is to experience a meal in the backyard of a quirky Keys native. Eclectic accents are scattered throughout this century-old historic home with its bright blue shutters, shady trees, colorful umbrellas and a spattering of roosters that wander the property freely. Breakfast is a popular choice and draws a large crowd waiting to dine on dishes like lobster Benedict, pancakes topped with bananas and pineapples, and its lobster and grits.
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