Happy Valentine’s Week! I love love and I’m making time to do more of what I love to do: share stories around food and travel. So here we are, back on the blog to discuss a place I love dearly: Key West. This little island is the southernmost place in the continental US. You can get there by flying into Miami and driving down US 1 or flying directly into Key West International Airport. Fact: the moment you get off the plane at EYW, stress immediately melts away and your shoulders relax. I’ve linked travel details and accommodation recommendations below, but let’s get to the food and fun.
When we arrive in Key West, we usually go straight to Date & Thyme for smoothies and to stock up on some healthy groceries. I imagine that this market is what the first Whole Foods Market looked like back in the 80s. They have speciality items and fresh produce, but their prepared food and drinks are worth the high price. Go for the Paleo Plate or Golden Dragon.
Salute is our favorite restaurant. It’s a funky, open-air spot right on the beach. On Sunday nights, they have live music. The menu is mainly Italian and seafood, and I tend to order the scallops salad every single time. It’s a great spot for watching the sunset (and a beach volleyball game). Their sister restaurant is Blue Heaven and they both serve the best key lime pie I’ve ever had. Blue Heaven is known for cats and chickens that roam free at your feet as you eat. It’s Key West, get used to it.
If you live love music, just book your flight now. We usually go to The Green Parrot for soundcheck, but you can just walk down Duvall Street and go wherever your ears take you. The best show I’ve ever seen was at the new Key West Amphitheater at Truman Waterfront with The Avett Brothers. The outdoor venue is the perfect size, the band was incredible and the crowd was filled with good people. Depending on the time of year, you can see the sunset from the stage, a nice treat for the artists.
Don’t miss the sunrises and sunsets. I go to White Street Pier each morning to watch the sun come up with fellow early birds who have become friends. The sunrise crew is there every morning with their dogs. On Thanksgiving, someone brought champagne and they toasted as the sun came up. I adore them and feel lucky they take me, a tourist, in every time. I also love watching the sunsets from the same spot, but occasionally I’ll check out the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square. It’s for people who love crowds and drama. You can have a more elevated sunset experience at Latitudes on Sunset Key, just a short boat ride across Mallory Square. Request to eat alfresco with the view of the sun setting over the Gulf of Mexico. Swoon.
All of this eating might inspire you to get moving! I like to run up White Street Pier through Atlantic Avenue then jump on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. I didn’t know that was the name of it until I just looked it up, but there are little pockets of nature with shade that you can run through. I also go to Shakti Yoga which has another great cafe inside with smoothies, juices and prepared foods. My favorite form of exercise in Key West is biking through town on a beach cruiser. You can bike to Eaton Street Market to either grab fish to bring home to cook for dinner or stay for their iconic lobster roll.
Key West is filled with history, so you should make time to check out Fort Zach, The Hemingway House and so much more. If you’re a big Hemingway fan, be sure to grab a drink at Sloppy Joe’s. Learn about everything on the Conch Train or the Old Town Trolley tours depart every 30 minutes! Or, just explore on Bicycle, Scooter or Jet Ski. If you want to get on the water, go fishing: Deep sea, Flats, Reef and Tarpon or sail, kayak or paddleboard.
I’ve included more recommendations below in list form. Let me know if you have any questions or additions! I’ll leave you with a quote I noticed at the Key West Airport the last time I was down there: “Contrary to popular belief, life is not a dress rehearsal.”
Petite, charming tapas bar pairs global small plates with house-specialty sangria in a warm room.
Schooner's Wharf Bar 202 William St (305) 292-3302
Longtime open-air hangout for seafood complemented by live music & dockside views. Great for drinks.
Eatery in a former gas station with organic veggie dishes & juices plus an attached organic grocery. Great for smoothies, breakfast or lunch.
Our favorite spot to grab fresh fish to grill, or grab Lobster rolls and enjoy outside on the picnic tables!
Revered, longtime eatery offering Caribbean-American cuisine, ocean views & a wine bar.
Fancy, small, intimate fine dining.
Traditional Cuban home cooking & housemade sangria in a casual, family-friendly setting.
Take-out cafe specializes in Cuban sandwiches & Caribbean fare in a quaint space with outdoor seats. Great lunch time spot with awesome steak sandwich.
Perfect spot on the water for seafood and drinks if you have a car and are down for a little drive!
Michaels 532 Margaret Street (305) 295-1300
Serving the finest cuts of beef and fresh local seafood. Particularly inventive pasta creations add depth to the impressive menu. Full bar, extensive wine list, the most decadent desert ever...the Chocolate Volcano. Reservations suggested.
Santiago’s Bodega 207 Petronia Street (305) 296-7691
This cozy eatery is all about sharing the abundance of flavors life offers. Choose from among over 30 delectable tapas-style dishes, soups and salads. Also offering a variety of beer, wine sangria, ports and sherries. Reservations suggested.
Sarabeth’s 530 Simonton Street (305) 293-8181
Fresh, updated classic American cooking, this James Beard winner serves fluffy omelets, pancakes from scratch, salads, sandwiches, meatloaf & grilled meats and fish. Indoor and Outdoor dining at this 1800's clapboard landmark in the heart of Old Town. Beer & Wine served.
Better than Sex 926 Simonton Street (305) 296-8102
Spoil your soul with the best things in life: Dessert, Wine & Romance. Better Than Sex is a full service dessert only restaurant and lounge unlike any other. Reservations suggested.
Caroline’s 310 Duval Street (305) 294-7511
Located right on Duval across from Fat Tuesdays, the bar is right out front, and there are stools hanging right over the sidewalk for excellent people watching! With a great American menu including sandwiches, salads and more - they’ll even deliver!
Latitudes Sunset Key (305) 292-5394
For a unique dining experience Latitudes offers an upscale, yet casual, setting with indoor and alfresco beachfront dining overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Reservations required.
Key West is the southernmost island in the Florida Keys, as well as the southernmost point in the continental United States, 159 miles southwest of Miami. Your drive there is along one of the most scenic roads in North America. The Overseas Highway or U.S. Highway 1 has 43 overseas bridges, including the historic 7-mile bridge-and a total of 113 miles of roadway that extends nearly 90 miles off the mainland. It ends at mile marker zero in the heart of Key West. The Florida Turnpike is the fastest route to the entrance of the Florida Keys. From all points north, head south on the Florida Turnpike to Exit 4–which is the Homestead/Key West extension. This will connect you to U.S. Highway 1 in Florida City. Depending on traffic, the trip from Florida City usually takes 2.5 to 3 hours. Once you're on U.S. 1, speed limits throughout the Florida Keys are strictly enforced and range from 35 mph to 55 mph. Please be especially careful through the Big Pine Key area, as this is a Key Deer Refuge. Speed limits are reduced along this stretch of road.
Note: The Florida Turnpike started phasing out toll plazas in 2011. Instead, tolls will be charged either via your license plate, or a Florida SunPass or E Pass device.
Several major airlines schedule regular service to both Key West International Airport and Marathon Airport. These include Delta, United, Silver Airways and American Airlines. Many flights are routed through Miami International Airport, although some smaller airlines, such as Cape Air and Air Key West offer private charters, and scheduled direct flights from many cities in Florida and the Bahamas. International flights must connect to one of these airlines in Miami.
Key West Express - Ferry service to Key West from either Ft. Myers or Marco Island takes approximately 3 to 3.5 hours. Full Galley and bar services are available including frozen drinks, comfortable indoor and outdoor seating, and a friendly crew with years of experience. Complete Coast Guard Certification is maintained