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There’s a reason why Key West, Florida, is also sometimes known as The Conch Republic. This tiny island hosts a plethora of restaurants, cafes and markets where conch is procured. From old Hemingway haunts to contemporary hot spots, here are ten places to find top-notch conch.
Drawing from its location in a historical dockyard of Key West, this sponge warehouse-turned-restaurant not only serves the freshest catch of the day, but also aims to educate its culinary patrons through a Reef Relief initiative. The Conch Republic Seafood Company was constructed with salvaged materials from the old warehouse that have been integrated into the restaurants new decor. While dining, guests can marvel at the restaurant’s two extra large saltwater aquariums displaying marine invertebrates indigenous to the Florida Keys. The goal of Conch Republic Seafood Company is to be an environmentally concerned enterprise that not only delights the taste buds, but educates as well. Try the cracked conch, which consists of tempura battered queen conch lightly flash fried and served with orange horseradish marmalade.
Owner Buddy Owen is a local legend in Key West, having served fish and conch out of a little wagon on the infamous Duval Street for more than 25 years. Today, BO’s Fish Wagon is a nationally acclaimed restaurant. Don’t worry about entering the premise barefoot because BO’s Fish Wagon is not fussy. The open-aired restaurant serves the freshest seafood and also entertains guests with live music on Friday nights. The spot is famous for their cracked conch sandwich, which consists of strips of fried conch doused with key lime mayo stuffed between fresh Cuban bread.
Recently visited by Andrew Zimmern during the filming of his Bizarre Foods Travel Channel TV show, Half Shell Raw Bar, offers an impressive array of fresh seafood, raw oysters and conch dishes. While guests dine they can also watch boats unload their daily seafood catch into the adjoining Half Shell Market, which supplies the restaurant, as well as sister restaurants owned by Pat Croce. Offering casual dining by the waterfront, guests are seated picnic style in long rectangular wooden tables lined with US license plates. This gregarious atmosphere offers must-have conch menu items such as conch salad and conch chowder.
As a fresh seafood market that offers a lunch menu, Eaton Street Seafood Market is known to have a line out the door. Offering very limited seating, this market is not exactly a sit-down restaurant, but more of a to-go style meal. Located in a white and pink Deco building a few blocks away from the bustle of Duval Street, the Eaton Street Seafood Market receives rave reviews from all who enter the premises. Fresh seafood can be purchased to take home or prepared on-site. The lunch menu offers both conch ceviche and conch chowder.