Florida Keys is blessed with quirky restaurants and boutique shops that offer a glimpse into the culinary and cultural scene of Key West. From fish and tapas to farm-to-table and shellfish, here is our updated guide to restaurants that best embody the cultural heritage of Key West.
A local favorite, El Siboney has been described as the best Cuban restaurant in Key West. The word Siboney is the name of an indigenous tribe that inhabited Cuba circa 1492, and also the name of a small town where the Cuban revolution began. The family owned and operated restaurant is located just off the hustle of Duval street and offers friendly service alongside authentic cuisine. Try dishes such as albondigas (Cuban meatballs), dorado a la plancha (grilled Mahi) and the mango guava cheesecake.
Blue Heaven is Key West’s go-to spot for a satisfying meal, live music and eclectic art. With delicious seasonal catches, the menu stays true-to-form as the restaurant’s recipes are now local favorites. The Caribbean BBQ shrimp is doused with jerk seasonings and Red Stripe beer glaze and served alongside freshly baked corn bread muffins. Blue Heaven is known to draw inspiration from Mediterranean, Caribbean and contemporary American cuisine. The restaurant is encompassed by tropical palm trees and verdant floral plants, meanwhile the al fresco garden seating is where diners can enjoy weekend music from a little wooden stage, as chickens roam freely nearby.
The Conch Republic Seafood Company sits on a historical dock in The Key West Bight district, once the epicenter of sponge commerce; the restaurant alludes to its sponging history by incorporating some of the processing plant parts in its decor. Inside the restaurant features saltwater aquariums filled with native Florida invertebrates, which can be found just offshore. The menu serves fresh produce in signature dishes of conch fritters and fried calamari, which patrons can recreate at home as they publish some of their recipes on the website. Must-try menu items are the tempura-battered cracked conch, stuffed shrimp and the lobster tail.
Better Than Sex is Key West’s most daring dessert restaurant. Offering ridiculously titled and consistently award-winning dessert items and drinks, the 15-table restaurant gives guests an intimate ambiance in which to enjoy their sweets. Located just off Duval Street, near the Ernest Hemingway House, Better Than Sex serves popular menu items like Cookie Nookie Pie, Tongue Bath Truffle and the Peanut Butter Perversion, alongside cocktails with names such as Banana Hammock and The Money Shot.
Latitudes is revered as one of Key West’s fanciest restaurants to be enjoyed just after watching sun drop from Mallory Square. Guests are shuttled on a Westin Hotel boat to a tiny mangrove island ten minutes from the Key West docks. Once on the island of Sunset Key, guests sit at al fresco tables looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. Dining indoors is also an option. The Ernest Hemingway Room is filled with photos of the famous author and his days in Key West. If beach dining is preferred, guests can enjoy their dinner on candlelit tables lined by tiki torches. The menu by Chef Todd Holender offers fresh seafood adorned with tropical fruits.
Santiago’s Bodega is where guests can indulge in Spanish tapas and wine. Located in Old Town, the restaurant is an easy walk from The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Mel Fisher’s gallery and the hands-on Key West Aquarium. Opened by four Midwesterners sharing the same vision, Santiago’s Bodega has withstood two hurricanes. Offering everything from soups and salads to hot and cold tapas, Santiago’s Bodega has something for everyone. Menu favorites include bacon and basil wrapped mushrooms, shrimp and chorizo and dates with goat cheese and prosciutto.
Alonzo & Berlin’s Lobster House has been a cornerstone in the Key West dining scene since 1947 by offering a mesmerizing seaside atmosphere alongside their delectable entrees. The restaurant specializes in local seafood caught off the coast of Florida and seasonal catches from Maine. Resting in The Key West Bight district, A&B’s Lobster House has an outdoor balcony for guests who wish to marvel at the Key West sunset. Say yes to the broiled Florida lobster tail, served with coconut pecan rice and baby vegetables. For an after dinner drink, Berlin’s Martini & Cigar Bar next door offers guests cognacs, cigars and dessert wines.
2 Cents is a charming Key West gastro-pub serving a flavorful menu in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Tall chairs run the length of a wooden lacquered bar, while paintings and murals cover the walls. The menu at 2 Cents lists gourmet pub cuisine with items like clams, mussels and chorizo, truffle fries, bacon wrapped jalapeno peppers and Key West pink shrimp fried rice. Meanwhile drinks to try are the hibiscus jalapeno margarita and the Sazerac, which includes absinthe, high west rye, ridge distillery bitters and flamed orange.
Hot Tin Roof is located in the Ocean Key Resort & Spa, overlooking the Key West Harbor. The interior showcases bright, tropical colors while a mural from a late, local artist dresses the main dining room. The view from an outdoor deck of Hot Tin Roof attracts diners in search of the perfect sunset. Menu items like the caramelized grouper, the guava empanadas with pork, and the stuffed lobster make the menu gourmet and eclectic. Meanwhile, the cocktail list is extensive and a perk offered by the Ocean Key Resort & Spa is a Southernmost Mixology class, available for enthusiasts who wish to learn how to mix unique drinks.
Nine One Five offers an elegant dining experience in a renovated, Victorian house along Key West’s famed Duval Street. The white-washed house is like something out of a Mark Twain novel, and gives a birds-eye view of street activity, accompanied by light jazz music in the background. For menu starters, try the crispy duck confit, the braised pork tacos, the olive platter and the signature ‘tuna dome’, which features fresh crab, lemon-miso dressing and an ahi tuna–sashimi wrapping. For an entrée move along to the seafood soup, steak au poivre frites or the pan-roasted swordfish.