The Best Waterside Restaurants in Key West

Enjoy freshly caught seafood in one of these awesome waterside restaurants in Key West
Enjoy freshly caught seafood in one of these awesome waterside restaurants in Key West | © Rolf Adlercreutz / Alamy

Known for six-toed cats, Parrot Heads – fans of Jimmy Buffett – and laid-back vibes, Key West is closer to Cuba than mainland Florida. Sailing the Intracoastal Waterway is a great way to view this 4mi-long (6.4km) island. Waterside restaurants abound here – as do eye-popping sunsets. From local favorites – where dinner comes right off the boats – to upscale Floribbean spots off Sunset Pier, here are the best waterside restaurants in Key West. Let’s dig in.

Float around the area’s favorite foodie spots for the day ,or, take a tour of as many Key West culinary hot spots.

Half Shell Raw Bar

Once a shrimp-packing building, this Key West Bight Marina hotspot has served the freshest local seafood – see it unloaded off boats right outside – since 1972. With views of Historic Seaports and paper plates, a meal here is a bite of old Key West. Conch ceviche is the specialty but the peel-n-eat Key West pinks are a favorite, too. Grab seats at wooden picnic tables to catch the sunset, savor freshly-shucked oysters and watch pelicans gliding over the water.

Upscale dining with a view of yachts bobbing in the marina, fishermen unloading their catch and boats sailing out for sunset are what you can count on here. Although, the food certainly rivals the view here – start with the delicate carpaccio of beef and move onto the highlight, pan-seared grouper with lobster cream sauce. While the wine list is extensive, don’t miss the Belgian chocolate mousse for dessert.

Southernmost Beach Cafe

The blend of Caribbean and Asian flavors at this beachside, open-air restaurant can be rivaled only by balcony views of the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy a seafood omelet filled with today’s catch and a Rumchata iced coffee to start your day – or enjoy the house specialty, Drunken Scallops, with a local brewery glaze and lobster mashed potatoes, followed by homemade key lime pie with Oreo-cookie crust.

Salute! On The Beach

Like their sister restaurant, Blue Heaven, animals – not just chickens – are welcome here. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach but can join you in the restaurant. Based on Higgs Beach – between White Street Pier and Casa Marina – visitors can expect a laid-back dining experience with awe-inspiring ocean views. The Caribbean-Italian menu includes housemade pasta with mussels, white wine and garlic butter topped by grouper cakes smothered in shrimp and chipotle aioli. Save room for the homemade cookie ice cream sandwich and wash it all down with a refreshing mojito.

A&B Lobster House

Two lifelong friends – Alonzo Cothron and Berlin Felton – opened this Historic Seaport institution in 1947, changing the Key West waterfront dining scene forever. The upscale restaurant has wraparound balconies overlooking Key West Bight Marina, where guests can enjoy Caribbean lobster thermidor, strip steak au poivre with Gorgonzola potato gratin and many other delicacies. Finish the evening with a key lime martini and spectacular views of the sunset over the Gulf Coast.

Latitudes at Sunset Key

Set on Sunset Key, this fancy spot is only accessible by boat. You must book, but each reservation includes a complimentary ferry ride from Key West Harbord. Ask for an alfresco table so you can sink your toes in the sand while slurping a bowl of lobster bisque – followed by local delicacies like seared grouper with coconut cracked conch salad. The key lime pie makes a delicious finish, but the beignets are bite-size rounds of doughy perfection that might warrant a to-go order.

Hot Tin Roof Restaurant

Named for a Tennessee Williams play, this upscale spot delivers stunning sunset views over Mallory Square – as well as a delicious Pan-Latin menu. The teak woodwork, hand-painted murals and whimsical wire sculptures add an eclectic elegance. The menu – filled with dishes such as plantain-crusted mahi-mahi and seared grouper with coconut curry – showcases the abundant local fish. The wine list and craft cocktail menu are enviable and desserts such as key lime pie with cashew Graham Cracker crust will keep you coming back for more.

Louie’s Backyard

Opened in 1971 and renovated in 1983, Louie’s is on the National Register of Historic Places. The pink Victorian facade belies a gourmet playground of flavor from conch fritters spiced with hot pepper jelly to shrimp and grits made with Key West pinks, mushrooms and bacon. Produce is all grown for Louie’s at Island Farms – and the gingerbread crust on their key lime pie has just the right amount of spice.

Check out Key West’s top restaurants for the day.

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