This is by no means anything close to an exhaustive review of Key West cuisine. This is simply our experience in June 2018.
My wife Sandra and I are foodies from way back. We met in the restaurant industry as managers in the 90's and we own and operate Main Street Café in Kokomo IN.
Every meal with us is like a real time restaurant review from aesthetics, branding, wait staff, presentation etc. Don't worry--we aren't snobby--we have fun with it. Here's where we stopped in Key West:
Islamorada Fish Co.If you're driving through the Keys vs flying into Key West, do yourself a favor and hit up Islamorada Fish Co to get your seafood juices flowing. It's right on the water, the view and the food are top-notch. And one of the first things you'll notice at more successful restaurants in the Keys is that the live entertainment (usually a guy with a guitar and a mic) are better than you're expecting.
Like every place we went to: best to hit it at it's off-peak hours to avoid waiting.
Salute! (sa-loo-TAY)This is on the opposite side of Key West from Mallory Square so you won't watch the sun set, but the view is still amazing. (And by the way, Key West is small--going from one side to the other is no big deal.)
Below is my Seared Ahi Tuna Salad, which was wonderful. (Funny how Fl oranges make a salad better and not just a garnish.) Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meal.
By the way, we ordered Key Lime Pie at every evening meal and kept a scorecard. This was fine, but not in our top two--still worth ordering though ;-)
Jimmy Buffet's MargaritavilleThis was my biggest surprise because I'm usually not a "chain" guy on vacation, but my brother-in-law, Mitch, is a huge Buffet fan, so it was one of our first stops. Let me just say, we LOVED IT!
It did not feel like a chain at all from décor, wait staff and food. Everything was delightful from cocktail to Key Lime Pie--probably the best pie of the trip! (Close runner-up: Key Lime Pie Bakery close to Mallory Square.)
Blue HeavenTheir breakfast specialty is their Lobster Benedict...amazing! Like so many restaurants in Key West, the dining room is virtually a back yard with tarps or sails overhead, or trees, to create a nice shaded paradise.
The White TarponThanks to a tip from a local we met, this is a great spot to take a break from the usual high dinner prices and enjoy their happy hour specials. From 4-7 their beers are discounted and they have great low-priced, yet great $5 appetizers, which we made a meal of ;-) Their Key Lime Martini (below) was yummy.
This is right on the water not far from Mallory Square, the place where everyone converges to watch the sunset.
TIP: if you park in the lot right next to it--if you're out in under 2 hours, they'll validate and give your parking fee back!
(Parking is a thing in Key West: virtually no street parking. You have to find these little parking lots and pay--they're automated. We definitely spent some money on parking that week!
Eaton Street Seafood MarketThis is one of the few places that actually has a few parking spaces in front of it. It's both a fish market and restaurant, so if you want to pick up some seafood and grill yourself, this is the place.
They're known for Stone Crab and Lobster Roll. The dipping sauce for the crab was amazing as was the Stone Crab. Sandra and I were surprised that we both thought the Lobster Roll was the winner, though.
Hogfish Bar and GrillAnother tip from a local: as you drive in to this (it's technically on Stock Island, just next door to Key West) you think it looks a bit sketchy, but relax--this place is amazing! We ate more seafood here than anywhere--we wolfed it down so fast, no pics! It's right on the water and is cozy and very "Key Westy" ;-) So good!
Sloppy Joe'sSo you kinda have to go here, right? The place Hemingway made famous (or better yet, we made famous in his absence).
The fish tacos were legit and some good friends of ours swear by the Greek Salad. Honestly, we didn't stay long. Even in the middle of the afternoon it was packed and the drinks seemed "modest." But you have to stop in Sloppy Joe's, right? It's cool, historic and has good live music.
Captain Tony'sSo this is the oldest bar in Key West and it's late owner, Tony Terraciano is a Key West legend. We went because Mitch and I were not going to go to Key West without "Going down to Captain Tony's to get out of the heat..." (lyric: Last Mango in Paradise -J Buffet)
Croissants DeFranceI ordered best! Yes, that's my plate: smoked salmon, scrambled eggs on a croissant. Their potatoes are amazing. Yes, you read that right. I've never raved about a breakfast potato before--they're amazing. This place has an enchanting setting. They also have a take-out bakery next door.
AmigosThis is the view from Amigos. Directly across the street (not pictured) is Captain Tony's. They have some amazing Cuban Coffee at a ridiculous price.
Onlywood Pizzeria TrotteriaOne night we just wanted to stay in and eat pizza. So Sandra "yelped" us to this place to pick it up. Amazing wood fired pizza!
I would say this place is known more for their sit down experience and it looked like an amazing place to dine. It's a bit hard to find: you have to walk down a sidewalk mid-block (too narrow to be an alley) to get to it. And man, do I have respect for the guys working the wood-fired oven with no air-conditioning!
(Few places are air-conditioned in Key West. Dress light and go with the flow.)