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Destinations  •  August 30, 2022

The 18 Best Key West Restaurants To Eat Your Way Through the Conch Republic

Peter Lane Taylor
Peter Lane Taylor

After spending two decades on five continents, Peter has a natural knack for travel writing. He's a regular contributor to Forbes and formerly worked as a contract expedition writer, photographer, and filmmaker for National Geographic Adventure. Currently, Peter is in development on the real estate television drama series "Everglades" and writing the exclusive memoir on Hollywood's top stuntman.

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Key West has a population under 30,000 and is only 4.2 square miles. But restaurant owners have managed to pack the island with restaurants ranging from casual backyard patios to upscale dining experiences.

Fresh seafood and delectable key lime pie are some of the iconic staples of many Key West restaurants. But you’ll get to enjoy many other fresh foods as well, and we’ll introduce you to 18 must-visit options in Key West, whether you’re a tourist or a lucky local.

1. Blue Heaven

Blue Heaven makes among the first mentions of most online forums about the best restaurants in Key West, and for a good reason. It offers a tropical, al fresco dining atmosphere, with cats and chickens roaming the property. You’ll find Blue Heaven in Bahama Village and can enjoy a range of Caribbean and American cuisine. 

Some favorite dishes at Blue Heaven include Jamaican jerk chicken, fresh fish, scallops provencal, and blueberry pancakes. You’ll be glad Blue Heaven serves breakfast until 2:30 pm when you see the line that’s almost always present. The good news is that they allow dinner reservations.

2. Bagatelle

Bagatelle sits at the northern end of Key West’s legendary Duval Street in an 1800s building close to Mallory Square and is one of the classiest restaurants in town. Brunch is one of the biggest draws here, and their 9:00 am to 4:00 pm service every day makes them generous with the word “brunch.”

You can also enjoy dinner or one of Bagatelle’s two happy hours—the breakfast hangover and afternoon happy hour. If you’re unsure what to order from their wide-ranging American and Caribbean menu, start with their famous lobster mac and cheese made with fresh Caribbean spiny lobster.

3. Latitudes

If fine dining and ocean views are up your alley, make a bee-line to Latitudes. The restaurant sits within the Sunset Key Cottages complex, a 5-minute ferry ride from mainland Key West. They include the ferry ride for restaurant goers. Latitudes uses locally sourced ingredients and crafts its menu around food that’s in season.

Because of its popularity and the ferry ride, reservations are a must at Latitudes. We also recommend dressing the part—this isn’t the kind of restaurant to go to straight after sunbathing at the beach. Latitudes is famous for its seared sea scallops and unique selection of specialty cocktails.

4. Cuban Coffee Queen

It’s hard not to fall in love with Cuban Coffee Queen in you need a pick-me-up when exploring the Florida Keys. They’ve become so popular that they opened three locations across Key West, one on Front street and one near Mallory square. The day starts early at the no-frills Cuban Coffee Queen shop, with people lining up before opening to snag a cup of Joe.

In addition to their coffee, you can also order sandwiches, smoothies, and a Cuban breakfast (the best rice and beans of your life, anyone?). The bottom line is that the Cuban Coffee Queen is a great spot to experience a Key West breakfast without breaking the bank.

5. First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery

You’ll get a trip through aviation history eating at First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery, given that it’s the original home of Pan American World Airways. Nowadays, First Flight Island offers everything from garden canopy to tree top dining in the historic building where the first tickets sold out in 1927.

Don’t visit First Flight Island without starting at the bar, which incorporates an original aluminum airplane wing as its bar table. The food itself is delicious and classic American comfort food, and you’ll also find some twists on American favorites, such as fried ravioli. Calories don’t count when you’re eating out, right?

6. Santiago’s Bodega

Stepping inside Santiago’s Bodega will make you feel like you traveled from Key West to the heart of Spain. They’re famous for their wide selection of shareable tapas. In classic tapas style, the portions are small plates since the idea is to try lots of dishes.

Santiago’s Bodega offers a tapas-style brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, where you can fill up your plates with some of their most popular dishes. Griddle cakes, sweet broccolini, and peel-and-eat shrimp are some of the many items you’ll find on their brunch menu.

7. Cafe Marquesa Key West

Cafe Marquesa proudly boasts that it’s one of the highest-rated restaurants in Key West, and we have to agree. There are only 50 seats in this restaurant’s dining room, so you might have to wait in line. But once you snag a spot, you’ll enjoy a range of fresh seafood, meat, and salad options. You can top it all off with some homemade bread and dessert.

Since Cafe Marequea uses seasonal food, its menu is constantly changing. However, you can head to their cozy bar, where you can be sure to find your favorite drinks they make on the sport.

8. Kermit’s Cafe

Kermit’s Cafe sits in the historic seaport area, and they’re a great choice if you’re looking for breakfast or a light lunch. If you’re trying to keep it healthy, we recommend the Kermit Salad, complete with hearts of palm. They also serve a long list of sandwiches and wraps.

Although you can purchase food at Kermit’s Cafe, they’re most famous for their key lime pie. With so much competition in the key lime space in Key West, Kermit’s stands out because they sell frozen key lime pie on a stick. Of course, you can also order a traditional piece of key lime pie and enjoy it inside their key lime-colored cottage.

9. Hot Tin Roof

Hot Tin Roof is one of the most unique Key West restaurants because their entrees incorporate conch-fusion, “Floribbean” flair—a mix of Floridian and Caribbean cuisine. It’s best to make a reservation at Hot Tin Roof, although you might get lucky and snag a seat without one, watching the sunset over the harbor as you dine on Chef Scott Maurer’s latest dish concoctions.

If you’re at Hot Tin Roof for breakfast, we recommend their Noble Benedict. It’s a twist on the traditional egg benedict, complete with a crab cake and key lime hollandaise sauce.

10. Amigos Tortilla Bar

There’s no shortage of Cuban influences, Cuban food, and Cuban sandwiches in Key West. But if you’re craving some Mexican cuisine, there’s no better place to visit than Amigos Tortilla Bar. You can order your favorite Mexican dishes like tacos, quesadillas, guacamole, and more.

Amigos Tortilla Bar makes all of their corn tortillas by hand, and they use only the freshest ingredients and locally-caught seafood. What makes Amigos Tortilla Bar stand out from any other Mexican restaurant you’ve likely been to is that they make square tacos. The purpose? So more ingredients go into your mouth instead of on your plate.

11. La Grignote

La Grignote is a French-style eatery in Key West that’s happily off-the-beaten tourist path while still claiming historic Duval Street as its home. They’re open for breakfast and lunch, and offer seating on a first come, first served basis.

On the menu are classic French dishes like granola with fruit or French toast. And, of course, you can get your fill of French croissants. But if you want to spice things up, try their lobster benedict or quiche Lorraine You can also stop at La Grignote for dessert, where their key lime pie gives any of the French pastries a run for their money. 

12. Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant

Key West is called the “Conch Republic” for a reason: on almost every street downtown souvenir shops and vendors have conch shells for sale most of which come from local restaurants harvesting them for an array of classic Key West-style dishes. What makes the Conch Republic unique is that this restaurant sits in a former fish house and ice plant for shipping fresh seafood around the country.

Befitting its roots, the Conch Republic has a local, laid-back vibe and is one of the best restaurants in Key West for no-frills, fresh seafood. But we’d recommend sticking with what they’re known for—conch, so start with the conch fritters or cracked conch. 

13. Bo’s Fish Wagon

Calling all seafood and food truck lovers! Bo’s Fish Wagon offers an outstanding selection of seafood dished up with local flair that you can grab in a hurry whether you’re biking to the beach or bar hopping late at night. Alternatively, sit down for a spell at this open-air eatery and bask in its funky Key West history including an

eclectic array of old license plates and stickers on the walls.
It’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, but Bo’s is most famous for its fried grouper sandwich which is Conch Republic classic especially with cole slaw on the side. The fried shrimp and fried soft shell crabs are legendary as well, and Bo’s also doesn’t display calorie counts on its menu so you can leave your guilt at the hotel (or home).

14. Salute! On the Beach

Salute! On the Beach is  the only actual “beach-front” restaurant in Key West, sitting directly on the sand at Higgs Beach near the southern end of Duval Street. And it’s worth every step or bike pedal it takes to get there.  It’s an excellent place to run up to for a drink, smoothie, or lunch between laying out in the sun or floating in Key West’s aquamarine waters.  

You can expect al fresco Italian fare from Salute! with some Caribbean flair along with a healthy mix of both Key West locals and visitors. Salute! is also run by the same management team as Blue Heaven, so whether you’re craving a salad, seafood, or fresh bread, this place will have your tastebuds covered.

15. A&B Lobster House

A&B Lobster House is a Key West icon and famous for its ocean view balconies. They’ve been in business for over 70 years and have a long list of people they’ve had to privilege to serve, including dozens of well-known captains and celebrities (think Jimmy Buffett).

It’s hard to say that you’ve actually “experienced” A&B without trying one of their legendary lobster dishes. Their  Florida Lobster Thermidor is one of the best in the U.S. But their cooks can also fire up a perfect filet mignon if you’re in the mood for meat. Dining at A&B is an extra memorable experience, given that you’ll get to watch the sunset. 

16. Banana Cafe

Situated in a quieter area of Key West’s old town, Banana Cafe is a French Bistro that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a colorful décor and a laid-back café-style with indoor and outdoor seating. 

Whether you’re in the mood for French classics like crepes or a simple bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, you’ll leave Banana Cafe stuffed and satisfied. Vegetarians will appreciate that Banana Cafe also has several choices on its menu—something that can be harder to come by in a seafood-centered place like Key West.

17. Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar

If you’re craving good old fashioned American comfort food, Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar is a can’t miss Key West culinary destination especially if you’re driving. Located just off island, hat Matt’s is a distinctly local joint that’s also unique because you can bring them a fish you’ve caught that day, and they’ll prepare it for you. 

Brunch is a big deal in Key West, and Matt’s is one of the strongest contenders. They offer a bottomless Sunday brunch from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm that includes all-you-can-drink mimosas and Bloody Mary’s. But if you aren’t in town on a Sunday, you can always head to their bar, where they have daily happy hours from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

18. Eaton Street Seafood Market

Have you ever eaten in a vintage gas station? After dining at the Eaton Street Seafood Market, you’ll officially be able to say that you have. The locals living in Key West frequent this market to buy fresh seafood and clams to make at home.

However, if you’re staying in Key West as a tourist, you can pick out seafood from the market, and they’ll cook it on the spot for you. Some excellent choices at Eaton Street Seafood include the shrimp salad sandwich and fried conch strip basket.

Conclusion

Whether you’re hunting for the best conch dish or key lime pie, the Key West restaurants we covered here have some of the best food that the island offers. Between the delicious food and laid-back island life, don’t be surprised if you fall in love with Key West so much that you end up moving there and calling yourself a proud local.

Peter Lane Taylor
Peter Lane Taylor

After spending two decades on five continents, Peter has a natural knack for travel writing. He's a regular contributor to Forbes and formerly worked as a contract expedition writer, photographer, and filmmaker for National Geographic Adventure. Currently, Peter is in development on the real estate television drama series "Everglades" and writing the exclusive memoir on Hollywood's top stuntman.

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