10 Unique Restaurants in The Florida Keys

10 Unique Restaurants in The Florida Keys

The Keys are all about taking it easy, and these eateries will help you put the brakes on

Blue Heaven features art, tropical trees, and roaming chickens and cats.

The Florida Keys offer miles of tropical paradise stretching from Key Largo to Key West. The Daily Meal rounded up some of the most interesting and unique places to eat, drink and soak up the amazing views, weather and lifestyle of the Florida Keys.

10 Unique Restaurants in The Florida Keys (Slideshow)

Planning a vacation is serious business, as the joy of looking forward to the trip and the memories of a successful holiday can sustain you for months. The Florida Keys are a popular destination; not just for tourists but also in pop culture, as it’s been memorialized by music and movies alike. Adding to this unique area’s mystique, excitement, and romance is its early history of being a haven for smugglers, pirates and other fringe members of society. Toss in a perfect year-round climate and you can see why locals fiercely love these islands and why so many people make the pilgrimage to experience paradise for a few days. To know the Florida Keys is for many to also know the frustration of not being able to make a permanent move there.

Part of what the locals call the Conch Republic, the lifestyle in the Keys revolves around taking it easy. The best way to put the brakes on life is to immerse yourself with the indigenous cuisine, as it will force you to take your time.

There’s no way to rush through a perfectly roasted cup of Cuban coffee and not a single valid reason to not meticulously savor a plate of oysters on the half shell. The culinary influences of the Florida Keys takes cues from its tropical climate, along with being the gateway to the Caribbean Islands. Fresh seafood, tropical fruit and citrus-based desserts are ubiquitous along the Florida Keys, but a number of chefs are putting their own touch on these ingredients; like the Asian influence at Kaiyo Grill and wildly innovative and playful flavors of Glazed Donuts.

We found 10 great places for you to enjoy traditional Florida Keys cuisine (like conch fritters and hogfish sandwiches) while taking in the unparalleled ambiance of this island paradise. Take a look at our slideshow and be prepared to have beach-filled daydreams turn into serious vacation planning.

The beach town of Marco Island is all manicured and modern, but here are four adventures into the wild and authentic Florida that are within a quick drive. You can wade across a lagoon to a wild beach or have lunch in a funky fishing town or stroll on a boardwalk into a beautiful old growth cypress swamp.

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About the Author

Before putting down roots in the Florida Keys, native Rhode Islander Pamela Childs, grew up in a home where the family kitchen table always held center stage. She credits her passion for all kinds of food to the culinary talents of her mom, who instilled in her a sense of love for the new, the tasty and the interesting. Now, after various careers in advertising, retail, hospitality and publishing that took her from Boston to Cape Cod to Key West, Pamela returns to the kitchen table and her love of a good meal with this fun compilation of her favorite Keys recipes and foodie hangouts. Follow her at DestinationFloridaKeys.com.

Award-winning designer, Marsha Michaels has worked for various ad agencies on the Eastern seaboard before striking out on her own. She is currently the Senior Art Director and Brand Manager for Destination Florida Visitors Guides.

A consummate chameleon and celebrated sculptor, Karen Davis is now the co-founder and publisher of Destination Florida, Florida's #1 Visitors Guide. --This text refers to the paperback edition.

11 Unique Florida Restaurants You Simply Can’t Miss

Sure, Florida has some of the most touristy restaurants you will find in the U.S., but it also has a handful of unique one-of-a-kind spots that will truly give you a dining experience like no other. With signature dishes, long and colorful histories, and unique atmospheres these restaurants provide a combination of qualities that you will only find in Florida. Visit one of these off-the-beaten-track restaurants and try something new.


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Murder Mystery Dinner Train, Fort Myers

Ride an actual moving train as you enjoy a 5-course meal while a live-action clue game keeps you entertained at one of the most engaging and lively dining experiences in Florida.

The Bubble Room, Captiva

This unique restaurant in Captiva has the most over the top decor in Florida, with 3 floors of colorful and bright decorations such as antiques, Christmas decorations, and moving trains.

Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill, De Leon Springs State Park

Located in De Leon Springs State Park, The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill puts the fun in breakfast. It features griddles on every table so you can flip your own flapjacks and throw in delicious sides like chocolate chips or blueberries.

Where to Eat in the Florida Keys

COVID-19 has redefined much of how we do things and travel is no exception. Road trips have become the preferred mode of travel and South Floridians are fortunate to have one of the most scenic drives in the country when heading to the beloved and quirky Southernmost city of Key West. The 113 mile trip on the famed Overseas Highway offers a restorative balance of scenery and a sense of freedom after months of feeling cooped up. Along the way there are plenty of tasty pitstops to consider. Here are some not to be missed.

Editor’s Note:Most Florida restaurants have resumed indoor and outdoor dining services. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for onsite dining, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the Florida Health Department’s website. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

Three Florida Keys restaurants that are hard to find but worth it

The drive down the Overseas Highway is full of pleasures &ndashspectacular views from bridges and lots of funky Florida establishments. It&rsquos easy to take a drive that could be done in four hours and make it into a two or three day adventure

Three of my favorite stops in the Keys aren&rsquot on the Overseas Highway and are a little hard to find. They&rsquore off the highway in neighborhoods that take you through a part of the Keys many folks miss.

Your best bet for doing the Keys right is to start with a print out of the Florida Rambler mile marker guide, because it will point out lots of opportunities to stop and have a little fun. (I recommend you avoid fixating on Key West &ndash if you rush, you miss lots of what makes the Florida Keys unique.)

Then, be sure to get off the highway along the way and discover one of these great spots to dine, which range from the famous to the obscure.

An out-of-the-way tiki bar: The Chiki Tiki at Burdines Waterfront

At Mile Marker 48, turn off to find the Chiki Tiki Bar and Grille at Burdines Waterfront, one of the best casual restaurants and tiki bars in the Keys. To find it, you turn east on 15th Street in Marathon, wind past an old trailer park and stacks of lobster traps, and arrive in a large working marina in a protected harbor. The Chiki Tiki is up a flight of stairs, giving you an excellent vantage point and a breeze.

Why we like the Chiki Tiki Bar and Grille (which folks in the area just call Burdines): Many visitors to the Keys complain about high prices on food, but this place has reasonable prices and very good food. It&rsquos the sort of unpretentious, untouristy place residents frequent. We recommend the fresh dolphin, the burgers and especially the fries.

Burdines tiki bar is one of the more obscure ones we list on our story on best tiki bars in the Florida Keys.

Finding it: 1200 Oceanview Ave, End of 15th Street, Marathon.

No Name Pub on Big Pines Key has as its motto &ldquoA Nice Place If You Can Find It,&rdquo

  • At Mile Marker 30.2, turn off for the No Name Pub. Take a right turn at the Big Pine Key traffic light, the gateway to Big Pine Key and the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge. This area is the only place in the world where you&rsquoll find the endangered Key deer, and there&rsquos a good chance to spot the tiny deer as you wind your way through a residential neighborhood to the No Name Pub.

The No Name Pub likes to call itself &ldquoA Nice Place If You Can Find It,&rdquo but it isn&rsquot that hard to find. For starters, they have signs to direct you, and in this era of smart phones and GPS, few get lost. No Name likes to tout its pizza and burgers, but the real star here is the history and the ambiance. From a general store to a brothel to a dive bar where drug-runners stapled money to the ceiling in the wild west Keys of the &lsquo80s, the No Name is full of stories.

Here&rsquos more about the No Name Pub, including the story of its unusual décor.

Why we like it: We love it for its money.

Finding it: 30813 Watson Blvd., Big Pine Key. Follow the signs and/or your GPS.

Hogfish Bar & Grill in Key West is a little hard to find on Stock Island.

At Mile Marker 5.2, turn off for the Hogfish Bar and Grill. The Hogfish is located one island east of Key West &ndash Stock Island, so named because in the old days, herds of livestock grazed here. Today, half the island is the Key West Golf Course and half is full of marinas and trailer parks.

With a waterfront setting, a big chickee hut and open-air dining, Hogfish Bar and Grill is casual and unpretentious a t-shirt and flip-flops place with seating at long picnic tables. But the fresh seafood is so good it has made various lists of best seafood spots in Florida.

Why we like it: The World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich ($14.95) is made with fresh hogfish, mushrooms and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread. And the fresh shrimp is amazing.

Finding it: 6810 Front St, Stock Island .

Resources for your exploration of the Florida Keys:

From the Editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm rates and details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

If you find out-of-date or inaccurate information, we&rsquod love to hear about it so we can update the article. Use the comments section below.

Bourbon chocolate pecan pie | Kentucky

Pecan pies are very popular in the south, but leave it to Kentucky – a state known for its bourbon – to also add bourbon to this classic pie. Chocolate and pecans are a perfect pair, but when bourbon is brought into the mix, its sweet caramel and barrel-aged flavor really brings out the nuttiness of the pie.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images / AnnapolisStudios

4. Gator Tail

You can often get a feel for local cuisine by trying some of the local game or ordering a catch of the day whether it’s from the ocean or a swamp. Yes, gator is an actual dish in some Florida restaurants, and the game is in abundance here with over 1 million alligators in the state! The tail is deep-fried and served as an appetizer or as an entree.

Wondering what gator tail tastes like? It’s different for everyone, but for me, it’s like a half-chicken, half-fish hybrid, which makes sense if you lean towards the theory that early reptilian dinosaurs were covered in feathers.

Visitors can dine on this reptilian delicacy at Florida Cracker Café on St. George Street. You can’t miss it because the logo is an alligator saying “Let’s eat my tail!” Ok, he’s only saying “Let’s eat,” but what else can he mean when he’s the one who’s on the menu.

Have a Drink on Duval Street

No visit to the Florida Keys is complete without a stop on Key West's infamous Duval Street. This hotspot of partying offers access to famous drinking establishments like Sloppy Joe's at the corner of Greene and Duval. Be forewarned: It gets pretty raucous at night!

Hogfish Bar & Grill: Where locals eat

Specialty of the House: &ldquoKiller&rdquo Hogfish Sandwich at Hogfish Grill

While on the road, I take great pleasure in finding the spots where locals like to eat and drink. The Hogfish bar is a perfect example why. This Florida Rambler-recommended bar and restaurant was so good I went there three times.

Located on Stock Island, which is where the local commercial shrimp boats used to moor, it&rsquos off the beaten path past some trailer homes. (Hey if you&rsquore going to live in one, might as well be here.) Hogfish is near the beginning of town and well worth finding. (Not all that hard either, if you have a GPS in your car or phone.)

This is a great local watering hole with some stereotype- fitting Key West characters lurking inside, especially during the night. They had a great mom and daughter bartending team and they specialize in hogfish. It&rsquos spear-caught and available when they have it, so when they do, make sure to get some. The house sandwich was sensational: Blackened hogfish smothered with Swiss Cheese, Onions and Mushrooms on fresh Cuban Bread. So good I had it twice.

If you&rsquore intrigued by KingT&rsquos reviews, you&rsquoll want to read his Southport Raw Bar) and few places we&rsquore now going to try (Sheila&rsquos Famous BBQ, Conch, & More in West Palm Beach and Big Al&rsquos Steaks in Delray Beach.) Here is KingT&rsquos foray into South Florida, including Little Haiti, Little Havana and Miami Beach.

Resources for planning a Florida Keys vacation

Special places to discover in the Lower Keys and Key West

Camping and lodging

From the Editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but can change without notice. Please confirm rates and details when planning your trip by following the links in this article.

If you find out-of-date or inaccurate information, we&rsquod love to hear about it so we can update the article. Use the comments section below.

Watch the video: A Student Ordered A $600 Meal At Californias Most Expensive Restaurant Heres Exactly What She Got (October 2021).