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Southeast Florida and the Keys


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My picks..

...Blue Heaven I know it has become a tourist staple but the food is excellent breakfast, lunch or dinner. I have eaten there a dozen times and have never been disappointed!

...I second a trip to Seven Fish,

...Mangia Mangia is good as well,

...Louies is good for drinks but do not eat there

...Montes has moved to Key West proper from Summerland and has only been open a short while --I'm not sure how it is holding up.

...B&O fish wagon for the best fish sandwiches

hope this helps

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My picks..

...Blue Heaven  I know it has become a tourist staple but the food is excellent breakfast, lunch or dinner.  I have eaten there a dozen times and have never been disappointed!

...I second a trip to Seven Fish,

...Mangia Mangia is good as well,

...Louies is good for drinks but do not eat there

...Montes has moved to Key West proper from Summerland and has only been open a short while --I'm not sure how it is holding up.

...B&O fish wagon for the best fish sandwiches

hope this helps

Agree about Louie's, don't go except for cocktails, great presentation but medicore food. Shula's was very good. Hard Rock Cafe for Pig Sandwich can't be be beat.

Have to take a look at my notes but there are two other places I liked.

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...Montes has moved to Key West proper from Summerland and has only been open a short while --I'm not sure how it is holding up.

That's a drag. Used to be a nice funky, local, family place. What happened? Kids get greedy? They sell out? :sad:

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  • 2 months later...

We just got back from the keys, with a few recs to add to those above. We had a nice big relatively inexpensive lobster at a "locals" place called Sharky's near the MM100 marina in Key Largo. It's further back from the road than the touristy Coconuts. Just keep walking along the canal until you see it.

The best, if perhaps not most key-traditional, meal we had was at a year-old restaurant called nine one five. It's at 915 Duval St. in Key West. It's mostly Tapas-sized dishes, with a wide range of influences, from Spain, to the Caribbean, to Asia. The chefs are from Oregon and somehow ended up on the opposite corner of the country. My favorite dish was the tuna dome, which is a dome of dungeness crab and chopped granny smith apples wrapped in strips of sashimi tuna; it's served with Mirin and an Asian red-chili sauce. A plate of chorizo, manchego, and aged goat cheese was also a real winner. The wine list is eclectic and reasonably priced. We had a nice Alsatian Riesling.

We also tried Shula's on The Beach on Key West. This place is all about portion size. Everything is monstrous, from the certified Angus steaks, to the pound-and-a-half baked potatoes. Even a side of brocolli was an entire head. The strange thing was that they featured Australian lobster tails, at $4.75/oz. That morning I had been snorkelling on the reef just a few miles away, and seen no shortage of either lobsters or lobster traps. Are the Australian lobsters really that much better that it's worth flying them halfway around the world? What about Maine? It's a lot closer, and you would get claws too. We skipped the lobster and stuck with steak, which was well matched with a '99 Three Rivers Walla Walla Cabernet. $70 was on the high side for this bottle, but everything else was similarly marked up. This particular Shula's sell a lot of Opus One to go with their big big steaks.

We heard good things about Alice's at La Te Da, but it was closed for vacation when we were there.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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We also tried Shula's on The Beach on Key West.  This place is all about portion size.  Everything is monstrous, from the certified Angus steaks, to the pound-and-a-half baked potatoes.  Even a side of brocolli was an entire head.  The strange thing was that they featured Australian lobster tails, at $4.75/oz.  That morning I had been snorkelling on the reef just a few miles away, and seen no shortage of either lobsters or lobster traps.  Are the Australian lobsters really that much better that it's worth flying them halfway around the world?  What about Maine?  It's a lot closer, and you would get claws too.  We skipped the lobster and stuck with steak, which was well matched with a '99 Three Rivers Walla Walla Cabernet.  $70 was on the high side for this bottle, but everything else was similarly marked up.  This particular Shula's sell a lot of Opus One to go with their big big steaks.

I was a manager at a Shula's not very long ago.

Most of their menu selections/choices all relate back to Papa Shula's preferences, either that or corporate restauranteur concept magician, Uncle Walt's.

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PORKY'S TOO!

Great dauphin and cheese fries!

Anti-alcoholics are unfortunates in the grip of water, that terrible poison, so corrosive that out of all substances it has been chosen for washing and scouring, and a drop of water added to a clear liquid like Absinthe, muddles it." ALFRED JARRY

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I saw the reference to the Hard Rock in KW - I thought that was closed and changed over to something else but maybe I'm thinking of Hooter's (the space I refer to is a big white house with a front patio on a northwest corner of Duva and one of the side streets.

I agree on Blue Heaven - I dont' care how many tourists show up (hey.... duhhh.... it's a tourist town!) - food has always been good when I've been there, service efficient and friendly and the breakfast is unbeatable. Definitely visit El Siboney for Cuban - cheap, good and generous portions. Liek others here, I continue to hear horrible reports about the food at Louie's backyard and the consensus is to just go there for drinks.

Conch fritters are pretty tasty - IMHO the best ones are at the little stand by the entrance to the aquarium. There's a guy who also sells them at Mallory Square at sunset - the chunks of conch in his are smaller and less abundant. Although I've heard many good reports from others about Half Shell Raw Bar, I had conch chowder, conch salad and conch fritters there on once occasion and all were mediocre - perhaps I was there on a bad day or these may just not be gopod dishes to order from them.

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What ive found is the simplier the better in the keys.  Youll find shacks offering you veal oscar for 26.95 or 23.95 for fresh fish dishs and the food is barely edible and service is laughable.  Thats why I look for well frequented local places and order simply prepared dishs.  .

WISE WISE advice!!!!!! Stick w/fresh local fish/seafood w/simple preparations and you will not be disappointed, too many places to list that serve these basic meals.

Our upscale places: Marker 88, Cheeca Lodge

Lower key spot: Mangrove Mama's (MM20 something, North side of road)(near summerland/big pine key) great lunch dinner.

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"
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Been a couple of years since I was there, but Frank Keys Cafe was always one of my favorites while driving down to Key West. It's in Key Largo--very pretty Victorian building just off the road in a grove of trees. The food was always outstanding : )

Jamie

See! Antony, that revels long o' nights,

Is notwithstanding up.

Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene ii

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  • 6 months later...

I know this is way late, but Turtle Kraals is a fun, tasty place to eat. Also Blue Heaven is terrific for brunch - eat outside with the wandering chickens.

Yes, Virginia, there is a real Captain Tony and his bar is down the street from Sloppy Joes. If you are lucky you will run into him. He is a charming rascal and loves the women. :biggrin:

Key West has gotten so touristy, but it's still a great time. Louie's Backyard is a wonderful place for a great, romantic meal. Get there as the sun is setting.

Don't miss Malory Square at sunset - one the most surreal places on the face of the earth.

Sigh - I love Key West!!

Patti Davis

www.anatomyofadinnerparty.com

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However, the can't miss place is Pepe's.  Go for breakfast, it is very good.  I always ate a late breakfast there and then migrated to the outdoor bar where they squeeze the juice fresh to order (grapefruit and orange).  Ask the guy to fill a glass with ice, three fingers of vodka, and then place under the grapefruit press.  You might end up staying at Pepe's all day. It used to be much less touristy, but then again so did Key West.  Have a great trip.

I second the Pepe's location. The first time I got drunk with my parents was while sipping margarita's there while inhaling oysters.

Make sure you pick up an ice scrapper. The slogan is "We wish you were here too"

A few blocks closer to Duval is a Key Lime bakery that sells pie by the slice.

Have a drink while watching the sunset for me.

Be prepared for the commercialization of Duval street. The place could be any mall in America with all the stores that have taken over :angry:

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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thanks lovestoeatatl for bumping this thread up. we will be in key west for 3 days and have filed the suggestions on this thread in my food file for road trip 2004.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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:smile: I just realized this thread was started two years ago. I wonder what restaurants and bars Lou tried... I love Key West, but to me there's no doubt... great place to visit but wouldn't want to live there (wouldn't want it as my primary residence, anyway).

Enjoy, Suzilightning!

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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The most enjoyable meal we had during our week (nearly two years ago) in South Beach and Key West was at Blue Heaven. I had grouper and my wife had yellow fin tuna. Charming place and fantastic food. Bahama Mama's at MP 19 (I think) was very enjoyable for lunch, also. Bayside Grille at MP 99.5 is a great place for a grouper sandwich.

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Since this is an old thread, it seems worth mentioning that a good addition to the kw restaurant scene is 915, at 915 duval st. It's sort of a modern style tapas bar with asian as well as spanish influences. I've been several times and it is never disappointing.

Having spent the first 20-or-so years of my life in kw, it's always interesting to come back and see which restaurants are still around. One place I'm thankful for that I didn't see mentioned in this thread is 5 Brothers Grocery on the corner of Southard and Grinnell: best cuban sandwiches and coffee in town. I'm always glad to come back to that.

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I was trying to think of the place that my friend and I went last November to that was excellent, and it was 915. One of the tapas that I got was a seared tuna fillet wrapped around lump crab meat. They said that their tuna was flown in fresh everyday. It was one of the best things I've ever eaten, it was so incredible. I highly recommend this place.

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looks like 915 duval goes on the list for sure.

we're in town for 3 nights - two days and one of those will be birding the dry tortugas.

any thoughts on kelly's?

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Almost a year ago, I had a good lunch at one of the Kelly's... I think it was the one in the historic building that was the "birthplace" of Pan Am Airlines. Will post more, as I remember. I do recall having a decent beer there! :smile:

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Anyone ever try Mangia Mangia?

Last time I was there one of my old Cleveland restauranteur friends was running the place, but has since returned to live and work in Ft. Lauderdale.

We had fun there, ran into other oHIo vacationers that oddly were my neighbours and also in the biz (family run mostly produce purveyors) and were invited to dine with them. Much fresh seafood tossed with a lemony, herbed garlic oil over pasta seems to come to mind as my entree.

Too many sunsets, Sloppy Joe visits and margaritas make it a bit hazy so I'd have to dig up my vacation journal... somewhere in my bookshelving!

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  • 2 weeks later...
looks like 915 duval goes on the list for sure.

we're in town for 3 nights - two days and one of those will be birding the dry tortugas.

any thoughts on kelly's?

Kelly's is terrific for drinks and nibbles - the decor is super cool too. Unlike anything else in KW.

Patti Davis

www.anatomyofadinnerparty.com

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Yes... the side street deli's with Cuban sandwiches are often a good choice. I second the suggestion for breakfast at Blue Heaven (lunch or dinner too - for that matter). Be sure to try the "famous pancakes from scratch" - they are incredibly good. Don't go to KW without visiting Blue heaven - it's must. There's a little soul food place acroiss the street - it's decent for take-out and run by really nice people but no wow factor (yes I do both love and know good soul food).

Have heard a number of reports in the past couple years that Louie's Backyard has really gone down hill in terms of food quality. It is now generally recommended as a great place fro drinks or maybe lunch but not a good dinner choice.

Haven't been to Kelly's but had a good breakfast at Pepe's. I used to be very active in the Fodor's Travel Talk forum - Mangia Mangia always received good reviews from folks who posted back about their trips. That was the last report that I heard - good food and good value if you like pasta. Many peolel swear by Mangoe's on Duval but I had a mediocre lunch there - I think it's a better place for drinks. Lots of foklks rave about the Half Shell Raw Bar over at the Bight but I was unimpressed by the conch chowder and found the conch fritters to be really greasy. Best conch fritters I tried were at the stand in front of the Aquarium entrance but they tend to close early. The fritters sold at sunset at mallory square run a close second but the conch bits are smaller and less plentiful.

Try El Siboney for an authentic Cuban family restaurant - it's moderately priced and the real deal. Very basic decor and great food - popular with the locals. For higher end cuisines there are a few worth considering - sorry I can't recal the names but search or post at Fodor's Travel Talk - lots of KW discussion there. You may have to sift through to get a good perspective but the info is there. I do hear consistently good reports about Alice's La Te Dah on Duval.

Okay - here's where I may get pilloried: it's a bit pricey for what you get and the menu could be more inventive but I really like Latitudes, the Hilton's restaurant on Sunset Key. reservations are necesary and you reach it by water shuttle it's private island on the Gulf side). Go on a good night and reserve a "beach table". Thses are open air table nicely separated from one another and set aprt fromt he open walled dining area. They sit ona sort of sand patio and lighting is provided by tiki torches. It's above average hotel dining room food but scores major points for romantic atmosphere and the food is decent - not phenomenal but not bad. If I had only three dinners to eat in KW it might not be on my list but it is worth a visit.

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:smile: I just realized this thread was started two years ago. I wonder what restaurants and bars Lou tried... I love Key West, but to me there's no doubt... great place to visit but wouldn't want to live there (wouldn't want it as my primary residence, anyway).

Enjoy, Suzilightning!

I've been here 3 times.

1st Louie's Backyard is good for sunset drinks but as far as dinner forget it. Shula's Steakhouse in the Wyndam is very good, expensive but good. Alice's at LaTiDa's was by far the best dining experience, food on par with what we're used to in the NYC area.

Bar's : All, but seriously, Sloppy Joe's at lunch can't be beat, band playing, food good, simple but good. Hog's Breath also fun. You hang out about 8 blocks from the pier and everything is within blocks.

I'll post more later as I think about this. Gotta get to work.

Lou

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looks like 915 duval goes on the list for sure.

we're in town for 3 nights - two days and one of those will be birding the dry tortugas.

any thoughts on kelly's?

Kelly's was boring and we were there last year during spring break.

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I forgot - Captain Tony's is on a side street off Duval and is said to actually have been the original Sloppy Joe's or at least it was (supposedly) the place where Hemingway hung out. If you have a place with a kitchen or want to get some food for a picnic lunch, there's a really good little market with some "gourmet" typ items and decent meat and fish. It's on the water near a marina - close to A&B Lobster House if I recall correctly. There also used to be a place called The Turtle Kraals (or maybe it was near the Turtle Kraals?) that had casual foood like fresh shrimp boil and the like - it was by the water and you ate at picnic tables - not sure if it's still there.

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