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Southeast Florida and the Keys


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bump.

heading down to the keys and wanted to see if there's anything new and noteworthy. there's plenty of info about key west around here, but how about the some of the others? i haven't been down there in years, so any suggestions are welcome. thx.

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  • 4 months later...

I'll be in the Keys in a couple of weeks (2 days Key West-4 days Islamorada). It's been a long time so I'm clueless as to the current dining scene. Any recommendations - from ultra casual to fine dining - are appreciated.

TIA

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I've visited Key West several times, most recently last September, in between hurricanes Frances and Ivan! I recommend Mangoes, on Duvall, for outside dining/people watching and lovely food. Square One, in a cozy shopping area off Duvall is more elegant... staff is wonderful and food is devine. Kelly's, owned by actress Kelly McGillis, is also very nice. Blue Heaven serves great breakfast and is a very unique restaurant... if dining among free-roaming roosters, chickens, and cats doesn't offend you.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here are some recommendations I made back in March for Islamorada restaurants, and I would still make the same suggestions. Enjoy your stay down in my neck of the woods.

As far as restaurants, the new Island Grill in Islamorada is very nice. I also like to eat at Kaiyo (Japanese), the Islamorada Fish Company (casual outdoor dining bayside), Papa Joe's, Uncle's (great seafood, but I love the lamb with rosemary port glaze) and Lazy Days (down by the Hampton Inn). The best Cuban restaurant (IMHO) is at the Marlin in Key Largo. Ballyhoo's in Key Largo have an all you can eat stone crab claws special, and is very good. By far my favorite breakfast places are Islamorada Restaurant and Bakery (home of Bobs Bunz -- yummy caramel pecan sticky buns) and Mangrove Mike (awesome breakfast burrito).

Restaurants I wouldn't drive out of my way to eat at: Marker 88, Morada Beach Cafe (Morada Beach Cafe does have a terrific full moon party if you are here during a full moon), Big Fish Grille. But they both have awesome sunsets views. Drinks at sunset are great at the Lorelei, as they have tables waterside.

Edited by whatsup1 (log)
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For lunch in Islamorada, we like the Hungry Tarpon, mile 77.5 adjacent to Robbie's marina. No dinner.

For fine dining in Key West, try Opera for Italian, great homemade pasta and other goodies: http://www.operarestaurant.com/

Also like Cafe Marquesa: http://www.marquesa.com/cafe.htm

For casual on the waterfront, we like Half Shell, good stone crabs: http://www.foodreference.com/html/k-half-shell-raw-bar.html

We also like the Fish House in Key Largo. Good fresh seafood and tasty smoked fish to eat in or take out: http://www.fishhouse.com/

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I second Opera for Italian.

915 at 915 Duval Street serves some of the more progressive food on the island at the moment. It's tapas style with a lot of asian and mediteranean influences.

5 Brothers on Southard is by far the best cuban food on the island.

Let us know how it went.

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Hi all - Thanks for the responses and the recs. Just got back from the Keys and had a great time.

Met my wife and daughter in Miami but, between weather delays getting there and construction delays getting out of MIA (that place is a mess), we did not get to KW until about 8:30 PM. After settling into our guest house (Ambrosia on Fleming), we decide to take a stroll and find a place to eat with recs in hand. Cafe Marquesa was immediately encountered since it's essentially next door to Ambrosia. Unfortunately, it was a slow night for them and they could not seat us since they had already started closing the kitchen. Had a drink there and, on their rec, we ended up at Alice's La Te Da. A fun place with some very good food. For starters, we shared cajun spring rolls stuffed with blackened shrimp and cuban pork empanadas. For mains, we had wild boar barbeque ribs, grilled mahi, and spinach salad.

The following day, we had lunch at Kelly's - blackened grouper, mango barbeque pork, grilled chicken sandwiches. All were very good. For dinner, we went to Opera, which was excellent. I chose the yellowtail snapper, my wife had ravioli stuffed with shrimp and ricotta, and our daughter had spaghetti with clams in a white wine sauce. The ambience, service, and food were outstanding.

Did not get to Blue Heaven as planned the next morning because my daughter, on her 12th birthday, opted for a biplane ride over the lower keys instead. We then moved on to Islamorada where we stayed at The Cheeca Lodge. Chose to have dinner at the property's signature restaurant, Atlantic's Edge, which ended up being a huge mistake. It's a beautiful room and the food was quite good but the service was a disaster. Being off season, there were no more than 6 or 7 tables seated with a comparable number of servers. The time gaps between ordering and receiving drinks, apps, and mains was about 30 minutes each time. We finally ordered coffee and a mini birthday cake for our daughter. After 30 minutes, I checked with the hostess and was told that they could not find our server. Being just coffee and cake I suggested that someone else could serve it. She responded that all of the other servers were busy (3 tables left at this point) and they would get to it as soon as they could. After 10 additional minutes, we chose to leave. Since I did not have a check, I gave the hostess our room number and told her to add the charges to my bill. We then adjourned to the outside tiki bar/lounge where the coffee and cake were served in about 5 minutes (same kitchen BTW). A few minutes later, I was approached by the restaurant manager who apologized for the poor service and informed me that all of the restaurant charges (easily $200+) were removed from my bill.

The following evening, after a half day of fishing, we went to Lorelei's where we chose to share a platter of apps (conch fritters, crab cakes, shrimp, fish dip, etc) accompanied by drinks and a georgeous sunset. Due to business issues, I had to cut the trip short so, the next day, en route to MIA, we stopped at the Fish House in Key Largo for lunch. My wife and daughter each chose the conch salad and I went for a platter of shrimp, clams, etc. Everything was very fresh and quite good.

Thanks again, everyone, for your recs. They were very much appreciated. Coincidently, I have a business associate who leaves for Islamorada tomorrow for a few days and I emailed the list to him earlier.

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Thanks so much for the follow-up. Will definitely put Opera on the list for my next visit to Key West.

It was good to hear that the restaurant charges were removed from your bill at The Cheeca Lodge.

Did you catch anything when you went fishing?

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Hi Susan - Fishing was great. Second time for my daughter and she had a blast. Wife, as usual, stayed behind at the pool.

Caught and released a lot of grouper. Also hooked a bull shark and one big ass tarpon that was around 100 lbs. Got 4 dolphin (mahi). Released 2 and kept 2 (21 lb and 25 lb). Gave the smaller 1 to the boat capt. who in turn cleaned and iced down the other for us. Now in my freezer in Sarasota so I guess I can't say it's fresh. Since I'm back in Chicago I probably will not have a chance to enjoy it for a few weeks.

Still looking for the ever elusive marlin. Maybe next time.

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  • 3 months later...

Can anyone recommend some places in (on?) Key Largo?

My husband and I will be down in mid-November and will be celebrating both of our birthdays down there so we would love recommendations for a couple of great dinners. We'll be celebrating my birthday with a dolphin swim (which I am totally looking forward to!) but I suspect we'll work up quite an appetite.

Cost is little of a concern as we are quite happy and willing to pay for quality of food and service.

The Fish House looks very good....is the service there also good?

Thanks in advance!

Naomi

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  • 1 month later...

We'll be spending a week in Marathon next month. We'll have a kitchen and probably eat a lot of stone crabs and fish from the local fish market. Anyone have any restaurants that are worth trying? Probably leaning towards "local" type as opposed to high end...but might go out once to a nicer place if it's worthwhile.

Probably do a day trip to Key West..and go to Blue Heaven; which I was at a few years ago and enjoyed.

Appreciate any suggestions.

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  • 2 months later...

Am renting a house in Islamorada for a week at the end of the month. Though it has a kitchen I'm more interested in eating about. So what's good?

Also what are the grease stain worthy stops enroute through Florida. I'm driving down from and returning to Nashville - will be taking the direct route to the keys and plan on working my way up the gulf coast on the way back.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I just got back from our 5th year in a row trip to the Keys and my last post in this thread talks about what we found, with links (if available):

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=80940

My favorites for Holly style eats are the Fish House in Key Largo (get some smoked fish to go), the Hungry Tarpon in Islamorada (mile marker 77.5 adjacent to Robbie's marina, breakfast and lunch only, we like lunch better), No Name Pub on Big Pine Key (I want to try the pizza next time), and B.O.'s fish wagon in Key West (five grease stains in my humble opinion).

Have fun!

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Also what are the grease stain worthy stops enroute through Florida. 

I love the Islamorada Fish Company. The food's quite good and the atmosphere is awesome. I never have made it for sunset, when they supposedly feed the tarpons, but the tarpons are fun to watch when they're just swimming.

If you need to stop in Miami for food, I recommend Burritos Grill Cafe. It's about 1-2 miles off of I-95, the NE 125th St exit. It's Yucatan style Mexican food and I love it! The Mayan burrito, filled with cochinita pibil, is awesome, as are the enchiladas de mole (a special, but they have them almost every day) and the guacamole. Salsa's great, too.

It's a tiny place and their hours are a bit limited, so you may want to call if you're thinking about stopping - 305-891-1041. They have four tables inside, a short bar, and 3 tables outside.

"God give us good taste, why bother?" Captain Jim's Sushi Chef
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Holly - Some info on a little stay I had in the Keys last summer can be found here.

If you are returning on the Gulf Coast, I imagine you will be taking I-75. One easy to get to, and "must not miss" stain worthy stop that should be on your itinerary, is Snook Haven Fish Camp. Located about 15 miles south of Sarasota, this is old Florida at its best. After driving a mile or so down a rutted dirt road under a canopy of ancient cypress tress to the bank of the Myakka river, you encounter a dozen or so old fishing cabins along with a very rustic restaurant and bar.

Very good barbecue, grouper sandwiches, and similar fare. If you're lucky, they might be offering the Florida Cracker Special - a platter of deep fried frog legs along with chunks of deep fried catfish and alligator. The crowd is very eclectic - just park between the Harleys and dusty pickup trucks. They generally have music everyday ranging from country, rock, to banjo concerts.

If you have the time, and are so inclined, you can rent a canoe or kayak for a little trip down the river. Just keep an eye out for the alligators. Also, you should know that, for some very obvious reasons, Snook Haven was used as the location for that epic 1940s movie, "Revenge of The Killer Turtles".

Take exit 191 off of I-75. Go west for about 1/2 mile to Venice Ave. Look for the Snook Haven sign on the left. Enter and enjoy.

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I think you will like Islamorada better than Key West. The cruise ships have really changed the atmosphere of that island city, and imho, it is not for the better. there is a place called the Carribbean club in Key Largo that was good to go to for sunset.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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This may be too vague to be helpful, but if you get to the No Name (where I spent a few happy hours once upon a time) and are heading back to Key West from Big Pine, keep your eyes peeled for a great little Cuban place around Ramrod or Cudjo Key. I know it's not much to go on, but I remember chowing down on pork and black beans and drinking cheap beer on formica table tops and being glad that there was one place that hadn't been taken over by the blender drink-drinkers yet.

If it's still there, it's well worth looking up, so drive slow!

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I think you will like Islamorada better than Key West.  The cruise ships have really changed the atmosphere of that island city, and imho, it is not for the better.  there is a place called the Carribbean club in Key Largo that was good to go to for sunset.

I have to admit that I never went to Key West pre cruise ship, but we really like that town. Been back 4 years straight and looking forward to returning for longer stays. We have enjoyed Islamorada, but it's kind of a limited location activity and foodwise unless you're sportfishing.

Key West is kind of like a smaller and more laid back New Orleans. Lots of good eating choices. If you want to kick out the jams, do Duval st at night. It's a bit much for me, so I do Duval in the daytime and head over to the marina area in the evening. More relaxing, plus B.O.'s fish wagon is there. But B.O.'s is not open late, so go early. Also really enjoyed the butterfly conservatory this last trip. Big open glass area filled with millions (or so it seemed) of loose live butterflies, birds, and tropical plants. Way cool, at the far end of Duval st (other end from Mallory square).

As for the cruise ships, they let their people off mid morning and they have to be back on the ship by mid/late afternoon so the ships can depart before sunset since they block the view from Mallory square. A few hours of touristas won't kill you!

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I think you will like Islamorada better than Key West.  The cruise ships have really changed the atmosphere of that island city, and imho, it is not for the better.  there is a place called the Carribbean club in Key Largo that was good to go to for sunset.

Restaurants are better in Key West. The architecture and horticulture is better in Key West as well. I love to walk the side streets and look at the foliage and the cute houses. Tee shirt shops and chain stores are the down side of Key West. For diving and fishing Islamorada/the upper keys are great but not a lot of other things to do. As an avid diver and angler I stay in the middle keys but venture up and down for what's best there.

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Holly:

Hope this isn't too late for you, but Mrs. Mac's Kitchen, in Key Largo, has the best onion rings I've ever eaten.

It's on the bayside, near the center of town (such as it is,) and is a serious locals' joint. I'm attaching a picture of the fish basket--with the onion rings instead of the fries.

mrsmacsb.jpg

However, they are closed Sunday. If you pass through the area then, you might want to slip by Alabama Jack's, out on Card Sound Road.... It's what the Keys was probably like 50 years ago....

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Holly, here are a couple of my favorite grease stain spots

Key West,

The Upper Crust,, Very good pizza

611 Duval Street, Key West

If your passing thru Broward County, FL

Fat Lou's , Chicago Style. Good hotdogs & cheesesteaks. Homemade fries too.

1040 W. Hallandale Beach, FL 33009

Damiani's Pizza, Great wood fire pizza & sandwiches.

712 Atlantic Shores Blvd. Hallandale Beach, FL 33309

Mauro's Pizza, Great Pizza served with a little bit of attitude

1924 Hollywood Blvd. Hollywood, FL 33020

Queens Big Corned Beef Deli, Best Corned beef sandwich I've had down here in Florida

2438 Sheridan St Hollywood, FL

Lampasas's , The best Hoagie made in South Florida. Philly style, big & delicious

(3) locations, here is one. 2645 S. University Drive Davie, FL 33328

Primanti Brothers, Great sandwiches & good pizza sitting right across from the Ocean

(2) locations . 901 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. FT LAUDERDALE, FL.

Nice web site you have, I LOVE PHILLY FOOD !

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For relatively fine, but not that expensive seafood dining, try Lazy Days. The crispy fried snapper is excellent and the cracked conch is the most tender around. Marker 88 is very good for continental/seafood. Lorelei Tiki Bar has a good atmosphere for fish sandwiches and drinks. Hawks Channel Bar has some of the best grouper sandwiches around.

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