Table filled with plates of food for brunch
Photograph: Matt's Stock Island Kitchen and Bar

The best restaurants in Key West

We scoured everything from tourist traps to corner bistros to find the finest restaurants in Key West

Eric BartonMegan duBois
Contributor: Megan duBois
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The first time I went to Key West, well, let’s just say it’s a bit of a blur. It was like that for time No. 2 through 17. Then came a trip, years later, married and semi-mature, when I wanted something different. I asked for recommendations from a native, a fifth-gen Conch, as the locals are called. She loaded my Google Maps Key West page with places I’ve been hitting since. It’s not that I still don’t have those blurry nights on Duval, hitting Sloppy Joe’s and seeing what happens after. It’s just now I go to the tree-shaded neighborhoods elsewhere on the island to hit happy hour at bars full of locals, and eat truly great food at the corner bistros, and have breakfast the next day, blocks away from the tourist-produced detritus of last night. Want a visit to Key West restaurants that combines the best tourist spots with places locals have been swearing by for, well, five generations? We’ve got you covered.

This guide was updated by South Florida-based writer Eric Barton. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines

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Best Key West restaurants

  • Seafood
  • price 2 of 4

Down toward the Southernmost Point, Duval quiets down to a Key West simmer, and that’s where you’ll find the charming Victorian house that holds Nine One Five. The veranda and split-up dining room are romantic spots for dinner, or head upstairs to the wine bar for a tapas menu and a vibe that turns into an adult version of a party.

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Eric Barton
Contributor
  • Seafood
  • price 1 of 4

Saying this place doesn’t look like much undersells its shabbiness, built as it was from what appears to be scrap wood and held together by bumper stickers. B.O.’s charming-slash-rickety appearance is in contrast to one of the best conch fritters and sandwiches anywhere. The burger and fish sandwich, served on crusty Cuban bread, are stellar items, but a truly original number here is the cracked conch, sliced paper thin, fried and then stacked to provide layers and layers of crispy goodness.

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Eric Barton
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3. El Siboney Restaurant

Just a few blocks from Duval, El Siboney feels a world away, a family-owned restaurant with a chill neighborhood vibe and big plates of Cuban classics. It’s not that anything is a bad order here, but we’ll swear by the roast pork, picadillo, Cuban sandwiches, sweet plantains and abuela-style flan.

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Eric Barton
Contributor

4. Seven Fish

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What was once an unassuming corner bistro has since moved into a massive and modern dining room a ways from Duval Street. Luckily, they’re still serving the same fresh catch dishes as always, including the specialty, the Thai Curry Snapper.

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Eric Barton
Contributor
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5. Blue Heaven

Somewhat of a local legend in Key West, the Blue Heaven is one of just a handful of joints in the city that aren't purely seafood-focused. Blue Heaven is a Caribbean restaurant first established in 1992 by an artist and writer. It’s like stepping into a jungle with its wild decor, but the food is seriously good. These guys serve up carrot and curry soup, miso eggplant salad and scallops provençale like you’ve never tasted it before.

6. Little Pearl

Little Pearl is the neighborhood restaurant that locals and visitors always seem to stumble into. The restaurant has a distinct coastal vibe, with fish, mermaids, compasses, and Edison lights all over the dining room. The Old Town spot is currently only open for dinner and has three seatings throughout the evening. It serves a chef-curated, four-course menu with a variety of options. A few favorites include the savory miso-and-clam soup, sweet and spicy Key West shrimp, and a fish of the day prepared to suit the chef’s fancy.

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7. 5 Brothers Grocery and Sandwich Shop

It’s easy to fall hard for Key West to where you’re dreaming after a weekend trip of what it would be like to move there permanently. And to play out that fantasy, head to 5 Brothers, where locals pass their mornings drinking cafe con leche on the plastic chairs out front. There’s a fine Cuban sandwich and a decent burger, but really, you’re here to soak up life as a Conch, at least for one morning.

8. Café Marquesa

Inside the Marquesa Hotel is the Café Marquesa. But don't let the white tablecloths and dark wood furnishings scare you into thinking this is another high-end spot with unapproachable food. The 50-seat restaurant serves fresh Key West seafood and expertly cooked meats along with housemade bread and desserts. The entire menu is friendly and approachable, with a distinctly Southern twist. Think spiny lobster with fried green tomatoes topped with blue crab, basil, and citrus-bacon vinaigrette.

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9. Southern Most Beach Cafe

Newcomers to Key West might be surprised by its limited beachfront area and related topic, waterfront restaurants. That’s where Southernmost Beach Cafe steps in, overlooking the bright blue waters, a straight shot to Cuba just 90 miles away. The boat-to-table restaurant serves Caribbean-Americana dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. The fresh catch changes daily and comes macadamia-encrusted and served with a key lime beurre blanc.

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Eric Barton
Contributor
  • Juice bars
  • price 1 of 4
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A former gas station in a neighborhood well shaded by ancient oaks, Date & Thyme offers an oasis of health after imbibing on Key West’s more indulgent meals. Juices, smoothies, salads, sandwiches, and wraps are all constructed with fresh ingredients, and there are lots of options for vegetarians and vegans. Fresh-baked treats, including a bevy of gluten-free options, round out the menu.

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Eric Barton
Contributor
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12. The Lobster Shack Key West

The Lobster Shack does exactly what you’d expect it to, but to a very high standard indeed. Lobster features heavily on this menu (although there is the occasional fried coconut shrimp), from lobster grilled cheese to the diablo lobster roll with sriracha and jalapenos. Oh, and simply the best lobster bisque, served with crunchy croutons. When you’re all lobstered out, order the key lime pie to finish. You won’t regret it.

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13. First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery

First Flight is located in one of Key West’s most historic buildings—the location where Pan American World Airlines was launched and sold its first tickets in 1927. The restaurant is appropriately themed with kitschy decor, which nods to the previous occupant. Take a seat on the outdoor patio, which exudes island charm, and try one of our favorite dishes: the street corn and avocado bowl, which mixes fire-roasted corn salsa, avocado, and chipotle aioli served in a flour tortilla bowl.

14. Matt's Stock Island Kitchen and Bar

You’ll find Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar nestled inside the Perry Hotel. The restaurant serves up coastal dishes using fresh catch and locally sourced ingredients. Sunday brunch is worth the hassle of getting a reservation to savor items like tropical guava cream cheese French toast, pork belly benedict with tomato and onion marmalade, and chocolate toast with peanut butter custard and brûléed bananas. It's worth the calories—trust us.

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15. Cuban Coffee Queen

Cuban food is a staple in Key West, and one of the most popular restaurants is Cuban Coffee Queen. The island has three locations, but the original is on Margaret Street. The menu is filled with variations on the classic Cuban sandwich including one with pork, ham, chicken, swiss cheese, pickles, mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomatoes and onions. Do not leave without getting a cup of piping hot Cuban coffee with steamed milk.

16. Antonia's Restaurant

Antonia’s Restaurant is a Key West staple serving fresh Italian food, handmade pasta and sauces, and an award-winning wine list. The pasta menu is filled with classics like gnocchi with savory gorgonzola cheese sauce, linguine with clams, and Antonia’s signature lasagna made with spinach pasta. Save room for a few bites of dessert: The restaurant boasts a perfectly balanced and not-too-sweet amaretto coconut cream pie that is sheer bliss.

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17. Azur

Just a few blocks away from tourist-filled Duval Street is Azur Restaurant. The restaurant serves brunch and dinner every day to locals and visitors in the know. The brunch menu is filled with sweet and savory options like decadent key lime French toast with wild berry compote, and mouthwatering crab cake benedict with grilled tomatoes and hollandaise. When the bell rings for dinner, the seafood risotto is filled with mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, fish, and chorizo, then topped off with garden-fresh veggies.

18. Glazed Donuts

Grab-and-go breakfast is an elevated experience at Glazed Donuts. The specialty donut shop is open Wednesday through Monday starting at 7am and until they sell out. The creative donuts are handmade with options like key lime pie, blackberry frosted with artisan sprinkles, and pineapple upside-down brûlée.

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Eric Barton
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19. Eaton Street Seafood Market

At Eaton Street Seafood Market, cases of freshly caught fish sit just steps away from the on-site restaurant. The lunch and dinner menu include items like crab cake sandwiches—with cakes that are barely holding it together because there’s more crab than binders—fish tacos with fish that was likely still swimming that same morning, and fried conch strips that have become an island favorite.

20. Pepe's Cafe

Since 1909, Pepe’s Cafe has filled hungry patrons with hearty breakfasts, lunches, and dinner. Breakfast is the standard fare with big portions and old-school diner hospitality. Lunch and dinner are casual, where flip flops and t-shirts are welcome. The menu includes classic BLT sandwiches, savory black bean soup for lunch, and delectable baked oysters and perfectly cooked NY strip for dinner. The unassuming spot is easy to miss while walking down the street, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the small sign sitting on top of the white building.

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21. Seaside Cafe at the Mansion

Oceanside tables, incredible views, and delicious food are all on the menu at Seaside Cafe at the Mansion. The eclectic menu includes dishes like tuna poke served in house-made plantain cups, pizza, and sandwiches. One of the best things on the menu (other than the famous lobster pizza) is the signature honey butter lobster biscuits served hot or cold. The dish starts with flakey honey butter biscuits that are stuffed with fresh lobster salad and served with fries or salad. Talk about a treat!

22. Goldman's Bagel Deli

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Is there anything better than a fresh bagel that's been turned into a delightful breakfast sandwich or schmeared with gobs of cream cheese? We don't think so. At Goldman's, you can get just that, along with other fresh baked goods like rugelach, cinnamon buns, and danishes. If bagels aren't your thing then don't worry. There are plenty of other things on the menu like breakfast burritos, burgers, and paninis to get you going in the morning before a day of exploring.

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23. Fisherman's Cafe

Fisherman's Cafe is a small spot in historic Seaport that's open for breakfast and lunch and serves local catch in a casual atmosphere. Items like blackened Key West pink shrimp wraps, fish tacos, and sesame guava toast all speak to the Cuban influence in the dining scene in Key West. The restaurant also serves incredible Cuban coffee that guests can enjoy hot or iced.

24. Thirsty Mermaid

Thirsty Mermaid is known for its rotating menu of East and West Coast oysters, full raw bar, and local seafood. It is worth ordering a selection of sharable appetizers like the steamed littleneck clams served with leeks and smoked bacon, fried oysters with chipotle remoulade, or sautéed Bahamian conch with marinated artichoke salad. For those who don’t enjoy seafood, there are a few items like homemade gnocchi with spicy short rib ragu and burgers piled high with all types of toppings, too.

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