Best restaurants in Key West
This is the vibe you’ve traveled to the southernmost point in Florida for. Come to Blue Heaven for a languorous breakfast or Sunday brunch on the spacious patio shaded by palm fronds and ship sails. The spot is populated by Key West’s famous roosters, neighborhood cats and maybe even a lone guitarist strumming a mellow tune. Fancy eggs benedict dishes with steak and lobster are popular here, but the Rooster Special is the way to go: eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes or grits; and when it comes to the ever-important banana bread vs. pancakes decision, ask for banana pancakes and prepare to be transported to heaven.
One of Key West’s best restaurants is actually located on neighboring Stock Island (about a 20-minute drive from the heart of Key West, but well worth the journey). This traditionally working class enclave of fishermen and artists is having a moment thanks to the opening of its first two hotels. Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen & Bar is inside The Perry Hotel, with a sophisticated, industrial aesthetic inspired by the area’s boatyards. Dishes are inflected with southern soul and creole flavors and take advantage of the island’s bounty of fresh seafood. The raw bar towers are delivered tableside in tackle boxs and not-to-miss dishes include crispy, light-as-clouds crab beignets with lemon powder and Old Bay aioli and the sumptuous grouper swimming in thyme butter with crawfish and cornbread gnudi.
Santiago’s Bodega has become a modern classic on Key West’s culinary scene, serving mouthwatering Spanish-style tapas in an intimate, romantic setting in Bahama Village for more than a decade. Simply make a reservation and take our word on what to order: French green beans with gruyere and prosciutto in lemon-caper vinaigrette, brandy flambéed haloumi cheese saganaki, seared beef tenderloin with bleu cheese butter, croquettas with prosciutto and provolone and spinach and feta spanakopita. (You’re welcome.) Choose a bottle from their excellent wine list and, for dessert, it’s a toss-up between bread pudding and chocolate crepes.
Founded by husband-wife duo and longtime Key West restaurateurs Thomas Quartaro and Kristen Onderdonk, Thirsty Mermaid is a chic-yet-casual neighborhood oyster bar inspired by the West Village. The sun-filled dining room has a nautical aesthetic and fresh-caught favorites include the pan sautéed yellowtail snapper over fettucine in a citrus chive butter and the yellowfin tuna served with jasmine rice and wok-fried vegetables. It’s a great spot for lunch or happy hour when tempting bites like the ceviche du jour and mac and cheese croquettes with truffle aioli are only $5.
For a healthy-yet-hearty lunch on the go, look no further than the Bad Boy Burrito window on Simonton Street. Natural, organic ingredients take center stage here with housemade salsas and toppings like pickled red onion escabeche and ancho chili relish. It’s all about building your own “phattie” with meat and veggie options including kobe beef, duck confit, tofu or Key West pink shrimp. The taco trio is also a good choice, as well as a variety of salads, entrees, smoothies and juices on offer. Best of all, most items on the menu hover around $10.
There’s only one place to go for the fried fish sandwich of your dreams, and it’s a ramshackle institution made mostly of old crab traps and fishing buoys. Come salty and sweaty to BO’s Fish Wagon and order the grouper sandwich at the bar (always order the grouper here) with a cold Kalik beer from the Bahamas. Your fish comes on pillowy Cuban bread with a key lime aioli, lettuce, tomatoes and onion; opt for a side of the homemade coleslaw or order the chili cheese fries if you’re seriously hungry. When you pull up a stool at the counter overlooking Caroline Street, you’ll soon realize all is right in the world.
Established in 1909, Pepe’s is the oldest restaurant in Key West and it’s a classic spot for every meal. Breakfast is especially popular here, so try to snag a spot at the small bar on the patio where the bartender whips up fresh screwdrivers and mimosas with oranges squeezed right before your eyes—it simply doesn’t get fresher. You can’t go wrong with the daily special, whether it’s an omelet stuffed with sausage, spinach and Monterey jack cheese or French toast topped with raspberries and whipped cream.
For a romantic dinner or a truly special occasion, reserve a table an hour before sunset on the patio at Latitudes on Sunset Key. This private island—accessible only by ferry—is less than a mile off the coast of Key West and provides unparalleled sunset views as the sky changes colors and sailboats drift by. It’s the epitome of barefoot luxury and fine dining in Key West. The menu focuses on local, seasonal ingredients—if you’re not sure what to order, trust the daily fresh fish preparation. This is also the perfect place to indulge in surf and turf with Florida spiny lobster.
Known to locals as the “Conch Farm,” the Conch Republic Seafood Company a prime spot for happy hour and live music on Key West’s historic seaport. Belly up to the open air, wraparound bar, in front of a large aquarium, and take advantage of two-for-one drinks (mojitos and rum punch are favorites) from 4 to 7pm. Conch, the savory gastropod with the pretty pink shell, is the symbol of Key West, and this is the place to sample conch fritters or a cup of classic tomato-based conch chowder.
Health nuts unite at Date & Thyme, a café, market and juice bar inside a revamped former laundromat on Fleming Street. The airy, sun-filled space is full of potted plants, compost bins and wooden benches and tables. It’s best at breakfast when you can pair a chai latte with the nourishing scrambled egg paleo plate made with sautéed kale, vegetables and pesto or a bagel with cashew cream cheese, tomato and avocado. This is the place for your green juice and smoothie fix in paradise.
More of the best in Key West
Offshore pleasures abound on Key West, from snorkeling the third largest reef in the world to sunset sails on historic schooners—not to mention discovering secret sandbar beaches.
We’ve rounded up blissful private cottages, rollicking oceanfront resorts and historic mansions remade as luxury inns. However you choose to unwind in America’s southernmost city, we’ve got you covered.