Key West Dining

Key West Dining can be a heavenly experience. There are so many wonderful restaurants packed into this tiny four-mile island you won’t have time to sample all the good ones. That said, this is still the Keys, and anyone who’s driven down the Overseas Highway and stopped at a random restaurant for lunch knows that there is plenty of bad-tasting food being served, too. Gourmands in Key West have a much higher chance of eating well than elsewhere in the Florida Keys, thank goodness. A little forethought can go a long way in helping you avoid the few dining pitfalls that do unfortunately exist in Key West restaurants. There are a few places where the service is bad, or the manger’s policy regarding spoiled food is unsatisfactory, but in general this is a great place to go out to eat.

Going Out for Breakfast

Oh, the pleasures of vacation. You get to sleep late if you want, and stroll out for a leisurely brunch and stay for as long as you like before you begin your day of discovering the ins and outs of Key West. Key West chefs are creative, whimsical, and excellent at doing their jobs of creating mouth-watering dishes for brunch-goers. Imagine french toast with Godiva liqueur white chocolate sauce. Imagine breakfast burritos with smoked ham. Imagine cafe con leche, which is available virtually everywhere you go. If you haven’t tied this Cuban specialty, well, you’re in for a treat. If you like coffee, or even if you don’t, but you like sugar, try the cafe con leche. The best place in town for breakfast, if you have time to relax and order something fabulous, is Camille’s. It’s casual and it’s painted pink, and they have a long list of breakfast items on their menu, so order coffe first so you can handle it!

If you like to eat light in the morning, try a smoothie on Duval Street at a juice bar right on the sidewalk. Ask for protein powder in your smoothie, and you’ll get further before lunch.

Lunch in Key West

…they serve conch a million different ways
There are some Key West restaurants that seem to cater towards the lunch crowd. They may be open for breakfast and dinner, but the meal most enjoyed at these places is lunch. Why? Because these Key West eateries are causal, speedy, tasty and convenient to tourist spots. One such lunch place is the Half Shell Raw Bar, situated right on the docks amidst the hustle bustle of Key West’s Historic Seaport. They do up conch a zillion different ways in here, and their T-shirts are retro style and cool-looking.

Another great place for lunch, that stands out as a tourist must-see, is Margaritaville Cafeon Duval Street. Jimmy Buffet fans will of course visit this mecca with the giant mural of a beaming, sun-drenched Buffet on its walls. Others might come for lunch just to see what it’s all about. They play his music constantly, so you should get a good idea of what he and his fans are about. But the burgers are just great, and the service is good, too. One reason it’s good for lunch is because they really pack ’em in at this eatery, so it’s a bit frenetic, what with the close quarters and the loud Buffet music piped in. But it’s 100% Key West, it’s right on Duval Street so you’ll be passing it by sooner or later, and the burgers, like we said, are mmm mmm good.

Back to the Historic Waterfront area for some Key West dining, you can’t miss the Conch Republic Seafood Company, right on the docks in front of charter boats. The atmosphere is breezy, open, casual, and large- the place looks like it used to be a warehouse of some sort. The walls are actually giant garage doors that can be opened in good weather. The food is okay, but the place has been known to serve a spoiled sauce here and there, and not do much about it on the bill. In our experience, management was unwilling to do much for us ($5 off the bill) when we complained of unedible fish due to a nasty tasting spoiled green sauce on it. Perhaps they figure only tourists go here? This is certainly a tourist joint, and in general the food is good. If you do happen to be unlucky and get some spoiled food, well we tried to warn you. The wait staff is very pleasant.


Dinner is a big event in Key West, especially if you plan your Key West dining at a restaurant on Duval Street. If you do ever get a little dressed up in this oh-so-casual city, it will be for dinner. Dinner is elegant and the surroundings are beautiful on Duval Street, where you may sit under lit up palm trees at tables dressed up in white linen tablecloths. It’s time to show off the tan you got out on the water that day, and sit amongst other diners, watching the world go by, should you choose a street-level table. Or choose something off the beaten path, like Mangia Mangia, which serves the world’s best homemade fresh pasta and has garden seating. There are so many restaurants with garden seating in Key West that you’ll feel like you’ve missed out if you haven’t dined outside for dinner. Restaurants go late here, but not Miami late, and usually by 10 or 11 things are winding down as far as dinner is concerned. Then it’s time to hit the bars, if that’s your desire.