The Florida Key, with several tropical islands that run the bottom 120 miles of Florida’s Southernmost tip, is one of the best tropical destinations in the country, maybe even the world. The Keys lie between Mexico’s photogenic Gulf to the West and the mesmerizing Atlantic Ocean to the East. Well-known towns include Islamorada, Duck Key, Marathon, Key Largo, and iconic Key West…and boy, are they delicious! Here are the best places to eat in the Florida Keys, as sampled by yours truly.
FYI: My list starts in the Upper Keys (Key Largo) and travels down to the Lower Keys and Key West.
Table of contents
- Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo
- Sunrise Cuban Cafe, Tavernier
- Marker 88, Islamorada
- Hog Heaven, Islamorada
- Square Grouper, Islamorada
- Hungry Tarpon, Islamorada
- Angler & Ale, Duck Key
- Marathon Grill and Ale House, Marathon
- The Galley Grill, Summerland Key
- El Meson de Pepe, Key West
- Caroline’s, Key West
- Two Friends Patio, Key West
- Blue Heaven, Key West
- Better Than Sex, Key West
- Harpoon Harry’s, Key West
- Chico’s Cantina, Key West
- Noteworthy Mentions
- Eat Your Way Through the Florida Keys
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo
Chances are if you’ve driven the Florida Keys, you’ve seen the cutesy neon sign at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen advertising world-famous key lime pie. It turns out this is one of the best you’ll find, so whip that car around and enjoy the fare. Mrs. Mac’s is decorated with license plates from all around the country—definitely an eye-catching display that will keep you on the hunt for your state.
Sara (my friend) had a burger here, which she said was the best burger in the Florida Keys. I chose the grilled shrimp (blackened) with rice and beans. I give these rice and beans a 10/10 as they were excellent. The shrimp was cooked perfectly and had plenty of seasoning, but I didn’t care for the cocktail sauce on the side. Perhaps a key lime clarified butter would have been a better choice.
The key lime pie was really good, and our service was top-notch. I will be back again to eat at the original Mrs. Mac’s.
Sunrise Cuban Cafe, Tavernier
One great thing about eating in the Florida Keys, you have a considerable number of authentic eateries to get your Cuban food fix. Sunrise Cuban Cafe is one of them. Dine in or out (they even have a walk-up window) and enjoy a delicious cup of Cuban coffee (cortadito is my drink choice) and a yummy breakfast. Breakfast can be a typical sandwich with eggs, cheese, ham, or one of the meat over rice meals from the steam table. Both seemed to be popular with the guests.
I had the breakfast sandwich, with creamy, cheesy eggs and salty bits of ham piled on a billowy roll that truly melts in your mouth. I’m at a loss for words describing this excellent combination, which seems so simple but tastes worlds away from a ham/egg/cheese sandwich. You’ll have to taste it for yourself and see what magic this creation makes. I also tried a Chicken Croquette, always a tasty little appetizer.
Tip: Don’t be intimated because the menu and ingredients may seem unfamiliar. Sunrise Cuban Cafe’s staff is super helpful and offers attentive service.
Marker 88, Islamorada
As you drive through beautiful Islamorada, Marker 88 is a must. Not only did I eat there once, but my daughter and I came back again for dinner because it was so good. The restaurant sits on the water and affords some of the best views we had of the entire trip.
Start your meal with Lobster & Mango Guacamole. It is creamy, decadent, and worked well with the salty tortilla chips. I loved the richness of the flavors paired together.
On our second visit, we ordered Onion Crusted Mahi-Mahi and Filet Mignon with key-lime hollandaise dinner entrees. The Mahi-Mahi was sautéed with toasted onions (creative!) and finished with a key lime beurre blanc, key lime juice, and butter. Be still my beating heart!
Before dinner came warm-baked bread with olive oil and herb dipping sauce, which we sopped up in seconds. My daughter (Peyton) had the juicy Filet Mignon Oscar with asparagus and key lime hollandaise. She chose a side of macaroni and cheese to accompany her succulent steak. Both dishes were spectacular!
Hog Heaven, Islamorada
Coming in on the list with a bar you can’t miss in the Florida Keys is Hog Heaven Sports Bar & Grill. The restaurant makes a dreamy Key Lime Margarita. Yep, just the little tweak of a classic recipe has turned into a fantastic creation that you can’t drink only one of. If margaritas are not your drink, the sweet but creamy Bushwhacker is another excellent choice.
Peyton and I sat at the bar to enjoy our cocktails. Though we did not have any food (this was pre-dinner drinks for us), the food served around us (Smoked Fish Dip, Peel and Eat Shrimp, and The Hogster, spicy sausage sandwich) looked tasty. We would come back to Hog Heaven for the excellent service and great drinks.
Hog Heaven has live music, a fantastic happy hour, 21 TVs, and serves food until 3 AM.
Square Grouper, Islamorada
Square Grouper Bar & Grill is a beautiful restaurant in Islamorada where you can dine outdoors and watch the boaters and fishermen at play. The setting is gorgeous, and there is plenty of parking. Start your dining experience with the Portobello Fries, served with off-the-hook delicious curry mango dipping sauce and horseradish aioli.
While the entrees list looked outstanding, I wasn’t that hungry, so I chose a Caesar salad with blackened chicken. The fresh shaved Parmesan over the top of the salad took my salad to the next level. Yum!
Now, time for the best part of your Square Grouper meal—the magnificent house-made Bread Pudding a la mode. The taste is exquisite, drenched with a warm buttered bourbon sauce, but the presentation turns heads from when the server steps out of the kitchen carrying it. Wow!
Hungry Tarpon, Islamorada
Robbie’s Marina is THE place to check out at Islamorada. From fishing and feeding tarpon to watching the manatees play and eating uber-fresh seafood, you’ll find it at Hungry Tarpon, the onsite restaurant at this popular property.
While the fish & chips are probably the most popular item, I chose the Chef’s (hot) Peel & Eat Shrimp (steamed in Islamorada citrus ale) and a side of Bacon Jalapeño Beer Cheese Fries. We had more driving to do that day, so we skipped the alcoholic beverages, but the menu listing them looked fantastic.
Angler & Ale, Duck Key
Angler & Ale is a sophisticated-looking upscale restaurant that sits on the waterfront in Duck Key. The number of fantastic sounding dishes they have on one menu will astound you! While you are deciding on your meal, enjoy a cold draft beer (many local choices), a creative cocktail, or a glass of wine from the great selection.
If you like seafood, start your meal with the Caribbean Conch (pronounced conck) Fritters. These tasty little numbers were light and had great flavor and came with a side of tangy key lime aioli. If you are a shrimp fan, the Key West Peel and Eat Shrimp are excellent and were so fresh that it seemed to melt in our mouths.
I went light after all of those appetizers for dinner and had the Burrata and Heirloom Tomato Salad. The salad was topped with toasted prosciutto and drizzled with a lemon vinaigrette. I’m a big fan of Burrata, and the prosciutto was a nice touch. The salad was so darned good! I also added a side of the over-the-top delicious macaroni and cheese. This is creamy goodness right here.
Peyton ordered the fish tacos with a side of Caribbean slaw. Both items were spectacular, and a craft-beer flight was perfect for washing them down with. Ask your waiter about Angler & Ale’s the hook-and-cook options if you had a productive day fishing in the Florida Keys.
Marathon Grill and Ale House, Marathon
There is more to the Florida Keys than just seafood, which Peyton and I confirmed from a quick lunch at Marathon Grill and Ale House. Located in a strip mall, the level of food quality and tasty eats blew us away.
I chose the Cobb Salad, with blue cheese, bacon crumbles, avocado, egg, and tomatoes, while Peyton had the Buffalo Wings. My salad was topped with a homemade dressing, and it was exceptional. Peyton’s wings were meaty and juicy; she loved them…and she is a wing expert.
You are in the South, so be sure to add a sweet tea to your meal or a cold draft beer. Marathon Grill and Ale House have over 100 beers from the most extensive selection South of Miami. I must mention that our server was excellent, another reason it makes the list of best restaurants in the Florida Keys.
The Galley Grill, Summerland Key
Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day, and Peyton and I found a budget-friendly spot in the Florida Keys that you won’t want to miss. The Galley Grill serves breakfast and lunch, with choices such as Benedicts, Quiche, 3-Egg Omelets, Pancakes, and Waffles.
I had the half order of Biscuits and Gravy, which is one biscuit. Peyton had scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, home fries, and toast. Our meals were tasty, and half of the price they would have been further south in the Keys.
El Meson de Pepe, Key West
Cuban food plays a big part in the Florida Keys food scene. El Meson de Pepe has a primo address (Mallory Square), ample outdoor dining space, and has been a staple in Key West for over 30 years. There was live salsa music and lots of dancing on the patio the night I was there, which was great entertainment. Mojitos and caipirinhas seemed to be the chosen cocktails judging by those around us.
I chose a Cuban sandwich for my main course, but also wanted the black beans and white rice, so I added the combo which has those plus yucca fries. Whatever you do, don’t skip this delightful trifecta. While you are feasting away on your fantastic Cuban cuisine, save a little room for the Guava Bread Pudding, rich with tropical flavor and comforting.
Caroline’s, Key West
Several locals recommended Caroline’s Cafe for lunch, so we went. We lucked into a front-row seat, great for people-watching, and perused the menu. Caroline’s has a large selection of dishes, from Shrimp & Grits to sandwiches, salads to enticing appetizers.
I went big and chose the Jambalaya. Now, if you’ve had Jambalaya in New Orleans, chances are you are “judgy,” and it never lives up to the real thing. Wrong—Caroline’s Spicy Cajun Jambalaya was so good that I didn’t even need to add salt or hot sauce. Well done, color me impressed.
My dish was full of bold flavors and with the right amount of heat. I didn’t have to search for the big chunks of sausage, chicken, and shrimp…it was loaded. My husband, another cajun/creole food fan, was so jealous.
My friend, Sara, chose the Macon & Bacon Salad, which looked unbelievably good. It came with Vidalia onions, maple pecans, corn, Caroline’s ranch dressing, bacon, and chunks of crispy fried chicken. Oh, my! Enjoy the chickens wandering the property at Caroline’s Cafe; they make for classic Key West photos.
Two Friends Patio, Key West
I always love visiting the top restaurants per TripAdvisor on my travels. That is how I ended up at historic Two Friends Patio Restaurant, an adorable open-air cafe with an appealing menu. Two Friends Patio is within walking distance of Mallory Square and offers both a romantic and casual vibe and really good eats.
To kick things off, I had a half-pound of steamed peel & eat shrimp. The portion seemed huge to me, and I enjoyed the fresh horseradish on the side and drawn butter for dipping. Complimentary brown bread was also a nice treat for the table. My friend Sara had the decadent snow crab legs platter, with a baked potato on the side.
For my main course at Two Friends Patio, I went a much different route than expected and chose the Chicken Carbonara. This hearty pasta dish was quite good, with a full-bodied parmesan cream sauce, big chunks of grilled chicken, bacon, ham, and tomato. Two Friends Patio is another Key West eatery that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with many seafood and fresh catch dishes.
Blue Heaven, Key West
Blue Heaven wins tons of awards for their food and key lime pie, piled high with meringue (that’s a topic for another day), but let me tell you, the Floridian-Caribbean food is outstanding. Using quality ingredients and whipping up chef-inspired picture-perfect plates, Blue Heaven is a step into another world filled with roosters, artwork, and an eclectic setting.
I loved everything on the menu but had to narrow down my choices. Since Eggs Benedicts are my favorite thing ever, I chose a unique dish from Blue Heaven—the Beef Tenderloin Benedict, with fresh fruit. Every ingredient in this meal was second-to-none, from the fluffy and firm English muffins to the key lime hollandaise sauce, and it was perfection. As they say on Food Network, “One bite and your soul soars.”
Tip: Order the breakfast potatoes as a side if your meal doesn’t come with them. Game changer right here!
Better Than Sex, Key West
A risqué dining option in Key West is the Better Than Sex Desserts restaurant. Known for suggestively named desserts and drinks, this establishment almost always requires a reservation because it is so popular. Try the Kinky-er Key West Cream Pie, light and airy with a tart lime cream on top. The crust is that of a brown sugar orange blossom shortbread cookie—genius! Other creative dessert names include Double Stuffed, Between my Red Velvet Sheets Cheesecake, and Italian Stallion.
Consider the Gang Bang, a four-way of candy-inspired shooters including the Honey Bunny, Fiery Fornicator, Cotton Panties, and Key Lime Krack. They were all delicious and fun to drink.
No matter what you choose, you are sure to have a good time at Better Than Sex Desserts. Keep in mind; this may not be the place for you if you are easily offended or prefer to avoid sexual innuendo.
Harpoon Harry’s, Key West
Step into this no-frills eatery that is cash-only for one of the best breakfasts in Key West. Harpoon Harry’s is a restaurant I’ve heard great things about for years. The restaurant has a cheerful vibe and a diner feel.
I very much enjoyed my Spinach, Feta, and Tomato omelet with a side of hollandaise ($1 additional fee) for dipping. It was filling, delicious, and came with home fries or grits and your choice of toast. My friend loved the Biscuits & Gravy and gave it a thumbs up. Harpoon Harry’s serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Chico’s Cantina, Key West
Situated right off of the main drag in Key West on a side street is Chico’s Cantina. It is a great place to indulge in a top-shelf margarita or glass of sangria, or dive straight into the good stuff, fabulous Mexican cuisine, all while enjoying the garden patio setting.
Peyton and I started with an order of Chico’s Cheese Dip and Tortilla Chips. Yum, so creamy and delicious. I had the Enchilada Suiza with tender chicken strips and veggies covered in a sour cream sauce, served with rice and a side salad for lunch. Oh my, I could eat at Chico’s Cantina every day if it were in my town.
Peyton had Beef Tacos, which came three to an order. As small as she is, she still polished off every one of them. They were that good!
I recommend taking a seafood break and enjoying the tastes at this Mexican bistro, operating since 1984, and voted the best Mexican restaurant in Key West 12 years in a row.
You’re in the Florida Keys, so you have to check out the signature dish: Key Lime Pie. I’ve sampled it at many places and seen it served in different ways, but the frozen chocolate-dipped key lime pie-on-a-stick at the Key Lime Pie Bakery is the best. I dare you to find a better dessert for under $5 anywhere in the Keys. The store has a killer selection of gourmet food products, and you can take home the original key lime juice that makes perfect pies at home, too.
Have the best cortadito of your life at Cuban Coffee Queen, a counter-serve space at Mallory Square, located at the colorful and picturesque Greetings from Key West mural since 2009. This trendy coffee shop offers Cuban fare, fresh fruit smoothies, sandwiches, and all your favorite coffee drinks.
Eat Your Way Through the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys has many great places to dine. We hope you will agree that these are a great offering of the best places to eat in the Florida Keys.
Which one did we miss?
Thanks to the Florida Keys and Key West Tourism for hosting my travels to the area. Other than accommodations and food, I did not receive any other compensation for this post. As always, opinions and reviews are 100% mine and unbiased.
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