Key West is not short on places to eat or drink, which I can attest. We were there for 7 nights, and were traveling with 7 people, so it was decided that each person was “in charge” of one night, during which they got to decide where to eat, what to eat, and were responsible for the check. Since we were there for quite some time, my parents rented a condo so that we would have a “home base.” This was crucial for morning coffee, but also great for nights when we wanted to stay in and cook. My brother and his wife both cooked on their nights; shrimp boil with the freshest Key West pink shrimp that were tender and sweet and absolutely divine, and an appetizer feast with wings and dips and meatballs–the works–for New Years Day. Aunt Joan made her signature meal, Thanksgiving, with all the trimmings. It was of course, delicious. I’m gunning for my brother’s recipe for his creamy corn dip, which I’ll share with you as soon as I get it. It, on a Frito, is heaven.
In spite of my status as Blogger, I’m not a big fan of taking pictures of food at restaurants. In fact, I’m not a big fan of doing anything on my phone at restaurants. Of course, I’m not perfect, but generally I try to keep the phone in the purse and enjoy the food and company in the moment. That said, I don’t have a lot of pictures to prove how great the restaurants we went to were. In fact, my favorite night out I have none. You’ll just have to trust me.
With that in mind, those are all of my pictures in and of the establishments we frequented. The fact that there are so few, and that some are missing altogether, should tell you how much fun I was having. No pictures at the table!
Here are some of the places we went to and that I fully recommend:
Willy T’s: A Key West institution, if you’ve seen any food show centered on Key West, you’ve seen this place featured and for good reason. This was our first night out on the island and it was a great introduction into exactly what Key West has to offer. It’s laid back, a little dive-y, and offers really, really good food. I had seared tuna, but K had a blackened Mahi sandwich and he totally won. There’s live music pretty much all day and definitely every night, but it’s famous for it’s decor, which is really just dollar bills stapled or otherwise affixed to any and every surface of the place. If you’ve watched Arrested Development, you’ll know what I mean when I say There’s always money in the banana stand!
Hogs Breath Saloon: So I can’t attest for the food here, which you may see as a recurring theme, but the atmosphere was really fun. It’s at the end of Duval St., the main “drag” in Key West, and it offers live music, a wrap around bar, great drinks, and dance floor. How can any of that be bad?
Irish Kevin’s: Again, I can’t vouch for the food. However, this is where we spent New Years Eve and it was a blast. There was a great band which we were able to grab front “row” seats to, and the crowd was great. I have great memories from here.
The Green Parrot: Remember in elementary school when it was parachute day? That was the best day. And at the Green Parrot there’s one of those parachutes suspended from the ceiling. It’s a great pub with open windows/walls and eclectic decor, and bonus, Hemingway used to drink there. It’s just down the street from the Hemingway House so it’s perfect to stop into for an afternoon pick me up!
New York Pasta Garden: This was one of my favorite meals and it was right outside of our condo door. To be honest, at first I was leery because the name is a little cheesy, and when I think about Key West I don’t necessarily think about pasta or Italian food. However, we passed by it every night and every night it was packed to the gills. I figured, with as many great food choices as there are on such a small island, this must be a good sign. I had mussels fra diavolo and they were the biggest, most beautiful mussels I’ve ever had. Everyone got something different, and everyone raved.
Santiago’s Bodega: New Year’s Eve on Key West is one of their busiest days of the year, made evident when we tried to make dinner reservations for that night. There were none to be had. Not to be deterred, we opted for a late afternoon early evening lunch/dinner (linner, if you’re my brother), at Santiago’s in Bahama Village. It’s tapas style, which we were all a little worried about–I love tapas, but let’s be honest, it’s easy to eat a meal of tapas, pay out the nose for it, and leave hungry. We were bolstered, however, by the fact that every single local we talked to raved about this place. They were not wrong. Get the beef carpaccio, the yellowtail ceviche, the patatas bravas, or the filet with blue cheese butter. Really though, every single thing we tried was delicious. And we left full! So full.
Kelly’s Caribbean Bar Grill and Brewery: This was our last night out and it was the perfect bookend to our week of vacation. Kelly’s boasts a huge outdoor seating area with great seafood. I got seared Mahi, K got seared Salmon, and most everyone else got coconut shrimp. The shrimp won, in my opinion, but everything was delicious. It was a leisurely dinner and we enjoyed ourselves in the warm night air.
SQ1: Square 1, which is how you pronounce the name of this restaurant according to the locals I spoke to, was also right downstairs from our condo. It’s across Duval Square from New York Pasta Garden, and was also always packed. We tried to make reservations but weren’t able to (we may have not tried hard enough) but we did stop in for cocktails before dinner one night. Their cocktail list is creative, featuring really interesting flavor combinations and ingredients that you don’t have at your home bar. I had one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had, ever. Stay tuned for that… I recreated it as soon as I got home.
McConnell’s Irish Pub: I’m a sucker for a dark room, a pool table, a long oak bar, and a Guinness sign out front. Key West was no exception. After a day of walking all around the island, K and I were foot-sore and thirsty and wanted to stop in somewhere to watch one of the football games, so naturally we gravitated here. We sat at the bar, watched the game, drank a few beers, made friends with the bartender who got my name right on the first try (!) and ordered some Irish nachos which were phenomenal with the ice-cold beer. The rest of the menu looked great too, and had we not had a home-cooked meal waiting for us back at the condo, we probably would have made an evening of it. It’s great to stop in, but I bet you end up staying a while.
We had some truly great food, both out and in. I don’t know which I liked more–the leisurely dinners out and the shared bottles of wine and tastes, or the leisurely dinners in, gathered in the kitchen helping and watching and talking. Either way, it was a week of really great food.
Stay tuned! Later this week I’ll show you lots of pictures, what I packed, and that cocktail I teased you with earlier!