Key West

Mine’s a Salty Rim! Eight fun restaurants in Key West

I love eating. There are so many exciting places to eat in Key West I thought a separate post was in order. There are no drawbacks to dining in Key West: you can walk practically everywhere in the dreamy evening breeze; the service is marvellous and you can stumble into most places without booking. Not that I do. You see, I can’t go on holiday without restaurant reservations for the first three nights. It’s thanks to my (entirely rational) fear of endlessly wandering the streets looking for somewhere nice to eat only to be turned away from everywhere and ending up in McDonald’s. I like to think of it as part of the rich tapestry that makes me who I am. Those who know me like to think of it as annoying. Anyway, we had eight nights in Key West and went to eight eateries – by some coincidence I also put on eight pounds.

Night One – Rooftop Café, 308 Front Street. To get to the Rooftop Café you have to turn right (see my main Key West post for an explanation). It’s safely upstairs and has a huge outdoor area so that one can look down on the drunken passers-by. It serves up proper cocktails – our delightful waitress asked if I wanted salt or sugar on my rim. Just be careful you don’t accidentally order the 50-dollar margarita. Rooftop Café serves New Island cuisine, which they tell me is Caribbean style with a Mediterranean touch. Make of that what you will: I had a steak and my first ever key lime pie (heaven).

Cocktails and shellshock – At the Rooftop Café the night after Trump was elected.

Night Two – 2 Cents Restaurant and Pub, 416 Applerouth Lane. This is a lively indoor/outdoor place with Mexican/American numbers on offer as well and some more unusual offerings such as blackcurrant salad and duck nachos. It’s rather tricky to find and alarmingly near some of Key West’s less refined eateries, but it’s worth a trip. This place would probably have been better for a bigger group (there were only three of us) but it was friendly and we had a good time, even if we had to hold on to the edge of the table to stop ourselves being blown away by the air conditioning system. See my post on Miami Beach for my advice about chilly dinners in Florida.

Two Cents – Sometimes when your fellow diners are dull just request a table with a mirror….

Night Three – Bliss KW, 411 Petronia Street. This is a very small, homely Colombian restaurant, tucked away off Duval Street. It has rave reviews on TripAdvisor and other restaurant sites and although it was very nice I’m not joining in the raving. It was too warm inside (practically unheard of in Florida), the interior was beige and despite signs on the window boasting that it served amazing Sangria it was so sweet my teeth spontaneously dissolved after the first sip. The empanadas were great, mind you, the service was (of course) super-friendly and it’s only a stone’s throw from all of Key West’s gay bars (some might call that a mixed blessing – see my main post on Key West for a rundown on those).

Night Four – Louie’s Backyard, 600 Waddell Avenue – This was an utter and absolute joy, despite the peculiar lavatory. I had a key lime pie. This is the only place we had to get a cab to as it’s quite a way across the island near Higg’s Beach. It really is someone’s (presumably Louie’s) back garden. It’s one of the higher end places in Key West, with loads of cocktails and wines, a fresh catch of the day, a seafood-heavy menu and an amazing setting on a huge deck overlooking the ocean. It’s easy to forget, mind you, that in Florida it goes dark at five o’clock. There’s not much point being in a picturesque oceanfront setting when you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Maybe try it for lunch. A Top Tip! is to get the Deet out before dinner. Whatever’s on the menu one thing you can be sure of is that after sundown the mosquitoes have you on the menu.

Night Five – Azur (part of Eden House), 1015 Fleming Avenue. This place was alright. It was almost totally empty and we were seated next to a hideous water feature. The food was good, as was the service, although I had what is possibly the worst glass of red wine I have ever tasted – I don’t know about you but mossy with a chemical finish is not a bouquet I go in for.

Night Six – Waterfront Brewery, 201 William Street. This was a pleasant if vaguely peculiar place. It looks like an aquarium from the outside, but it’s a craft brewery. We walked in through an enormous (and totally empty) games room, replete with air hockey and other such attractions, into a colossal restaurant and bar area which has doors opening onto the marina (very pretty).

Peckish? Try a light snack at the Waterfront Brewery

The menu is mainly huge ribs and burgers (see picture)  but it’s all about the craft beers which are brewed on site. You can see (and smell) the brewery. It was fun but this ain’t no quaint artisan brewery inside; it’s very commercialised, with sport on TVs over the bar and a huge gift shop selling every kind of tat you can possibly imagine.

Night Seven – Pepe’s Café, 806 Caroline Street. This place was absolutely incredible. It takes authentic to a whole new level – I felt as if I’d just stepped onto a film set (although I often feel like that). It’s been there since 1909 and I’d bet a fair bit of dollar that it hasn’t been redecorated since. I had a steak and then I had a key lime pie. I would suggest you do the same.

Walk through this door and go back in time – but find amazing food and service

Night Eight – Blackfin Bistro, 918 Duval Street. This is safely on the left hand side of Duval Street. Very Italian. Our New Gay Friends took us here on the last night of our holiday, as they’d raved about it for three days we couldn’t say no. It looks small from the front but don’t be fooled, it has a big courtyard out back. We may not be allowed back as we had what we thought was a quiet debate as to whether the waiter was hot or not. We decided not by a 6-1 majority. Most importantly, Blackfin Bistro served what was undoubtedly the best key lime pie of the trip.

Blackfin Bistro – taken by the (debatably) attractive waiter…

There are 317 restaurants in Key West and much to my chagrin we couldn’t go everywhere. Sarabeth’s, Deuce’s Off the Hook, Michael’s, Harpoon Harry’s, Nine One Five, the Thirsty Mermaid and La Marquesa were all either highly recommended by fellow holidaymakers or looked good as we minced by.

When I said there are no drawbacks to dining out in Key West I lied a bit. There’s the price. My Amex card actually melted. Also, Floridians eat much earlier than I expected – you glance up from your coffee at nine thirty and suddenly realise that everyone else has gone home, including the waiter. I’m still going back to Key West ASAP so I can eat more. Anyone want to bet I can put on ten pounds next time.

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