During my holiday in Key West I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of the various dining options on the island. I was on holiday with my housemate and both he and I had nothing but good things to say about our eating experiences while down there. Here’s a quick summary of several of the restaurants we ate at.
CONCH REPUBLIC SEAFOOD COMPANY
631 Greene Street
Wasn’t too optimistic wandering into this waterfront place because it looks like a regular chain restaurant. But I was won over by the friendly bartender and the outstanding view, and the food sealed the deal. It’s basic pub fare but with great ingredients. I had the tortilla wrap with freshly caught mahi-mahi, tomatoes, lettuce and sour cream. Fantastic. Not an exciting dish but it was perfectly cooked and it was incredibly filling for a low price.
JACK’S SEAFOOD SHACK
430 Duval Street
Much like the Conch Republic Seafood Company, I was wary of Jack’s Seafood Shack because it’s situated within the Crowne Plaza hotel and hotel dining options aren’t always great. So I chose the safe dish of fish and chips. Hard to screw up, right? Thankfully yes. As a Brit raised in a port town on the North Sea I’m pretty judgmental when it comes to good fish and chips. Jack’s effort wasn’t amazing but it was still good. The fish was once again fresh and flaky, and the batter was crisp and flavorful as opposed to other attempts I’ve tried where it’s soggy and indigestible.
1029 Southard Street
Went here based off the recommendation of a hotel concierge and the promise of a free bottle of wine with two entrees. My travel companion and I were expecting something low-key but were pleasantly surprised by how upscale (yet relaxed) we found Cafe Sole. It’s fine dining but in deceptively laid-back surroundings. On our waiter’s recommendation I tried the restaurant’s specialty, a white fish called hog snapper served with a roasted red pepper zabaglione. Damn it was good. I can see why it’s their most popular dish. Hog snapper tastes somewhat like shrimp, and even though I’m not a huge fan of peppers they added a perfect kick to the dish. One of my favorite dining experiences while in Key West, it’s a definite must-visit and seems like a locals’ hangout.
500 Duval Street
Sure, Margaritaville is a tourist trap for fans of musician Jimmy Buffett. But it was my last day in Key West and I was doing a full day of touristy events, including getting a photo with some Ernest Hemingway lookalikes. So I stepped in to Buffett’s cafe. The incredibly friendly waiter set the right tone as I relaxed with some very strong drinks. My server recommended the blackened fish sandwich, and even had it done lightly spiced knowing how sensitive my weak palette can be. It was delicious, so moreish that I probably revolted everyone in the restaurant with how quickly I shoved it down my gullet. Finished lunch off with a slice of perfectly tart Key Lime pie.