When Bahamians migrated to the islands in the 1800s to look for work in the ship salvage and fishing industries, they brought with them conch-based cuisine that has become one of the “must eat” experiences for visitors to Key West.
While it is known as the Conch Republic, Key West has developed its own gastronomic markers that evolved beyond conch fritters and conch chowder. If you want to give conch a try though, one of the best places to visit is Conch Republic Seafood Company.
Cuban influences are also steeped into Key West culinary offerings. One of the best places to get authentic Cuban food is the highly-rated El Siboney Restaurant. This eatery has won Key West’s Best Cuban Food Award annually since 1993.
Two other staples of Key West food culture are wild-caught Key West pink shrimp and stone crab. Two of the best places to get your fix of Key West pink shrimp and stone crab are Eaton Street Seafood Market and Half Shell Raw Bar.
If you plan to visit Key West soon, keep reading to get the inside scoop on some the island’s best restaurants where you can get an authentic Key West dining experience. We also compiled several upcoming local events for the foodies among us.
Described as one of Zagat’s highest rated restaurants in Key West, Cafe Marquesa offers an unforgettable dining experience. With contemporary American cuisine mainstays such as Shrimp and Grits, Pimento Cheese Baked Oysters, and Seared Duck Breast, this 50-seat restaurant also offers an extensive wine menu and a mouthwatering dessert menu.
Nestled in historical Bahama Village in Key West is Blue Heaven Restaurant. This iconic landmark housed in a century old building, where Ernest Hemingway is reported to have refereed boxing matches, is known for its Floridian-Caribbean cuisine, delicious key lime pie, live music, and laid back atmosphere (read: live roosters in the open courtyard). Come prepared to wait a little because this restaurant’s consistently high reviews and unpretentious ambiance makes it a favorite for locals and visitors alike.
Bien Caribbean Latino
Bien Caribbean & Latin Food Restaurant in Key West offers a wide selection of mouthwatering dishes including the Caribean Roast (sandwich or entree), Paseo Prawns, the hearty West Caribbean Bowl, and Fire Roasted Corn. For a hearty Latin-fusion meal, Bien is a must.
At Fisherman’s Cafe in Key West, you can enjoy fresh, locally-sourced seafood and restaurant specialties such as Lobster Enchilau Tacos with an authentic island sauce, Johnny Cake in Cheese Grits, and Black Bean Burger topped with avocado. Located in Old Town Key West, this cafe’s menu covers a wide base with its selection of local seafood, sandwiches, and fresh ground coffee.
El Siboney Restaurant
Repeat patrons come back time and time again for this top-rated restaurant’s Roast Pork, Siboney Steak, Paella Valenciana and Cuban Mix Sandwich. With two area locations–Old Town and Stock Island–El Siboney Restaurant is a family-friendly restaurant that has been serving authentic Cuban dishes since 1984. It has also won Key West’s Best Cuban Restaurant every year since 1993.
Latitudes is consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants in Key West. It has won Open Table’s 100 Best Romantic Restaurants in America, 100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America, 100 Best Al Fresco Restaurants in America and won for Florida in Food & Wine Magazine’s Most Romantic Restaurant in Every State. Housed on the property of Sunset Key Cottages, its “ever evolving work of art” menu consists of island cuisine complemented by locally sourced fish and fresh fruit.
Conch Republic Seafood Company
The Conch Repubic Seafood Company is a Key West institution and top seafood restaurant that serves what it describes as dock-to-dish dining in a refurbished building that was once a fish house and ice plant. Diners can expect a wide selection of seafood-based dishes, live entertainment, a wide variety of cocktails, what it calls Key West’s Best Happy Hour, and even an onsite store.
Seven Fish is a Key West contemporary bistro that offers the freshest local seafood, handpicked wine menu, specialty drinks, and homemade classic desserts. Dish favorites include the Thai Curry Snapper, 7Fish Meatloaf, and Banana Chicken.
Eaton Street Seafood Market
Last, but certainly not least, Eaton Street Seafood Market in Old Town Key West is known for the best selection and freshest local seafood in the area. It is said to have the best Key West pink shrimp, assortment of fish, stone crab and even complementary marinades. Housed in a building that dates back to 1877, Eaton Street Seafood Market is a fish market and a restaurant and it also delivers fresh Key West seafood throughout the US.
Upcoming events for foodies in Key West
Florida Keys Seafood Festival | January 18-19, 2020
The Florida Keys Seafood Festival is a family-friendly event that showcases local seafood, the hardworking fishermen and women who make it happen, vendors that incorporate nautical and marine life into a variety of arts and crafts, and free chef and fishing demonstrations.
Key West Food & Wine Festival | January 26 – February 2, 2020
The Key West Food & Wine Festival is an eight-day event that features wine tastings, chef and winemaker collaborations, an artisan market, culinary workshops, shrimp boil, a masquerade dance party, and more.
Key West Bourbon Blues and BBQ Festival | May 21-24, 2020
The Key West Bourbon Blues & BBQ Festival is an annual food, drink and music festival that features blues musical performances, BBQ, and top class whiskey.
The Key Lime Festival | July 2-5, 2020
With fun and funky events such as the Key Lime Hunt, Key Lime University, Pie Drop, Sip and Stroll and a Pie Eating Championship contest, the annual Key Lime Festival in Key West adds a little ‘zest’ to the island’s 4th of July celebrations.