I just returned from a conference in Key West and wanted to write up some of the eats. My motivation is that there was a real dearth of good guidance. Usually between this site and the New York Times 36 Hours In… column I can come up with some good recs but it was a bit sparse, and the NYT article was 6 years old. So, for posterity and in rapid fire because frankly I’m a little burnt out by my first work travel in 2 years, here goes:
Breakfast 1- Croissants de France- excellent coffee, very good cheddar and bacon croissant. Nice porch to sit on and sip coffee. Disappointing that even if you’re staying, they serve coffee in disposable cups. (This was a big theme for me as I’m used to reusable mugs and tableware, and those of you who know my posts know that styrofoam is enough of a turn off for me that you could serve me like a 1000 dollar wine in it, and I’d still find it undrinkable.)
Lunch was snacks at the hotel, which were inedible. Full stop.
(I was staying at the Casa Marina, which is down close to the Southernmost marker part of the island.)
Grand Vin Wine Bar- Duval St- this was recommended as an alternative by the concierge at the hotel when I turned down his 2-for-1 happy hour drink coupons and described myself as more of a “one excellent glass of wine” person. However, although the bartender here was super nice, no, they didn’t have any sparkling wines by the glass that weren’t in little airplane individual bottles, and no, she hadn’t heard of pet nat, and no, there isn’t any such thing as orange wine. So… after a straw full of frose and determining it was not really my scene, I moved on.
Dinner 1- this was the real winner of the trip- definitely check out the Thirsty Mermaid- each and every bite was excellent. They have Island Creek Oyster stickers on the chalkboard menu, which clued me in that the seafood was going to be top notch (biased New Englander here in case you weren’t aware). My tuna tartare app and red snapper with pasta entree were both excellent. The snapper was cooked so perfectly, and the pasta was fresh and toothsome and everything was perfectly seasoned. Also, the sparkling wine did not come from a single serve bottle- I was gun-shy and the bartender did give me a bit of a look when I asked.
Breakfast 2- I found the Cuban Coffee Queen, which is a roaster and cafe in Key Lime Square, right off Duval Street. These guys have great branding and marketing, and a friendly little covered but outdoor seating area with roosters scrambling around for entertainment. The cortadito coffee was quite good- usually I’m a black-no-sugar coffee addict, but when in Rome… I returned here a few times over the visit, and I also think the frozen coffee ice cubes that they use in their cold drinks merit a shout out. Genius! I took one of the spicy cuban sandwiches to go just before I left for the airport, and ate it on a layover in Philly (really, who wants a cheesesteak when you could have a cuban sandwich) and thought it was excellent. I have 2 bags of coffee I brought home with me, so we’ll see how it brews up.
Lunch 2- Louie’s Backyard- very close to my hotel, and recommended by someone on this site. I sat at the bar and had the fish tacos which were good. Maybe not quite excellent, and not a great value at $17, but really nothing in Key West is cheap, and you’re paying for the amazing view.
Dinner 2- Cafe Sole- went along with the conference organizers, who apparently always go here. Afterwards, I noted that it was recommended by the NYT. Everyone at the table had the hogfish snapper, so who am I to argue? Another beautifully cooked piece of fish, but the sides fell flat for me- watery baby lima beans, a tasteless tomato with some bread crumbs, and some sweet shredded carrots.
Will return to add in a few more- out of time right now.