Where the locals eat in Key West
Get off the eaten path with these best-kept secret restaurants
Even in popular destinations, it’s possible to get away from the crowds and uncover hidden gems where locals and savvy travelers enjoy better food at better prices. Here are my favorite secret eats in Key West.
You’ll need your GPS to find this place, and you will consider turning around more than once – but stay the course! Situated on the docks amongst the fishing fleet, is a place where, not so long ago, tourists were rare and the locals enjoyed the best fresh seafood at a reasonable price. It’s catching on with the tourists, but still a spot I visit every time I’m in Key West. Come casual. Enjoy the food, drink and views.
This is away from the crowds at Mallory Square and Duval Street, and definitely worth seeking out. Never eaten Haitian food before? No worries. The owners are always on site cooking and serving, and are happy to make recommendations. Creole/Caribbean food choices range from local seafood to oxtail. I couldn’t find a website … but you’ll find plenty of positive comments online.
This authentic Cuban kitchen cranks out delicious eats from 5 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Their new home (a block down White Street) looks fancier than their iconic spot by the laundry mat (pictured) was, but I’m pretty sure it will still be delicious and attract all walks of life. What to eat? The Cuban or Sandy’s Sandwich. If you don’t like those, you’re on your own. I eat here often and always stick to the proven winners. Too much rum and sun to make it out? They deliver anywhere on the island for $3.
Tucked in the middle of a neighborhood, this is the spot for Cuban food. They claim to have won Key West’s Best Cuban Restaurant award each year since 1993, and I take them at their word. Sampling from nearly 40 pork, chicken, seafood and beef dishes is proof enough for me. Even on winter weeknights there may still be long waits, so the best option may be getting food to go. Further proof this is off the beaten path, but well worth finding.
This one almost did not make the list because its popularity is leaking out beyond the locals. But you have to walk to the very end of the wharf area and most tourists never make it that far, so I want to give it a plug. Originally a shrimp warehouse, it became a restaurant and seafood market when shrimping moved to Stock Island. You can watch the boats come and go and might even spy a fisherman delivering the day’s catch. Everything is good. Get a variety and share. And get a shirt.