A long time ago, too long to remember when exactly it was, an old friend of mine and his family went down to Key West, Florida. His mom raved about the key lime pie and told me that you could even buy it frozen on a stick.
Some people might hear that information and store it away as a fun fact, but I’ve been thinking about it for years and forming an action plan. I needed to get down to Key West and try that chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick. Also, I needed to see Ernest Hemingway’s old house with the polydactyl cats. My dreams came true this past week.
I could go on and on about Key West and its attractions, but I’ll keep it moderately brief for the purposes of a blog post. Below are some of the food highlights from my trip and suggestions of what to do nearby. I also included a little bit about food and attractions in Miami because I spent time there at the beginning and end of my trip. I wish I could have spent more time exploring Miami but I’ll have to go back for a longer trip soon.
Like I said before, I only spent a little time in Miami, so this list is by no means exhaustive. Here are some spots to check out if you’re in the city, though:
Zak the Baker
Anyone who is a fan of artisanal bread and pastries will love Zak the Baker. Located in the Wynwood Arts District, it has a nice variety of baked goods including one of the best pain au chocolat I’ve ever tasted (pictured above). Don’t miss their homemade bread and toast dishes.
While you’re in the Wynwood Arts District, you’d be remiss if you didn’t stop by Coyo Taco. The hip taco spot is steps away from the Wynwood Walls. Their guac is outstanding and the tacos are next level. I’d recommend the pork tacos with pineapple (pictured above).
Mandolin Aegean Bistro
I’ve wanted to try Mandolin Aegean Bistro for years after following them on Instagram, and their food did not disappoint. Mediterranean delights abound including an arugula salad with dates and pomegranate dressing, a Turkish spread sampler with eggplant dip, hummus, and tomato dip, served alongside pieces of warm homemade bread, and the best baklava I’ve ever had.
A&B Lobster House
Located on the Key West Bight, A&B Lobster House is one of the best places to get seafood on the island. You can take in the harbor from a patio seat and enjoy cold beer and happy hour specials including oysters and beer shrimp. Go upstairs for fine dining and downstairs for casual dining.
You haven’t really eaten in Key West until you stop by Blue Heaven. The Bahama Village restaurant is known for its excellent seafood and its giant slices of key lime pie topped with *a lot* of meringue. I’d recommend the “Yellow Submarine” sandwich the grilled snapper and a slice of the pie.
Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe
Kermit’s serves the best key lime pie on the island, in my humble opinion. I got a plain slice and then on the way out, I remembered that they sold a slice frozen on a stick with chocolate on the outside. I went back in and got the chocolate slice and it was even better than the original.
If you’re looking for authentic Cuban food, stop by El Siboney on the southern part of the island. I got the shrimp enchilado that came with yellow rice and plantains, and it blew me away.
Cuban Coffee Queen
Coffee lovers should stop by Cuban Coffee Queen. There’s a location near the southern side of the island and one on popular Duval Street. I got an iced cafe con leche with caramel and it was delicious. Check out the mural at the side of the coffee shop.
For fine Southern food, look no further than Firefly. The restaurant, which is located in Bahama Village, has some of the best Southern dishes on the island including the shrimp and grits pictured above. I’m not always a big fan of grits but this dish changed my mind.
Moondog Cafe and BakeryLast but certainly not least, Moondog Cafe and Bakery is a great neighborhood spot with a nice patio, and it’s right across the street from the Hemingway House (which I’d also recommend visiting). I got a mahi sandwich and a glass of the house strawberry sangria. The meal was simple but everything was cooked to perfection.
I wish I was still on vacation but I guess I couldn’t stay in Key West forever. I can’t wait to go back someday soon though and try more restaurants, enjoy the beach, and stop at a few more islands on the drive down.
Here’s a song that reminds me of Key West. I heard it one night as I was walking through downtown after watching the sunset in Mallory Square.