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Key West Restaurants

Ambrosia
Santa Maria Suites Resort
1401 Simonton Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 293 0304

There was much local breast-beating when off-the-beaten-track sushi place Ambrosia decamped from its longtime home for the Miami Modern porte cochere of the redeveloped Santa Maria Suites Resort. Fortunately, it proved a smart move. The new space is much larger—though reservations are still recommended—and the decor whiffs of mid-century with round wicker chairs, black lacquer, and a soothing jazz soundtrack. But most important, the menu of rolls like lobster tempura has been maintained. Any doubters as to the place's authenticity will be silenced by the condiments. They use the real stuff, so the pickled ginger isn't Day-Glo pink and the wasabi is nice and powdery.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 2 pm and daily from 6 to 10 pm.

Banana Cafe
1211 Duval Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 294 7227
www.bananacafe.net

This popular brunch spot, on the quieter end of Duval Street, specializes in nearly 20 varieties of crepes, with fillings that include bacon, mushrooms, and béchamel; goat cheese and walnuts; and sea scallops in white wine and cream. Grab a table on the porch to eat.

Blue Heaven
729 Thomas Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 296 8666
www.blueheavenkw.homestead.com/Blue_Heaven_Restaurant_Key_West.html

Caribbean-themed American and veggie fare draws tourists and locals to this legendary eatery, which served its first meal in September 1992. The menu is heavy on the local seafood, with staples like barbecued shrimp or seared scallops Provençale. The building that houses Blue Heaven has been through many iterations—most of the tables are situated in the outdoor courtyard, where Hemingway refereed boxing matches and customers watched cockfights (there are still chickens pecking about). The patio surface is paved with slate pool-table tops from the restaurant's days as a billiard hall and ice-cream parlor. Diners with more risqué tastes should request a seat in the second-floor gallery, formerly a dance hall and bordello (you can still peek through peepholes into tiny rooms). Reservations are not accepted for breakfast or lunch and there's usually a line, especially for Sunday brunch. It's worth the wait for fragrant house-made banana bread.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 8 am to 3 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm, Sundays 8 am to 2 pm and 5 to 10:30 pm.

BO's Fish Wagon
801 Caroline Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 294 9272

This local institution is another only–in–Key West landmark. It doesn't look like much (if you can say that a building that looks like it was cobbled together precariously from wrecked trucks isn't much), but the sandwiches of fresh-caught fried fish are legendary. The best time to stop by is Friday night, when you can enjoy your sandwich and a cheap beer while listening to an impromptu jam session by local musicians.

Open daily 11 am to 9 pm.

Café Marquesa
Marquesa Hotel
600 Fleming Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 292 1919
www.marquesa.com/cafe-marquesa.htm

With its white tablecloths and hushed ambience, this is one of the poshest places on the island. The intimate, 50-seat restaurant adjoins the Marquesa Hotel, and the food is vaguely Floribbean or fusion. Dishes include a macadamia-crusted yellowtail snapper or conch and blue crab cakes. In addition to the extensive wine list, there's a fun, full martini menu, from Gibsons to dirty to blue cheese–olive versions. Come here if you're craving something a bit more serious than the anything-goes, no-worries-man vibe of most down-home joints nearby.

Open daily 6 to 9:30 pm.

Camille's Restaurant
1202 Simonton Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 296 4811
www.camilleskeywest.com

From dive masters to drag divas, every Key Wester knows Camille's. Despite the down-home feel of the cloth-under-glass tabletops and banquettes plastered with palm-frond patterns, the menu is big-city good. Spots like Blue Heaven may get more attention for brunch, but Camille's is just as delicious: Try the eggs Benedict topped with stone-crab claw meat and Key West pink shrimp, or creative twists on homey favorites, like yellow-corn cashew waffles topped with fresh passion fruit and coconut sauce. Dinner is downright gourmet, with good local seafood selections a constant, including cashew-encrusted Florida grouper pan-fried in banana butter or mahimahi with papaya and tomato scallion cream sauce.—Terry Ward

Open daily 8 am to 3 pm and 6 to 10 pm.

Cuban Coffee

There's a never-to-be-settled debate as to who makes Key West's best Cuban coffee, a sugary shot of espresso called buchi. Inexplicably, the two top rivals for the crown are in a grocery store and a laundromat. Five Brothers is a café and food market crammed with provisions and pots dangling from the ceiling (930 Southard St.; 305-296-5205). Besides buchi and café con leche, they also offer daily specials like ropa vieja (Cuban shredded beef) that go fast—get there before 2. At Sandy's Café inside the M&M laundry, you can linger at one of the outdoor stools and sip a buchi along with one of the killer Cuban sandwiches (1026 White St.; 305-295-0159).

El Siboney
900 Catherine Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 296 4184
www.elsiboneyrestaurant.com

El Siboney has been the island's premier Cuban joint since 1984. Located in a low-slung building on a residential corner, the restaurant was taken over by new owners in 2004. Thankfully they haven't changed a thing. The menu still includes staples like ropa vieja (shredded flank steak with a tomato-based sauce) and a fragrant picadillo (ground beef), as well as a perfect Cuban sandwich. Daily specials like avocado salad or grilled snapper are posted on the whiteboard outside by the front door. No matter what you order, you will get a red plastic basket of crisp-toasted Cuban bread oozing with melted butter. The best time to come is lunchtime, when El Siboney doubles as a local gathering place-cum–gossip hub.

Open daily 11 am to 9:30 pm.

Grocery Shopping
Key West , Florida

Stock your minibar or condo kitchenette with gourmet groceries from Fausto's Food Palace. There are two branches, but the Fleming Street location will deliver as long as your purchase is over $25 (522 Fleming St.; 305-296-5663 and 1105 White St.; 305-294-5221). If you buy delicious mangrove snapper—or catch it yourself—the Schooner Wharf Bar will grill, broil, or fry it up for you.

Hogfish Bar and Grill
6810 Front Street
Stock Island , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 293 4041
www.hogfishbar.com

You'll get some of the freshest fish at this waterfront bar and grill on the working shrimp docks of Stock Island, the next island up from Key West. But the challenge is actually finding it. You wind through rows of trailer parks—dodging the odd dog sunning itself in the middle of a quiet street—before happening upon an open-air, tiki-roof restaurant surrounded by bobbing boats. The next challenge, of course, is leaving: With so much great food and a bar scene that draws in tipplers no matter the hour, your picnic table is likely to become a permanent perch for the better part of an afternoon. Named for one of spearfishing's tastiest Florida catches, the restaurant specializes in the tender white-meat fish. Hogfish comes in tacos piled with fresh cabbage and a tangy sauce, or blackened in what's arguably the best fish sandwich in the Keys. Shrimp's on the menu, too, in the form of po'boys and the beloved lobster and shrimp pie.—Terry Ward

Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.

Louie's Backyard
700 Waddell Avenue
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 294 1061
www.louiesbackyard.com

An oldie but goodie, this Key West institution frequented by Jimmy Buffett—and just about every upscale tourist who comes to Key West—is housed in a historic oceanfront home. Norman Van Aken got his start here along with Susan Ferry of Café Marquesa, but these days, its executive chef Doug Shook who whips up steaks, chops, and seafood with a Caribbean flair; lobster braised in truffle butter is a popular appetizer. It's expensive; lunch is the best buy. Channel your inner Buffett and order a margarita at the romantic outdoor Afterdeck bar, which serves until 2 a.m. Reservations for dinner are essential.

Mangoes
700 Duval Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 292 4606
www.mangoeskeywest.com

This always packed eatery is all about location, location, location; diners regularly compete for patio tables to watch the human carnival on Duval Street. The fruit-infused Floribbean cuisine (standouts include shrimp in a mango barbecue sauce, filet mignon with chimichurri, and jerk pork) is a bit overpriced but worth it.

Nine One Five
915 Duval Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 296 0669
www.915duval.com

Make your way to the quiet southern end of Duval Street, and you'll find the blue-and-white classic Key West bungalow that houses Nine One Five. Chef Stuart Kemp captures the city's Old Town, tropical vibe without falling into the touristy culinary trap of so many of his counterparts fixated on conch fritters and Key Lime pie. The dome of tuna tartare spiked with pickled cucumber and avocado sashimi is a favorite starter to share; crispy whole yellowtail snapper from local waters is a menu standard and arrives sizzling in Thai chile and garlic sauce. After dinner, pop upstairs to the Point5 Lounge. They've got you covered for late-night dining, with a menu of Key West pink shrimp, Asian baby back ribs, and veggie paninis with chèvre served well into the balmy night.—Terry Ward

Open Tuesdays through Sundays 6 to 11 pm.

Santiago's Bodega
207 Petronia Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 296 7691
www.santiagosbodega.com

Most travelers hear about this diminutive restaurant in the Bahama Village neighborhood thanks to a local's tip, and Key Westers aren't exactly forthcoming with the Duval Crawl crowd about their favorite places to eat. So consider yourself lucky to know where to find the most atmospheric tapas bar this side of Miami. Favorites include grouper fillets with fennel seed and coriander, Haloumi cheese flambéed tableside, and goat cheese–smothered dates wrapped with prosciutto. Portions are sized for sharing, so start with a couple of tapas per person. And if bread pudding is on the dessert menu, be sure not to miss its gooey, cinnamon-y comfort-food decadence. There are a few tables inside in a candlelit space, but on a balmy Key West night, the best place to be is on the front patio, surrounded by banana trees and tropical foliage.—Terry Ward

Open daily 11 am to 10 pm.

Seven Fish
632 Olivia Street
Key West , Florida
33040
Tel: 305 296 2777
www.7fish.com

This little bistro, housed in a former luncheonette on a quiet street in Old Town, is easy to miss. But the Asian fusion menu, ranging from meat loaf to mahimahi, is worth seeking out. Try the Asian-style yellowtail snapper, banana chicken, and shrimp salsa with chile lime chips. Reservations are recommended.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.