Driving and Dining Through the Florida Keys
By Rachelle Lucas
One of the most scenic road trips in the United States, a hundred miles of island-hopping coastal highway from Key Largo to Key West, is peppered with great restaurants to try. Since you’re bound to work up an appetite cruising along one of the top road trips in the United States, here’s a guide to the best places to stop for photos and refreshment.
Starting at the top of US 1 from Key Largo, you'll notice mile markers count down as you get closer to the Southernmost point in Key West. In the Florida Keys, mile markers are more important than road signs and street names when it comes to giving directions. I've indicated the mile markers here for each restaurant to help you find your way.
MM 119 Alabama Jacks
There's no official mile marker to indicate you’ve arrived, but Alabama Jacks is the furthest restaurant from Key West before the mainland. Just off of Card Sound Road, it’s a local secret nestled in the swamp and famous for its conch fritters. Despite its off-the-beaten path location, it’s always packed.
Address: 58000 Card Sound Rd., Key Largo/Homestead, Fla., 33037
Phone: (305) 248-8741
MM 102.4 The Fish House
A Key Largo tradition for over 25 years, The Fish House is a whimsical place where you can get your first taste of conch-style cooking and fresh, locally-caught Florida seafood including grouper, mahi-mahi, and lobster.
Adress: 102401 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Fla., 33037
Phone: (305) 451-4665
MM 100.5 Key Largo Chocolates
This is a must-stop for road trip treats or delicious souvenirs to bring home. Master chocolatier Kristie Thomas, creates handmade chocolates with island flavors such as key lime pistachio fudge, pirate’s coconut rum, and banana daiquiri truffles. There are even cute chocodiles, a tasty alligator-shaped chocolate.
Address: 100470 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, Fla., 33037
Phone: (305) 453-6613
MM 101 The Blue Cow Cafe
If you’re craving some caffeine during the long drive, this is a good place to stop. They’re known for having strong Cuban coffee and array of ice cream flavors and other sweets such as banana walnut waffles. There’s also free wifi if you’d like to upload some pictures from the scenic Florida Keys.
Address: 101431 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, Fla., 33037
Phone: (305) 451-3334
MM 81.6 Morada Bay Beach Cafe
Upon arriving at this tropical oasis, you’ll want to kick off your flip flops and sink your toes in the sand. Barefoot dining at its best, here you’ll find Adirondack chairs nestled underneath tall swaying palms and a menu that is just as awesome as the water view. Morada Bay Beach Cafe is best known for its tapas and raw bar, including conch fritters, oysters, clams, and grouper ceviche. Give yourself a little extra time here for postcard-worthy photos.
Address: 81600 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, Fla., 33036
Phone: (305) 664-0604
MM 80 Outback Steakhouse
Don’t be fooled when you pull into the parking lot of Hampton Inn & Suites because tucked away behind the hotel is one of the best tiki bars in the keys. This is Outback Steakhouse, Florida Keys style. There’s a huge outdoor deck overlooking the ocean, hammocks swaying in the palm trees, and fruity umbrella drinks served at the Billabong Outback Tiki Bar.
Address: 79999 Overseas Hwy. Islamorada, Fla., 33036
Phone: (305) 664-3344
MM 54 Leigh Ann’s Coffee House
This coffee house is easily found by the gigantic pink coffee cup sign located next to the highway. I stopped here for breakfast on my way back to the mainland from Key West and was blown away by their sinful French toast souffle. They’re also famous for fresh pastries made in-house and eggs benedict.
Address: 301 Sadowski Hwy, Key Colony Beach, Fla., 33050
Phone: (305) 743-2001
MM 30.5 No Name Pub
Yes, it’s really called No Name. A popular place where locals and fishermen have gathered for a cold brew since 1931 (or 1935 depending on who you talk to), this rustic pub is the oldest bar in Big Pine Key. They’re famous for their pizza, a recipe that’s so good it’s been around a couple of decades. Be sure to autograph a dollar bill and tack it to their wall!
Address: North Watson Blvd, Big Pine Key, Fla., 33043 (three miles off the highway)
Phone: (305) 872-9115
MM 4.5 Chico’s Cantina
Named "Best Mexican Restaurant in Key West” by Florida Living Magazine, the menu offers traditional Mexican dishes with a conch-cooking twist, including fish tacos and seafood enchiladas. Stop here for a margarita to celebrate arriving in Key West.
Address: 5230 U.S. 1, Stock Island, Fla., 33040
Phone: (305) 296-4714
MM 0 Blue Mojito Pool Bar & Grill
Down the street from the “official” mile marker zero sign, you’ll want to head to this open-air bar at the Hyatt to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. The swaying palm trees and luxurious pool offer a more relaxed vibe than the dives on Duval Street. Order their famous blue mojito and raise a toast to the sunset, a daily celebration that’s tradition in Key West.
Address: 601 Front St, Key West, Fla., 33040
Phone: (305) 809-1234