By Rachelle Lucas
A traveler can dine well, all the way down through the Florida Keys. With 127 miles of turquoise-blue water, countless tiki huts and tons of kitschy "mom & pop" diners, the scenic Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West is probably one of the best road trips in America.
Here are our picks for the best Florida Keys restaurants.
Located on Islamorada at mile marker 81.6, Morada Bay Beach Cafe is not only known for their great food, but also their island-style atmosphere. The water views, tall palms and cafe tables directly on the sand will have you feeling like you've escaped to a private beach. It's one of the best Florida Keys restaurants to stop for lunch along your drive, and they also have monthly Full Moon Parties and fantastic dinner choices as well. On the menu, you'll find an extensive list of tapas, fresh seafood, sandwiches and specialty drinks including a Mango Mojito and Floridita.
Every great road trip needs a pit stop for coffee. Just before Marathon, at approximately mile marker 53, is a tiny little coffee drive-thru called Curly's Coffee. Serving up an array of coffee drinks and smoothies, it will give you just the right amount of pep you need to continue on the road. No need to stop as it really is just a drive-thru. Look for it in front of the huge "Marathon Deli & Liquors" billboard.
Located in the island resort of Hawks Cay on Duck Key, this contemporary lounge has indoor and outdoor dining available with fresh Caribbean fusion cuisine including Florida lobster with butternut squash risotto and wreck fish with tomato Napoleon. Hawks Cay Resort is also known for their "hook and cook" experience where you can be assured you're tasting the freshest fish of the day since you'll be the one to catch it during one of their deep-sea fishing excursions.
Of all the restaurants in the Keys, this has to be the most romantic spot. It's located right on the water with the best views of the sunset and quietly tucked away from the crowds of Duval Street. Here you'll discover delicious food prepared with Caribbean influences including Guava Glazed Korobuta Pork Chops, Sweet Potato Crusted Snapper with Banana Rum Sauce and a Key West Seafood Hot Pot with coconut key lime broth, scallops, shrimp and clams. Save room for dessert; their chocolate lava cake with champagne and strawberry sauce is to-die-for!
5. Flaming Buoy
This local favorite was recommended to me on Twitter numerous times, so I had to try it. It's a hidden gem located on a residential street in an intimate fine-dining setting with casual Key West style. What they lack in water views they make up for with fantastic food including a tuna and watermelon ceviche and fresh catch with banana salsa and lime butter sauce. If you go, you must try their secret family recipe banana bread prepared as french toast with maple syrup and Tahitian vanilla ice cream.
6. Le Creperie
This has to be the most fun I've had at breakfast in a long time! Authentic French Crepes and Galettes are made right before your eyes in a lively upbeat atmosphere makes this option for Florida Keys restaurants one of the best. Outdoor, cafe-style seating is available where you can enjoy the famous Key West roosters crowing in the morning while sipping a cappuccino. The hardest decision you'll have to make is what to order as everything on the menu is appetizing. I recommend their Red Velvet, a buckwheat crepe with homemade raspberry chocolate ganache, fresh strawberries, English custard ice cream and raspberry coulis.
If you're in the mood for a steakhouse-style meal, then check out Tavern N Town at the Beachside Marriott. Their Executive Chef, Kevin Montova, won first place in the Key West Master Chef Classic for his flavorful creation of Coffee Chipotle Crusted Pork Tenderloin with black bean cake and pineapple chutney. Here at the restaurant, you can see all the chefs in action in their open theater-style kitchen.
Located right next to the marina and "charter boat row," this open-air restaurant is my favorite place for a chilled beverage and conch fritters just before heading out on an boat excursion such as a sunset sail on a schooner. Another one of my favorites on their menu is the Cracked Conch with Orange Horseradish Marmalade.
No trip to restaurants in the Keys would be complete without a slice of key lime pie. Located right across the street from the Conch Republic Seafood Company, you can't miss the famous lime green painted cottage, home to Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe. They put a unique twist to the Keys' most famous dessert that earned them a spot on National Geographic's Top 500 Food Journey's of a lifetime: chocolate-covered, frozen key lime pie on a stick.
Cool off from the Florida sun with a scoop (or two!) from this local favorite. All the ice cream and gelato here is homemade on the island and worth the walk down to the south end of Duval. Flamingo Crossing scoops up Key West-inspired ice cream such as key lime, guanabana, coconut and Cuban coffee. They also have classic favorites available such as Tahitian vanilla and chocolate chip.
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