Driving down the Route 1 Overseas Highway to the tip of Key West is one of America’s most scenic road trips. It’s become something of a foodie pilgrimage, too. In recent years, Key West has evolved into more than just a gay-friendly holiday haunt with wild street parties and crystalline coastlines. Five-star hotel dining, street food stands, open air brick-oven pizza joints and key lime pie shops are drawing crowds for their fabulous local fare and exotic environs. Here, Food Republic picks a handful of Key West’s culinary gems.
This Waldorf Astoria luxury hotel is perhaps the most beloved grand dame hotel on the island. Designed in 1918 by architect Thomas Hastings, Casa Marina is popular setting for weddings, which typically happen outdoors around the hotel’s seafront eatery, Sun Sun. If you eat here, you are guaranteed both a decorous show and a superb meal. Sometimes that meal is coffee-chipotle crusted diver scallops or a bouillabaisse of local fish. But no visit is complete without dipping into the house’s signature conch chowder, laced with a touch of sherry and rich coconut milk. Wine lovers will find a lot to like here, too. A long list of superb international selections and a team of experts to recommend them are always on hand. 1500 Reynolds St, Key West; 305-296-3535, casamarinaresort.com
Also see: The 5 Best Burgers In South Florida
Pizza isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Key West. But that’s beginning to change, thanks to the Davide Cremascoli and Alessandro Piazzo, who left the suffocating restaurant scene in New York to open perhaps the world’s first legit Neapolitan wood-fired pizzeria in such a funky Caribbean setting. The duo behind Onlywood aims for authenticity, shipping a hefty professional pizza oven here from Naples, Italy, and importing flour and other key ingredients from said motherland. They serve salads and pastas, too, but their margherita pie is a sure thing; especially when paired with one of their regional craft beers. There is outdoor seating boxed in by palms and sweet smelling flowers, and it’s an odd and wonderful experience to indulge on a slice of Old World flavor at such tropical and flamboyant meridians. 613-1/2 Duval St, Key West, 305-735-4412, onlywoodkw.com
Ocean Key Resort & Spa: Hot Tin Roof
There are several different dining options at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa, but Hot Tin Roof, a cozy, elegant rooftop bar and restaurant at the hotel, is almost always packed with locals and tourists alike. Chef Roly Cruz Taura’s menu focuses on what is locally available. At dinner, for example, there can be sweet Key West pink shrimp, followed by impressively large caramelized grouper flecked with coconut, corn, chorizo and carrot. The place is casual enough that comforting sides like blobby mac and cheese or crunchy polenta fries appear on the menu, which changes with the seasons. Order the burger. It may sound simple, but is anything but: a delicious, heart stopping pile of applewood bacon, manchego cheese, onion mojo, avocado slices and chimichurri aioli. 0 Duval St, Key West; 305-296-7701, oceankey.com
Key Lime Pie Co.
Where to begin? OK, Key Lime pie is more a necessity than a treat when you’re in Key West. Competition among pie producers down here is fierce, and conducting a survey to judge the best key lime pie is both costly and ruinous to your waistline. In the spirit of thriftiness and low caloric intake, save your time and head straight for Key Lime Pie Co. on Greene Street. The place offers more than simply humdrum slices of prepackaged pie wedges: try their key lime pie bars; essentially a wedge of pie on a popsicle stick dipped in dark chocolate.
511 Greene St, Key West; 305-517-6720, keylimepieco.com
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