The Florida Keys are a popular vacation destination for sunshine, snorkeling, and fishing but perhaps the biggest draw is the food, especially the top seafood restaurants in Key West. Just step into any of the towns and villages that dot the islands trailing off the coast of Florida and you’ll find an eclectic mix of American, Asian, Latin American, Mediterranean, French and Italian flavors and the amazing ways they all feature seafood, Key West included. Seafood is king in the Keys, and these restaurants are the best places to explore the catch of the day as well as familiar favorites like grouper, snapper, tuna, and more.
First Stop: Key Largo
On your trip south from Miami to Key West, be sure to stop in Key Largo, known for its natural beauty and restaurants comparable to seafood restaurants in Key West, Florida. While you’re there, be sure to have a meal at a Key Largo landmark, Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. It’s been around for generations and is still serving homestyle meals and Key Lime pie in a restaurant decked out in true colorful Florida Keys style. Try the Caribbean-style grilled crab cakes with honey mustard aioli, smoked fish dip, conch chowder, fish and shrimp baskets, fish tacos, and more, followed by Key Lime pie, a dessert standard loved by locals and visitors.
The Key Largo Conch House Restaurant & Coffee Bar has amazing breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes with an emphasis on sustainable ingredients and locally sourced seafood. From conch fritters to conch salad, lobster and conch ceviche, and snapper taco specialties, guests enjoy the genuine tastes of Key Largo in a charming and historically unique setting with indoor and outdoor seating.
The Fish House Restaurant & Seafood Market serves seafood dishes in a casual setting that lets diners focus on the food, and has been around for nearly 40 years so it’s a Key Largo institution not to be missed. Enjoy grouper, hogfish, amberjack, wahoo, yellowtail snapper, and more. Today’s catch selections can be served black and bleu, sauteed, baked stuffed, breaded or matecume with tomatoes, shallots, basil, olive oil, and capers. Crab dishes include king crab, snow crab, and stone crab claws. An array of seafood combination platters round out the menu.
Just outside Key Largo proper, in the small town of Tavernier, is What the Fish? Seafood Shack Rolls and More. One of the newer seafood restaurants in the Keys, the proprietors’ emphasis on ocean-to-table dining results in a highly creative menu that includes a wide array of seafood rolls, lobster tails, the catch of the day, fish tacos, and shrimp tacos served in a chic casual setting.
As you move through the Upper Keys, make Islamorada your next stop, a great place to find some of the most creative seafood dishes in the region. There’s nothing like the conch fritters and crab cakes chased by a cold beer at Twisted Shrimp. Shrimp is the centerpiece of this award-winning menu, and the casual, rustic decor lets the food take center stage. Fried baby scallops, cracked conch, and fish dip make great starters, followed by shrimp baskets and eight kinds of dip ranging from sweet chili aioli to cocktail, Caribbean sun, and Cajun dunk. Get the jambalaya, po’ boy or shrimp and grits for a Southern treat, and don’t miss the Key Lime pie, a hallmark of many Florida Keys restaurants, Key West seafood restaurants included. If you’re too full for a whole pie, at least try the chocolate-dipped Key Lime pie slice on a stick.
If Islamorada Shrimp Shack looks familiar, it’s because you saw it featured on an episode of “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” Since 2011, this mother-and-daughter owned restaurant has been serving an extensive menu of shrimp and seafood dishes. Explore shrimp quesadillas, seafood baskets, and fresh coleslaw, Thai shrimp caesar wraps, seafood po’ boys, and the catch of the day. If you’ve had a great day fishing, the kitchen pros at Islamorada Shrimp Shack will even cook your catch for a special meal you’ll never forget.
Marker 88 is a beachside seafood restaurant where the scenery is as amazing as the food. Live music wows diners who come back year after year for casually elegant meals. Try the onion-crusted mahi or seafood prepared with a special Key Lime-Tabasco butter, both house specialties. Marker 88 also serves ahi tuna burgers, grilled mahi caesar salad, sesame seared tuna, lobster bisque, and conch chowder. To make your meal even more special, ask about getting a table on the sand for the most authentic beachside dining experience you could have in the Keys.
Kaiyo Grill & Sushi Bar serves up breathtakingly beautiful dishes nearly too pretty to eat. By preparing local seafood with an Asian fusion approach, this restaurant gives diners taste experiences that are familiar and yet exciting. Try specialty rolls like Islamorada with tuna, avocado, mango, and cilantro, and Mount Fuji with baked shrimp, scallops, crab over a California roll, sweet sriracha, and ponzu mayo, plus sushi, nigiri, and sashimi. The dinner menu features a variety of seafood dishes plus the catch of the day made one of six ways.
Marathon: You’re Halfway To the Best Seafood in Key West
If you’re in the mood for waterfront dining that puts you closer to the gorgeous views you’ve been driving past, there are several seafood restaurants in Marathon that can deliver great meals in the great outdoors. Lighthouse Grill might be one of the most romantic restaurants in Marathon. Located at Faro Blanco Resort and Yacht Club, it’s got a chic and airy dockside location within view of a scenic lighthouse and stunning sunsets. Enjoy bar seating, tables or high tops for a special lunch or dinner for two. Menu dishes present creative pairings like Yellowfin tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes as well as local favorites like fish tacos and conch fritters. The Lighthouse Grill welcomes after-dinner guests with a late-night menu served at the bar with many of the same seafood dishes.
At Burdine’s Waterfront Marina Bar & Grill, watch the boats come in and out while you linger over mahi sandwiches or wraps, poke bowls, stone crab soup, tuna steak sandwiches, or black beans and rice with mahi, tuna or shrimp, and the locals would remind you not to skip the fries. The tiki-style decor and live music will put you in a vacation mood for sure, and the friendly staff will ensure everything’s right with your meal. If you time it right, Burdine’s is a great place for sunset dining with a lovely view.
Castaway Waterfront Restaurant & Sushi Bar describes itself as specializing in “seafood, steaks, and sushi”, doing so in a spacious dining room with comfortable seating. It has a huge menu that includes local lobster, crab enchiladas, Seafood Mirabella, and two local specialties: sauteed gator and clams in gator sauce. Guests of Castaway can also choose their seafood among the fresh catches brought in and have it prepared in the style they choose or with the sauce they prefer.
Marathon’s Fish Tales Market and Eatery welcomes diners with a casual atmosphere and indoor or outdoor dining. Pair your seafood platter or fish sandwich with craft and German beers on tap. Mix it up and try some homemade bratwurst and Italian sausage, too, a house specialty. Start your meal with red conch chowder or white lobster bisque, buffalo shrimp, or steamed clams. An array of fish sandwiches are served with homemade coleslaw, as are the nine fish dinner platter choices. No Florida Keys dinner is complete without Key Lime Pie, and Fish Tales makes theirs in-house, too, along with cream mud pies and freshly baked cookies.
Get into the spirit of the Florida Keys by dining under a cozy thatched roof patio at Brutus Restaurant and Seafood Market. The Brutus is a house favorite, a sandwich full of fried mahi with a roasted jalapeno cilantro sauce. Other popular dishes include shrimp po’ boys, conch sandwiches, shrimp tacos, fish tacos, and the seafood catch of the day on a sandwich. Brutus also sells fresh seafood directly, so you can buy stone crabs, conch, lobster, Key West pink shrimp, scallops, and more, plus shrimp salad, conch salad, and Key West’s signature dessert, Key Lime Pie.
Big Pine and Lower Keys
Just past Bahia Honda State Park, you’ll enter Big Pine Key and the Lower Keys, where snorkeling and diving are unsurpassed, and the nature walks and eco-tours available get you closer to the gorgeous plants and animals of the Keys than you could have ever imagined.
At Milagro Restaurant and Bar in Big Pine Key, the simple decor lets the quality and flavor of the food speak for itself. Creative dishes like wood-grilled octopus, and seared scallop and fettuccine alfredo keep diners coming back year after year. The bar menu includes local fish served with jalapeno tartar sauce. No beautifully plated meal would be complete at Milagro without the house-made sangria or a selection from the strong wine list with labels from California, the Pacific Northwest, Italy, and more.
Big Pine Rooster, also in Big Pine Key, has a warm and welcoming atmosphere that centers homestyle cooking and friendly staff in service to locals and visitors, alike. Large portions served at lunch and dinner satisfy diners with seafood feasts, pasta specialties, Southern favorites, burgers, sandwiches, and salads. Crab cakes, soft shell crab, and catch of the day are always featured. And Big Pine Rooster is one of the Keys restaurants that famously cooks your catch, so bring your best and see it expertly prepared by skilled chefs and paired with black beans and rice, coleslaw, fresh cornbread, rice or steamed vegetables.
Boondocks Grille and Draft House welcomes large groups with friendly staff and spacious seating, plus live music and a mini-golf course on-premises for a little before- or after-meal entertainment. The house-made mac and cheese is famous in Ramrod Key; order it with crab meat for an added Florida Keys touch. In addition to more than a dozen burgers and sandwiches, Boondocks has a robust seafood menu that features the catch of the day prepared with a white lemon butter caper sauce or mango and sweet balsamic glaze or grilled, blackened or fried. Popular choices include hogfish, grouper, and snapper.
Key West: Jewel of the Keys
The apex of the Florida Keys lifestyle and the best place to enjoy Keys culture, activities, nightlife, and dining, Key West has captured hearts and imaginations for more than a hundred years as one of America’s top vacation destinations. Key West restaurants are many and varied but if you are looking for a Key West seafood restaurant red on.
Make Eaton Street Seafood Market in Old Town Key West your first stop. Step into one of the best seafood restaurants in Key West to discover a wonderland of cases full of freshly caught seafood sourced locally. This fish market and restaurant offers favorites like snapper, lobster, grouper, and rarer deep-water catches, too. Alfresco lunch and dinner dishes and take-out orders are served with Eaton Street Seafood Market’s house-made sauces and accompaniments. Traditional favorites include the lobster roll, crab cakes, and fish tacos. Don’t miss the fried conch, stone crab artichoke dip, smoked fish dip, and grilled lobster tail. The service is outstanding, and if you get a chance, chat with the owner, who is one of the most knowledgeable people in the area about local seafood.
Dine dockside under sunny skies at the award-winning Half Shell Raw Bar, another of the famous seafood restaurants in Key West that was once featured on television’s Travel Channel. This restaurant and fish market is a Key West staple, in business for more than 45 years and providing locals and visitors with a casual and fun dining experience with harbor-side views and for those lucky enough to time it right, amazing sunsets. Choose raw bar plates of gulf oyster, beer shrimp, middleneck clams or a sampler with something for everyone. Explore familiar Key West tastes with appetizers ranging from conch fritters to coconut shrimp, red conch chowder, and fried seafood platters. For your entree, select stone crab, surf and turf, stuffed shrimp and fried or broiled seafood plates.
No trip to the Florida Keys is complete without sampling some of the best seafood in the country. With an abundance of locally caught fish and shellfish, skilled chefs turn out plates that showcase the best culinary delights Key West has to offer. From take-out to casual, quick meals, sit-down cafes, and elegant dining, the best seafood restaurants in Key West, Florida, and all along the Florida Keys, are waiting for you.