When you think of notable cuisines, the Florida Keys might not be the first kind to come to mind. However, the region boasts a rich culinary history that leaves locals and tourists alike coming back for more. The sun-soaked archipelago serves up a unique blend of American, Caribbean, Spanish and even Asian flavors. Prepare to embark on a culinary journey through paradise, discovering the best food in the Florida Keys and the eateries to taste it at.
Fresh, Local Fish
A trip to the Florida Keys wouldn’t be complete without diving into one of the many signature fish dishes the area offers. Grouper, yellowtail snapper and hogfish are the most popular of the local fish. Grouper can be found aplenty, as there are over 400 species in the surrounding coastal waters. They’re known for a light and mild yet sweet taste and large, chunky appearance. Yellowtail snapper is a fan favorite in the Keys for its light, flakey taste. While similar in taste to grouper, it has a distinguishable pinky color and delicate texture. Hogfish is a real delicacy. Native to Caribbean waters, it’s a true local fish. It’s sweeter and more flakey than grouper and tastes similar to scallops or lobster.
Kaiyo Grill & Sushi is located in the heart of Islamorada. Known as the area’s first Asian fusion and sushi restaurant, it serves up a beautiful balance of hot and cold dishes inspired by local ingredients and Asian flavors. From sushi rolls to signature wood-fired creations, diners can expect their dishes to feature freshly caught Florida Keys seafood and local fruits like mango, coconut and pineapple. Aside from its food, Kaiyo Grill is also beloved for its al fresco dining on the wrap-around porch.
- Alligator Lighthouse Stuffed Hogfish
- Caribbean Lobster Tail
- Grouper Cheeks
- Kaiyo Cracked Conch
- Yellowtail Tiradito
The Florida Keys isn’t called the Conch Republic for nothing. These medium-to-large-sized marine mollusks, or sea snails, are known for their distinctive pink and tan spiral shells. However, they’re also known for their taste. Served raw or cooked, they are firm and slightly sweet to eat.
Crustaceans like lobster, crab and shrimp play a huge role in Florida Keys food. Caribbean lobster, also known as spiny lobster, differs from the Maine lobster most guests are familiar with. Local lobsters are actually more similar to crabs since they’re more tough and less sweet. They also don’t have claws, so it’s the lobster tail that you’ll find around Florida Keys eateries. But if you’re looking for good claw meat, you can easily find it from the local stone crabs. Named after their hard, stone-like exterior, stone crabs have very sweet, tender claws. If lobster and crab aren’t your thing, definitely give the local pink shrimp a try. Aptly named, these pinky-colored crustaceans are sourced from the Dry Tortugas of the Keys.
A Taste of the Keys
The Green Turtle Inn has been a favorite of Islamorada locals and travelers since 1947. Known for a fresh, modern menu and a casual Keys-inspired dining experience, The Green Turtle Inn is the perfect place to have a good time. Guests have also come to know the eatery for its turtle chowder, which is a Keys delicacy. The restaurant and its famous chowder were even featured on Food Network’s television program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, hosted by popular food personality Guy Fieri.
- Turtle Chowder
- Conch Fritters
- Local Yellowtail Snapper
- The Sid
- The Roxie
While barbeque doesn’t seem like an obvious choice for the Keys, it’s true you can find fantastic barbeque throughout the islands. There’s a string of southern-inspired joints dotted up and down the Keys, each with its own signature dish. After a day on the beach, there’s really nothing that hits the spot quite like a filling plate of barbeque and all the fixings.
The Nest BBQ & Sports Bar is next to The Green Turtle Inn in Islamorada. This roadside Carolina-style barbeque spot has guests raving about the new menu and newly renovated interior. The bar has 16 TVs for sports fans along with trivia and comedy nights for a full range of entertainment. If you’re looking for a local brew, The Nest has over 20 beers on tap, including several selections from breweries across the Keys. What’s better than an ice-cold beverage and house-smoked barbeque in paradise?
- Pork Back Ribs
- Smoked Chicken
- Collard Greens
- Mama’s Cornbread
- Mama’s Baked Beans