The ocean blues, sailing and world-class fishing make Key West a bucket list destination.
But where do the locals hang?
Here’s the short list on what’s hot – and cold brewed or nicely aged – in this high-end yet still funky beach town.
Named after a developer, the pier at the end of White Street provides a near-panoramic view of the water, making it one of the best places on the island to watch the sunset. Locals run, walk their dogs or fish at this spot which closes nightly at 11 p.m. Oh, and keep your scooters off the pier.
423 Caroline St.
Key West’s newest trendy bar is an elegantly decorated watering hole just steps from Duval Street. General Horseplay offers up cocktails such as the I Pity A Fool and Elegantly Disheveled. Ads say the bar is inspired by tasty beers, world wines and tomfoolery. Ladies night is Monday. Pool table included.
1316 Duval St.
Two pink flamingos named Rhett and Scarlett call the conservatory home along with hundreds of butterflies and various colorful birds. Walk through the lush, glass enclosed garden or take a seat, relax and soak in the exotic setting. It’s a tiny oasis tucked into paradise. One of Key West’s best gift shops for butterfly-themed art work and souvenirs.
816 Duval St.
For more than 30 years, this bakery/bistro/coffee shop has attracted customers with the scents of fresh crossaints in the oven and coffee brewing. Sit on the porch and watch Duval Street go by or grab a table in the garden where its French restaurant offers seafood eggs Benedict, omelettes, pancakes, French toast and galettes.
425 Grinnell St.
Azur doesn’t have to try hard to impress us. It doubles as a romantic dining spot or the perfect place for a celebration dinner. Try the beef carpaccio, Key West pink shrimp or cold water oysters to start, then dig into a menu of goat cheese topped salad, braised beef rib gnocchi, lamb shank, yellowtail snapper or the impressive branzino. Save room for dessert. Sit outside on a shaded terrace or inside the sleek dining room.
Ocean Key Resort and Spa, 0n Duval St.
For some of the best waterfront dining in Key West, make a reservation at this restaurant famous for its brunch and laid-back, island-style elegance. Enjoy live 1940s jazz on Saturday nights from 9 to 11 p.m.. Brunch is $49 per person and includes an unlimited mimosa bar, bloody Mary bar and a la carte menu and a tableside raw bar.
With art galleries, stellar restaurants, crepes and a wine and cheese shop all within one neighborhood, historic Bahama Village – founded by Bahamians in the early 1800s – is a great place for a stroll. Blue Heaven has hearty Floridian-Caribbean fare and a Key lime pie topped with a daunting pile of meringue. Firefly features Southern fried chicken and fried green tomatoes while Santiago’s Bodega serves tapas and great sangria. La Crêperie French Café Key West does breakfast and lunch the French way. Find the perfect gift at Besame Mucho, which is stocked with soaps, teas, paper goods, clothing and jewelry. Top it all off with a glass of wine or Belgian beer and a cheese board at VIV, which also sells gift baskets.
2796 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
There’s nothing fancy about this hole-in-the-wall deli famous for its boiled-and-baked bagels, cream cheeses and a turkey Reuben called the Rachel. Locals daily fill this space, beside the Winn-Dixie supermarket. Yes, it’s a cab ride from downtown. But trust us, the grilled cheese, whitefish platter or coconut pancakes are worth the trek.
5620 MacDonald Ave. on Stock Island.
Key West’s scruffy neighbor Stock Island has changed, with high-priced resorts going up and a French bakery replacing a laundromat, which is next-door to this Italian place that’s become a staple for wood-fired pizza, meatballs, pasta and “gravy.” On Sunday night, eat family style – spaghetti with pork, meatballs and sausage with the gravy, with salad and focaccia bread. For pizza, try the spicy Hell’s Kitchen Diavola or the veggie pizza dubbed the Hippie, or design your own. Gluten-free dough is available.
505 Southard St.
Need a caffeine buzz? This new kid on the block serves up classic Cuban coffees, plus cappuccinos, Turkish coffee and a house-brewed cold brew infused with nitrogen along with fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies, salads and sandwiches like the Key Lime BLT which features a special Key lime mayonnaise.
Garrison Bight, 1801 N. Roosevelt Blvd.
Go fishing with the pros. You can book trips directly from boat captains at Historic Charter Boat Row at Key West’s city-owned marina. You’ll have more than 35 boats to choose from – vessels between 18 and 65 feet long. A party boat sells half-day trips, while back country fishing charters await you alongside center console and offshore sport fishing boats.