Away from the hustle and bustle of Duval Street, some of the best restaurants in Key West - like The Flaming Buoy Filet Company - are hidden away in the quiet residential neighborhoods of Old Town. You may have to work a little harder to find these off-the-beaten path gems, but they are well worth the effort.
Flaming Buoy is tucked away in a charming converted home at the corner of Packer and Virginia Streets. The cozy 10-table restaurant mixes simple wood furnishings with splashes of yellow and orange. There's additional seating on their outside patio.
Flaming Buoy Co. in Key West — Photo courtesy of Flaming Buoy Filet Co.
Partners Scot Forste and Fred Isch meld gourmet and down-home cooking, focusing on fresh island ingredients. This makes their menu the perfect middle-ground for the foodie and non-foodie alike. As if hosting a party in their own home, Isch and Forste take turns cooking family recipes and charming diners with humorous stories. For a real laugh, ask them how they came up with the restaurant's name.
The intimate candle-lit interior is filled with a soft eclectic soundtrack ranging from sexy French music to classic Michael Jackson. Even the wait staff, while efficient and knowledgeable, is also informal and fun. You'll leave feeling like you've made new friends.
Sweet Key West pink shrimp and pasta — Photo courtesy of Flaming Buoy Filet Co.
Start your meal with the trio appetizer, a sampling of the island's bountiful seafood. Smoky-sweet grilled Key West pink shrimp are complemented by a tart lime chutney. Tuna ceviche is marinated in fresh watermelon, orange, scallions and tomatoes. The Florida lobster mac with three cheeses melts in your mouth. When choosing a wine pairing, connoisseurs will delight in the innovative selection from small wineries.
A house specialty is the light and flaky pan-seared yellowtail snapper entree with fresh banana salsa. The salsa is reduced down for hours with bell peppers, jalapeno and brown sugar. Hearty sides are mashed potatoes and grilled corn on the cob (husks artfully pulled back). They're paired with a savory corn muffin that has a kick of cayenne and surprise broccoli florets inside.
Watch for dessert specials like this banana cream pie. — Photo courtesy of Flaming Buoy Filet Co.
For something truly unique, try the Filet Co. Three Way, their homemade chili made with dark chocolate and spices over spaghetti with onions, cheddar cheese and sour cream. A must for anyone who likes chili.
Finish with the Spicy Chocolate Quesadilla. White and dark chocolate is melted between two flour tortillas and drizzled with a pepper-infused chocolate sauce. It's served with a side of freshly made Tahitian Vanilla ice cream from Flamingo Crossing. This dessert is the perfect combination of spicy and sweet - just like the restaurant itself.