Key West's Best Dining: Quirky, Independent Restaurants Rule

Foodies will fall in love with the rich culinary scene in Key West. Chain restaurants are few, and small independent establishments dominate with their fresh interpretations of island cuisine. Quirky settings abound like Blue Heaven with its courtyard filled with free-roaming chickens or BO’s Fish Wagon hidden behind a dilapidated truck. The setup at Caroline’s Cafe rivals any theater with its prime view of all the shenanigans on Duval Street.

Often the chefs are also the owners at spots like Flaming Buoy Filet Co. and Better Than Sex dessert cafe. They can be spotted circling the dining rooms checking on the patrons. They also take pride in highlighting the fresh local seafood and Caribbean flavors like local’s favorite Hogfish Bar and Grill and Hot Tin Roof with its Pan-Latin twist. Diners with diet restrictions will discover several restaurants devoted to vegetarian and gluten-free menus like The Cafe, which has been in operation for over ten years.

The Cuban influence on the island can’t be missed and is reflected in numerous walk-up windows and low-key eateries like El Siboney. Other nationalities have immigrated to the Southernmost City like the proprietors at Onlywood, who bake authentic Italian pizzas in a two-ton wood fired oven. Peruse our top 10 favorites for ideas and make your reservations in advance. The restaurants in Key West are sure to delight and inspire every time.



Best Cuban: Off the beaten path, this no-frills restaurant serves up generous portions of the best Cuban food on the island at reasonable prices. Mid-day the place is usually bustling with the local lunch break crowd mixed with a healthy dose of...  Read More



Best Pizza: Hidden down a small walkway off Duval, you'll discover the enchanting garden of Onlywood Pizzeria Trattoria. Owners Davide Cremascoli and Alessandro Piazzo, who grew up in a small village in Napoletana Italy, are devoted to bringing...  Read More



Best Seafood: For a taste of a true local's joint just five minutes away from Old Town, follow the signs to the Hogfish Bar and Grill, located in Safe Harbor Marina on Stock Island. Try anything that's made with their namesake specialty like the...  Read More



Best Desserts: One of the most talked about culinary experiences in the Florida Keys, Better Than Sex dessert cafe wows with their sinful concoctions like Cookie Nookie Pie and Between My Red Velvet Sheets Cheesecake. Pair with their Choco-Cab,...  Read More

Duval Street
Hot Tin Roof
Photo courtesy of Hot Tin Roof


Best Sunset: For upscale dining with a stellar view of the sunset, head to Hot Tin Roof at Ocean Key Resort and Spa located just off Mallory Square. You can dine alfresco on their patio with the sounds of Jimmy Buffett classics wafting up from...  Read More



Best Budget: This seafood shack may look like it's barely standing, but the food certainly holds its own. What began as makeshift food truck in the 70s, opened by local legend Buddy Owen, has become a staple in Key West. The fresh fish...  Read More



Best Brunch: In Key West, this restaurant needs little introduction. The private courtyard (once home to Hemingway's boxing matches) is filled with roaming chickens and lounging cats soaking in the sun. Grab a seat outdoors under the shaded...  Read More



Best Vegetarian: This cozy restaurant on Southard Street has been redefining vegetarian cuisine for over 10 years. With a warm Bohemian décor, their menu offers a variety of options (all clearly marked if gluten-free), which means no one has to...  Read More

Duval Street


Best Lunch: Caroline's Cafe is a favorite among tourists and locals alike for their generous portions at reasonable prices and prime view of Duval Street. At this casual American restaurant, you'll find one of the best hamburgers in town as well...  Read More

The Flaming Buoy Filet Co.
Photo courtesy of Flaming Buoy Filet Co.


Best Local's Pick: Flaming Buoy is tucked away in a charming converted home at the corner of Packer and Virginia Streets. This cozy 10-table restaurant mixes simple wood furnishings with splashes of yellow and orange, and has additional seating...  Read More


Meet Claudia Miller

Claudia Miller has been writing about South Florida for over 17 years--seven from Key Largo. A budding photographer, she can usually be found stalking a sunset. Despite being a tad...  More About Claudia