Key West's Budget-Friendly Eateries: Short on Frills, Long on Character

Vacation budget a little tight? Key West has several reasonably-priced eateries, and while they may be short on frills, they’re long on character. Since the Southernmost City is primarily a tourist destination, follow the traveler's rule of thumb--go where the locals eat. The tiny Kojin Noodle Bar and the Caribbean-styled Bien (formerly Paseo) get top recommendations from Key West denizens for large portions at low prices. Kojin's Pho, a popular street food in Vietnam, has a reputation as the perfect hangover cure. Go-to casual seafood joints include Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island, Half Shell Raw Bar by the Historic Seaport and a true fish shack, BO’s Fish Wagon. Hogfish and Half Shell have especially good deals during happy hour, and BO's has the best cracked conch sandwich on the island. For authentic Cuban food at low prices, El Siboney with its diner decor and the Five Brothers Grocery's walk-up window shine. For over 26 years, people have been lining up outside Five Brothers for their high-test Cuban coffee and Cuban Mix sandwich. The old-school Pepe’s Cafe and Steakhouse (open since 1909) and the French Banana Cafe are a fantastic value for breakfast, brunch and lunch, but prices go up significantly for dinner. Santiago’s Bodega in Bahama Village offers gourmet Spanish tapas without the extra tiny plates and budget-busting bill in a warm and cozy setting.

A colorful walk through Bahama Village brings you to this warm and cozy restaurant tucked away behind lovely landscaping. Value is of course subjective, and for gourmands, the prices on the tasty Spanish tapas at Santiago's Bodega are a steal....  Read More

The oldest eatery in the Keys (a Cuban fisherman opened it in 1909), Pepe's is worth a visit for the history alone. While it's still a local's place, visitors have gotten hip to this tiny gem despite its unassuming frontage. Their motto, "A...  Read More

Duval Street

For breakfast and lunch, this charming bistro offers French classics like sweet and savory crepes along with fresh baguette sandwiches at a modest price. (Note: dinner prices go up considerably.) Grab a window seat and watch the parade of...  Read More

For over 26 years, locals have been lining up outside this grocery store's grab-and-go window for authentic Cuban coffee and sandwiches. Even tourists have gotten hip to this spot off the beaten path, the adventurous seek it out at the corner of...  Read More

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 visitors...  Read More

Just like the classic waterfront joints of Key West past, the Half Shell Raw Bar serves the freshest seafood in a casual atmosphere. You can actually watch your dinner being unloaded from the boats at the docks, while looking out over the...  Read More

This seafood shack may look like it's barley 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 sandwiches are simple,...  Read More

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 "Killer"...  Read More

The Caribbean-inspired Bien (formerly known as Paseo) keeps a low profile. There's no large sign, Facebook page--or much seating for that matter. None of those things have kept this spot from quickly becoming a local's fave for its tasty dishes,...  Read More

Kojin Noodle Bar
Photo courtesy of Kojin Noodle Bar

Key West's only noodle bar is easy to miss. The tiny spot on Southard Street is just a half-block off Duval but doesn't have flashy signage. It has a trendy, yet warm vibe in a New York eatery-style. With only a handful of seats at the bar and...  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