Traditional to Tropical: 10 Key West Breakfast Spots That Are Real Eye-Openers



Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so schedule time on your Key West itinerary for a leisurely start each morning. Whether you’re headed out on the water or on a bike tour, you’ll need some hearty grub to keep you going.

It's easy to linger on the shaded patios at cafes like Croissants de France, and waterfront views at Southernmost Cafe make that second Old Bay Bacon Bloody Mary a must. At Banana Cafe, people-watching on Duval Street will entertain, as you inhale homemade crepes and quiche. Most menus feature the fresh local seafood with entrees like the Key West shrimp omelet at Sarabeth’s and the Lobster Benedict at Blue Heaven.

For grab-and-go items, outdoor stands like Cuban Coffee Queen offer that quick jolt of a cafe con leche with a hearty Cuban sandwich. Or for a sugar fix, head to Glazed Donuts where their scrumptious confections are almost too pretty to eat. At Cole’s Peace, the aroma of straight-from-the-oven bread lures you in for a wide selection of muffins, sticky buns, croissants and pastries.

Is your hangover begging for some down-home cooking? Pepe's Cafe has been serving up Chock Full O' Nuts coffee and chipped beef on toast since 1909. The old-school diner, Harpoon Harry’s slings comfort food like country fried steak topped with sausage gravy. No matter if you’re recovering from a late night or up early to catch the sunrise, these Key West breakfast eateries will get your day started right.



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A household name in New York City, Sarabeth's in Key West has gained its own loyal following as a go-to breakfast stop. Located in a historic clapboard house on Simonton Street, the restaurant has a charming garden in the back with shaded seating. People line up early to get one of those tables, so expect a wait. The menu at this James Beard award winner consists of items like lemon ricotta pancakes topped with strawberries and wheat berries and pumpkin waffles paired with sour cream, raisins, pumpkin seeds and honey. Their Key West shrimp and bacon omelet with scallions, herbs and smoked mozzarella is more savory fare. For something completely different, try their homemade porridge served with sweet cream and fruit. Start with their Four Flowers Juice--orange and pomegranate juices blended with fresh pineapple and banana. No breakfast here would be complete without topping off a freshly-baked muffin with Sarabeth's signature marmalade.


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This classic greasy spoon is a short morning bike ride away from Duval Street and close to the historic seaport. A 50s-style diner, the eatery sports a funky colorful decor complete with ample counter seating. The breakfast menu is available all day and includes traditional comfort food like the Country Po-Boy--country fried steak topped with two eggs any style, smothered in rich sausage gravy. Corned beef hash, biscuits, pancakes and omelets round out the menu. Their famous Spicy Bloody Harry is sure to fix even the worst hangover. Generous portions at reasonable prices (cash only) make it popular with locals and visitors alike. Weekends are especially busy, so expect a wait.


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Cole's Peace Artisan Bakery and Deli
Photo courtesy of Cole's Peace Artisan Bakery


 

The aroma of freshly-baked bread will lure you into this bakery near the entrance to Old Town. Filled with to-die-for artisan bread, bagels and sandwiches, Cole's serves breakfast and lunch until 2:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Many other local eateries like Sarabeth's, Cuban Coffee Queen and Harpoon Harry's get their bread from Cole's. For breakfast, they offer cheese toast (with ham, bacon or egg) on Cuban bread pressed on a plancha grill. Their bagels are best served warm and slathered with honey walnut cream cheese. A wide array of muffins, sticky buns, croissants, scones and other pastries will satisfy any sweet tooth. Pair with a cafe con leche or brewed coffee. Check out their daily specials for treats like guava and cream cheese pastries. Be sure to take a loaf of the cinnamon-raisin or signature mango bread or home with you.


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Pepe's Cafe and Steakhouse
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan


 

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 fairly good place, for quite a long while," says it all. People line up each day for a breakfast filled with good-old-fashioned Chock Full O' Nuts coffee, homemade bread, fresh orange juice, chipped beef on toast and eggs Benedict. Their outside patio is charming, but the walls inside are packed with flotsam and jetsam from the past decades that will keep you entertained.


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This much-lauded restaurant in Bahama Village needs little introduction for its southern and Caribbean fare. 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 canopy or their indoor dining room. Breakfast is always jam-packed, so if you're starving, you may want to save this stop for another day. The lobster Benedict topped with lime hollandaise is a top favorite. Or try the Shrimp and Grits made with the local Key West Pinks, sauteed in butter, white wine and scallions over white cheddar grits. Pair with a mimosa for a true taste of heaven. Their famed Key lime pie has been featured on many a TV show and is country-star Kenny Chesney's favorite.


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Located in front of the harbor, this little outdoor stand is loved by locals and tourists alike. Their cafe con leche is not to be missed. Pair with delicious Cuban breakfast sandwiches and fresh smoothies. There's usually a line, but service is friendly and efficient. After a night on the town, try the Hangover Helper, a combo of pineapple, mixed berries, ginseng, orange juice and Emergen-C. Like most Cuban stands, there's limited seating. Unlike most other Cuban stands, they do accept credit cards, and WiFi is available. If you visit close to 8:00 a.m., you may have a longer wait, as the passengers headed to the Dry Tortugas on the Yankee Freedom get their early morning buzz.


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Duval Street


 

Grab a window seat or head for the second-floor veranda for breakfast with a view at this charming bistro. You can watch the parade of scooters, bikes and horse-mounted policemen along Duval Street. Their menu features French classics like sweet and savory crepes in so many varieties that it can be hard to choose. The heartier crepes range from a basic egg, ham and Swiss to their La Ratatouille, which combines eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions and tomatoes, topped with a fried egg. The sweet versions wow with simple flavor combinations like banana, sugar and rum or the crowd fave--Key lime sauce with whipped cream. While you can indulge on mimosas, they don't have a liquor license; that means no Bloody Mary's. Check the chalkboard for the specials and fresh quiche of the day.


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Southernmost Beach Cafe
Photo courtesy of Latitudes


 

Waterfront dining in Key West often comes with a steep price. Not so at the Southernmost Beach Cafe. Here you'll find a hearty breakfast that won't break the bank and stellar views of the Atlantic. You can stroll in from the sand and have a seat in this open-air restaurant that offers a scrumptious selection of breakfast items. Start your morning with Key West Benedict--poached eggs on an English muffin and asparagus, topped with local Key West pink shrimp and hollandaise. If you're in the mood for something sweet, try the Southernmost Toast--challah bread battered in maple sugar and smothered in Bananas Foster sauce. The place is usually hopping, but the service is friendly and efficient. Just kick back with a Double Mimosa or their Old Bay Bacon Bloody Mary, and enjoy a leisurely start to your day.


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Part bakery, part bistro, Croissants de France serves up a mix of French food with a Caribbean twist. Their garden patio just off Duval Street offers a tranquil setting under the shade of a sprawling Spanish lime tree. Sip on a luscious cappuccino or make a mimosa toast (with fresh orange juice). Signature dishes include Cinnamon Brioche French Toast and Seafood Eggs Benedict. Their savory buckwheat crepes are stuffed with hearty fillings like goat cheese, tomatoes, spinach, asparagus and summer squash. Buttery croissants and delectable pastries are baked fresh each night and are on display in the bakery where it's easy to grab some for the road. They're also open for lunch and dinner, and they deliver.


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When Glazed Donuts put out its shingle in 2012, it wasn't long before the bakery started appearing on best-of lists in many high-profile publications. The owners, both respected chefs, have made an art of mixing, fermenting, frying and glazing dough each day. The result: gourmet donuts that are almost too pretty to eat. Everything is made from scratch all the way down to the sprinkles. They usually make about 12 different varieties each day in creative flavors like Cuban Coffee with dulce de leeches and Valrhona chocolate. The ones sweetened with local fruits vary seasonally like lemon mascarponé cream with candied plums. Their Key lime pie donut could double as dessert, filled with tart custard and topped with dollops of meringue. Pair with their house roast, Red Buoy Coffee from Northern Guatemala. Make sure to get there early, so you can peruse the full selection before they sell out.


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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

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