Waterfront dining in Key West often comes with a steep price. Not so at the Southernmost Beach Cafe. Here you'll find reasonable deals on casual local fare for breakfast and lunch. You don't have to be staying at the Southernmost Hotel to enjoy the views of the Atlantic. You can stroll in from the sand and have a seat in this open-air restaurant that offers a wide selection of breakfast items, sandwiches, salads and starters. Start your morning with Key West Benedict--poached eggs atop English muffin and asparagus spears, topped with locally caught Key West pink shrimp and hollandaise. At lunch, opt for tacos packed with the fish of the day or a Reuben Cuban sandwich stuffed with pulled pork, corned beef, Swiss, pickle and mustard. Dinner is a bit more formal (average the entree price is $25) with dishes like the macadamia crusted local grouper with mango salsa. Finish with their homemade Key lime pie with a crisp Oreo cookie crust.
Recommended for Cafés because: Southernmost Beach Cafe offers waterfront dining at affordable prices. Nosh on local cuisine like shrimp eggs Benedict and fish tacos.
Claudia's expert tip: Don't miss their happy hour appetizer specials 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
The aroma of freshly-baked bread will lure you into this bakery tucked away near the entrance to Old Town. Filled with to-die-for artisan breads, bagels and sandwiches, Cole's serves breakfast and lunch until 2:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For breakfast, they offer cheese toast (with ham or bacon) on fresh-baked Cuban bread, muffins, sticky-buns, croissants and cafe con leche. For lunch, you'll find soups and generous sandwiches that come with your choice of chips, coleslaw or potato salad and a small sweet treat. Don't miss their delicious specials like blackened free range chicken with balsamic on ciabatta bread or chili and tomato soup. Be sure to take a loaf of the cinnamon-raisin or signature mango bread or home with you. They are best served warm with butter or cream cheese. Warning: you may quickly become addicted to their cranberry pistachio cookies.
Recommended for Cafés because: Cole's serves up breakfast and lunch filled with their freshly-baked artisan breads, pastries and sandwiches. Don't miss the mango bread or cranberry pistachio cookies.
Claudia's expert tip: They only have a few tables, but you can find extra seating at the large chef's table inside the adjacent Restaurant Store.
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 sacrifice to have a fab meal. Gluten-free craft beer and homemade sangria, usually absent at "health food" restaurants, get the conversation flowing. Omnivores will appreciate the seafood dishes like blackened mahi-mahi and P.E.I. mussels. The falafel served with bean salad, cream of tomato soup and the sweet potato fries all get rave reviews. Finish with vegan Key lime cheesecake. Everything is made from scratch, so be sure to check out the nightly specials. As always, if you have a severe gluten allergy, let the kitchen know, so they can prepare your meal properly. Grab a comfy cushioned seat in front of the window and prepare for a delightful meal.
Recommended for Cafés because: Redefining vegetarian cuisine for over 10 years, The Cafe offers creative dishes for all diets, ensuring all diners will have a fab meal.
Claudia's expert tip: Check out their nightly specials, which range from chickpea and squash tacos to vegan double chocolate chip cake.
Tucked away on a side street in Old Town, Help Yourself is a colorful natural food market and cafe in a re-purposed gas station. If you like your coffee organic with a wide variety of of milks and sweeteners that meet any dietary need, this is your Mecca. They serve a line of organic and fairly traded coffees by Sweetwater, a local Florida coffee roaster out of Gainesville. In the coffee bar, they have freshly made decaf and espresso, and a new "Daily Roast" brewed coffee each day. Everything can be made with your choice of organic milks: freshly made coconut milk, hemp milk, almond milk, soy milk, rice milk and whole milk. Organic flavoring syrups come in three great flavors--salted caramel, French vanilla, and hazelnut. To sweeten beverages, customers can choose from organic agave nectar, coconut palm sugar, Florida sugar, stevia and honey.
Recommended for Cafés because: Organic coffee with milks and sweeteners for any dietary need plus healthy grab-and-go snacks make this cafe a must-stop for the health-conscious.
Claudia's expert tip: Looking for coffee but not the caffeine? Try the Dandy Blend Latte--an instant herbal beverage with restorative dandelion root.
Get your day started right at Sandy's Café, a small Cuban restaurant at the end of the M& M Laundry building on White Street. Yes, you read right. It's at a laundromat. Let this be your introduction to the funky synergy of Key West. Step up to the window and order a colada, an espresso-style brew to share, or a café con leche, a Latin latte with steamed milk. Try any of their breakfast sandwiches on fresh pressed Cuban bread. Don't miss the pastelitos, a delicious pastry similar to an American turnover but in fun Caribbean flavors like guava. If you're lucky, you might get one of the few stools. Otherwise, plan on getting your goods to go. They also deliver, but cash only.
Recommended for Cafés because: Start your day right with a strong cafe con leche and fresh-pressed breakfast sandwich from this small Cuban joint.
Claudia's expert tip: Open 24 hours, so you can fuel up for a night out on the town.
Tucked away in the charming Bahama Village, many visitors stumble across this quaint French cafe while waiting in line at the popular Blue Heaven Restaurant across the street. But once they've tried the scrumptious crepes turned out by the owners from the Morbihan region in France, La Creperie becomes a regular addition to their vacation itineraries. You can sit at the bar and watch authentic crepes being made from scratch, or you can enjoy the island breezes and dine al fresco. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or late-afternoon snack (they close at 5:00 p.m.), La Creperie has the best Croque Monsieur/ Croque Madame on the island. Homemade ice cream, fresh grilled paninis, and espresso round out the menu. Many items are organic and free of GMOs.
Recommended for Cafés because: At this delightful French cafe, you can watch your crepe being made from scratch.
Claudia's expert tip: Try the galette, a savory buckwheat pancake and a specialty of Brittany, France.
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 scooters, bikes and a horse-mounted policeman along Duval Street. Of course the crepes are the star of the menu, but it's hard to choose between the savory and the sweet. The savory 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 crepes wow with simple flavor combinations like banana, sugar and rum or the crowd fave--Key lime sauce with whipped cream. Make sure to check the chalkboard specials for the fresh quiche and soup of the day. Crepe prices run $5-$18 and sandwiches are $10-$20.
Recommended for Cafés because: Linger at this charming cafe with open-air seating and French classics like sweet/savory crepes and baguette sandwiches.
Claudia's expert tip: This little bistro is always hopping, so weekdays are best for a leisurely breakfast or lunch without a wait. Note the dinner prices go up considerably.
This Caribbean-style coffee shop is a mix of coffee house, art gallery, real estate office and Internet cafe. Owners Theo and Diane Glorie have played host at this little spot in the historic seaport district since 2005. They've created a homey atmosphere with wicker furniture, brightly-colored decor and plenty of books and magazines for people to read. Relax on their front porch with a Tropical Machiato (espresso with vanilla and coconut), and watch the Key West characters strolling by. Fresh quiche, warm muffins, spinach-filled croissants and scones will help get your morning started, while their Lite Bite lunch items will get you through the afternoon.
Recommended for Cafés because: Owners Theo and Diane Glorie have created a homey atmosphere at this mix of coffee house, art gallery, real estate office and Internet cafe.
Claudia's expert tip: Free internet access is included with a purchase of $6 or more, and computers and printers are available as well.
At the Grand Café, a casual Key West atmosphere is mixed with white tablecloths and an impressive wine selection. Located in a stunning Victorian Mansion on Duval St., this spot is prime for people watching. The service is top-notch with knowledgeable waiters who can guide you through their menu and wine offerings. During lunch, the Grand serves up spinach and goat cheese paninis, steak frites, and good-old-fashioned BLT's on its wraparound porch. At dinner, try the seared sea scallops in a key-lime butter wine or the New Zealand rack of lamb. Don't forget about their specialty cocktails, like the lychee martini with Stoli Vanilla, pineapple and lychee juice.
Recommended for Cafés because: Top-notch food, excellent service and seating right along Duval Street keep people coming back to the Grand Cafe.
Claudia's expert tip: The happy hour at Grand Cafe is a great way to sample their starter items and specialty cocktails for half off.
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 as an excellent shrimp and bacon club sandwich. They also have a full menu with dishes like shrimp po' boy, jambalaya and jerk chicken. If you just want a light bite, appetizers include conch fritters, dolphin fingers, fried shrimp and more. Its location along the main drag ensures that there's usually a crowd (and sometimes a wait), but the staff is friendly and efficient. Plus the people-watching is excellent entertainment. Look out for Abby the rooster, who serves as a welcoming committee.
Recommended for Cafés because: This casual American restaurant is a favorite for their generous portions at reasonable prices and one of the best burgers in town.
Claudia's expert tip: Vie for a seat at the popular outdoor bar to enjoy the prime view of all the action on Duval Street.