This fab food truck, located next to Grunts restaurant, has a cult following for their authentic island-style tacos and burritos. Garbo's feature on Guy Fierri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" has only increased the lines of hungry patrons. Try the Cayo Fish Mahi Mahi tacos, which come with big chunks fresh fish with mango, cilantro and red cabbage. Jalapeno mayonnaise gives it that perfect kick. For the Yum Yum Shrimp taco, they only use the local Key West Pinks, which are large and juicy. Customer fave, the Koji Korean Beef Shortrib burrito, is both sweet and spicy with a hint of sriracha. While the menu is small, it changes with the seasons offering a variety of unique flavors.
Recommended for Take Out because: This little food (now ensconced behind an actual restaurant) is worth seeking out for fresh island-style tacos with fish, shrimp and Korean beef shortribs.
Claudia's expert tip: Get there early, as they've been known to run out of the more popular dishes.
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 Take Out 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: Don't feel like leaving your hotel room? Caroline's also delivers.
The Caribbean-inspired Bien (formerly 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, large portions and low prices. The sandwiches are the stars of the menu, served on toasted baguette with aioli, fresh cilantro, pickled jalapenos, crisp romaine and caramelized onions. Packed full of juicy meats like Cuban roast pork in the "secret" Paseo Sauce. Roasted corn, rice bowls and fish in red sauce are other stand-out entrees. Bien does mostly take-out business, but they have three outside tables. Misters over the tables help stave off the tropical heat.
Recommended for Take Out because: The Caribbean-inspired Bien (formerly Paseo) has minimal seating and does mostly take out. Juicy sandwiches made with the "secret" Paseo Sauce are the stars of the menu.
Claudia's expert tip: The sandwiches are wrapped tightly in paper, to minimize the mess. Peel off the paper as you go, like a banana.
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 Take Out 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.
Located in front of the harbor, this little outdoor Cuban stand is loved by locals and tourists alike. Delicious breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and high-test coffee, ensures that there's usually a bit of a wait. However, you'll find service is friendly and efficient. They also have fresh smoothies. After a late night, try the "Hangover Helper," a combination of pineapple, mixed berries, ginseng, orange juice, and Emergen-C. Like most Cuban stands, there's limited bench seating. Unlike most other Cuban stands, they do accept credit cards, and WiFi is available. If you visit close to 8 am, you may have a longer wait, as the passengers headed to the Dry Tortugas on the Yankee Freedom get their early morning buzz.
Recommended for Take Out because: This little outdoor Cuban stand is the perfect way to start your day. Grab delicious breakfast sandwiches and high-test coffee and be on your way.
Claudia's expert tip: Their cafe con leche is not to be missed. If you're feeling the heat, you can even get it iced with coffee ice cubes.
Get your day started 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, but otherwise, plan to get your goods to go.
Recommended for Take Out because: The walk-up window at this small Cuban joint is open 24 hours--perfect for pre-party cafe con leches and post-party Cuban sandwiches.
Claudia's expert tip: Sandy's only accepts cash.
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 you the most authentic Italian pizza possible. If you sit inside, you can watch your pizza being made from scratch and baked in the the 2-ton wood fired oven imported from Italy. With a great attention to detail, they only use oak wood to maintain the proper temperature inside the oven. Their mozzarella is made fresh daily, and superfine flour makes for a very light thin crust. Pair your meal with a glass (or carafe) of their refreshing homemade sangria made with fresh mint.
Recommended for Take Out because: Onlywood cooks up authentic wood-fired Italian pizza made with their homemade mozzarella. Superfine flour makes for a very light thin crust.
Claudia's expert tip: Don't forget to order one of their excellent desserts like the homemade ricotta cheesecake.
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. Items on the menu are clearly labeled--vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free--and the friendly staff can answer any questions. Everything is made from scratch using fresh organic non-processed foods. Try their Ancient Secret salad with quinoa, goji berries, apple, almonds and chickpeas or their energizing Super Food Lasagna with layers of zucchini, Brazil nut meat, pesto, fresh tomato and marinara. Coffee lovers will be pleased with the organic options and wide variety of milks and sweeteners that meet any dietary need. A raised outdoor garden with picnic tables offers limited seating, but they have carry-out, grab-and-go items and a juice bar. If you're in Key West for a few days, you'll most likely help yourself more than once.
Recommended for Take Out because: Packed with organic coffee, juices, grab-and-go and made-to-order dishes to fit any dietary need from gluten-free to vegan.
Claudia's expert tip: Only open until 6:00 p.m.
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 upstairs, this places stays packed, mostly with locals. Try the Pho, a popular street food in Vietnam. Made with rice noodles, thin slices of beef, cabbage and herbs in a savory broth, it has a reputation as the perfect hangover cure. Portions are huge, but they offer half orders. The fresh lime-aid is to die for, and they have a wide sake selection.
Recommended for Take Out because: The Pho, a Vietnamese street dish, makes Kojin a must-try, and their take out window does a brisk business until midnight.
Claudia's expert tip: The portions are huge, so consider a half-order. It's plenty for one and a great value.
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 in-the-know. The hodge-podge décor includes diner-style tables covered in a red pepper-patterned plastic table cloths, photos of Cuba and a life-size wooden Indian--a nod to the namesake Cuban tribe. A basket of fresh Cuban bread arrives at your table first with thick fluffy slices slathered in butter. Pair it with a pitcher of the house sangria. Follow up with your order of entrees like tender roast pork or perfectly-spiced picadillo (a ground beef entrée). The food comes quickly accompanied by a plate overflowing with fried plantains so sweet you may not even want dessert. Of course, you'll have dessert. The rich creamy flan is too yummy to ignore.
Recommended for Take Out because: This no-frills diner serves up generous portions of the best Cuban food on the island at reasonable prices. Call ahead for to-go orders.
Claudia's expert tip: Watch the daily specials for some real treats like white bean soup on Mondays and Oxtail on Saturdays.