Top Picks

 

Lorelei

BEST KEYS SUNSET CELEBRATION
Lor-e-lei Restaurant & Cabana Bar

Cited as one of the “Best and Brightest Spots in Florida” by Power and Motoryacht Magazine, this casual, family-friendly hangout is home to the world famous Lor-e-lei Fishing Guides and lively Sunset Celebration. Great casual fare with an array of tasty sandwiches, fresh local seafood, ribs, steak and chicken. Live entertainment by local bands. Happy Hour specials from 4-6 pm Major credit cards. Open Daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Find it at MM 82, Bayside, Islamorada. 305-664-2692; loreleifloridakeys.com

BEST FISH HOUSE
The Fish House
If the name fits — and here it does because this bustling joint is the hottest seafood spot in town and gets constant raves from locals and visitors alike. Big portions, a fun, friendly staff and a Keysey atmosphere complement an extensive menu that includes chowders, stone crab, shellfish, native fish, steaks and pasta. Find it at MM 102.4, Oceanside, Key Largo. 305-451-HOOK; fishhouse.com

BEST LOBSTER BLT
Key Largo Fisheries
Until recently, we always thought there was nothing like a great Maine lobster roll. Of course, that was before we stumbled upon the “Backyard Cafe” on the docks behind Key Largo Fisheries and discovered their signature Lobster BLT. Perfectly cooked, firm-tender lobster (not fried – Sacre Bleu!) is generously heaped on a buttery croissant fused with crisp bacon, juicy ripe tomato slices, fresh Bibb lettuce and a healthy slather of spicy mayo. Also first rate: the incredible Lobster BLT Soup loaded with bacon and lobster, along with lots of other delicious sandwiches, salads, and fresh seafood baskets. Wine & Beer. Cafe open Mon. – Sat. 10 am – 8 pm Retail Market: Mon. – Thurs. 7:30 am – 5:30 pm and on Fri. & Sat. ‘til  7 pm Find it at MM 99.5, Oceanside at 1313 Ocean Bay Dr., Key Largo. 305-451-3782; keylargofisheries.com

BEST Island Chic
Snook’s Bayside
Hidden away at the end of a private lane, just off US 1, this chandeliered Grand Tiki with its flickering torches, lush plantings and SOBE-style sofa lounges is oh-so-chic! A gorgeous, open-air dining area, sprawling 5,000 sq. ft. patio and multiple bars all have unobstructed views of the Bay, giving you a ringside seat to one of the best sunset celebrations in the Keys. As seen on South Florida’s popular TV show, “Check Please,” the fresh, island-inspired dishes, won high fives from the show’s panel of judges and are all made to order. Truly a great place to kick back with a rum punch and grab yourself a piece of paradise. Find it at MM 99.9 Bayside, Key Largo. 305-453-5004; snooks.com
Guitar

BEST DEAL IN TOWN
Keys Pawn
Maybe it’s just us, but when we think “pawn shop” we think “eh, maybe not.” Not so with Keys Pawn. This place is like no other pawn shop we’ve ever seen (even the ones on TV). The folks here have been supplying dealers from all over the world with luxury watches, high end jewelry, rare antiques and collectibles at super low prices for over forty years. Now they’ve opened this new brick and mortar with a terrific ever-changing inventory that also includes a wonderful collection of rare guitars. The prices and selection are phenomenal so if you’re into snagging great deals, this Pawn’s for you! Find your next treasure at 91551 Overseas Hwy., Tavernier. 305-962-1956; keyspawn.com.

BEST PORTERHOUSE STEAK
Ziggie & Mad Dog’s

Truth be told, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu of this legendary Keys’ landmark because all the food here is truly world-class. Steak lovers will revel in the tender 12 oz. Center Cut Filet, tasty 16 oz. New York Strip and full flavored 21 oz. Bone-In Ribeye, but it’s the 28 oz. “Czonka” Porterhouse that is totally over the top. Team one up with a linebacker-size baked potato and you’ve got yourself a winning combination. Open daily at 5:30 pm for dinner. Full bar. Major credit cards. Find it at MM 83 Bayside, Islamorada. 305-664-3391; ziggieandmaddogs.com

BEST CASUAL DOCKSIDE DINING
Sparky’s Landing

This little “sleeper” of a restaurant boasts a terrific dockside setting right on the marina in Key Colony Beach. Expect to find really good casual fare here with a strong emphasis on fresh fish and cold cocktails. Homemade soups, salads and a big sandwich menu along with entrees like Seared Tuna, Cajun Pasta, Fried Shrimp, a fresh Fish Platter and slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone ribs all get a two-thumbs up. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Full bar with a great Happy Hour from 4-6 pm Major credit cards. Find it at MM 53.5, Oceanside on the Sadowski Causeway, Key Colony Beach/Marathon. 305-289-7445; sparkyslanding.com

BEST FAMILY RESTAURANT
Key Colony Inn
Overlooking the fairways of the Key Colony Beach Golf Course, this long time institution has the feel of an old time country club. An extensive menu of seafood, continental and Italian favorites has made it a favorite with the Key Colony Beach crowd and other in-the-know locals. The weekend prime rib special always packs the place and the Sunday Brunch (in season only) is the best deal in town. Open daily for Lunch from 11 am – 2 p.m; Dinner from 5-10 pm Find it at MM 53.5, Oceanside on West Ocean Drive, Key Colony Beach. 305-743- 0100; kcinn.com

BEST SHARK ENCOUNTER
Aquarium Encounters

Ok, ok, so maybe going nose-to-nose with a 600 lb. shark is not your idea of a great day at the beach. Especially when it flashes those pearly whites at you. But fear not. At Aquarium  Encounters in Marathon, you can dive or snorkel in a ginormous Coral Reef Tank among colorful schools of reef fish and face off with giant sharks, goliath grouper, moray eels and other denizens inhabiting the adjoining Predator Reef Tank. Separated by a 6” clear plexiglass window, the Predator Reef Tank is equipped with a small underwater portal where you can actually hand-feed the sharks. Landlubbers are also welcome to catch the underwater action from the main viewing room. Find it at 11710 Overseas Hwy., MM 53 Gulfside in Marathon. Info 305-407-3262; floridakeysaquariumencounters.com.

seafood saladBEST INNOVATIVE
SEAFOOD JOINT
The Square Grouper Bar & Grill
Chef/owner Lynn Bell and her top culinary crew are creating the most intriguing small plates and entrees,    pastas and ever-changing specials, making this hip roadside Bar & Grill a true “Destination” restaurant and earning it a “Top 10” ranking in the Florida Keys & Key West restaurant scene. The Eggplant Stack – fried eggplant, pesto, goat cheese and marinara is particularly wonderful. Other favorites: Square Grouper Seafood Stew with a spicy, creamy red broth; Toasted Almond Encrusted Grouper with warm Caribbean pineapple relish and the Jasmine Rice Bowls. You’ll also find a terrific selection of boutique wines and craft beers. Open Tues. – Sat for lunch and dinner (and on Mon. from Jan – April Major credit cards. Find it at MM 22, Oceanside, Cudjoe Key. 305-745-8880; squaregrouperbarandgrill.com

BEST DESIGNER JEWELRY
Little Switzerland
A stroll through Little Switzerland is like walking through the “Who’s Who” of brand name designer jewelry. You’ll find lots of innovative collections from today’s top fashion icons including sleek, sophisticated designs by Roberto Coin, Marco Bicego and Ippolita, contemporary classics from famous names like David Yurman and John Hardy and trendsetting favorites by Pandora and Avance. LS also stocks a terrific selection of top of the line watches from Omega, Breitling and Tag Heuer as well as a sensational collection of diamond and precious gemstone jewelry. Located on the harbor front at 271 Front St., at Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina. 305-293-8600.

Woman spaBEST BOUTIQUE SPA
Ocean Wellness Spa

For one of the most inherently authentic, totally relaxing “Key West” experiences, Ocean Wellness Spa takes top honors. This charming retreat always earns rave reviews and is the place to go for restorative and luxurious spa treatments. Seasoned, professional therapists offer their regimens in nine distinctive treatment rooms using mostly organic, natural products. You’ll find an extensive menu of services here including massage, body treatments, facial/skin care, spa mani/pedis, as well as a full line of salon services offering hair care, Keratin treatments, eyelash extensions and more. Ocean Wellness Spa also provides the licensed services of acupuncture physician, Michelle Wischmeyer, who has extensive experience in Eastern traditions and medicine. If you’re looking for an exceptional experience, this is definitely your place in the sun. Find it at 829 Simonton St, Key West. 305-320-0500; oceanspakeywest.com

BEST SUNSET SAILING ADVENTURE
Schooner Jolly II Rover

Hoist the red sails, steer the ship and fire the cannons of this classic 80’ Caribbean Coastal Tall Ship. Just like the ones used by pillaging pirates, rum-runners and roguish adventurers who roamed the Florida Keys hundreds of years ago. The best deal on the dock! You can bring your own drinks and snacks! Departs from the Conch Republic Seafood Company, Historic Seaport, Key West. 305-304-2235; schoonerjollyrover.com

BEST “ Steak With A View”
Commodore Waterfront Restaurant

The seafood is wonderful here but it’s the steaks that really get your mouth watering. Prime beef at its best, cooked perfectly and prepared in a variety of ways. (Inside Tip: Go for the Cowboy Steak) And to top it off – a terrific waterfront location overlooking luxury yachts at the Historic Seaport. Dinner nightly from 5:30-10:30 pm Find it at 700 Front St., Key West. 305-294-9191; commodorekeywest.com

BEST SUSHI
Ambrosia

Chef/Owner Masa and wife Noriko are making waves at Key West’s hip, vintage Santa Maria Hotel where their edgy sushi restaurant and sake bar is renowned for its authentic, artfully crafted plates including Masa’s premium bluefin tuna creations and other full-flavored dishes like the Spicy Seafood Carpaccio with fresh jalapeno, sweet onion and Yuzu pepper paste. Tradition and innovation collide with all kinds of intriguing signature rolls including the Hamachi Heat – an addictive fusion of snow crab salad, jalapeno and tempura topped with hamachi, jalapeno slices, Shichimi powder and a side of spicy ponzu. Lots of other Japanese specialties here, too along with an eclectic selection of artisan sake, fun saketini’s, wine and beer. Find it at 1401 Simonton St. For reservations call 305-293-0304; keywestambrosia.com
key lime pie

BEST KEY LIME Pie
Key Lime Pie Bakery
Here’s the thing about the folks at the Key Lime Pie Bakery: they have an absolute passion for Key Lime Pie. And we’re not talkin’ about just any Key Lime Pie. We’re talkin’ about the kind of truly authentic, good old-fashioned Key Lime Pie that they whip up right on premises in their state-of-the-art Key West kitchen. Not that you can’t find Key Lime Pie at almost every roadside joint up n’ down the Keys, but these folks are cookin’ up the Real McCoy – tart, creamy, pies made from an original family recipe using 100% pure Key Lime juice, cuddled on a graham cracker crust and topped with real whipped cream. You can devour it by the slice, on a stick dipped in chocolate or be a real hero and take home a whole pie. Yum! Open daily from 9 am – 11 pm Located downtown at 412 and 414 Greene St, Key West. 305-296-9515; keylimepiebakery.com

BEST HAPPY HOUR & TAPAS
Tavern N’ Town

There are Happy Hours and then there are really “Happening” Happy Hours and this one is all that. Locals flock here nightly from 5 – 7 pm for the generous 2 for 1 cocktails and the revolving lineup of top-notch entertainment. But what really hits the ball out of the park are the Tapas Nights on Tuesday and Thursday where globally-inspired small tasting plates of gourmet appetizers are all artfully prepared and elicit appreciative nods from top food aficionados. The creative delectables are always changing and you can easily make a meal out of several small plates. FYI: Dinner here is just as wonderful and the restaurant is a two time recipient of Key West’s Master Chef Competition. Open nightly at 5 pm Find it at the Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel, 3811 North Roosevelt Blvd, Key West. Call 305-296-3676; beachsidekeywest.com

BEST FEMALE ILLUSIONISTS
The Aquanettes
Key West’s own talented troupe of female illusionists transform into a bevy of beauties using elaborate costuming, makeup and lip sync. The adult-oriented, hands-on interactive show, Reality Is A Drag, runs nightly at 9 pm with two shows on Fri. and Sat. at 9 pm and 11 pm. Get there early for good seats and pre-show photo-ops. Aqua Night Club, 711 Duval St., Key West. Reservations: 305-294-0555; aquakeywest.com

 

Christ of the Abyss diveThe Keys’ Top 12 Places To Dive
Florida Keys: Summertime in the Florida Keys and the livin’ is easy! Warmed by the sun, both the southern Atlantic and the Gulf are radiantly clear, making our subtropical waters ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Read More