What To Try by Dorthe Thure

Here are the top ten dining experiences to have in the Florida Keys:

Dine outside in a garden, particularly in the middle of winter, because you can.

Dine next to the water, preferably on a marina.

Try one less familiar local fish or seafood while you’re here, like cobia, wahoo, or royal reds. Support sustainable seafood this way!

Eat key lime pie, of course, but also at least one other key lime dessert––like a parfait, tart, or key lime martini.

Take a Key West Food Tour.

Enjoy Cuban food, even if it’s just a Cuban coffee, Cuban toast, a flan, or a side of yellow rice and black beans.

Taste conch. It’s not harvested locally, but it’s a historically local ingredient.

If it’s mango season, wander the side streets of Old Town, looking for mango trees. Residents will often leave them outside their house, for free.

If you’re able to, eat some seafood raw in the form of sashimi, sushi, oysters on the half shell, crudo, tartare, or carpaccio. It’s the purest taste of freshness.

Visit a local farmer’s market and sample seasonal, tropical fruits. Begin to use key limes on everything.

What’s the Key West Insider Guide? by Dorthe Thure

In 1997, I began writing restaurant reviews for an independent Key West paper called Solares Hill. My first review was Yo Sake, a Japanese restaurant on Duval Street with a sushi chef named Masa. I wrote a weekly review for seven years, but at a certain point, I realized there ought to be a guide that collected the best Key West dining in one volume. I knew all the best chefs and restaurants in town, so I started asking them to be in my guide. 

This was before the internet. Before websites. Before apps. People still relied on guide books and travel agents. Although we now have a website and app ourselves, I still love a book I can hold in my hands and flip through, and find that others still prefer this, too.

The core group of what began as the Key West Dining Guide, but evolved into the Insider Guide as I added shops, galleries and spas, remains: Ambrosia, Antonia’s, Blue Heaven, Cafe Marquesa, Cafe Solé, Camille’s, Hogfish Bar & Grill, Hot Tin Roof, Louie’s Backyard, Nine One Five, Saluté, and Seven Fish. Signature dishes and the experience itself of these restaurants are still favorites of both locals and visitors. They don’t get replaced. They’re the essence of Key West.

Tuna sashimi at Ambrosia (served by owner, Masa). Conch carpaccio at Cafe Solé. Banana pancakes at Blue Heaven. Conch fritters at Camille’s. Romantic tables at Antonia’s and Cafe Marquesa. Sunset cocktails at Louie’s Afterdeck. The killer hogfish sandwich at Hogfish Bar & Grill. None of these experiences have a substitute: they hold their own.

The Key West Insider Guide remains true to its original intent to share the best, authentic places for flavors and unforgettable Key West moments. I still work with owners and chefs directly. I still dine in the restaurants I loved back in 1997, and use them as standards for choosing new restaurants to be in the guide.

And just as I never want the kale Caesar to replace the original Romaine, I always want to print a little paperback book. Whether you rely on this original means, or use the website or app, the Key West Insider Guide is as true as I can tell it, and I hope it guides you well!

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