Above: Hogfish Bar & Grill, Stock Island, Florida

Favorite Florida Keys Restaurants

The Florida Keys have access to some of the freshest seafood in the country, making dining in this scenic archipelago a consistent pleasure. But unlike in, say, New Orleans or Charleston, there are very few dressy options. There is no need to bring a sport coat. Indeed, most venues don’t even require pants. Shorts are acceptable almost everywhere. Similarly, presentations tend to be unfussy, and portions are frequently large. Prices, however, are not necessarily commensurate with the casual atmosphere. It’s common to find main courses costing upward of $30, even in restaurants that seemingly haven’t seen a fresh coat of paint in decades.

Conch is a popular ingredient in appetizers, appearing in chowders and hush puppy-like fritters, or fried in chunks. It takes on the flavor of whatever coats it. Fresh fish, including grouper, snapper, mahi-mahi, hogfish and lionfish tend to be superb, and the sweet local lobster tails are barely more expensive than the fish. Stone crab is a seasonal delight. The region’s most famous dish, Key lime pie, has ruined dessert menus for the length of the Overseas Highway. It is delicious but ubiquitous, and it has crowded out more-creative options. Wine lists, too, are often disappointing. The same uninspiring choices appeared time and again on by-the-glass menus, indicating that a single wine distributor has the Keys in its grip. Local craft beers are an appealing alternative, and cocktails tend to be large and strong.

All the restaurants below have outdoor seating. In addition to these recommendations, consider dining on the beach patio of Il Postino, the main restaurant of the Isla Bella Beach Resort, my preferred property in Marathon. I also enjoyed our sunset-view dinners on the terraces of Latitudes and Hot Tin Roof in Key West, though the hotels with which they’re affiliated are not recommendable.

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Above: Hogfish Bar & Grill, Stock Island, Florida

Read More from Our Trip:

Three-Hour Tours: Boating in the Keys Marathon’s Marvelous Turtle Hospital Key West Hotels: A Hit and Two Misses Key West Walking Tours Contrasting Resorts in the Florida Keys