♫ South Florida down into the Keys, that's where I want to be ♫
-as seen on chibbqking
What's up Roadfood? Long time, no post. I was down in the Sunshine State for 12 days in December and got around while there. My parents have a place in Boynton Beach that my grandpa built when he started going down there in the 80's. So we stayed there a couple nights but you can only take so much country club living when you're not even 32 years old yet and dont golf. We spent a few nights in Miami and then headed to Key West to live young. Here we go. Sheila's Famous BBQ & Conch
West Palm Beach
First off let me say we went to WPB one night for eat and drinks and the central square place or whatever it is was a freaking madhouse. It took almost an hour to get a spot in the garage and all the Lambo's and Bentley's are double parked by valet so you gotta squeeze thru them too. Away from the glitz and glamor is this great little place. Sheila is from the Bahamas and cooks like her mom used to. I didn't try the BBQ but her fried cracked conch is outstanding.
Specialty of the House: Cracked Conch La Granja
Our first night in we needed to get over to Wal-Mart for a few things and I passed by this hopping Peruvian spot in the same shopping center. It was packed with people of all races and class and the drive thru was buzzing so I said why not. I almost walked out when I saw the horrible "professional" photos of each dish but I'm glad I didn't. The spit roasted chicken was juicy and full of flavor and the seafood fried rice was fantastic. It turns out this is a local chain in South Florida and for a little while they had an outlet in Palatine of all places. Get the garlic potatoes as your side.
Popular Peruvian Eats in Boynton Beach Big Al's Steaks
Del Ray Beach
First off, wow! Del Ray Beach is a whole lot different then when I was hanging there as a kid. Atlantic Avenue is a pretty hopping spot these days huh? We enjoyed fresh oysters from City Oyster and drinks at a place whose names escapes me. Anyone who's been at a bar in a country club in Florida on NFL Sunday's knows theres tons of east coast transplants in South FLA. So theres a few cheese steak places and Big Al's was pretty good. Fresh thick sliced ribeye with good bread did the trick in the wee hours, it's open until 4a Thurs-Sat. Better than Checkers and Miami Subs. Oh and the public beach here is still one of the best in state.
Popular After Drinks Eat in Del Ray Beach LaSpada's Hoagies
Chester PA Style: Fresh Sliced Meats Piled High on East Coast Bread drowning in Oil
Speaking of subs or hoagies as they're called in PA here's another Pennsylvania transplant. By way of Chester this place is a popular sandwich shop with spots throughout South Florida. I stopped into one in Boca Raton and appreciated the fact the sandwich meat was sliced to order and as is key in the Sandwich state the seasoning and oils on this baby made for a required shower after eating. The large sandwich ($10) can feed four, I couldn't finish but half of mine. Some great east coast style hot cherry peppers too and I liked how they wrapped the meats, cheese and toppings with more meat. It all held together good.
East Coast Style Subs in Boca Raton The Whales Rib
The big LOL of the food world came this past year came with Pete Wells' review of Guy Fieri's monstrosity in Times Square. I dont doubt its bad but theres plenty of other celeb food folk who have done alot less for small mom and pop shops than Fieri he could of bashed. I dont watch the DDD but I do find he's been to and brought attention to some great places I've been thru. Another example here. We came twice in four nights including our final meal the night before heading home.
I'm a BIG, BIG fan of steamed rock shrimp and these were perfect
Deerfield Beach is another fun little town with some stuff going down when the sun does. The crowd here seemed to be a little more down to earth than WPM and Del Ray with alot of surfers and younger newly transplanted couples. The Whales Rib is a popular place to eat and drink for folks from all walks. They have lots of fresh seafood on special including those beautiful rock shrimp up above. We got those both times and also their famous blackened dolphin (mahi mahi) sandwich. It comes on an amazingly soft bun and is as good of a fish sandwich I've ate.
Famous Dolphin Sandwich Kelly's Landing
New England Style Seafood in Fort Lauderdale
We rode up from South Beach to meet a friend of mine from college. He's from Boston and thus a big Patriots fan so we met up with him at his local watering hole on gameday that Sunday night. Kelly's is located in a strip mall but dont let that deter you. Alot of places down here are. It's got the vibe of what you'd picture a popular place to eat and drink in New England has. Hell even the waitress was from NE and had the thick accent to prove it. The place was hopping with older folks from the area that transplant down there for winter.
Connecticut Style Lobster Roll (served hot)
She went with the roll and I went with a favorite of mine you dont find everywhere, the fried clams. I got a bite of the roll which was good. The bun just ok but they didn't skimp on the meat and it was sweet. It had been forever since I had fried clams again after the first time I tried them at Woodman's in Essex, MA back in college. But with the opening of New England Seafood Company in Chicago I've been eating them alot more of late. These from Kelly's were comparable to theirs and cost a little less since they're just down the coast.
Ipswich Fried Clam Dinner Southport Raw Bar
Located in the strip mall next to the strip mall where Kelly's is at is Southport Raw Bar. We stopped into here afterwards on my friends rec of it being the cheapest raw bar in the city and thus one of the freshest since they have constant traffic. The oysters and steamed little necks were a nice dessert cap after dinner.
Oysters on the Half Shell and Steamed Clams Jamaica Kitchen
This another spot which that guy from Food Network has been too. I actually remember seeing that episode and I wanted to check it out when heading back. This is a Jamaican Chinese restaurant. ICYDK Jamaica has a decent Chinese population and the owners of this places parents went to Jamaica from China. So the owners are Chinese but born and raised in the Jamrock. They speak in a patois slang and it's just kind of funny at first, especially if not expecting it. Like the Southern slang used by the people with Chinese ancestors in the Mississippi Delta. I tried their extra hot spicy beef patty and the heat was real. Also one of their signature Jamaican/Chinese eats the pork belly and ham choy. Excellent.
Pork and Ham Choy with Red Beans & Rice and a Red Dot Hot Beef Patty Chef Creole Seafood Takeout
Little Haiti (Miami)
Another place I've seen on TV (No Reservations) and was told by my friend who lives in Miami to go. There are several Chef Creole locations in Miami as the owner has built a name brand for himself but the original seafood takeout in the Little Haiti neighborhood is best. It feels like a seafood shack in the Caribbean and while its takeout they have a shaded outdoor area with tables and chairs to sit down and eat at. We went with the whole fried fresh snapper and their famous seasoned shrimp.
Whole Fried Snapper
This picture was taken before I dumped my cup of sauce and fresh sliced onions and pikliz, a hot Haitian relish, on it. So it may look plain from here but with all that added on it was pretty heavenly and "hella" fresh man. Their shrimp and its seasoned batter was even better. I think I paid a little over $20 for all that and the people working the place were great. The man himself, Chef Creole was there making sure we were happy. I'll be back when I return.
Famous Creole Seasoned Shrimp Fritay
Little Haiti (Miami)
Not far from Chef Creole is Fritay. I said "what the hey" and decided to try this place too. It's indoors but they one table. From behind the glass they have a steam table of whats on their small menu. Fritay means fried and their fried chicken was named best in Miami by the Miami New Times. I guess that was before Yardbird, it was ok. The fried pork was ok too but the fried acre and sides with them were great. the acre tasted like potato pancakes to me. This place too was super cheap and they sold their pikliz by the bottle so I got a few of those to go home with.
Fried Pork with Acre and Beans and Rice El Mago de las Fritas
Little Havana (Miami)
Long on my radar I've actually never had a frita cubana in Florida. I've made them but now can come to understand that just like a good Cuban sandwich, you need a certain type of bread for these. This place is a popular pick for many including the President. Mago himself was there and he made my frita which is a Cuban take on the hamburger. It comes with a seasoned beef/pork blended patty with shoestring potatoes and onions added on in between some really good bread. I loved it.
Frita Cubana with Cheese The Yardbird
Well after three days (with a GF) in South Beach, I was about ready to leave. It's like Vegas in that it's fun for a couple days but that's all you need. There's all sorts of people trying to get you to come in to their happy hour deals which they say is 2 for 1 but that's by the round. So you end up paying $32 for four super sweet drinks. The crafted cocktail scene hasn't really hit South Beach but Yardbird is the exception. Its not up to the levels of Violet Hour, Barrelhouse etc... but they mix some good drinks and at $11 your paying that everywhere here. Might as well be good.
One of the only spots to get a decent cocktail South Beach
Anything with peach and bourbon is good by me so I was sipping down on a concoction with those on both visits. I had camera problems as mine jammed while down here and I didn't get it fixed until the last night when I played rough with it. But we ordered the chicken biscuits drizzled in honey twice because they were as good as hyped. The fried chicken here is also really good and that talk has got them a location coming in NYC. We had a cornmeal crusted catfish on special that day which was quite piquant.
Chicken Biscuits as good as those in Nashville
While my camera was down I tried the NYC transplant Shake Shack with my friend and thought it was just ok. I had pelmeni in Little Moscow (Sunny Isles) and we also had some really fresh ceviche at a great little place called My Ceviche
. Also enjoyed grouper chowder and fresh fish at Garcia's, a great locally loved spot on the river my friend brought us too. Dinner our last night in town was at Tap Tap
and that was really fun and tasty too.
Better go walk some of this off...See y'all in the morning.
So I'm a big fan of the Caribbean lifestyle especially when it's cold where I'm from. I'm also a big fan of Key West. It has that that laid back Caribbean vibe going on. this was first trip here since we rode down here on an epic journey in college.
A Key West Foodventure for y'all
Enjoy the ride
While it's possible to fly into Key West it's most certainly not cheap. If you're staying for a few days or going with family, a car can come in handy though they rent electric cars, bikes and scooters everywhere on the island. Most people just fly into Miami and rent a car and take the wonderful 160 mile drive down A1A which ends in Key West. I was already in Florida on an extended stay and took off for the Keys after spending a couple nights in Miami. Knaus Berry Farm
there's a place called Robert's Last Stand that's supposed to be great and I really wanted to stop there but failed to en route back. My buddy who lives in Miami told me I must stop at another Homestead farm for their cinnamon buns before heading down. The best "by far" he told me and he wasn't lying. They go thru them like its nothing so they're baking them fresh and served hot all day. Don't miss this place for breakfast.
Knaus Berry Farm is a popular South Florida Family Stop
An amazing strawberry shake and the worlds greatest cinnamon buns are a must
As always I went prepared. This wasn't my first rodeo down there as I fell in love with the vibe when we went on a family vaca's a few times in my grade school years. I also stopped thru on Spring Break but back then it was all about drinking and seeing, maybe getting. This time around I wanted to see what else was out there for the ride down there and back. I used this wonderful Florida Rambler Website
to find some great stops on their Mile Marker guide
. Holiday Isle Tiki Bar
Where the Rum Runner was born (Islamorada) Keys Fisheries
Just off A1A halfway between MIA & KW a sign leads you past truckloads of lobster traps...
...to some of the freshest fish in the Florida Keys (Marathon)
This was actually a spot we stopped in at on the way back but had I known on the way down how much I was going to enjoy this family run fish business in Marathon. Its about the halfway point, I should have stopped both times. You can walk up to a window to order your seafood and they call you when its ready. Eating options are alongside the water at the tables or upstairs at the bar area which also has a raw bar. This is the way to go.
Raw Bar Upstairs (21+)
It doesn't get much better for a local watering hole
My View from the Bar
We got some lobster bisque and lobster fra diavolo from downstairs but the almost all day special upstairs is where its at. Grab an ice cold beer and kick back on some super fresh seafood while you stare at the blue waters ahead. I've come to learn I'll never have a lobster fra diavolo like that from this place in Providence until I get there again but enjoyed this version which was enough for two. The soup was pretty good and if you're there from 5-8p they cook stone crab hot to order. If not no worries, they offer them up by the 1's and 2's upstairs as well as some super tuna sashimi.
Lobster Fra Diavolo
All Day Happy Hour (1-9p) $1.50 Stone Crab Claws and $4 Tuna Sashimi
There's also a fish market on site, I had them put 3 pounds on ice to take back to South FLA Bahia Honda State Park
We didn't stop here on the way there or back but drove here one of days I was down there for some rest and relaxation. It's about 40 minutes from Key West and well worth the visit. Easily one of the best state parks I've set foot in. It's the top ranked beach in-state at the reliable Florida Rambler Website
. There's two beaches and one has the feel of your typical Florida oceanside beach while the other sits below the bridge in a tropical Caribbean setting with crystal clear waters.
You can walk up to the end of whats left of one part of the old Bahia Honda Bridge which was started in 1905 and completed in 1912. Built by oil mogul Henry Flagler it's was also called "Flaglers' Folly" We saw an amazing sea turtle from up above, it must of been at least 300 pounds, it was huge even from far way. great views and not a long walk up at all.
View of the park from the old bridge Hogfish Bar & Grill
I had the pleasure of staying at a place owned by a friend of mine and was very lucky in that we had a chef for breakfast and dinner and an amazing place to stay with everything one could need. But that didn't keep us from getting around to finding the real gems and this Florida Rambler rec'd bar and restaurant was so good I went there three times. Located on Stock Island which is where the local commercial shrimp boats used to sail out of. Located off the beaten path past some trailer homes, hey if you're going to live in one it might as well be here. Hogfish is near the beginning of town and well worth finding. Not all that hard either, if you have a GPS in your car or phone.
The Famous Hogfish Bar & Grill on Stock Island
This is a great local watering hole with some stereotypical fitting Key West characters lurking inside, especially during the night. They had a great mom and daughter bartending team and they specialize in hogfish. It's spear-caught and available when they have it so when they do make sure to get some. The house sandwich was sensational. Blackened hogfish smothered with Swiss Cheese, Onions and Mushrooms on fresh Cuban Bread. So good I had it twice.
Specialty of the House: "KILLER" Hogfish Sandwich
Fried Hogfish Tacos Sights from Key West Happy Hour
Happy Hour is a big part of the lifestyle down here so you might as well embrace it. Key West always has that chillaxed vibe going for it and there's quite a few places to take advantage of the food and drink deals.
Alonzo's is my pick for best food and drink Happy Hour in Key West
The best of the bunch is Alonzo's Oyster Bar. The entire appetizer page as well as drinks are half off. I tried them all. Their famous Key Lime Martini isn't a bad way to end a meal of their addictive beer steamed shrimp and mussels in marinara which were my faves. I prefer cold water oysters and their $2 ones from Vancouver and Martha's Vineyard were really good too. get there early to take advantage of the bars seats.
Happy Hour Eats
Right next door to Alonzo's is a place that serves ice cold bottles of beer for $2/3 and freshly shucked gulf oysters for 50 cents a piece, all day everyday. Just be sure to tip your shucker. We had some great chats about his homeland Jamaica, another favorite Caribbean getaway of mine. Also a popular happy hour stop is Half Shell Raw Bar but I didn't think the food or drink specials were nearly as good as Alonzo's. The coconut fried shrimp were tasty and the rum punch did its job but we ended up back at Alonzo's the next day.
The Raw Bar next door to Alonzo's (Left) Half Shell Raw Bar and their Coconut Shrimp (Right) B.O's Fish Wagon
This place has long been a popular spot run by a longtime Key West character. It's a no frills open air bar where they make a mean groper sandwich. It comes perfectly fried with a light cornmeal breading served on some really fresh bread. Their handcut fries show you they dont mind taking the little extra time to serve a superior product even though Key West is a place where you can get away with doing half assed things as far as food goes. Though I was told it's getting alot better.
An amazing little open air fish shack in town
BO's Famous Fried Grouper Sandwich and their fantastic fresh cut fries Nightlife
In case you didn't know Key West has a big gay community. But that's just one part of it. It's a partying and drinking town enjoyed by folks from all walks of life. I was really surprised this trip by how international of a destination it is. There were visitors from all over the globe. Asia, Spain, Ireland, England. Families, couples, college kids, you name it. It's a must visit for anyone who likes to travel and explore the different cultures of our world.
Where Hemingway used to drink
Duval Street is where most of the bars and many restaurants and shops are located at. You can walk with drinks and most places stay open until 4am. Sloppy Joe's is a longtime mainstay and there are drag shows if that's your thing and regular dance shows with girls in no clothes if you swing on that side. Be not afraid single straight guys, it's a very popular bachelorette weekend getaway destination and that just means theres more you know what for you. My GF said she didn't even recognize the rainbow community. Everyone's there for the weather and great times. Be not afraid.
Chaos erupted at the original on Duval Street when the namesake himself did a pop up show Sandy's Cafe
24 hour eats in town
If you find yourself hungry after a few too many rum runners and it's 3 in the morning you need not worry. Sandy's Cafe is attached to a laundry mat and it's a 24 hour walk up window with a few seats outside surrounding it. I had a very tasty Medianoche (Midnight) sandwich that hit the spot in the early wee hours of the morn. A medianoche is a close cousin of the Cuban sandwich with the difference being the bread. It uses a soft sweet egg dough bread not too different from challah.
Medianoche Sandwich Kim's Kuban
One morning and early afternoon was spent on my friends yacht whom he had someone take us around in. Instead of getting stuffed before we even set foot on the boat I ran over to Kim's Kuban which isn't far from the harbor. They make a tasty Cuban sandwich and some very good toasted bread with butter. In the pic you can see the pepperoni which isn't all that unusual as in Tampa (where the sandwich was born) they add salami. These were perfect for a snack later on the water.
Cuban Sandwiches or other options from Kim's Kuban are great for boat trips Higgs Beach
"Life's a beach and then you fry"
Quite a few folks I talked to mentioned how they thought Key West has no beaches but that's not the case. Higgs Beach in the southeast corner of town is a great place to catch some rays. They have chairs and umbrellas that can be rented for $25/day. That's a pretty good deal which I found was the case with drinks in KW too. They could hike up the prices but they dont so cheers to them for not doing so. Aside from the chickens you might have to walk around a few Key West beach bums as well, dont worry they dont bite.
"Jersey Strong" Freshly Caught Seafood for Sale
Seeing as though we had a chef at our service at the wonderful Truman Annex where my bosses house is located we ate some great locally caught fish each day I was there. He mentioned both Fausto's Grocery and Eaton Street Seafood Market as places he gets his fish from. Fausto's is the Keys oldest grocery store and a very good one I'd be happy with here. Started by Fausto himself he came over in 1910 to work the old cigar factory in town and eventually started his market.
Eaton Street isnt nearly as old but they make a point to buy their fish from only local fisherman. They also sell food to order like fish sandwiches and have cracked stone crab for your consumption on the bench outside. Wahoo, cobia, snapper and so on were a few of the local fish species we ate.
Fausto's Grocery (Top) and Eaton Street Seafood Market (Bottom) are great for fresh fish Garbo's Grill
Garbo's Grill is ranked as the top rated place on TripAdvisor to eat at. This is the type of spot you're going to remember eating at in the Key's. Nothing fancy here but the mahi mahi fish tacos with mango and jalapeno were some most amazing fish tacos you'll ever have. This is what Key West is all about as far as food goes. Nothing fancy but oh so fresh and so good.
Some of the best eats on the island come from this cart
Mahi Mahi Tacos are almost worth the trip alone Peppers of Key West
Across the street from Garbo's is Peppers. Its a shop that sells all sorts of different hot sauces and allows you to try whichever ones you want before you buy any. They have a bunch of their offerings across the street for you to use on your fish tacos. I ended up trying Dat'l Do It
with my tacos. Its a brew made with Datil peppers in St. Augustine that loved it so much I bought three bottles from Peppers to take home with me.
Amazing selection of hot sauce and a chip bar for you to try them More sights in Key West
A walk around the town is a must for anyone who likes to see some amazing old homes and great old Colonial architecture to boot. Key West is as friendly of a place you're ever going to visit and everyone leaves their door open and hangs on the porch at some point during their day. The other not misses are of course Ernest Hemingway's old home, the haunted cemetery where some great stories are told and sunsets at Mallory Square. The Square is where you'll find many of the Key West weirdos doing their freak shows for a few bucks. Some fun stuff to watch.
Unique architecture seen along the walks & sunsets at Mallory Square are classic Key West
A Key West Sunset Seven Fish
I had read and been told by my boss to get to this place located just off the chaos of Duval street. Even though I had just ate an hour before and wasn't all that hungry, I squeezed it in on my last night in town. Its small and reservations are most always required. We didn't make them but were able to get a seat around 9p after putting our name in. The menu focuses on simple fresh good food with an emphasis on fish.
Just off Duval Street this little stop is a must
The folks running this place from the waitresses to the owners were really friendly and warm welcoming. Me and her were sharing and started with another excellent example of a fish taco, this one made with local cobia fish. The plan was to share a seafood dish made with some homemade pasta but our waitress asked if we were sure we didn't want to try their signature dish. It wasn't hard to convince us especially seeing her enthusiasm for it.
Cobia Fish Taco Appetizer Special
Holy **** am I glad she did. One of the best dishes I ate all year. The snapper was sauteed with fresh garlic and ginger and served with a creamy curry coconut sauce over sticky rice with fresh local veggies. Fan-flipping-tastic. On top of that she split our plates up for us and I would of been satisfied with the portion I got as a whole. Well worth the few extra bucks in my book. Don't miss this place.
The Signature Snapper Curry Dish is one of the best plates I've ate all year
On our last night both before and after the fantastic dinner at Seven I had realized I hadn't even tried two of the signature local eats on the island. So while we waited for our table at dinner I over indulged in some conch fritters from the Conch Shack. The Conch Shack
Sitting amidst the bars of Duval Street is some tasty food to get you thru the night
We chatted with one of the owners who started this place up in 2009. He and his partners worked in catering and use the same recipe one of the caterers 90 year old Bahamian grandmother used. The old family recipe is a fantastic rendition and brought me back to the Abaco Islands where we went on a family vacation years ago. These seemed to be the most popular in town and I could taste why. After dinner I grabbed a slice of Key Lime pie at Kermit's because it was open and near. It was a nice treat to have when I got back home and popped open one last cold one in the open warm air. Kermit's Key Lime Pie Shoppe
Another popular stop on Duval Street for the islands signature dish
It's the end of the road...
...See y'all next time
Sheila's Famous BBQ, Conch, & More
406 Southern Blvd
West Palm Beach, FL 33405
La Granja Restaurants Locations throughout Florida
Big Al's Steaks
450 East Atlantic Avenue
Delray Beach, FL 33483
LaSpada's Original Hoagies Locations throughout South Florida
The Whales Rib Raw Bar
2031 Northeast 2nd Street
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
1305 Southeast 17th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Southport Raw Bar
1536 Cordova Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
8736 Southwest 72nd Street
Miami, FL 33173
Chef Creole Seafood Takeout
200 Northwest 54th Street
Miami, FL 33127
12143 Northwest 7th Avenue
North Miami, FL 33168
El Mago de las Fritas
5828 Southwest 8th Street
Miami, FL 33144
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
1600 Lenox Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Knaus Berry Farm
15980 Southwest 248th Street
Homestead, FL 33031
Holiday Isle Tiki Bar
84001 Overseas Highway
Islamorada, FL 33036
3502 Gulfview Avenue
Marathon, FL 33050
Bahia Honda State Park
36850 Overseas Highway
Big Pine Key, FL 33043
Hogfish Bar & Grill
6810 Front Street
Stock Island, FL 33040
Alonzo's Oyster Bar*
700 Front Street
Key West, FL 33040
*Random Raw Bar with .50 oysters all day next door
Half Shell Raw Bar
231 Margaret Street
Key West, FL 33040
BO's Fish Wagon
801 Caroline Street
Key West, FL 33040
1026 White Street
Key West, FL 33040
2300 North Roosevelt Boulevard
Key West, FL 33040
Fausto's Food Palace
1105 White Street
Key West, FL 33040
Eaton Street Seafood Market
801 Eaton Street
Key West, FL 33040
603 Greene Street
Key West, FL 33040
Peppers of Key West
602 Greene Street
Key West, FL 33040
632 Olivia Street
Key West, FL 33040
The Conch Shack
118 Duval Street
Key West, FL 33040
Kermit's Key Lime Shoppe*
200 Elizabeth Street
Key West, FL 33040
*2nd location on Duval Street
post edited by KingT - 2013/02/17 18:55:39