Budget Restaurants in the Keys

In search of budget Key West restaurants

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B.O.’s Fish Wagon is an open-air assemblage of drift wood, recycled sheets of tin and a 1950s Chevy truck apparently held together by bumper stickers. B.O.’s Fish Wagon is an open-air assemblage of drift wood, recycled sheets of tin and a 1950s Chevy truck apparently held together by bumper stickers.

Key West is foodie heaven, with prices to match.  Finding good buys in restaurants will take some planning: You may not stumble across these places when you get hungry unless you keep a map handy. (Some restaurant prices listed are from 2013, but they’ll give you an indication. Expect them to be 10% higher today.)

The best tip for dining in Key West is to head to the historic Key West Seaport at happy hour. The boardwalk along the harbor is one of the best free activities in Key West. Folks are feeding tarpon from the docks, fishing charters are displaying their catches and all the colorful yachts and historic ships are on display, with flags snapping.

B.O’s Fish Wagon, 801 Caroline St., Key West, is virtually legendary for its funky Key West style.B.O’s Fish Wagon, 801 Caroline St., Key West, is  legendary for its funky Key West style.
We shared Alonzo’s sampler: four conch fritters, four Buffalo shrimp, four fish fingers and a pile of onion rings. That would be $17.30, but happy hour prices made it $8.65. We shared Alonzo’s sampler: four conch fritters, four Buffalo shrimp, four fish fingers and a pile of onion rings. That would be $17.30, but happy hour prices made it $8.65.

Many harbor restaurants have happy hours, but I can especially recommend Alonzo’s Oyster Bar, 700 Front St., Key West. All drinks and an extensive selection of appetizers are half price from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and it’s easy to make a meal of it. We shared Alonzo’s sampler: four conch fritters, four Buffalo shrimp, four fish fingers and a pile of onion rings. That would be $17.30, but happy hour prices made it $8.65. We added two delicious sides of Granny Apple Cole Slaw (normally $2.10; now $1.05) and a beer and a glass of wine and two dined for $22 including tax and tip. We sat outside overlooking the harbor in a setting that didn’t compromise on atmosphere.

conch-shackRight on Duval Street is a small treasure: the Conch Shack, a restaurant no more than 10 feet wide that accepts only cash and serves up fresh, reasonably priced fare.

There are two other budget spots nearby. Both are funky Key West and are virtually legendary: B.O’s Fish Wagon at 801 Caroline St., Key West, and Garbo’s Grill at 603 Greene St., Key West.

B.O.’s Fish Wagon is an open-air assemblage of drift wood, recycled sheets of tin and a 1950s Chevy truck apparently held together by bumper stickers.  The Fish of the Day Sandwich is $10.50 and the fried shrimp sandwich (local Key West pink shrimp) is $9.75.

Garbo’s Grill is sort of a permanently stationed food truck. Seating is outdoors on milks crates or coolers. Garbo’s Grill is sort of a permanently stationed food truck. Seating is outdoors on milks crates or coolers.

Garbo’s Grill is sort of a permanently stationed food truck. Seating is outdoors on milks crates or coolers. Their $8.75 mahi tacos and $7 Kogi Koren Beef Shortribs, however, ensure there is usually a line and a festive atmosphere.

You can get reasonably priced diner fare at Harpoon Harry’s, 832 Caroline St. ($9 to $12 for sandwiches; very popular for breakfast, which is served until 3 p.m.; blue-plate specials for $9.95 each night.) (Prices as of January 2017; cash only.)

Right on Duval Street is a small treasurethe Conch Shack, a restaurant no more than 10 feet wide that accepts only cash and serves up fresh, reasonably priced fare. Three conch fritters are $4.50; a hamburger is $5. Seating is on stools at a counter. (And these prices, as of January, 2017, have held steady.)

As I asked Key West residents for suggestions for budget dining, at least three people recommended the classic Cuban restaurant , El Siboney, 900 Catherine St., Key West. This is a traditional restaurant with table service and bargain prices — $11.25 for three different preparations of pork, $15.25 for grilled mahi or grouper, topping out at $17.75 for skirt steak. It was all good and service was efficient. (Prices as of January 2017.)

 

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