Fodor’s Florida Keys Travel Guide oint us to Where to Eat in this picturesque area of the Keys
New Englanders founded this former fishing village in the early 1800s. The community on Vaca Key subsequently served as a base for pirates, salvagers (also known as “wreckers”), spongers, and, later, Bahamian farmers who eked out a living growing cotton and other crops. More Bahamians arrived in the hope of finding work building the railroad. According to local lore, Marathon was renamed when a worker commented that it was a marathon task to position the tracks across the 6-mile-long island.
During the building of the railroad, Marathon developed a reputation for lawlessness that rivaled that of the Old West. It is said that to keep the rowdy workers from descending on Key West for their off-hours endeavors, residents would send boatloads of liquor up to Marathon. Needless to say, things have quieted down considerably since then.
Still, Marathon is a bustling town, at least compared to other communities in the Keys. As it leaves something to be desired in the charm department, Marathon may not be your first choice of places to stay, but water-sports types will find plenty to enjoy, and its historic and natural attractions merit a visit. Surprisingly good dining options abound, so you’ll definitely want to stop for a bite even if you’re just passing through on the way to Key West.
Throughout the year, Marathon hosts fishing tournaments (practically monthly), a huge seafood festival in March, and lighted boat parades around the holidays.
The Florida Keys Restaurants
Fish Tales Market and Eatery
- Luscious lobster bisque
- Fresh and affordable seafood market
- Closing early
This no-frills, roadside eatery has a loyal local following, an unfussy ambience, a couple of outside picnic tables, and friendly service. Signature dishes include snapper on grilled rye with coleslaw and melted Muenster cheese, a fried fish burrito, and lobster bisque or tomato-based conch chowder. There are burgers, chicken, and dogs for those who don’t do seafood. Plan to dine early; it’s only open until 6:30 pm (4 pm on Saturday).
Restaurant Information Address: MM 52.5 OS, 11711 Overseas Hwy., Marathon, Florida, 33050, USAMap It Phone:305-743–9196; 888-662–4822 Website: www.floridalobster.com Restaurant Details: Closed Sun. No dinner Sat
Key Colony Inn
- 700 W. Ocean Dr.
- Key Colony Beach
- Friendly and attentive service
- Italian specialties
- Sunday brunch
The inviting aroma of an Italian kitchen pervades this family-owned favorite known for its Sunday brunch, served November through April. For lunch there are fish and steak entrées served with fries, salad, and bread in addition to Italian specialties. At dinner you can’t miss with traditional dishes like veal Oscar and New York strip, or such specialties as seafood Italiano, a dish of scallops and shrimp sautéed in garlic butter and served with marinara sauce over a bed of linguine. As you’d expect, service is friendly and attentive
- Huge lobster Reuben
- Walk-up takeout window
- Adults-only upstairs tiki bar
From the parking lot, you can’t miss the enormous tiki bar on stilts, but the walk-up window on the ground floor is the heart of this warehouse-turned-restaurant. Order at the window, pick up your food, then dine at one of the waterfront tables outfitted with rolls of paper towels. The menu is comprised of fresh seafood and a token hamburger and chicken sandwich. A huge lobster Reuben ($16.95) served on thick slices of toasted bread is the signature dish. Other delights include the shrimp burger, very rich whiskey-peppercorn snapper, and the seafood paella. The adults-only upstairs tiki bar offers a sushi and raw bar for eat-in only. Bring quarters for fish food—you can feed the tarpon while you wait for your food.
Lazy Days South
- 725 11th St.
- Water views
- Delicious seafood entrées
Tucked into Marathon Marina a half mile north of the Seven Mile Bridge, this restaurant offers views just as spectacular as its highly lauded food. A spin-off of an Islamorada favorite, here you’ll find a wide range of daily offerings from fried or sautéed conch and a coconut-fried fish du jour sandwich to seafood pastas and beef tips over rice. Choose a table on the outdoor deck, or inside underneath paddle fans and surrounded by local art.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar
- 7 Knights Key Blvd.
- Weekend pool parties and barbecues
- Creative dinner specials
After a walk or bike ride along the Old Seven Mile Bridge, treat yourself to a seafood lunch or dinner at this vaulted tiki hut by the bridge. For lunch, start with the conch chowder or fritters, and then move on to the Voodoo grouper sandwich topped with mango-guava mayo, and finish with a tasty key lime pie. Wear your swimsuit if you want to take a dip in the pool for a post-lunch swim. Dinner specialties add a creative twist, like the Brie-stuffed filet mignon, coconut curry lobster, and Thai peanut shrimp. This is a popular place to catch the sunset, hence the name. Pool parties/barbecues are the weekend norm.
The Stuffed Pig
- 3520 Overseas Hwy.
With only nine tables and a counter inside, this breakfast-and-lunch place is always hopping. When the weather’s right, grab a table out back. The kitchen whips up daily lunch specials like burgers, seafood platters, or pulled pork with hand-cut fries, but a quick glance around the room reveals that the all-day breakfast is the main draw. You can get the usual breakfast plates, but most newcomers opt for oddities like the lobster omelet, alligator tail and eggs, or “grits and grunts” (that’s fish, to the rest of us).
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