Again, with Paradise Found, Florida Rambler
Where to eat and drink in the Lower Keys
There are dozens of cool little restaurants in the Lower Keys, some with outdoor dining and several tiki bars. We spent a full day of bar-hopping and sampling the fare at each restaurant listed below, and we visited a few staples like Pizza Works and the Cracked Egg Café on Big Pine during our visit.
No Name Pub, Watson Boulevard, Big Pine Key. Very laid back, and very funky, this little dive bar is steeped in history and tradition, dating back to the 1930s, and it has a good reputation for food, as well. The walls and ceiling are lined with dollar bills, and the atmosphere is unmistakably Keys. , 305-872-9115
The Wharf Bar and Grill. Summerland Key (MM 25). The fish are fresh daily off the dock, which is adjacent to the restaurant, and include tuna, wahoo, cobia, grouper dolphin and snapper. Try the mango coleslaw. There’s also a fish market, and “rustic” dining outdoors. Prices are moderate. 305-745-3322.
Square Grouper. Cudjoe Key (MM 22.5). You’d never know it from the warehouse outside, but this is a classy joint serving gourmet dishes like Toasted Almond Crushed Grouper with Warm Caribbean Pineapple Relish ($29) or Island Shrimp Cakes with Banana Pepper Aioli ($18). We sat on couches in the “living room” at the back of the restaurant and tried the Fried Calamari with Marinara ($12), and it easily rivaled the best squid we’ve ever eaten. 305-745-8880.
Geiger Key Smokehouse and Tiki Bar (at the Geiger Key Marina). You’d never know this cool little tiki bar even existed until you got off the highway on Big Coppitt Key at the Circle K (MM 10.5) and wandered 1.3 miles south on Boca Chica Road to Geiger Road (You’ll see a sign). It’s mostly pub food and raw bar fare, but there are plenty of choices and the tiki-bar atmosphere is casual, laid-back Keys, just the way I like it. Prices are moderate.
Hogfish Bar and Grill, Stock Island. A great place, if you can find it. That’s their motto, and they mean it. (Hint: It’s near Boyd’s Campground). But this is a really cool outdoor restaurant and bar that’s worth the hunt. Located in Safe Harbor on Stock Island, just a hop and a skip from Key West, you’ll find a full menu of seafood and chowders. We tried the namesake “Killer” Hogfish Sandwich ($14.95), and it was to die for. Moderate prices.
PizzaWorks, 229 Key Deer Boulevard, Big Pine Key. There’s more than pizza on the menu, but you would be remiss not to order one of their hand-tossed, thin-crust New York pies with the tell-tale burn marks on the bottom. Huge portions at reasonable prices. For dessert, they serve several varieties of Key Lime Pie, direct from the Key Lime Pie Company next door. 305-872-1119.
It’s not really historical, but Baby’s Coffee is nevertheless a noteworthy landmark in the Lower Keys.
Going west towards Key West, as you enter the Saddlebunch Keys from Sugarloaf on the Overseas Highway, near Mile Marker 14, Baby’s is on the south side of the road.
If you blink, you’ll miss it.
They roast their premium Arabica coffee beans on premise, fresh daily, and the quality is legendary among those in the know. Stop by for a cup or a pound. And try their famous black-and-white cookies! Call 305-744-9866.
Resources for planning a Florida Keys vacation:
And While You Are In The Keys:
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