The past few months have been jam-packed with seafood and cocktails here in the Florida Keys, and I realised quickly that for a foodie, the Keys is the perfect destination. From the Cuban influences, to the huge seafood scene, there really is something for everyone here.
These are my top 10 foods in the Florida Keys that you HAVE to try!
1 – Gator
Okay so Alligators don’t technically live in the Keys (although Crocodiles can be found in the upper Keys) but the majority of Florida is packed with them which is why you will find it on the menu in most places in the Keys! It seriously is a MUST TRY and is much better than you might imagine. I tried it with a delicious creamy ‘gator sauce’ which it is often served with. It’s kind of like chicken but with a toughness like pork.
2 – Key Lime Pie
Oh. My. Goodness. Key lime pie is my absolute favourite dessert. Every where seems to claim to have the ‘best key lime pie in the keys’ but really it is hard to make a bad version. It is very much like a cheesecake, and just so tangy and delicious. Try it deep-fried for a spectacular version of the original! I have still not been to ‘Better Than Sex‘ which is a dessert restaurant (yes… dessert) in Key West that I am desperate to go to try their version!
3 – Hogfish Sandwich
There is so much seafood to tempt you in the keys, and Grouper is one of the most popular. However Hogfish is delicate, sweet white meat which is so tasty and is my pick of the must try fish in the Keys. I think it is best tried on a sandwich! A popular place to try it is in Hogfish bar in Key West which is infamous for their hogfish sarnies!
4 -Conch fritters
Of all the shellfish, conch is probably the most unusual! You are probably familiar with the shells of these large sea snails, which you can buy to take home in the local shell shops, but don’t overlook tasting what is on the inside. Conch fritters are the best way to try it, and are a great appetiser. Best served with a cold Mojito on the side! Keys Fisheries in Marathon is my favourite spot for fishy appetisers and the boy loves going for their infamous lobster reuben (damn that makes 11!)
Another shellfish appetiser that is HUGELY popular in the Florida Keys is stone crab legs. It is not my personal fave which is why I haven’t listed it here, but everyone else seems to go crazy for ’em!
5 – Cuban Coffee
Being so close to Cuba, the latino influence is very noticable in the keys, particularly in Key West. As well as the delicious food, the coffee is amazing. Coffee lovers must try a ‘cafe cubano’ – which is a sweeter espresso, from any of the many cuban coffee shops in the Keys.
7 – Cubano (Cuban Sandwich)
And still on the Cuban influence, the Cuban sandwich is a must eat for those days when you feel the hunger for something other than seafood (or had too many cocktails the night before!). It originated in the Keys, and is a hearty Ham and cheese delight. Read how to make your own here.
8 – Tropical fruit – and oranges!
Florida is known for it’s oranges, and so freshly squeezed OJ is definitely something you must try. However don’t forget about all of the other delicious fruits that grow in this tropical climate. There are plenty of fruits such as mangoes, passionfruit, starfruit, and kumquats. I tried a ‘Soursop’ the other day which was a crazy looking fruit that tasted kind of like strawberry crossed with pineapple!
9 – Lionfish
Lionfish are the unwanted venomous fish that plague the Florida Keys waters. They have no natural predators and are not native to the Keys shores which means bad news for the local residents. There is one great way of reducing their numbers however, and that is by eating them! Once the spines have been removed they are completely safe to eat, and with their flaky white meat are very tasty. They are caught by spearfishers at depths of around 200ft, so someone works very hard to get that fish on your plate! I recommend trying it sashimi style, and Castaways in Marathon is the top spot for this!
10 – Coconut patties
Okay these little treats are ridiculously good! I don’t have a huge sweet tooth (my other half will probably disagree!) but these are amazing. I love the Key Lime variety, and for only $2 for a two pack it is impossible not to stock up. The texture is just so good, and the taste is really unique. You don’t have to wait till you get the the Keys either, they are available online here. Plus it is a great little taste of the Keys that you can take away with you and enjoy for
months days afterwards.
There are sooooo many restaurants in the Keys and my list of favourites is rapidly growing! You can find a few Key West picks here, but do let me know if you are planning a trip to the Keys in the comments below and I will happily give you some recommendations!
Thanks for reading… I’m off to go and get me a cuban coffee and a slice of Key Lime pie!
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