Top 5 Restaurants for Summer in Key West
By Margit Bisztray, Food Critic
Key West used to have something called “off-season.” But for a few years, it seemed like there was no off-season, because people kept coming all the time! The months of June-Sept offers the clearest, calmest water for diving and snorkeling. Prices at guesthouses and hotels are lower and don’t have a minimum stay. Parking is less of a problem. And restaurants? You can actually walk in without a reservation and (gasp!) get a table at the most popular restaurants in town! What a concept!
For the current Top Five, I picked five restaurants where it CAN be hard to get a table in season... not just because of the food, but because of the “warm and welcoming” attitude you find there. These five restaurants are all owned by local people who participate year-round in the community The staff, too, are part of the restaurant–––-they’ve been there for years, they shape what the place is like––––so you see familiar faces. I’m sure everyone has favorite restaurants where they live, too, where they go for favorite dishes, but also to say hi to Karen the bartender or Bryan the server, or the owner the restaurant is named after. This top five is about “that” kind of hometown restaurants: five of my regulars.
I chose to share these this time of year because one, you can actually get into them rather than having to wait in a long line and two, they are the kind of place you can become a “regular” simply by eating there more than one time. I also like to remind people how much a relationship with a restaurant can shape your entire visit. You can leave with good pals, and tell them “see you next year,” and you actually will! This is the best way to be much more than a tourist. The five I picked are popular with visitors, but more than that, they’re where locals go. Locals steadily frequent these places, so in the slower months, the restaurants are like the neighborhood hangout (Key West, for one, is one big neighborhood). They’re the town square. People migrate from table to table saying hi to their friends.
I hope if you visit these places, you’ll find the same special chemistry and draw that I do, and that you’ll make one of them your own... or, I hope you find your own secret local place. Just don’t tell anyone!