Sunday, December 04, 2016

Weekend Cooking: 3 Great Restaurants in the Florida Keys

Each weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  This is perfect for me since I love food and cooking almost as much as I love books!

We just returned last week from a week-long family vacation in the Florida Keys - a rarity for us these days, now that our sons are 18 and 22. The whole week was just wonderful, filled with snorkeling, kayaking, and lots of relaxing downtime & reading!

But, of course, one of the best things about a vacation is sampling the local food, which in the Keys means...seafood! Though we took advantage of our little rental house & cooked many meals there (including burgers for our Thanksgiving dinner!), we enjoyed a few wonderful meals out. Here is a sampling of three excellent restaurants - from the upper Keys down to almost Key West - that were all reasonably priced and had great food.

The Fish House - Key Largo

All of us at The Fish House - note the decor!
My own Fish Matecumbe at home
Moving from the upper Keys down, I'll start with our last Keys meal. On our way back to the airport in Fort Lauderdale, we stopped at The Fish House in Key Largo, at mile marker 102.4 on Route 1. We chose this place randomly, using my son's iPhone map app, because we were hungry and traffic had been too heavy to get us to Miami in time for lunch. By coincidence, I later discovered The Fish House has been lauded on both Diners. Drive-Ins & Dives (one of our favorite sources for food on the road) and on Bobby Flay's Food Nation! I also found later that both Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri recommended the dish I ordered, Fish Matecumbe, which I ordered with fresh Mahi Mahi. It was so good that when we got home, I recreated it for dinner, using this recipe from The Food Network website - delicious!.

The Fish House has a huge menu, with fresh fish & seafood highlighted (they have a fresh seafood market in the same building). My son loved the Fried Calamari and Crab Quesadillas, his girlfriend enjoyed a fish burrito, and the rest of the group ordered fresh fish, prepared in various ways. All of our meals were super-fresh and delicious, and the restaurant is a fun place, decorated with great gusto with all sorts of sea-themed items, with the ceiling covered in a variety of different shaped strings of lights (flip flops, margarita glasses, fish, shells, etc.).

Keys Fisheries - Marathon
Our crew at Keys Fsheries
Close to where we were staying in Marathon, we had dinner our first night there at the Keys Fisheries, located at about mile marker 50 (ish) on 35th Street on the bay side, just before the Seven-Mile Bridge (as you are heading south). Talk about fresh! They are located right on the water in the midst of their own marina and get their fish and seafood directly from the boats every day. It is super-casual with picnic tables outside, but don't worry- if it is rainy or cool (it was quite windy the night we went), they have an area covered by a tarp with plastic walls that kept us warm.
Tarpon off the dock, lit up
The food is super-fresh and well-prepared, with a widely varied menu. I ordered a yellowtail snapper dinner, my husband got a seared yellowfin tune sandwich, our older son ordered the seafood paella (which he loved) plus lobster bisque, our younger son tried the house specialty, a lobster reuben sandwich, plus some conch fritters, and his girlfriend loved the lobster mac & cheese. We all wanted to try the stone crabs, so the guy at the order window quietly advised us to go upstairs to the adjoining bar, where stone crab claws were just $2 each, rather than buying a big meal. Those were delicious, too! Our meals were all good, and while we waited, we could watch the tarpon off the dock (and feed them after 6 pm).

Hogfish Bar & Grill - Stock Island
Enjoying Hogfish Bar & Grill with friends
While visiting some old friends in Key West (what an awesome retirement they are enjoying!), they took us to another great, casual seafood restaurant that is a locals' favorite: Hogfish Bar & Grill, located on Stock Island (the small island just before Key West). You might have to be a local just to find this place, but it is worth the search! When you walk up to the restaurant and bar, you see a very island-style open-air place located right on a marina, with picnic tables, open rafters, and lots of funky decorations. They have a huge menu, with lots of options for fresh seafood. Several of us ordered their specialty, Hogfish Tacos, which were excellent. My husband enjoyed the Hogfish Sandwich, and our son liked the conch chowder and pork tacos. The food was all delicious and the atmosphere casual and fun.

Ah, I want to go back! Warm, sunny days and delicious food - it was a great vacation.


  1. You are making me want to travel to the Keys. I've heard they have amazing sunsets. I've also heard good things about The Fish House.

    1. Yes on both counts! I don't know if you saw it, but my Saturday Snapshot post was all sunset photos from the Keys. It's a wonderful place to visit - very relaxing vibe there.

  2. Ahhhh with all that good seafood and great weather, who wouldn't want to go back. I've been to Florida, but never the keys. One of these days. :)

    1. The Keys are a special place - one-of-a-kind! My husband and I had been to Key West a few times before but had never seen the rest of the Keys. Great place for a relaxing & laid-back vacation! Hope you get there one day.

  3. Oh I loved this post! We bought a vacation home near Sarasota, and want to visit the Keys when we are there next. I'm pinning this post so we can check these restaurants.

    1. Great! Hope you enjoy checking these out! Lucky you, living in FL - we were all ready to move in :)

  4. Did you mention key lime pie? I don't think you did. For me that's a Florida highlight!

    best ... mae at

    1. You know, Mae, now that you mention it, we didn't have any key lime pie all week! My older son and I aren't supposed to eat sugar or dairy for medical reasons (key lime pie has plenty of both), so we rarely order dessert these days...but we definitely should have made an exception last week! Guess we'll just have to go back...