These incredible eateries may not be found on a “Famous Key West Restaurants” list, like Blue Heaven or Margaritaville- two great places, by the way. BUT they are packed year ‘round with locals, a testament to the fact that you should add them to your Key West must list!
The Café- 509 Southard Street- www.thecafekw.com
Healthy yet sumptuous, The Café is a local go-to when we want to indulge without feeling like a total glutton afterwards. Their menu is mainly vegetarian and vegan, but they serve some seafood dishes as well. Our all-time favorite menu items include the Fig and Gorgonzola Pizza ($18) and the Cold Soba Peanut Noodles ($9.75), perfect when you don’t want something hot but also aren’t in a salad mood. Try their homemade Kombucha on tap ($6.25) or an ice-cold chai tea latte ($6). Top it all off with the absolute miracle that is their vegan carrot cake.
Mary Ellen’s- 420 Applerouth Lane- www.maryellensbar.com
A fairly new spot, Mary Ellen’s is located on quaint Applerouth Lane, next to (ahem) Leather Masters. It has a classic dive bar atmosphere, but don't let the appearance fool you. Make your way around the bar to the little Dutch door in the corner and order a “Mabel” grilled cheese sandwich ($9): white bread, brie, peach preserves and crushed cashews grilled to a light golden brown perfection. We like to order the lemony and cheesy Kale Salad ($7) too. Occasionally we’ll go out on a limb and order the heavenly Avocado Toast ($8). The place is dark and cave-like, the air conditioning is always on full-blast and the Moscow Mule on tap is delicious. Combine all that with a simple, delectable menu and it’s the perfect spot to cool off and refuel on a hot Duval day.
If it’s your first time visiting Key West, make this your very first stop. The location simply cannot be beat. It sits right on the beach, so close in fact that the floor is always covered with a light dust of sugary sand. Every time we bring someone new to Key West here, they say “this is exactly how I pictured Key West.” Their menu is basic but good. Try the Beach Café Caesar ($11) with the tangy Key Lime dressing and the Ahi Tuna Stuffed Avocado ($12) with cream cheese and sriracha aioli. If you want a spot to Instagram your enviable view with a Mango Mojito ($10) in hand, this is the place.
El Sibonay- 900 Catherine Street- www.elsibonayrestaurant.com
We feel like this unassuming Cuban restaurant doesn’t really need the extra hype, but this is the place a majority of locals eat at with the most regularity. It already has a rabid cult following and is usually packed, and for good reason. The food is outrageous. We especially love the Half Roast Chicken Dinner ($11.25) with yellow rice, black beans, and plantains. We don’t know what they do to this chicken, but it literally falls right off the bone and melts in your mouth. Don’t think. Just go. Trust us!