David and I spontaneously spent over three weeks on a road trip from North Georgia to Key West in January of 2020. We are both foodies (especially me), and I must say, between adventuring, enjoying an abundance of sunshine, and relaxing, the food was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!
Our first landing spot in the Key’s was Key Largo, where we spent two amazing nights soaking up the sun, attending sunset parties, making new friends, and last but not least, eating the amazing food!
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen
99336 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL. 33037
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen was originally founded by Jeff MacFarland in 1976, making it the longest running restaurant in Key Largo, and a local favorite. It was named in honor of Jeff MacFarland’s mother and her recipes. Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen has grown to be famous world wide, and they have continuously been voted “The Best” in the People’s Choice Awards and Best Hometown Café along with numerous other awards and acknowledgements. Many people come back here with each visit, including David. This is the first place we ate in the Key’s and he couldn’t wait to bring me, and I can see why! The staff remembered him from a previous trip when he dined here almost every day, and he even met a “regular” that he’s still in contact with today! To top it all off, the food is AMAZING! We ate here twice, for dinner and breakfast, and we almost came for dinner a second time
A large order (12) of Hot Chicken Wings served with Blue Cheese dressing.
Breakfast – The “Mac” Attack, including two scrambled eggs, two sausage links, two slices of French toast with homemade hashbrown casserole and sliced tomatoes. And the homemade hashbrown casserole is TO DIE FOR, it’s so good we had to get a third order to share.
Dinner – Caribbean Style Crab Cakes with a house salad and French Fries. Crab cakes are a must-have on any beach trip I go on, and these did not disappoint!
Breakfast – Two scrambled eggs with 4oz petite Churrasco steak and a side of homemade hashbrown casserole.
Dinner – Churrasco Steak (marinated in their famous chimichanga sauce & char grilled) served with black beans and rice, a Caesar salad, and a side of their World Famous Homemade Chili, known as the very best chili in the Keys!
Sol By The Sea
97450 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL. 33037
Sol By The Sea is located at Playa Largo resort in Key West, and it is the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset, and watch boats drift by, as the outdoor dining area overlooks the ocean and dock. The menu is very diverse from American to coastal cuisine. Sol By The Sea was voted #1 Interior in Key Largo by Restaurant Guru 2020. This is the perfect spot for an intimate date night.
Caribbean sticky wings served with avocado ranch and grilled pineapple.
Island Fish Taco (Mahi-Mahi, house jerk, Napa slaw, vanilla-coconut cream, charred pineapple relish) served with sweet potato tater tots.
Playa Burger (Signature blend of short rib and shank, Benton’s bacon, aged Vermont white cheddar, lettuce, heirloom tomato, charred red onion, brioche) served with a side of French fries.
After our two unforgettable nights in Key Largo, we packed up and continued down the coast until we reached Key West! Exploring Duval Street definitely involved checking out the local eats, and they certainly did not disappoint!
Kojin Noodle Bar
601 Duval St. #4 Key West, FL 33040
Let me start by saying I would hop on a plane right now and fly to Key West just to eat at this place. My mouth is watering thinking about it. It’s a cozy spot right on Duval Street complete with a takeout window, a bar, and roughly five tables in the restaurant. We were lucky not to wait because we were there during the off-season, but they are known to have a line out the door. It IS worth the wait though, so don’t let that keep you from delving into the most delicious ramen meal you’ll ever have.
Steamed Pork Buns – I am not exaggerating, these Are DELICIOUS. If you’re not familiar, these are pillowy soft steamed buns filled with pork, a sweet and savoury sauce, red cabbage, and cucumbers. If you’ve never had this dish, you won’t be disappointed by trying it, and if you have, these will be the absolute best you’ve ever had!
Candi & David’s Order
Pork Yakisoba (Stir Fry Ramen) I’ve never been here and David has so I let him order for me because I didn’t know how to choose. This Yakisoba was unbelievably delicious. We have a local ramen restaurant at home and the food there is good, but it pales in comparison to Kojin. The waitress at our local place actually lived in Key West temporarily, and she’ll even tell us that they can’t match the quality of food at Kojin Noodle Bar. Their house ramen dishes are the VERY BEST I’ve had.
500 Truman Ave #1, Key West, FL. 33040
We stopped into this Tex-Mex style restaurant for a quick lunch on our way to do some shopping downtown, and we were happy we did! In my opinion, Sinz Burritos a unique twist on Chipotle. I eat Chipotle at least once a week at home and I actually prefer Sinz Burritos if that says anything. The atmosphere is also really unique; an artist painted the interior walls with images that resemble the seven sins. You probably don’t think of Tex-Mex food when going to Key West, but if you’re a fan of Chipotle, I would definitely recommend giving it a try. As an added plus, the parking lot is a Conch Tour Train pickup location, so if you’re headed out for some sight seeing, this is the perfect place to grab a bite beforehand!
Candi & David’s Order
Pride Chicken Roma Bowl with rice, black beans, pico de gallo, cheddar & Monterey Jack blend, and sour cream.
419 Duval St. Key West, FL. 33040
Of all the things to do and see while in Key West, Mattheessen’s was our favorite spot. We stayed in Key West less than 24 hours and we came here twice! They have two very successful locations in Key West, both on Duval Street, and they recently opened a location in Nashville, TN as well. The staff is amazing, and everything sold in the store is made in the store. Check out their website because you can even purchase their cookies and fudge online! When you’re walking along Duval Street and wondering where you should stop for dessert, look no further! This is the place to go for a half-pound cookie, marble slab fudge, key lime pie, and homemade ice cream.
Candi & David’s Order
A LOT of cookie dough ice cream and peanut butter fudge. Both were absolutely delectable.
*Pro Tip: Add chunks of the peanut butter fudge to the cookie dough ice cream for a an extra special treat!
As our trip began coming to an end, we turned around to head north without a plan. We were in no hurry to get home, and with a 14 hour drive ahead of us, we found a cool spot in Islamarada and decided to stay 3 more nights. Along with plenty of sunshine and paddle boarding, you might’ve guessed by now we found more awesome eateries to enjoy!
The Square Grouper
80460 Overseas Hwy, Islamarada, FL 33036
We dined here twice, once for lunch on our way to Key West from Key Largo, and again for dinner during our stay in Islamarada. This is the newest location, located in the Islamarada Marina, with two others in Cudjoe Key. The Square Grouper is one of the Florida Keys most popular destinations for unforgettable fresh and local seafood. They also emphasize being environmentally friendly and “green,” with all paper products and straws being made from corn products. This is the perfect place to go sit on the balcony on a nice night with a view of the sunset over the ocean and boats. They don’t take reservations, and we did wait roughly an hour to get in for dinner; it is definitely worth the wait but plan accordingly.
Chicken Wing Lollipops (Buffalo w/ house made blue cheese dressing or Thai sweet chili). We opted for the Thai sweet chili wings and I would highly recommend!
House Smoked Fish Dip (Jalapeños, Red Onion and Tomatoes). Along with the steamed pork buns from Kojin Noodle Bar, this was one of our favorite appetizers we had not only on our trip, but anywhere. It was truly delicious.
Lunch & Dinner – Quinoa Salad (garden greens, cucumber, tomato, feta, radish, toasted almonds & lemony basil vinaigrette) paired with blackened chicken. This was hands down the best salad I’ve ever had. The chicken was cooked to perfection and all ingredients were very fresh. To top it off the lemony basil vinaigrette added the perfect amount of zest.
Lunch – 8oz. Hamburger (lettuce, tomato, onion & cheese) served with French fries.
Dinner – Jasmine Rice Bowl (Thai Sweet Chili Butter Sauce, Spinach & Chopped Cashews) packed with Pan Sautéed Chicken Breast.
Square Grouper Magical Brownie (Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce & Heath Bar Crunchiest) – This is a brownie worth the calorie overload! Go to The Square Grouper on a cheat day because you’re not going to want to miss out on this deliciousness!
Mangrove Mike’s Cafe
82200 Overseas Hwy, Islamarada, FL. 33036
When searching for a breakfast spot, Mangrove Mike’s was the #1 place according to Google reviews so we decided to give it a try and it did not disappoint! You will walk in and find that it has a throwback eclectic vibe reminiscent of an old-school diner with a modern touch and great service and food.
Candi & David’s Order
We each ordered the Breakfast Special (One Egg any style with home fries, hash browns, grits or fruit salad & toast and your choice of bacon, sausage, or ham). Both of us opted for a scrambled egg, hash browns, and bacon. We also ordered a regular order of blueberry hot cakes to top our meal off with a sweet treat. Expect large portions! This was the perfect All-American breakfast and fueled us up for the many activities planned throughout the day.
Bad Boy Burrito
103 Mastic St. Islamarada, FL. 33036
We needed a break from the beach and stopped here for lunch. David had been to the location in Key West, but neither of us had been to this location. The atmosphere was great, with indoor/outdoor seating, and the food was fresh and tasty. Like the name states, they are known for their burritos, and they also serve coffee and fresh fruit smoothies. On the day we were there, the service was slow, so be prepared to spend some time here, although it could have simply been an off day as they seemed short-staffed.
“A favorite item is the “hot, salty, sweet” Kobe beef burrito stuffed with beans, rice and other tasty fillings. Guy is equally impressed with the Cato hue so fish tacos made with locally caught fish.”Guy Fieri | Food Network
“Best Burrito Ever. No Joke.”TripAdvisor
Chicken Chipotle (Roasted Chicken, Smoked Red Chili Salsa, Cheddar Cheese, Shaved Cabbage, Sour Cream, Jalapeños, Cilantro) Taco Plate (3 handmade corn tortillas with basmati rice and black beans).
Skirt Steak Burrito ( 12 inch flour tortilla with rice, beans, cheddar cheese, sour cream, shaved cabbage, cilantro).
Ziggie & Mad Dog’s
83000 Overseas Hwy, Islamarada, FL 33036
David surprised me with this special place on our very last night in The Keys and I am sure glad he did! Ziggie & Mad Dog’s is full of history, with the building dating back to the 1930’s. It was originally built as an outbuilding on a pineapple plantation, and later served as the sales office for the Pen Key Club. It was purchased in 1962 by Ziggie Stocki, who established Ziggie’s Conch, world renowned as one of the finest dining experiences in the Florida Keys. Ziggie was a notorious gambler and drifter. Jim Mandich, a former Miami Dolphins player nicknamed “Mad Dog”, made his way to South Florida after his football career, and along with his business partner Randy Kassewitz, he purchased Ziggie’s Conch and launched Ziggie & Mad Dog’s on April 15th, 2006. Known for their steaks, chops, and seafood, Ziggie & Mad Dog’s will be sure to impress and we will certainly return on our next trip to The Key’s!
House Smoked Fish Dip – This dish is not on the menu, we lucked out and it was a special the night we dined at Ziggie & Mad Dog’s. It was very similar and just as good as the house smoked fish dip we enjoyed previously at The Square Grouper.
Bread & Butter – This is an added plus and a delicious one at that! No need to order it as it comes with your meal. Just be sure not to over indulge and save room for your entrée!
Beef Tenderloin Stroganoff (over pasta with mushrooms and brandy) – This is not your every day stroganoff. It was excellent!
The Classic Caesar
New York Cut – Cooked medium and served with homemade garlic herb butter. It was cooked to perfection with great flavor.
Pistachio And Parmesan Creamed Spinach – This Á la carte side dish was enough to share and it was delicious! I would definitely recommend ordering it for the whole table to try.
“Food is essential to life, therefore make it good.”Truett Cathy
The Florida Keys has something to offer for everybody, from a bustling night life on Duval Street and The Sunset Party at Mallory Square, to an abundance of shopping, water sports, and cozy resorts nestled in Key Largo and Islamarada, and everything between. With so much to do, don’t forget to slow down and enjoy the many fantastic restaurants located throughout The Keys. If you’ve been to The Keys and have a dining experience to share, we would love to hear about it in the comments below. Also, if you’re planning a trip to The Keys and decide to try any of the places mentioned above, please let us know what you thought! We hope you enjoy these awesome restaurants as much as we did.