When planning any travel getaway, one of the top questions is “where should we eat?” Travelers always want to know the best restaurants, the “must orders,” the locations the locals frequent, and more. The right meals or dining experiences can make or break an entire holiday.
In the stretch of the upper Florida Keys known as the Village of Islamorada, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the local cuisine and in the proclaimed “Sport-Fishing Capital of the World,” and much of it involves seafood. Here are five experiences to put on your list when planning your visit and looking for places to eat in Islamorada.
Taste its History
One of the best ways to sample many of Islamorada’s restaurants, including a few visited by Guy Fieri’s TV show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” is to sign up for the local Florida Keys Food Tour. This four-hour walking tour through lunchtime will take visitors into the heart of Islamorada. The tour provides tastes of the region’s best and most iconic foods. It also adds a healthy dose of local history and stories about the famous folks, hurricanes, and entrepreneurs who helped shape the mangrove wilderness into what it is today. Tastes include local fish, shrimp, conch, and an award-winning craft brewery as well.
You Hook – They Cook
No fish is fresher than the one just pulled from the ocean, and no fish tastes better than one caught off your own rod. With so many travelers spending their days on fishing charters in the backcountry or out in the Atlantic Ocean, your catch remains the perfect option to replace the “catch of the day” at local establishments. So, after the fillets are prepared, take them directly to a restaurant and have a local chef cook them for the table in one of the unique ways available in the Florida Keys.
Many places offer this option, but one local favorite, the Shrimp Shack, offers the popular continental style or senator style (Guy Fieri’s choice). For visitors looking for a view of the water, definitely consider Lazy Days, where the menu only lists a few ways but waiters describe a myriad of options. Ask them for advice, although definitely get a portion prepared in the classic Lazy Days style, a local favorite.
What About Breakfast?
Islamorada is halfway between Miami and Key West, and the Midway Café and Coffee Bar makes that known to the passing public with its name. This spot, ideal for a great cup of coffee, will also surprise you with quality breakfast options in a colorful “Keyzie” setting. For those more casual and seeking a “diner vibe” complete with a huge counter, the locals often stop at Mangrove Mike’s. Inside, all the TVs show views of the coral reefs in lieu of any news, reinforcing the escape the Florida Keys offers its visitors. For a morning outdoor adventure, definitely order up the bloody mary after feeding the tarpon at Robbie’s. Loaded with shrimp, bacon, blue cheese stuffed olives and more it serves more like a meal than a cocktail.
Taking a dinner on the water to watch the majesty of the island sunsets is a must-do for any visitor. Plenty of bayside restaurants offer this at different price points and each offers a different experience. For a more festive “flip-flop” setting with live music and island drinks, visitors flock to the Lorelei. For an elegant “Keys formal” evening of fine dining (flip-flops still permitted with pants), make reservations at Pierre’s.
Another popular option, Marker 88, allows diners to stroll on the sand with a cocktail if there is a wait for a table.
Burger and a Beer
Sure, Islamorada is known for its sports fishing and is loaded with fresh fish dishes, but sometimes the locals and even the tourists crave the classic burger and beer combo. Designed to fix this craving is MEAT (The Meat Eatery And Taproom), which keeps a craft beer collection on tap and serves award-winning burgers, including the #1 burger in Florida via Thrillist from 2016 & 2017. Also, the recently reopened Amara Cay Resort unveiled its Reel Burger restaurant to much acclaim. For those bypassing the burger and searching for a classic steak house, Ziggy and Mad Dog’s certainly doesn’t disappoint, and it has been in service since 1962.
When looking for places to eat in Islamorada, there are plenty of restaurants to select from, with each carrying its own type of experience. From the multiple tastes coupled with history, to watching a magical sunset from your table, to the opportunity to have a local chef prepare your catch of the day, to just sitting back and having a burger and a beer, there is so much to eat and experience with a visit to the upper Florida Keys.
To learn more about Craig and his travels, visit stayadventurous.com.