City Guide: Key West


By Jami Smith

From Chicago to New York, it's now snow season. You know what that means: time to book your ticket to Key West, Fla.

There’s something about arriving at the southernmost tip of the country, or “Mile Zero” as Key West is called, that immediately forces your guard down and pops the protective bubble that you’ve become accustomed to with city living. Maybe it’s because the island’s official motto is, “One Human Family,” or maybe it’s because the ocean has you completely surrounded, but spend more than five minutes here and you’ll realize why so many people have dropped everything for a simpler life in Key West. Statistically speaking, only about a third of the island’s 28,000 year round residents are gay but those numbers don’t do justice to the unabashedly accepting culture of this place. There are rainbow flags everywhere you turn but they aren’t necessary. Unlike other cities in America where flags act as a mile marker or boundary indicating safe spaces, LGBTQ folks in Key West aren’t relegated to a specific neighborhood to walk arm in arm with a partner without risking a leering stare or worse. Everyone is welcomed here so relax those shoulders and let down that hair. This is the place to be yourself. You’re among family in Key West, and I don’t mean just the gay folks.

EAT: Fish and Key Lime Pie Go Together Like PB&J
There are seemingly endless places in Key West to get your brunch, lobster, and key lime on, so these are the places not to be missed:

The Flaming Buoy Filet Co: Tucked away from the droves of tourists on Duval Street, this little gem of a bungalow turned bistro is where fine dining meets local charm. Owners Scot and Fred have an eye for creating a romantic yet totally relaxed environment with welcoming staff, soft lighting, good wine and an adorable wrap-around porch. The lobster mac and cheese is an absolute requirement, but get it as an appetizer to make room for the filet mignon or catch of the day. This place is romantic but it’s not going to judge if you have to loosen your belt buckle from over ordering. (1100 Packer St, more info)

Martin’s: If you’re an eggs benedict fan, this is the place for Sunday brunch. They have over nine different kinds to choose from including lobster, crab cake, yellowtail, and even a wienerschnitzel benedict if you’re feeling creative. (917 Duval St, more info)

Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe: You can’t visit the island that invented the key lime pie without stopping at the place that perfected it. You can get key lime pie practically anywhere in Key West but Kermit’s still takes the cake, so to speak. The store is full of samples to try before you buy including key lime taffy, peanuts, salsa, and marinades so don’t overdo it before you even try the pie. (200A Elizabeth St, more info)

El Siboney: Unless you’re Diana Nyad, Key West is the closest you can get to Cuba without a boat. Cuban food is plentiful here and the dishes at El Siboney are about as authentic as it gets. This unassuming restaurant is consistently voted “Key West’s Favorite Cuban Restaurant,” by its residents and you can tell from the bustling line at the take out window. With reasonable prices and massive portions, this place is worth a stop. (900 Catherine St, more info)


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