One of Key West's strongest draws is its wide range of good restaurants. You would expect fresh seafood, but you may be surprised by the abundance of continental and creative fusion menus. Here are some of our favorites.
Square One Restaurant (Duval Square,1075 Duval St.; 305/296-4300; www.squareonerestaurant.com; $16-$38) is an upscale yet cozy eatery popular with locals in the know, serving dishes that could appear as fine dining in New York, but at bigger portions and better prices. Square One now serves breakfast and lunch at Caf? @Square One.
Eat breakfast, lunch or dinner at the delightfully funky Alice's Restaurant (1114 Duval St.; 305/292-5733, lunch $8-$15; dinner: $18-$35; prix fixe menus $25 and $30), where one of the top 10 chefs in South Florida (so says South Florida Gourmet Magazine) serves up macadamia-coconut encrusted shrimp and the pomegranate martinis are divine.
Caf? Sole (1029 Southard St.; 305/294-0230; $25-$39) is a romantic dinner spot, sophisticated yet unpretentious. Dine on the seafood specialties or a steak in the candlelit backyard. A separate vegan/vegetarian menu is offered.
Caf? Med (at the Eden House; 425 Grinnell St.; 305/294-1117; $13-$24), has won gay fans with its casual charm, outdoor patio, and tasty pasta, steak and fish dishes.
At the opposite end of the romance spectrum (yet no less delicious) is Half Shell Raw Bar (231 Margaret St.; 305/294-7496; $13-$26), whose decor of paper towels, picnic tables and license plates creates the perfect ambiance for a menu of oysters, clams and shrimp from the raw bar and local recipes like conch po' boy and Cuban bread served with one of many ice-cold beers on tap.
Mangia Mangia (900 Southard St.; 305/294-2469; $10-$27) serves fresh-made pasta and an impressive, award-winning wine list. Reasonable prices and romantic outdoor seating make this a real find. Locals lament the fact that their secret is out. Sorry.
Sarabeth's (530 Simonton St.; 305/293-8181; breakfast $7-$10, dinner $14-$19), a New York kitchen known for its preserves and baked goods, opened this southern branch serving breakfast and lunch until 3 p.m. six days a week (closed Tuesdays). The light, airy tropical cafe is perfect for those late-starting days. Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday.
Seven Fish (632 Olivia St.; 305/296-2777; $15-$25) is one of Key West's hippest eateries. Set in a quiet residential section a couple of blocks from Duval's hustle and bustle, this tastefully decorated restaurant serves simply prepared and elegantly presented fresh seafood (and some meat) dishes. It's a favorite of locals and visitors alike -- and closed Tuesdays -- and we strongly recommend calling for reservations.
If watching the crowds on Duval is more your speed, try tapas on the porch of the lovely nine one five (915 Duval St.; 305/296-0669; $16-$34), a popular restaurant and wine bar.
The gay-owned Old Town Mexican Caf? (609 Duval St.; 305/296-7500; $10-$19) delivers Caribbean twists on typical Mexican dishes and another option for people watching.