Every area of the country has foods or drinks it’s famous for, whether it’s freshly caught lobster, fried okra, blueberries, Irish coffee or tamales. The Florida Keys are no different, offering up a delectable assortment of foods that underscore these quirky islands’ cultural identity. The foods we found likely include some surprises, though. Check it out!
Conch in The Florida Keys
Chief among the foods the Keys are famous for is conch. The large pink seashell often held to the ear for listening to the ocean is found in abundance in shallow western Gulf and Caribbean waters. The meat of the critter living in this shell is delicious, and is most often served as a fritter. Preferences vary on which sauce best accompanies conch fritters, but Thousand Island dressing is one popular choice.
Conch fritters bring to mind the most amazing factoid about the Keys: residents once seceded from the United States for a few hours, angry about a bridge situation. They named their newly formed “territory” the Conch Republic, and the resulting flag can still be purchased today. (Be sure to take a Key West tour to hear this hilarious story, and you’ll never look at conch fritters the same way again).
The Stuffed Pig and The Keys Fisheries In The Florida Keys
During your Keys “restaurant tours,” be sure to stop at The Stuffed Pig in Marathon for a hearty breakfast. This friendly little place is where you’ll be introduced to the delicious concept of Grits and Grunts. Southerners will be thrilled to find perfectly cooked creamy grits accompanying this very large breakfast. As for “grunts,” they are a delicious small, locally caught fish, served fried. Grits and grunts, along with eggs and toast, is a breakfast that will keep you satisfied well past the lunch hour.
Near the Stuffed Pig is the waterfront Keys Fisheries Market & Marina. Pulling double duty as a fresh seafood market and a casual restaurant, Keys Fisheries has a special that draws people from far and wide: the lobster reuben. This reuben is traditional, except for replacing corned beef with what many consider the best seafood in Florida: Florida lobster. If you prefer to select your own live lobster, just pop into the market instead of sitting down at a picnic table.
Other Delicious Food and Drinks in The Florida Keys
The Keys’ proximity to Cuba has made it a destination for many Cubans, who now make up a significant part of Key West’s population. Don’t miss the chance to visit El Siboney, one of the finest Cuban restaurants north of Havana. Now open in Marathon as well as a hidden part of Key West, this restaurant is where savvy locals will send you. El Siboney’s puerco asada (roast pork) with yuca and homemade tamales, gives visitors a taste of what Cuba is like. Finish with Key Lime pie or the mango guava cheesecake, a house specialty.
This trip is also your chance to experience chocolate-covered Key Lime pie, which comes on a stick. Sold across Key West, this delicious temptation is also available in the marina office right at The Hammocks. You may think you’ll be sharing the best key lime pie ever, but one bite might convince you otherwise.
The Keys hold other mouth-watering treats: be on the lookout for the oversized “Royal Reds,” a shrimp like no other, and often not on the menu, but available to those who know to ask for them. Jerk chicken has also made its way from Caribbean islands to the Keys, and is delicious, with a little kick.
It’s almost unnecessary to mention the iconic drinks of the Keys, they are so celebrated. But a Mallory Square sunset without a Jimmy Buffett-style margarita in hand just wouldn’t be the same. Coronas and Land Shark Lagers tend to taste better on Duval Street. The Best of the Keys might well be its libations, which sum up the concept of getting away from it all. Would you like that piña colada served right inside a coconut? No problem.