January 6, 2007

this island bites

Stepping back to Key West... Its easy to eat a lot of bad meals there. There are tons of mediocre or worse places that look like they'll be great. After a lot of bad meals our first year, we did our research and found out how many great places there are. This year, we did pretty well, too. So in case you ever find yourself there, here's my rundown of this years meals. The biggest rule - don't eat anywhere on Duval Street. And be wary of places in the marina area, though there are a couple exceptions. The best places are often tucked in neighborhoods or in old gas stations.

› Half Shell Raw Bar - this is a tourist place in the marina, but last year surprised us with some good grub. We went this year, and it was so-so. I've heard good and bad, so feel free to give it a shot.
› Jose's Cantina - we ran into this place on White St by accident when we were searching for a Cuban Sandwich. Theirs was awesome. This was a great clearly locals joint. loved it.
› Santiago's Bodega - one of my very favorites from last year didn't fail to disappoint again. Amazing tapas, and a really great spicy Hefeweizen to boot. Don't overlook the lamb patties or the grouper, but everything we had was great. Bread Pudding was as good as the tapas. One block further down the street past when you start to think you've gone too far. And worth it.
› Monsoon Cafe - a really great Indian/Thai place across the street from our guest house. We had always been curious, but finally stopped. Its in an old gas station sharing space with a laundromat - you sit at picnic tables and get your own drinks - don't let that fool you. The food is incredible - plus, the chef gives his own twists to traditional dishes, so even if you order your typical favorite, this will be even better.
› B.O.'s Fish Wagon - another touristy place that had high praise, so we gave it a shot. Very fresh fish sandwich, tho not a lot of taste. The best conch fritters we've found so far though.
› Martins - fancy popular german restaurant. We had brunch here, which was less than impressive. Despite the menu that sounded good, essentially take your standard dishes and replace cheddar with gouda, and sausage with bratwurst. German toast? thats white bread. Black Forest Omelette features Black Forest ham? Nope - American bacon.
› Cafe Sole - my other favorite from last year. Again, amazing. Don't underestimate or neglect anything on your dish. The side vegetables rival the main dish, and every taste is a surprise. Excellent desserts too - great key lime pie. (I misspelled the name as Cafe Soleil in last years notes)
› White Street Deli - stumbled onto this one by accident - catering house turned restaurant - wide variety of items in a case to select from, but some tasty and unexpected ingredient combos. A good alternative to sandwiches for lunch.
› SevenFish - very popular, we couldn't even get a reservation last year, and this year only had a couple time options. Small, sparse, cool. Great ingredient combinations in their dishes. Not the each dish 'wow' factor of Cafe Sole, but really excellent solid dishes, bite after bite.
› Blue Heaven - very popular, but nothing amazing. Good stuff, cool atmosphere, worth going. Make a mean mojito.
› Twisted Dish - recently bought by the same owners as SevenFish, menu is pretty interesting, setting seems like a TGIFridays. Food was worth it though. Day After Thanksgiving sandwich was great.
› Sandy's Cafe (at the M&M Laundromat) - often hailed as the best cuban sandwich on the island. It was good, not sure if it was better than Jose's.

Best of the year: Santiago's Bodega and Cafe Sole, with Monsoon and SevenFish following closely. Still to get to next year: El Siboney and maybe a revisit to an old favorite (on Duval even!) nine one five.

and here's last year's rundown:
  • December 30, 2005: eating your way through key west
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