It’s no wonder that some of the classic literary greats-Tennessee Williams and Earnest Hemingway to name a few-drew inspiration from immersing themselves into life in the Florida Keys. Key West is a town in which time stops, days of the week blur together and the sunset is celebrated nightly. MY KIND OF PLACE! Known as ‘The Southernmost City in the Continental USA,’ Key West is closer to Cuba than Miami and the rich history of the island city includes Bahamian wreckers, commercial fisherman, spongers and Cuban cigar makers. In case you are wondering what a Bahamian wrecker is-it’s one who takes valuables from a sunken shipwreck near shore. We spent a week here honeymooning, indulging in the food, exploring like a local and relaxing in the oasis of our B&B.
Being only about 4 miles in diameter, renting a bike or scooter is a must. Luckily our B&B was prepared to accommodate every minute detail. Do yourself a favor and stay at the Mermaid and the Alligator if your travels bring you to Key West. Lush tropical gardens to relax in, delicious daily breakfast and staff that make you feel like family are reasons we intend on staying there again. Even the locals consider this B&B a ‘true gem.’
My personal favorite part of travel is tasting the local cuisine. Key West has plenty of Cuban and Caribbean influence in the food scene, so your taste buds will not be bored. This is not so much a white tablecloth, 5 course meal town, but more of a low-maintenance ‘walk up and order at the window and find a seat outside then eat with your hands’ town. We did eat at a few ‘nicer’ places, but they didn’t hold a candle to the ‘island-style’ foods we enjoyed.
Of course there are SO MANY places I didn’t get the chance to sample, but check out a few of my favorites:
Cuban Coffee Queen: I had my first delicious Cuban coffee at a coffee shop in Ft. Lauderdale 6 years ago and have dreamt about it since. There is a line at almost any time of day at this tiny window style eatery located near the historic seaport. I biked out on my last morning to try the Cuban coffee con leche (coffee with steamed milk) and it was worth the wait! Note to self-I probably should rent a bike with a cup holder next time.
Santiago’s Bodega: Located in Bahama Village, named for the black Bohamian ancestors that historically lived in the area, this Spanish style tapas restaurant is perfect for lunch or dinner. We shared beef Carpaccio, a humus trio, spanakopita and a warm camembert wedge. The homemade sangria looked delish, but sadly didn’t try any on this visit.
Bien (previously Paseo): Previously known as Paseo, Bien serves Caribbean and Latino fare and is only open from 7am-7pm. Our favorite by far, we ate here twice and I had THE best fire roasted corn on the cob of my LIFE (winning the Best Bite Ever award of course). It’s so good that fully dressed local police officers and Naval pilots in flight suits will sit outdoors in 95 degree weather for a taste.
Turtle Kraals: Another restaurant on the historic seaport, we ate here after our half day of sailing, kayaking and snorkeling. (Yes, surprisingly we did make time between stuffing our faces and lounging at the B&B to explore). I ordered the ceviche flight and an order of oysters on the half shell-SO MUCH delicious food! It was the perfect spot for outdoor dinner and drinks to catch the sunset. Better Than Sex: I’ve never been to a restaurant that serves dessert only, but there should be at least one in every city. The perfect venue to end a romantic evening after a late dinner over a sumptuous dessert in a candle-lit setting. The staff was so friendly and fun as well! We had a play on homemade apple-pie crumble topped with vanilla icecream. YUMMY! Better than Sex? You decide! If shopping is your thing, there are plenty of options-including your typical touristy shops on Duval Street and near Mallory Square where the nightly Sunset Festival takes place, as well as department stores you can find in any major city. I enjoy shopping at hole in the wall, off the beaten path stores and street markets. I found a super cute, happy, hippyish store near the historic Key West port. LOVED IT! We bought the cutest real starfish dipped in sterling silver necklace to gift someone, but I would have kept it for myself had Patrick let me. Key West-You surely know how to live the life I love! If everyone would take the time to celebrate the sunset and be grateful for every ‘Good Day on a Happy Planet,’ life would be a little easier for us all! We hope to visit again and again-Until the next Best Bite!