I love a scenic drive. Highway 1 should be on everyone’s “road trip bucket list.” Sunshine and beaches as far as the eye can see, as well as some of the region’s best eats!
I keep a quick list of “sights” and “bites” for every trip I plan so that as I talk to people or read articles/reviews, I can jot them down on my list. My list for this trip was getting quite long. I only had a few days, so I decided to stick with my south Florida favorites—Cuban food, fresh seafood, the obligatory “best burger” (it’s on every road trip of mine), and as much citrus and strawberries as I could possibly eat!
The Best Burger in Islamorada (Maybe in ALL of Florida)
Who doesn’t love a good burger—especially when you’re on vacation and calories don’t count? By recommendation, we ended up in a small, unassuming place in Key Largo called MEAT Eatery and Taproom. They’ve won many awards and seemed like the type of place we love to find. They cure their own meats and make most of their condiments from scratch, like mango Sriracha ketchup (delicious) and caraway seed mustard. We snagged two seats at the bar and told them to bring their best burger, fries, and one other menu favorite.
We ended up with the “Juicy Lucy,” currently awarded the Best Burger in Florida title (an angus beef burger stuffed with bacon and pimento cheese), bistro fries with truffle oil, rosemary, and parmesan, as well as the lobster mac ‘n cheese. The burger was one of the best I’ve had in a long time! It was perfectly cooked, moist, and oozing pimento-cheesy goodness! We finished the meal off with a decadent Guinness, vanilla, and house-made Nutella milkshake. I will most likely try to recreate this at home. I must have another! Everything was good, but the burger and milkshake were a home run!
I love Cuban food! I’ve had several good Cuban meals in south Florida, but El Siboney in Key West was the best yet. In such a tourist town, this place really makes you feel like a local. They are a very small restaurant with a long wait, but we slipped right in by offering to dine at the bar. The staff was excellent—smiling faces and quick service. All meals are served with rice, beans, and plantains…oh the plantains! We had the pork slow cooked with onions and the Siboney steak with cilantro and onions, which was perfectly cooked with charred edges. Also, when visiting, do not skip the flan and Cuban espresso! Oh, take me back…
Best Seafood in Key West
This place. When I think of the Florida Keys, my first thought is fresh seafood. We had some great fish and some Key West pink shrimp, all of which I would eat again. But the standout was the flaky white hogfish and fresh-made coconut shrimp at Hogfish Bar & Grill. We were also lucky enough to visit during lobster season which meant that the native spiny lobster was being served fresh in many restaurants. Only the tail is served—the claws are not meaty like Maine lobster. These small crustaceans, in my opinion, don’t get enough attention. They are a bit more dense than Maine lobster and definitely have a sweeter taste. No butter needed!
More Great Seafood—and Key Lime Pie!
This brings me to my favorite stop of the trip: Blue Heaven in Key West. The vibe reminded me of the Caribbean islands with live music, fresh cocktails, and a cool, casual atmosphere. The food reminded me of fine dining in a coastal town. Here, you can have it all, and in your flip flops too. We ordered the fresh scallops to start with—so buttery and amazing! Then, we had the two specials: hogfish with goat cheese risotto and roasted red pepper cream sauce and spiny lobster served with a citrus beurre blanc and capellini. The seafood was cooked perfectly and was complemented, but not overpowered, by the other flavors. The sweet lobster with that light, creamy citrus sauce was heaven! We finished with the best key lime pie I’ve ever had, complete with a toasty graham cracker crust and mile high meringue! It was one of the best all-around meals I’ve had—ever.
>> The influence of southern Florida and the Caribbean islands on the cuisine of the southern U.S. as a whole is undeniable. What flavors come to mind when you think of South Florida and the Florida Keys? Share your feedback when you share this story on your favorite social media outlets using the buttons below.