What? You thought I’d write about my trip to Key West and not mention the tasty vittles I sampled? Silly reader, I was saving an entire post for the best eats in the southernmost city.
Admittance to your table at Blue Heaven, the happening brunch spot on the island, will require at least an hour wait, but you’ll be quite entertained by the fresh juice bar, strumming Jack Johnson–esque singer and roaming roosters in this backyard-turned-restaurant oasis. When Kelly and I finally settled at our table, our friendly server immediately took our order for mimosas as we buried our noses in the menu. So many delicious choices! Kelly opted for the special that day: blueberry and strawberry pancakes. The pancakes were light and fluffy and bigger than your head. I went for one of my favorite meals: shrimp and grits. I couldn’t resist the lime hollandaise sauce, however, so I ordered some on the side. Boy am I glad I did! Blue Heaven’s version of shrimp and grits was the best I’ve eaten and dipping it in hollandaise sauce took the dish to a whole new level. There are no words…
Patio dining at Sarabeth’s was surprisingly private and relaxing as the street is partially hidden by a tall wooden fence. Sarabeth’s features modern American food, and my friend Kelly said this was her favorite of the places we ate. I can’t say I disagree. We had the most amazing roasted beet, arugula, dried cranberry and gorgonzola salad as an appetizer, which was my favorite dish of the trip. If you’ve never had roasted beets with a creamy cheese such as gorgonzola, do yourself a favor and eat it TODAY. I also had lumpcrab and Key West pink shrimp cakes that were tasty as was the accompanying jicama, mango and pineapple slaw. Kelly ordered a homey chicken pot pie that was creamy, comforting and, as luck would have it, as big as your head.
Right across the street from Blue Heaven is a tiny French bistro (it’s cash only; be warned) that serves a variety of sweet and savory crêpes. I think it took us 15 minutes to choose even though Kelly read me to sleep with the menu the night before. I ordered the nutella and strawberry crêpe. I think the chef may have used an entire jar of nutella in my crêpe. Is it wrong to want to marry a crêpe? If loving nutella crêpes is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Kelly ordered the banana, lime and sugar crêpe, which I assume was delicious, but I honestly don’t remember because I barely spoke to her while devouring mine.
Yes, this is a chain. Yes, this might be the only time I recommend a chain restaurant in this blog. Sure, the place is kitschy, but the food was amazing and budget friendly. I ordered two appetizers: the conch fritters and tuna tataki. I’ve never had conch, and after I got over the initial chewiness, I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty these were. The fritters reminded me of a seafood version of hushpuppies. I couldn’t stop eating them. The tuna tutaki featured deliciously fresh raw tuna rolled in sesame seeds, a Key Lime ponzu sauce and one of the hottest wasabi dressings I’ve had. It was spot on and a refreshing end to the meal. Kelly ordered the stuffed mushrooms with herbed boursin cheese and crab, which looked amazing, but I was too full to sample it.
Upscale dining in the center of town never felt so comfortable. Kelly and I sat outside at a table covered in white linen and adorable lanterns and watched the passersby on Duval Street. (Well, Kelly did; I couldn’t stop gawking at the beautiful Victorian home that serves as indoor dining for the Grand.) The setting is actually quite romantic—a perfect spot for an anniversary dinner if we had allowed the guys to come with us. The food rivaled our dinner at Sarabeth’s. Kelly ordered chicken with potatoes and baby carrots. She could not stop talking about the potatoes. I think she could’ve eaten an entire plate of those alone. I ordered a grilled Bluefin tuna steak with the most delicious black sesame rice noodles and citrus relish. The fish was fresh and perfectly prepared, but I could not stop eating the noodles. Sure, dinner was amazing, but the dessert was truly our favorite on the island. Kelly had the key lime pie, which was described as cheesecake like but was really light and melt-in-your-mouth creamy. I highly recommend the Tahitian vanilla crème brûlée, a perfectly textured, coma-inducing, creamy vanilla concoction that takes this standard dessert to new heights. The Grand is a must eat for more than just the food: whether you’re inside or out, the ambiance is the best on the island.
After our Swedish massages, Kelly and I headed to The Café, a vegetarian restaurant, for some much needed green. For our appetizer, we ordered grilled asparagus spears with tarragon oil that were crisp and perfectly seasoned. Kelly had a delicious vegetarian burger and sweet potato fries. My dish was an artichoke delight—a sandwich stacked high with roasted red peppers, baby greens, artichokes, portobellas, red onions and a balsamic vinaigrette—alongside a bean salad. The food was hearty and restoring. We both eyed the dessert menu, which featured a chocolate beet cake, with longing, but we were too full. Interestingly, The Café also offers several unique craft beers.