Port Guides

Eating out in Key West, Florida

It’s easy to see why Ernest Hemingway was so fond of the port of Key West in Florida. The author lived there between 1931 and 1939 and owned a house (now a museum) up until he died in 1961. Hemingway was known to frequent a number of bars in the area, all of which were within walking distance of his home.

Ernest Hemingway's House
Ernest Hemingway’s House

Although it’s an active U.S. naval base, President Truman also stayed at a house in the area. Known as the Little White House, he resided there for a total of 175 days. President Kennedy, General Eisenhower, Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan have also visited the house. It is now a popular attraction for tourists.

A 'conch' car
A ‘conch’ car

At Key West’s centre are a network of streets boasting a wide range of eateries and bars, many of which specialise in local seafood. You’ll also find a great choice of clothing stores and souvenir shops, selling the region’s famed conch shells. The residential part of the area is made up of a series of pretty, timber-fronted homes located on clean, quiet roads. The oldest house in the area dates back to 1829 and is now a museum.

One of Key West's churches
One of Key West’s churches

With so many places to eat and drink, here’s my guide to some of the better bars and restaurants in the area. These are perfect for daytime eating, when you’re limited on time.

B.O.’s Fish Wagon

This unusual, driftwood shack doesn’t look like much from the outside. But don’t be fooled. It’s known for its delicious seafood, specifically its burgers, fish tacos, sandwiches and conch fritters. B.O.’s is cash only. There are plenty of places to sit and eat there. The restaurant also produces tasty Cuban bread and a Key Lime sauce. Prices range between $4.50 for a hot dog and $10 for a soft shell crab sandwich.

Sloppy Joe’s Bar

Sloppy Joe's Bar
Sloppy Joe’s Bar

This was Ernest Hemingway’s favourite bar and it opened in 1933. The author encouraged the renaming of the bar from the Silver Slipper to Sloppy Joe’s. The name derives from the fact the bar’s floor was always wet with melted ice. Today the bar has an ‘old school,’ traditional feel. The menu offers simple bar food such as pizza, salad and sandwiches. You’ll also find a wide selection of unique rum cocktails in a nod to Key West’s close neighbour, Cuba.

Mangoes

Mangoes
Mangoes

I first went to Mangoes last year on Oceana. I was really impressed with the delicious snapper sandwich with fries. The staff were friendly, although there wasn’t any WI-FI. The restaurant itself has lots of indoor and outdoor space, and is located on the famous Duval Street. Its influences are Caribbean and conch dishes. Samples from the menu include: local catch tacos, Rasta wraps and jerk tuna steak. Mangoes is located further away from a lot of other restaurants which meant it wasn’t as busy as those closer to the ship. This made the experience all the more enjoyable, as it was quiet.

Schooner Wharf Bar

Lunch at Schooner Wharf
Lunch at Schooner Wharf

During my latest visit to Key West, I had lunch at Schooner Wharf. This chilled out bar boasts live music and is very rustic with its plastic outdoor furniture. I actually like this though, as it gave the bar real character. For lunch I chose the snapper sandwich (one of my favourites) but there were lots of options on the menu. They specialise in breakfasts and have an extensive selection of eggs and breakfast sandwiches on offer. They also offer free refills of soft drinks. Schooner Wharf has been voted best bar in the area for several years running and has welcomed celebrities. Its location next to the Historic Seaport, means you can enjoy great views of the harbour’s yachts.

Historic Seaport
Historic Seaport

Half Shell Raw Bar

Specialising in seafood, this place has a relaxed, casual atmosphere. Don’t expect fancy cutlery or crockery though. Picnic tables adorn the exterior where you can sit and watch the fishing boats unloading their catch of the day. It’s popular for its happy hour which runs daily from 4.30-6.30pm. As well as seafood, Half Shell boasts a popular bar area where you can enjoy a cocktail or two. Menu highlights include oysters, clams and shrimp po boy.

Out and about in Key West
Out and about in Key West

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