The drive down the Overseas Highway is full of pleasures –spectacular views from bridges and lots of funky Florida establishments. It’s easy to take a drive that could be done in four hours and make it into a two or three day adventure
Three of my favorite stops in the Keys aren’t on the Overseas Highway and are a little hard to find. They’re off the highway in neighborhoods that take you through a part of the Keys many folks miss.
Your best bet for doing the Keys right is to start with a print out of the Florida Rambler mile marker guide, because it will point out lots of opportunities to stop and have a little fun. (I recommend you avoid fixating on Key West – if you rush, you miss lots of what makes the Florida Keys unique.)
Then, be sure to get off the highway along the way and discover one of these great spots to dine, which range from the famous to the obscure.
At Mile Marker 48, turn off to find the Chiki Tiki Bar and Grille at Burdines Waterfront, one of the best casual restaurants and tiki bars in the Keys. To find it, you turn east on 15th Street in Marathon, wind past an old trailer park and stacks of lobster traps, and arrive in a large working marina in a protected harbor. The Chiki Tiki is up a flight of stairs, giving you an excellent vantage point and a breeze.
Why we like the Chiki Tiki Bar and Grille (which folks in the area just call Burdines): Many visitors to the Keys complain about high prices on food, but this place has reasonable prices and very good food. It’s the sort of unpretentious, untouristy place residents frequent. We recommend the fresh dolphin, the burgers and especially the fries.
Burdines tiki bar is one of the more obscure ones we list on our story on best tiki bars in the Florida Keys.
Finding it: 1200 Oceanview Ave, End of 15th Street, Marathon.
- At Mile Marker 30.2, turn off for the No Name Pub. Take a right turn at the Big Pine Key traffic light, the gateway to Big Pine Key and the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge. This area is the only place in the world where you’ll find the endangered Key deer, and there’s a good chance to spot the tiny deer as you wind your way through a residential neighborhood to the No Name Pub.
The No Name Pub likes to call itself “A Nice Place If You Can Find It,” but it isn’t that hard to find. For starters, they have signs to direct you, and in this era of smart phones and GPS, few get lost. No Name likes to tout its pizza and burgers, but the real star here is the history and the ambiance. From a general store to a brothel to a dive bar where drug-runners stapled money to the ceiling in the wild west Keys of the ‘80s, the No Name is full of stories.
Here’s more about the No Name Pub, including the story of its unusual décor.
Why we like it: We love it for its money.
Finding it: 30813 Watson Blvd., Big Pine Key. Follow the signs and/or your GPS.
At Mile Marker 5.2, turn off for the Hogfish Bar and Grill. The Hogfish is located one island east of Key West – Stock Island, so named because in the old days, herds of livestock grazed here. Today, half the island is the Key West Golf Course and half is full of marinas and trailer parks.
With a waterfront setting, a big chickee hut and open-air dining, Hogfish Bar and Grill is casual and unpretentious; a t-shirt and flip-flops place with seating at long picnic tables. But the fresh seafood is so good it has made various lists of best seafood spots in Florida.
Here’s more about the Hogfish Bar and Grill.
Why we like it: The World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich ($14.95) is made with fresh hogfish, mushrooms and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread. And the fresh shrimp is amazing.
Finding it: 6810 Front St, Stock Island .
Resources for your exploration of the Florida Keys: