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Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars

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The best road food along the Overseas Highway is served out of a handful of iconic kitchens, legendary Florida Keys restaurants, diners and dive bars.

Keys visitors have their favorites. So do we.

It may simply be the first rum runner of your Keys weekend, fried shrimp or grouper fingers, or a cup of Joe with a slice of Key Lime pie.

Sustenance is required for the road ahead. Please be seated. It’s a long ride.


Gilbert’s

Key Largo — Mile Marker 108
gilberts florida keys restaurants
The super-size tiki bar at Gilbert’s is the first stop for many Keys visitors, whether traveling by boat or by car.

Gilbert’s is the first stop for many, just before you cross the Jewfish Creek Bridge onto Key Largo. With the largest tiki bar in the Florida Keys, Gilbert’s is also the first stop for boaters heading to the Keys from Miami. While there is nothing truly spectacular about dining here, it is a ritual for many — and a great place to ease into a Keys state of mind. www.gilbertsresort.com


Alabama Jack’s

Card Sound Road, Key Largo
alabama jack's
License plats and vintage signs comprise the decor.

A lot of folks choose Card Sound Road as alternate route into the Keys for one reason only — Alabama Jacks! It’s a popular biker stop for conch fritters and country music on weekend rides to the Keys. The food is good, atmosphere is family-friendly and you’ll definitely get that laid-back feeling that comes with the Keys. Read more in this story.


Senior Frijoles

Key Largo — Mile Marker 103.9
Florida Keys restaurants: Bet you didn't expect this view from a classic Mexican restaurant.
Bet you didn’t expect this view from a classic Mexican restaurant.

For those who can’t wait after the 20-mile crossing from Florida City, this popular landmark may be your first stop. Doesn’t get much better than Mexican cuisine with a view of serene Blackwater Sound. And if the fajitas don’t strike your fancy, more choices can be found next door to Senior Frijoles at Sundowners or Cactus Jack’s Pub. Visit: senorfrijolesrestaurant.com


Caribbean Club

Key Largo — Mile Marker 105
florida keys restaurants caribbean club Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars
Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars 30

If you’re looking for a legendary dive bar in the Florida Keys, the world famous Caribbean Club on Key Largo might be it. The club’s exterior was used in the classic Humphrey Bogart film “Key Largo,” which inspired the community to change its name. This dive bar’s interior is plastered with movie memorabilia, and the sunset views over Blackwater Sound are spectacular. Not my choice for dining, but worthy of a pit stop for cocktails. Visit: www.caribbeanclubkl.com


The Fish House

Key Largo — Mile Marker 102
florida keys restaurants fish house 1 Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars
Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars 31

This seafood restaurant is so popular with visitors to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the owners had to open a second one next door called the Fish House Encore. The seafood is certainly fresh here, and while the menu is a bit on the pricey side, it’s definitely worthy of your consideration. You will enjoy fishhouse.com


Hobo’s Cafe

Key Largo — Mile Marker 101.5
Florida Keys restaurants: Road food at Hobo's Cafe

My wife and I have been stopping at Hobo’s since it’s origins in a railroad car on the bay side of the Overseas Highway. Hobo’s has relocated to new digs on the ocean side, and they brought their prized New England clam chowder with them. Arguably the best clam chowder to be had in the Florida Keys, and you should try the mahi-mahi reuben. You can’t go wrong with any of their fresh fish, but a big reason we stop here is for the burgers! On a nice day, sit outside on the patio. Visit: hoboscafe.net


A favorite among things to do in Marathon: Having a beer at a tiki bar at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar. (Photo: David Blasco)
Tiki bars you’ll love in the Florida Keys

Florida Keys tiki bars are some of the best places to eat fresh fish and fried anything, and they are the epitome of the Keys attitude — sit back, relax, be entertained by the passing clouds. Read the story


Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen I & II

Key Largo — Mile Marker 99
Florida Keys restaurants: mrs. mac's kitchen road food florida keys

One Mrs. Mac is not enough, so the proprietors of Key Largo’s favorite eatery have opened Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen II, just a hop and a skip down the road, making Mrs. Mac’s legendary down-home chow accessible to both sides of the divided Overseas Highway. Fresh fish and grits is a standard, possibly outdone only by blackened lobster and grits for breakfast. Moderately priced, the lunch menu runs the full gamut of Keys dishes with several takes on the fish of the day. Mrs. Mac lays claim to the best Key Lime pie anywhere, but so does everybody else in the Keys. You be the judge. Visit: mrsmacskitchen.com


Harriette’s Diner

Key Largo — Mile Marker 95.7
Florida Keys restaurants: harriette's restaurant florida keys road food

After the divided Overseas Highway rejoins in Key Largo, there’s an unpretentious yellow shack on the right that is practically world famous and a favorite of locals. Some will tell you that there is no better place in the Keys for breakfast than Harriette’s. Everything they serve is homemade. Try their Key Lime muffins and their traditional southern breakfast offerings. Service is great, and the prices are budget-friendly. Goes to show that you can’t always judge a diner by it’s paint job. TripAdvisor Reviews


Hog Heaven

Islamorada — Mile Marker 85
florida keys restaurants hog heaven Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars
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Like many restaurants in the Florida Keys, there are those who might claim Hog Heaven has the best Key Lime Pie, but that’s not why they come here. This is a gathering place, a dive bar with decent food, the menu leaning towards Bar-B-Q and burgers with a modest nod to Keys seafood. The inside dining room and bar flow to outside seating on the patio and docks. hogheavenbarandgrill.com


Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet

Islamorada — Mile Marker 84
florida keys restaurants whale harbor sandbar Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars
The Sandbar at Whale Harbor.

Long one of my favorite stops in Islamorada, the Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet is not your average Keys dining experience. We’re talking some serious eatin’ — all the seafood you can eat for $40. Yes, you might pause at the price, but you are assured of a fabulous feast. As my dad always used to say, you’ll always remember the experience, not how much you paid for it. After dinner, head upstairs to the Sandbar for a cocktail and fabulous ocean views. www.whaleharborrestaurant.com


The Lorelei

Islamorada, Mile Marker 82
Florida Keys restaurants: lorelei islamorada florida keys
The Lorelei in Islamorada. The bay here is a popular mooring for transient sailboats. (Photo by Bonnie Gross)

If you are driving by at sunset — or any time, really — pull off the Overseas Highway at the mermaid sign on the bay side near Mile Marker 82. Beyond the parking lot, Lorelei’s decks, chickee huts, palm trees and sandy waterfront create an expansive sunset view over the mangrove-lined bay. The menu is typical Florida Keys, but at sunset, with a band playing seven nights a week, the Lorelei is anything but typical. It’s the “pulse of Islamorada.”  Visit: loreleicabanabar.com


Islamorada Fish Company

Islamorada — Mile Marker 81.5
Florida Keys restaurants: islamorada fish company florida keys road food

This is the original Islamorada Fish Company location, established long before it was taken over by Bass Pro Shops, which also owns the Wordwide Sportsman outdoors retailer next door. The ever-popular seafood market is out front, and a sunset tiki bar has been added to the marina out back. The market and restaurant has its own fishing fleet, so the seafood is fresh. Visit: islamoradafishco.com


Green Turtle Inn

Islamorada — Mile Marker 81.3
Florida Keys restaurants: green turtle inn florida keys road food

The Green Turtle is the classic Keys roadside cafe, a survivor of multiple hurricanes dating back to 1947 when turtle soup was indeed on the menu. Although the restaurant has attained a little “class” since being rebuilt after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, Keys casual is still the standard. Even if you don’t stay for the fresh catch of the day, you’ll still be welcomed at this port of call to join its brigade of “barstool sailors.” See more at www.greenturtleinn.com


Lazy Days

Islamorada — Mile Marker 80
florida keys restaurants Lazy Days Islamorada Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars
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The food is terrific, but the view is even better at one of our favorite Islamorada restaurants, Lazy Days, directly on the beach at Mile Marker 80 oceanside. The ocean view comes in a dozen shades of blue, and the Alligator Reef Lighthouse can be seen in the distance four miles out. www.lazydaysislamorada.com


Habanos Oceanfront

Islamorada — Mile Marker 73.5
Florida Keys restaurants: Habanos Oceanfront

A down to earth, unpretentious, authentic Cuban restaurant serving great food at moderate prices with an ocean view. It’s a favorite of locals, especially popular at lunch time, and it’s a favorite of mine. Seafood dishes top out at $22.95, but you really should go for the Cuban-inspired pork dishes, especially the masitas de puerco frita (fried pork chunks) served with black beans and rice for $14.95. Check it out: habanosoceanfront.com


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Hogfish Grill in Key West: Patrons can sit inside the large chickee hut or dockside. (Photo: David Blasco)

Island Fish Company and Tiki Bar

Marathon — Mile Marker 54.5
florida keys restaurants island fish company Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars

The Island Fish Co. is no longer home to the longest tiki bar in the Keys after hurricane remodeling, but that hasn’t changed its appeal to both visitors and locals. Now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the open-air dining rooms overlooking a marina and Florida Bay has great atmosphere and decent food prices. We loved the Indian River Steamers, a baker’s dozen (we got 15) littleneck clams served in its own broth. (Ask for fresh bread to dip.) You’ll want to try everything on the menu, from the Jalapeño corned beef hash for breakfast to the Mahi Pico de Gallo for dinner. islandfishco.com


Wooden Spoon

Marathon — Mile Marker 51
Florida Keys restaurants: wooden spoon marathon for florida keys road food
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One of my two favorite breakfast stops in Marathon is the Wooden Spoon, the other being The Stuffed Pig (below). A variety of tasty breakfast dishes include oatmeal with raisins, banana and blueberries, omelets ranging from veggie to meat lovers, French toast with fruits and nuts. Don’t miss the biscuits! Best and biggest biscuits in the Florida Keys. 7007 Overseas Hwy, Marathon. TripAdvisor Reviews


The Stuffed Pig

Marathon — Mile Marker 49
stuffed pig marathon florida keys road food

The Stuffed Pig is my other favorite breakfast stop in Marathon. I have to admit to a weakness for their country fried steak and eggs (sorry, Porky). But if you’re a piggy, try the namesake Pig’s Breakfast: 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 bacon, 2 sausage, home fries and toast. True to the Keys, you could select the crab benedict or shrimp and grits. thestuffedpig.com


Porky’s Bayside BBQ

Marathon — Mile Marker 47.5
porky's bayside bbq marathon florida keys road food

A funky open-air BBQ joint on the bayside, just before the 7-Mile Bridge, Porky’s has been around since the 1950s and still holds its own as a classic Keys eatery. Besides a variety of pork BBQ dishes (smoked daily), try the Pina Colada Coconut Shrimp for an appetizer. In addition to Porky’s excellent BBQ, you’ll find a pleasing selection of fresh local seafood on the menu. If you don’t have time to linger through Porky’s famous Happy Hour, grab a mo-ho marinade Cuban sub for the road. porkysbaysidebbq.com


7 Mile Grille

Marathon — Mile Marker 47
7 mile grill marathon florida keys road food

This landmark eatery is at the foot of the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon. I wouldn’t tag it for the best road food, but it is good enough. Entre’s can get pricey, considering it’s road food, but the sandwiches and burgers are priced moderately. At the 7 Mile Grille, the appeal is the ambiance you can only get by sitting outside at the bar as the Keys pass you by. 7-mile-grill.com


Square Grouper

Cudjoe Key — Mile Marker 22.5
The Square Grouper Bar and Grill on Cudjoe Key florida keys road food

Square Grouper is Keys lingo for a floating bale of marijuana, and more than a few have been fished from these waters, abandoned by smugglers in the heat of the chase. The Square Grouper’s casual gourmet offerings have propelled this bar and grill to landmark status. Wiped out by Hurricane Irma in 2017, owner Lynn Bell climbed back with “My New Joint” upstairs as she rebuilt the Grouper downstairs. A satellite Square Grouper has also opened in Islamorada. www.squaregrouperbarandgrill.com


Mangrove Mama’s

Sugarloaf Key — Mile Marker 20
Mangrove Mama's florida keys road food

I would be remiss not to include Mangrove Mama’s on this list, although I honestly have never stopped here. Everybody else in the world has dined here, though, and they keep going back, so it must be good. This restaurant is as Keysy as it gets, serving cracked conch and conch chowder, blackened dolphin (mahi mahi) bathed in blue cheese, coconut-encrusted grouper and a variety of fried seafood baskets. No meal here is complete without Mama’s famous Key Lime pie. Is this the best Key Lime pie in the Keys? You be the judge.  mangrovemamas20.com


Baby’s Coffee

Saddlebunch Keys  — MM 15
The best coffee among Florida Key restaurants can be found at Baby's Coffee at MM 15.
The best coffee among Florida Key restaurants can be found at Baby’s Coffee at MM 15.

If you’re not drinking Baby’s Coffee, then your just drinking coffee. Still recovering from near-destruction after Hurricane Irma, Baby’s is a survivor in the Keys tradition. You can buy fresh-roasted beans from a nondescript shack on the ocean side at Mile Marker 15. There are two locations, the other being in Louisiana. Once you’ve had a taste, you’ll be back for more. In fact, you can order online and they’ll ship it to you.  babyscoffee.com


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The Green Parrot

Key West — Mile Marker 0
florida keys restaurants green parrot bench Iconic Florida Keys diners and dive bars
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Claiming the crown to be Key West’s oldest drinking establishment, the Green Parrot is second home to fishermen, vagabonds, hippies, sailors, bachelorettes, vacationers, and lovers of life since 1890. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Parrot has some of the best live music in town. At other times, it’s just a good hangout with a pool table, dart board, jukebox, and free popcorn. The bar opens out to the sidewalk, and people-watching is great sport here. www.greenparrot.com.

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