A few years ago, I had been hearing about a great tiki bar and fresh seafood joint in an out-of-the-way location in Key West. It was what all travelers seek: A reasonably priced spot with great regional foods that the locals love and the tourists haven’t discovered.
When I finally got to visit this place — Hogfish Grill on Stock Island — I discovered I had missed out on “discovering it” — the week before my trip, Travel & Leisure named Hogfish Grill one of the 30 best seafood spots in America and it was already being widely touted beyond Florida.
That was around 2012. We still love the food and ambiance, but in reading the reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor, it is clear the restaurant’s reputation has elevated expectations. You know how it goes: A few people find a place, rave and give it five stars, and then the backlash begins. Pretty soon the reviews say “I don’t know what all the hype is about.”
But Hogfish Bar & Grill continues to win raves. When Jimmy Buffett was in Key West to perform in February 2023, this is where he dined.
Hogfish Grill helped put Stock Island on the map
Hogfish Grill is located in a working marina on Stock Island, named because this island immediately east of Key West that once was home to herds of livestock. Today half the island is the Key West Golf Course and half is full of marinas and trailer parks. It is still home to commercial fishermen and shrimp boats.
Campers know Stock Island as home to Boyd’s Campground, the closest campground to Key West.
In recent years, more people have been visiting Stock Island, as a few new hotels have opened here (the Oceans Edge Marina and The Perry Hotel) and it has been the subject of articles with titles like “where Old Key West is hiding.” A few galleries and artist studios have located here and the owner of Hogfish has opened a second restaurant on Stock Island, Roostica, an Italian/pizza spot.
One could argue Stock Island’s emergence started two decades ago with Hogfish Grill. The essential elements of the place haven’t changed: With a waterfront setting, a big chickee hut and open-air dining, Hogfish is casual and unpretentious; a t-shirt and flip-flops place with seating at long picnic tables. There is a reasonably priced “working man’s lunch” every day.
Those sitting dockside get a kick out of feeding the fish. (This is the best use of shrimp tails you’ll ever find.)
On weekends, there is live music (and it can get crowded and loud.)
Hogfish Grill: Famous for shrimp and “killer” sandwich
Surrounded by fishing boats, you expect and get it fresh here. Hogfish is famous for two specialties – fresh Key West pink shrimp and a sandwich called the Killer. Neither disappointed.
“The Killer, World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich” ($22 in 2023) is made with fresh hogfish, mushrooms and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread. Hogfish is a mild white fish caught with a spear. It’s common on Caribbean reefs, where it uses its long pig-like nose to root for buried crustaceans. (That’s how it got its name.)
You can get your fresh shrimp prepared a variety of ways. (We loved the Fried Coconut Shrimp, which was a special of the day when we last visited.)
The menu has a good variety of options — from burgers to Grouper Reuben or the Shrimp and Chips. The fish tacos (hogfish or shrimp or blackened tuna) have their fans and then there are the dinner specials. Folks rave about the lobster bisque and Havana roast pork, too. You can wash it down with craft beers.
Hogfish Grill opens at 9 a.m. on Sunday. (Otherwise, the daily hours are 11 a.m. to midnight.)
6810 Front Street
Stock Island, FL 33040
Directions from Key West: Take US1 north out of Key West and across the Cow Key Channel Bridge. At the third stoplight, bear to the right and onto MacDonald Avenue. Follow this for approximately 1 mile and make a right on 4th Avenue (across from Boyd’s Campground). Take your next left on Front Street and drive almost to the end—you’ll see the Hogfish Bar and Grill on the right.
More things to do near Hogfish Grill
Also on Stock Island, is the Key West Botanical Garden.
You are also very close to the start of a great section of the bike path that runs alongside the Overseas Highway. Here’s more about biking from this area.
The essential companion to a trip to the Keys is our mile-marker guide to the Overseas Highway.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.