The Florida Keys- Don’t Go for the Food

Fishing in the Keys… the sunsets were stellar.

Last week I was presenting at an engineering conference in Fort Lauderdale and since my presentation was on Friday my husband went with me and we extended our trip through the weekend. We decided to drive down to the Keys instead of staying in and around Fort Lauderdale- thank goodness!

Fort Lauderdale from a second story restaurant watching a storm roll in.

Dude… what is that city? From the pictures it seems nice, but in reality… It’s super touristy, everyone seems to be on a stopover from a cruise ship and the beach… how to describe the beach?

Okay- you know that scene in Captain America where he’s unfrozen and everything is off? The nurse’s hair and outfit are wrong, the baseball game on the radio is one he attended, etc? The beach in Fort Lauderdale is like that- it’s just off somehow. The sand is too coarse and not compacted correctly, it’s angle to the beach is wrong. My guess is the dredge up the sand (or truck it in) and form the beach out of that. Also something in the sand stung my husband’s foot so that sucked too.

Also at the Fort Lauderdale beach- and I cannot stress the terror of this enough- when we went swimming I had a fish attack the back tie on my bikini top. I literally lived this post. I’m just glad it was a fish and not a shark. That was the last swimming we did on this trip- the water in the Keys is really clear and we saw MULTIPLE sharks… so hard pass there for me.

Seriously, the whole place (Fort Lauderdale) was underwhelming and tourist focused- I believe my phrase immediately upon leaving my presentation was “Let’s fucking GOOOOO!” And we were off to the Keys!

We stayed 3 nights in the Keys at 3 different places each night- first night Key Largo, 2nd in Marathon, 3rd in Islamorada. Purpose of our trip was fishing focused but not exclusively so.

Our favorite key was Key Largo (largest and closest to the mainland). We stayed at a cute place, walked to a restaurant with some good live music and Yeungling beer, and then fished off the hotel pier that evening. The next morning we woke up and kayaked among the mangroves in the John Pennekemp State Park.

Mangroves and hair like shredded wheat… it was my hair’s theme for the trip.

The kayaking we did was awesome- though the mangroves are a total monoculture as there are no other plants to see. There are supposed to be sea turtles and manatees, though we saw none.

After that we drove the whole length of the keys down to Key West.

Key West SUCKS, y’all! (Why is this thing German flag colored? It makes no sense!)

So… we’re not a fan of Key West.

The food sucked, the crowds were selfie-centric, it’s a place to go and say you’ve been and that’s it, was my impression. Honestly the place had the feeling of gilded rot: a thin veneer of tourism over a rotten core. This visual was pretty well summed up by the predatory looking, drugged up drag queen stomping around with his face melting off in the middle of the day. Just… weird. Oh and a lot of the businesses close at 5 for some reason? We couldn’t go in the Hemingway house due to this.

And the food! Oh my god the food SUCKED! The food sucked everywhere in the Keys!

Their slogan is “You can’t fake fresh” but damn did they try! DO NOT EAT HERE!

Before our trip we were all excited to eat seafood the whole time and be healthy while on vacation… that resolve lasted less than a day, out of necessity. All the seafood sucked. Pinchers Crab shack had the worst food I’ve ever had though. The conch fritters tasted like they were dotted with pencil erasers, the fish was sent back after one bite (legitimately they served us bad fish- we’re lucky we didn’t get sick), and the beer was super warm. There were no redeeming features to this place.

This ended up being a theme everywhere- why was all the food so bad around here, we wondered? The fishing guide we went out with on our last night explained it- unless you catch it yourself or unless it’s the special at the restaurant it isn’t going to be fresh. He was hard pressed to give us a restaurant recommendation even, and the one he did recommend used obviously frozen and poor quality shrimp. So note on visiting the Keys- maybe cook for yourself while you’re out there? I am not lying when I say the McDonald’s breakfast was the best thing we ate in the Keys, and we ate at restaurants for every meal.

This plant next to a pink wall was the best thing about Key West.

The Keys where interesting though- to travel island to island is an interesting experience.

Just driving by tiny islands, as one does.

The fishing in the Keys is also interesting- you can fish from the shores, from boats, or from the bridges.

Fishing from the bridges was interesting- the water RUSHES under them- don’t fall over! Here is my husband and the spiny lobster he caught off one of the bridges we fished from- night fishing is better as they are HOT during the day. (They all have seperate areas for fishing- you don’t have to worry about cars, fyi.)

On our last night we stayed at our favorite hotel- Drop Anchor in Islamorada.

View from the Drop Anchor Hotel buildings- it’s a little deceiving as it isn’t a swimmable beach and ends in a 3′ seawall. But still- this place was clean and comfortable and had a salt scrub in the bathroom which was nice.

It had the most infuriatingly bad art though- like damn.

Is that a Gyotaku style print made with a goddamn pineapple? The vegans have gone too far.
Last night fishing- on a boat, catching fish, and putting up with an annoyingly frazzled fishing guide. These are Jack Crevales- which we were thrilled to catch because we like variety, but that the guide was all down on because we were going after tarpon.

Our last night in the Keys we took a guide out for a 4 hour tarpon and shark trip. My husband caught a 4′ tarpon, which he’s wanted to do forever, and I caught a 6′ bull shark- which I was more excited for than the tarpon the guide was focused on catching. I also caught a small black tip shark, which I dropped in the boat and annoyed the guide no end. I’ve never seen anyone more OCD about keeping a clean boat. Oh I’m sorry, did I splatter shark blood around your fishing boat?! I bet that is the first that’s happened! But check out that sunset will ya!

On the way out of the keys and back to the airport we stopped in Little Havana in Miami for some cuban food at EL Rey de las Fritas. I would go all the way back to Florida just to eat at this place again.

Turns out the terrible food in the Keys was directly due to the lack of Cubans- all the good food is in Miami.

So, that was our trip to the Keys. Would we go back? Nah. Are we glad we went- for sure! Even if the food sucks, or something goes wrong on a trip I love knocking around and exploring a new place with my husband- and the fishing was cool and the scenery was like no place else. Did suck we got stuck in Houston for a night on the way back though- that’s two of two, United.

4 thoughts on “The Florida Keys- Don’t Go for the Food

  1. Look at those fishies!!! Sounds like a pretty successful trip from a fishing standpoint, but I’m sorry about all the bad food! That would make me so cranky!

    In my humble opinion, next time you should go to Delray Beach. It is a little touristy, and some of the places on the water have crap food, but there are TONS of really delicious little restaurants on the “main drag.” Of course, I know nothing about the fishing there (or if there is any). But it’s not too far from Ft. Lauderdale and WAY better!

    This made me laugh: “This plant next to a pink wall was the best thing about Key West.”

    1. As I hope my presentation was good enough to be invited back for another presentation next year, here’s holding fingers crossed for Delray Beach!

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