The most traveled and visible street in Key West is only the beginning, the surface, of what the town has to offer.
It’s a fun place to party.
But ask locals about their favorite spots or stroll through quiet neighborhoods and down alleyways off Duval, and you’ll begin to dive deeper into the quieter, more diverse, and less readily apparent offerings.
Here are eight spots you might not see at first glance.
Poké in the Rear, 504 Angela St. 786-847-3300; www.pokeintherear.com. Fresh fish is the star at Poké in the Rear, with poké bowls, but you’ll also want to check out the Maya — crispy chicken thighs tossed in a orange-sesame sauce over rice, garnished with scallions. They offer bar and courtyard seating.
Better than Sex, 926 Simonton St. 305-296-8102; www.betterthansexkeywest.com. A great place for couples. Swing by this dessert-only, adults-only restaurant late in the evening. Indulge your senses with chocolate-dipped wine glasses and cheeky, homemade desserts and beverages such as an Ephemere Apple Spiced Ale in a tall beer glass with a signature caramel rim-job. Lick it good.
Mellow Café and Gastro Pub, 1605 Roosevelt Blvd. 305-745-3874; www.mellowventureskeywest.com. Near the water in Old Town Key West, the café is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers unique island fare with a mellow atmosphere to match. The menu items are crafted with fresh, locally sourced ingredients and include a fresh catch, Havana roasted pork, romaine leaf plates, and caramelized banana chocolate tacos. Drink options include a large selection of craft beers, 11 rotating tap beers, wine, house-made sangria, and champagne cocktails. There’s a great happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. daily, and delivery is available.
Cuban Coffee Queen, 284 Margaret St. 305-292-4747; www.cubancoffeequeen.com. The strong Cuban coffee at this hole in the wall also is rich in Key West heritage. A café con leche paired with a classic Cuban sandwich or some Havana rice and beans will keep you going long into a Key West night. Might as well fuel up!
Key West Island Bookstore, 513 Fleming St. 305-294-2904; www.Keywestislandbooks.com. This decades-old boutique bookstore offers a surprisingly varied wealth of current and used titles, from bestsellers to rare titles. Often open late, it’s an inviting place to browse the crowded stacks. The Mellow Café and Gastro Pub is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Little Pearl, 632 Olivia St. 305-204-4762; www.littlepearlkeywest.com. Nestled in the heart of Old Town Key West and away from the bustling downtown streets, this is an excellent spot for fresh local catch and innovative cuisine with a tropical twist. It’s new, and it’s hot. Reservations are required.
Off the Hook Bar & Grill, 920 Caroline St. 305-741-7980; www.offthehookkeywest.com. Enjoy fresh local seafood, plus burgers and sandwiches, as well as pizza and vegetarian and vegan options at Off the Hook. They offer a happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. daily. Dine inside or out. You can step into the pub and catch a game, too.
Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden, 518 Elizabeth St. 305-294-0015; www.nancyforrester.com. Ms. Forrester has a secret, and it’s not her garden, per se: It’s what she keeps there. The longtime environmentalist has been caring for orphaned parrots for more than 30 years. She welcomes visitors to meet them, take pictures, hold them and listen as she shares her knowledge about her fine feathered friends. ¦