The most traveled and visible street in Key West is only the beginning, the surface, of what the town has to offer. Ask the locals about their favorite spots, stroll through quiet neighborhoods or 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 that you might not see at first glance.
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.
The Café, 509 Southard St. 305- 296-5515; www.thecafekw.com. This cozy, innovative restaurant has been redefining vegetarian cuisine for over 13 years. The menu offers a variety of options to suit all tastes along with craft beers, organic wines and an array of sangria flavors plus fresh juices, flavored house made tonics or Cafe kombucha on tap. Omnivores will appreciate seafood dishes like blackened mahi mahi and P.E.I. mussels. The famous veggie burger is not to be missed along with the falafel, house made spring rolls, quinoa and avocado salad, stir-fries or fresh fish chimichurri tacos. Finish with vegan Key lime cheesecake or the vegan carrot cake. The Cafe also has an extensive weekend brunch menu with bottomless mimosas. They even deliver.
Cuban Coffee Queen, 284 Margaret St. 305-292-4747; www.cubancoffeequeen.com. The strong Cuban coffee at this hole in the wall is also 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.
Firefly, 223 Petronia St. 305-849- 0104; www.fireflykeywest.com. Being that Key West is home to the southernmost point of the continental United States, it’s fitting that the island is home to a very southern-inspired restaurant. Firefly’s plantation-style look and Southern inspired cuisine give it the most down-home feel of a culinary experience on the island. The shrimp and grits, fried chicken dish and bacon-wrapped meatloaf are a few fan favorites.
Key West Island Bookstore, 513 Fleming St. www.Keywestislandbooks.com; 305-294-2904. This decades-old boutique bookstore offers a surprisingly varied wealth of current and used titles, from best sellers to rare titles. Often open late, it’s an inviting place to browse among the crowded stacks.
La Rubia Fine Hats-510 Fleming St. 305-296-6059; www.larubiakeywest.com. The Florida Keys’ only importer of authentic Panama hats. The owners developed this boutique to carry on the centuries-old tradition of hand weaving hats, which come from Ecuador and not Panama, by the way. There are styles for both men and women in a wide array of colors and weaves. They also offer a nice selection of wearable, fair trade crafts such as jewelry, ikat wraps and shigra bags.
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, sits an excellent spot for fresh local catch and innovative cuisine with a tropical twist. It’s new, it’s hot and reservations are required.
Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden, 518 Elizabeth St. 305-294-0015; www.nancyforrester.com/index.html. 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, and she invites the public to meet with her uncaged friends to take pictures, hold them and listen as she educates the community about her feathered friends. ¦