Andrew Zimmern's Go-To Hot Spots For Dinner And Drinks In Key West

The Florida Keys, a 125-mile string of subtropical islands south of the tip of Florida, are arguably one of the United States' most beloved areas. They're home to sandy white beaches, swaying palm trees, delicious food, and crystalline waters teeming with an abundance of sea life. It's no wonder that the Florida Keys are a hotspot for water lovers and major foodies, of course.

The Keys' tropical diversity is exactly what draws restaurateur, chef, and television personality Andrew Zimmern to return to its many shores again and again. Islamorada, a village of six islands located just 90 minutes south of Miami, in particular, is a favorite location of Zimmern's for fishing. But, it is the island of Key West, the southernmost tip of the United States, that's home to some of the chef's favorite restaurants and bars. In fact, the small bohemian island was once the destination for an episode of Zimmern's television series Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations.

In a recent YouTube video, Zimmern shared his go-to hot spots for dinner and drinks in Key West. They range from upscale, modern establishments with an emphasis on local seafood to more laid-back and historical joints favored by locals. Here are eight of Zimmern's top food and drinks you have to try in Key West

Blue Heaven

"If you're going to eat in one place, Blue Heaven historically is it," says Zimmern in his YouTube video. This laidback restaurant serves up American, Caribbean, and vegetarian cuisine. It's tucked away in Bahama Village, a residential area lined with Bahamian-inspired architecture, and freckled with plenty of outdoor shops and restaurants.

According to Zimmern, the restaurant was founded by the arts community, and there's no denying that its bohemian essence is as Key West as it gets. Its funky al fresco dining allows clients to dine at simple tables in the sand for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, often backdropped by live music. Lush vegetation and a sail strung between trees create a cooling canopy, not only for clients but also for wandering cats, roosters, and hens with their chicks — some of the island's most notorious characters. And if the natural setting isn't enough to remind you of where you are, the establishment is peppered with whimsical art decor that pays homage to the island's thriving arts community. 

While the atmosphere is casual and unpretentious, the food is carefully curated and melt-in-your-mouth good. Take the mahi mahi salad, for example, served with miso-baked eggplant, mixed greens, and orange cider vinaigrette. With a menu balancing farm and sea offerings inspired by its native tropical habitat, it's easy to see why Blue Heaven is a smash hit with tourists and locals alike.

(305) 296-8666

729 Thomas St, Key West, FL 33040

Garbo's Grill

An airstream trailer-turned-food truck, this husband-and-wife-run establishment is nestled away in an open courtyard behind the iconic Hank's Hair of the Dog Saloon.  Open since 2009, it now serves eclectic burgers, hot dogs, poke bowls, lobster rolls, tacos, and burritos. Located in Old Town, the island's historic quarter, Garbo's Grill is just around the corner from the bustling Duval Street, Mallory Square, and Sloppy Joe's, an iconic Key West bar open since 1937.

The laidback joint features a full bungalow-style bar on site and live music seven days a week, beginning at 1 p.m. and serenading clients through to midnight. The menu, which changes with the season to ensure the freshest of ingredients, was once featured in an episode of Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" that was set in key West. In the episode, Fieri was won over by Garbo's Umamiburger, a densely ground Angus patty topped with heirloom tomatoes, applewood bacon, and smothered in chipotle gouda, calling it a "history-making moment in Triple D."

Other menu standouts include the mango dog, an all-beef hot dog wrapped with applewood bacon, topped with mango, sautéed onion, jalapeño, and house-made Caribbean sauce; and Korean barbecue tacos stuffed with house-made marinated beef short rib, napa cabbage, scallions, carrots, daikon, cilantro, citrus soy dressing, and sriracha.

(305) 304-3004

409 Caroline St, Key West, FL 33040

Key West Lobster Shack

Look out, Maine! Who says delicious lobster rolls can only be found in the Northeast? This popular lunch spot, housed in a charming sky-blue shack, is sure to give even the most diehard New England lobster roll enthusiasts pause. The menu itself is limited with only nine options, all of which naturally include lobster or even Key West pink shrimp — but with prime material this good, quality really is better than quantity. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, this cozy eatery is a must-visit for lobster lovers. Known for doling out generous portions of sweet and tender lobster meat, meals can be enjoyed at simple tables inside the small space or ordered to-go from a handy to-go window.

Clients can choose from traditional lobster-centric offerings like a New England lobster roll, rich and creamy lobster bisque, or a Key West lobster roll drizzled with key lime juice instead of mayonnaise. More unique options include the lobster grilled cheese, lobster BLT roll with tomatoes and applewood smoked bacon, and the diablo lobster roll, a fiery sandwich heaped with fresh-cut jalapeño and sriracha mayonnaise. Cold beer and sodas, as well as homemade limeade and hibiscus tea, can be purchased to wash down those juicy lobster meals. 

(305) 741-7149

507 South St, Key West, FL 33040


This Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, tucked away in Old Town, is a favorite brunch and dinner spot for tourists and locals alike. It has a fresh, understated indoor space outfitted with multiple windows to let in plenty of island light. A shaded outdoor patio features a mini waterfall encircled by native tropical plants. Brunch is served daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the menu includes favorites such as the Key lime pie French toast, made with Texas toast grilled in vanilla custard, Key lime pie, and drizzled with wild berry compote; or the crab cakes Benedict, served with grilled tomato, flatbread, and of course, hollandaise sauce.

Azur offers an extensive wine, beer, and cocktail menu for the perfect pairing to any dish that can be enjoyed at brunch or at dinner. The dinner menu balances sea and land offerings, with delicious options like the seafood risotto that's heaped with mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, white fish, chorizo, sweet peas, roasted peppers, and infused with saffron; or the mouth-watering rack of lamb that comes with fragrant rosemary jus, crispy new potatoes, fried green beans, and smoked Nueske bacon. Reservations are highly recommended at Azur.

(305) 292-2987

425 Grinnell St, Key West, FL 33040

Little Pearl

This modern, upscale seafood restaurant and wine bar is located in Old Town, just around the corner from the action but tucked away on a quiet street that offers the perfect respite for a serene meal. Little Pearl, opened in 2017 by a husband-and-wife duo who own two other restaurants on the island, has a minimalist yet timelessly elegant decor that pays homage to Key West's maritime history. Navy blue is the restaurant's only real standout color, evident in the sleek, upholstered banquettes that run along the restaurant's walls. The intimate wine bar is lined with plenty of international wine labels, only has four seats, and features charming purse hooks in the shape of mermaids.

Little Pearl offers its customers a chef's menu consisting of four courses that add an electric topical twist to primarily fresh and local seafood catches. The dishes pair bold and unexpected ingredients to deliver explosive flavors. Take the grilled cobia, a large, local fish often mistaken for a shark, for example. Naturally firm and juicy, it's paired with unagi, sesame, and pickled papaya to create a deliciously layered dish. The king salmon tartare, or the seared scallops with pancetta, pomegranate, and ginger, are all examples of the carefully curated menu that can be found at Little Pearl. Even the desserts are delightfully bold with offerings such as tamarind ice cream or pumpkin panna cotta served with candied pecans.

(305) 204-4762

632 Olivia St, Key West, FL 33040

Cafe Marquesa

Housed in the upscale Marquesa Hotel, Café Marquesa is an elegant, fine-dining restaurant that combines fresh seafood and meats and makes its own desserts and bread daily. Its careful attention to detail and dedication to sourcing high-quality, prime ingredients has earned Café Marquesa a slew of awards. Café Marquesa features an "Old Town Golden Hour," a happy hour that takes place on the restaurant's front porch every evening from 6:30 p.m. to sunset. Clients can choose from a range of unique cocktails, such as the signature sake lychee spritz or strawberry lemongrass spritz, that are accompanied by a curated selection of Southern-inspired tapas enhanced with a tropical twist. 

Backdropped by the afternoon light and encircled by dense tropical vegetation, it's the perfect beginning to an upscale meal. The restaurant also offers clients the opportunity to indulge in a fully curated and elevated six-course tasting menu that's available every evening for $165 per person, at the time of publication. While the courses change based on the chef's discretion, dishes such as pan-roasted Florida lobster, she crab soup, and hot-and-cold foie gras, could be notable standouts. 

(305) 292-1244

600 Fleming St, Key West, FL 33040

Eaton Street Seafood Market

As the name suggests, Eaton Street Seafood Market is both a restaurant and a seafood market, which is exactly why Zimmern included it on his list. "I like it because I can get things there that I can bring home," the chef says on YouTube. Housed in what was once a gas station, the market sells glistening slabs of local fish caught by independent, local fishermen usually the morning of. Tropical mahi mahi, yellowtail snapper, grouper, spiny lobster, and stone crab are just some of the options that can be found cooling behind a display case at Eaton Street Seafood Market. Homemade smoked fish dips, sauces, and seafood salads, as well as caviar, Key lime pie slices, and international wines, are also sold.

Clients can choose fish to bring home to cook on their own or can select what they'd like to be blackened or pan-seared and stuffed into a sandwich or taco slathered with a distinct house-made Key lime mustard. All sandwiches and tacos are served with coleslaw and a bag of plantain chips. Customers can either take their orders to-go or sit at one of the few tables outside, located where the gas pumps once were. The area, naturally shaded by an overhang, is edged by string lights and large fans to provide a cooling breeze on even the hottest of days. Roosters and hens are frequent visitors.

(305) 295-3474)

801 Eaton St, Key West, FL 33040

Pepe's Cafe and Steakhouse

A restaurant that needs no introduction, Pepe's Cafe is considered to be the oldest restaurant in the Florida Keys. Founded in 1909, the laidback historic establishment is also the second oldest in the state after Columbia Restaurant, which opened in 1905 and also doubles as the world's largest Spanish restaurant. For lovers of American history, the restaurant likes to remind its customers that Teddy Roosevelt was in the last year of his presidency when Pepe's Cafe and Steakhouse opened. Harry Truman, the 33rd president of the United States who spent the winters on the island and referred to it as his "second favorite place on Earth," after his hometown in Missouri.

This pet-friendly joint serves up hearty portions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Clients can choose from heaping plates of eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes for breakfast. Freshly shucked oysters and pulled pork sandwiches are available at lunch, and steak smothered in pork chops and local fish and crustaceans are served blackened or broiled for dinner. Everything can be enjoyed al fresco in a shaded courtyard just off the street or tucked within Pepe's cozy all-wood interior, where the walls drip with framed photos immortalizing particularly salient moments of Key West history and the famous characters who have dined at the restaurant. 

(305) 294-7192

806 Caroline St, Key West, FL 33040