Chuck and I love to do food tours wherever we travel.
One of the things we find is that most take you off the beaten path to neighborhoods away from the tourist traffic to smaller, locally owned businesses who have a story.
We have done them in places like Amsterdam, Xian, and Shanghai and they have taken us places we would never have found on our own.
With Chuck on the road with this year’s SmartRide, I decided that a food tour in Key West would be fun and take me away from the usual places we had eaten along Duval Street.
Key West Food Tours
When planning, we like to do our research and find a reputable, interesting business. In searching YouTube, we noticed that several of the vloggers we follow had done one of the Key West Food Tours, and they had great reviews on both Yelp and Trip Advisor.
Truth be told, I’m a moderate drinker and not much for loud, crowded bars, so regardless of the educational value of the last tour, I figured it might not be for me.
While the seafood tour looked terrific, I opted for the Southernmost Tasting as it seemed to be a mix of seafood, cocktails, and a variety of Key West Foods.
Be sure to check out their online calendar. It’s not only an easy way to book but on occasion, as in when I reached out to see if they had a waitlist or are possibly adding on another tour.
I emailed asking about a tour for the one date I had available and was contacted immediately that they would be opening up another tour for that afternoon. D.O.N.E.
One of the things I found exciting about Key West Food Tours was that they are very open about the places you visit.
Most tours we have done don’t publish those was they are something they have curated, people they have built relationships with, the locations sometimes change and to be honest people can copy down and do on their own.
In many foreign countries, we have visited not only could we sometimes not read the signs, but we also had no idea where we had wandered in little back alley markets, so talk about the locations would have been next to impossible.
So, since they talk about specific places, we’ll give credit where credit is due!
Regardless, you want to take the tour, it’s a great value, the knowledge, and local history imparted by the Key West Food Tours team is fantastic. Having been to Key West nearly a dozen times in the past, I went to only one location I had ever been to previous. I also learned about another MUST-DO food item there at that location and gained a considerable amount of local history.
Most people think Miami when you talk about great Cuban enclaves in the U.S., when, in reality, Key West is only 90 miles across the Straits of Florida.
Cuban culture thrives in Key West, beginning with Cuban cigar making that was king, followed by the run industry, both of which are still alive.
And, with Cubans come incredible food, rum, and coffee.
We began our food tour at El Siboney, a smallish, no-frills little family-owned Cuban restaurant in a residential neighborhood. You blink, and you miss it.
Named for the native people who initially settled Cuba, this is old school, Cuban home cooking.
I arrived a little ahead of our tour guide and was welcomed with open arms, the staff was terrific.
Tracy, our guide arrived just behind me, we waited for the others who were wandering Key West, and Tracy stepped outside and talked them in.
The ‘tasting’ at El Siboney was probably the largest of the tour with delicious Roast Pork with Onions, Sweet Plantain, Rice, and incredibly buttery pressed Cuban bread.
There was plenty of food for us to share, and it was some of the best Cuban food I’ve had, and we make Puerco Asado at home and have traveled to Havana.
We wrapped up our discussion of Cuban history in Key West and Cuban culture with Cafecito, small shots of perfectly brewed, robust, black Cuban coffee with lots of sugar.
Bad Boy Burrito
We wandered the streets a few blocks to Bad Boy Burrito, a little shop on a street corner where we had delicious fresh Fish Tacos.
Hand-pressed Corn Tortillas were filled with freshly caught, local Hogfish and fresh toppings. We had amazing conversations about fresh local fish, sustainable fishing, and the difference the grilled fish makes in a freshly prepared fish tacos.
The Speakeasy Inn and Rum Bar
After a massive fire that destroyed must of the Cuban cigar business, prohibition and the proximity of Cuba and Cuban rum created an entirely new industry for Key West.
Rumrunners bringing rum from the island by night created a substantial new underground economy for the Keys.
The Speakeasy Inn and our Rumrunner cocktail was the next stop. This perfectly restored building is one of the few in Key West with a basement, used during the rum-running days to store contraband smuggled from Cuba.
We stopped in the Rum Bar for a Rum Runner, a combination of rums, pineapple juice, orange juice, banana liquor, and grenadine syrup. It was a quick stop as it’s easy to walk the streets of Key West with your favorite beverage.
Blue Heaven was the fourth stop on our tour, winding our ways through back streets, past the historic lighthouse, talking about history and architecture.
This absolutely incredible restaurant, bar, and garden are one of my favorite places in Key West. We were there for their world-famous Key lime Pie, made by the same person for over two decades.
To my surprise, we didn’t get the traditional Key Lime Pie I had grown to know and love, they had perfected it. My one complaint with the delicious pie I had grown to know and love was the iconic mound of the traditional meringue.
We were served individual Key Lime Pies in tiny cupcake tins; this was the perfect sticky, tart, slightly sweet bite, and the balance of graham cracker crust, tart filling, and meringue was just what I had always wanted! It took their nearly perfect pie to a new level!
Mangoes For Conch Fritters
Our last stop was Mangoes, a large sprawling outdoor dining area just off Duvall Street, for Conch Fritters.
I make an effort to try Conch Fritters any place we travel in the Caribbean, I even have one location in St Thomas that as soon as we get off the cruise ship, I head there for their fritters. So, trust me, I have had good and some really bad.
We chatted about conch, the Conch Republic, the overfishing of conch, and the process of cooking conch.
The crisp, light, golden brown, conch fritters were pretty much top of my list. And, the creamy Key Lime and Caper Aioli was a great compliment to bring some acid and freshness to the fried fritters.
I cannot say enough nice things about Tracy and Key West Food Tours. Their website does a great job of really sharing the tours, their team is responsive, Tracy is friendly and knowledgeable, and the value for the food and experience is well worth the price.
I think next trip I’m going for the Seafood Tour!