Head south on Route 1 out of Miami and you’ll pass through Homestead and Florida City and soon after that you’ll be in the Florida Keys. For most people, this is the beginning of a scenic, if long, drive to Key West and the Southernmost Point in the U.S. But Islamorada, one of the Upper Keys is worth at least a stop if not the final destination.
Not that fine dining abounds here, though Atlantic’s Edge at the chichi Cheeca Lodge is an exception. And some of the best seafood that many people will eat here is whatever they’ve caught during a deep-sea fishing charter. Many restaurants advertise their willingness to cook up whatever you catch.
But the majority of the restaurants are more rustic, shantylike, which is fine with most people searching for a Keys vibe.
Many people stop at Wahoo’s Bar and Grill to watch the fishing boats come in. The outdoor bar provides the best vantage point. But don’t just sit and sip, order some wahoo bites, deep fried breaded nuggets tossed with banana peppers and drizzled with Key lime mustard aioli.
Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana is the place to go for sunsets and it’s packed from an hour before dusk and later. The food isn’t as good as the setting, but you can do well with the fish tacos or the Key lime peppercorn snapper.
The tacos (with mahi, snapper or shrimp) are served in flour tortillas tomatoes, cheese and cabbage instead of the usual lettuce. A cilantro lime mayo makes a good topping (better than the green substance that one supposes is meant to be guacamole).
The peppercorn snapper featured an ample portion of fillets topped with the signature sauce, which is neither too peppercorny or limey. The accompanying rice as dry and the steamed zucchini and squash could have used some butter, but the fish made up for that.
For a breakfast visit, Mangrove Mike’s is a favorite of locals, and it makes a good omelet. I had the Mexican, which is basically a chili and cheese omelet with some black olives tossed over it and a dollop of sour cream and guacamole (better than Lorelei’s). Served with Mike’s signature totted potatoes and toast, it’s good sustenance for a day on the water or just hanging around the beach.
Wahoo’s Bar & Grill is at 83413 Overseas Highway, Islamorada.
Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana is at Mile Marker 82, Bayside, Islamorada.
Mangrove Mike’s Cafe is at 82200 Overseas Highway, Islamorada.