Growing up on an island at the very end of the Florida Keys allowed me to experience a great mix of cuisines, thanks to the variety of cultures and ethnicities sharing the island.

At the beginning of winter break one of my friends, a photographer for Spoon, came to visit and when I was deciding on where to take him to eat, the sheer number of good options was overwhelming. 

For the next three weeks, I made it my mission to taste all my island had to offer. As a popular vacation spot, a highlight reel of the best eats in Key West serves as both a guide and a challenge for your eating adventure.

DJ's Clam Shack

chicken, pork, meat
Alex Schwartz

First up on our list is DJ's, a place that specializes in deliciously frying the plentiful local seafood.

Between the conch fritters, fresh tacos and the fried shrimp (pictured above), DJ's has a delicious dish for everyone. To go along with the main courses, I recommend the sweet potato fries with a maple dipping sauce or the house-made coleslaw.

The restaurant gained fame through the popular show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and has kept the joint filled with people ever since.

La Grignote

lobster, cheese, shrimp
Hannah Brown

For your French food fix, La Grignote offers a variety of exciting options. During this trip to the bakery I went with the savory galette of goat cheese, tomatoes and basil enveloped in flaky tart crust. 

Other favorites include the almond croissant, baked egg and the Belgian waffle.

Along with a large café au lait, take your pastry out on the back deck seating to enjoy a little bit of Paris while you soak up the sun and people-watch.

Sandy's Cafe

milk, coffee, espresso
Hannah Brown

South Florida is almost as famous for its Cuban coffee as it is for its sun and beaches. Sandy's Cafe, a little takeout place that shares its space with a laundromat, has some of the best coffee and Cuban favorites for the best prices.

Whether you keep it simple with a con leche and cheese toast or go all in with a buchi and midnight sandwich, you can't go wrong with Sandy's.

Date & Thyme

dairy product, espresso, pudding, sweet, milkshake, chocolate, coffee, cream, milk
Hannah Brown

Travel usually results in unhealthy eating for the duration of the trip but at Date & Thyme, it doesn't have to. This vegetarian- and vegan-friendly restaurant prepares dishes like a Thai Coconut Curry grain bowl or Pesto Garden wrap alongside fresh smoothies and specialty teas and coffee.

With the use of organic produce, Date & Thyme offers healthy and delicious specials seasonally, like the Dandelion latte, Citrus Mango smoothie and Cashew Cream and Tomato soup I enjoyed on my latest trip.

Kojin Noodle Bar

rice, soy, sauce, sushi
Hannah Brown

Tucked away on a side street off of Duval, Kojin is an Asian-fusion spot with a small menu and big flavor. My go-to dish is the house ramen and the fried rice balls, but I tried the chicken dumplings and soft-shell crab tempura and was not disappointed.

Kojin' rotating specials and serene atmosphere attracts locals and visitors year round.

Better than Sex

ice cream, Dessert, cream, cake, chocolate
Hannah Brown

For dessert, Better than Sex offers creative and fun riffs on your favorite confections.

Late night or not, this mood-lit dining experience will wow you with brie and chocolate grilled cheese in a strawberry sauce or cheesecake topped with salted caramel popcorn bark while you sip on chocolate- or caramel-rimmed drinks. If you dare.

Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe

stout, chocolate, beer
Alex Schwartz

Now for what you all really came to Key West to try: Key Lime Pie. There are many places to go for this Florida classic, but the best can be found at Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe where it's frozen and dipped in chocolate.

Whether you're just passing through or there to stay for a while, Key West will take your taste buds on an adventure if you just know where to look.