The fresh and unpretentious food at this tiny but elegant restaurant will impress your palate. At Pisces, bright pink Key West shrimp arrive at your table butterflied, deheaded, deveined, and delicious; there's no work involved. A dash of sea salt and extra virgin olive oil complete this simple appetizer. The snapper I tried came in a sauce that could make a deck of cards taste great: shallots, tarragon, and a hint of cream electrified by Chardonnay and just-picked lemon. I polished off every bite. For dessert, try any ice cream on the menu--it's made on property with exacting care (the flavor the night I went was passion fruit, which was juiced and strained to preserve the dessert's creaminess).
1007 Simonton Street; www.pisceskeywest.com or (305) 294-7100. Entrées: $29-$49.95. Reservations recommended.
To see the sun sink into the Gulf, there's no better spot than Latitudes Beach Cafe, the restaurant at Sunset Key Guest Cottages, a Westin Resort. The chef masterfully prepares dishes such as the Pappardelle di Mare. Wide bands of pasta absorb the intense flavors of asparagus, salty pecorino cheese, tomato salsa, oregano, garlic, shrimp, scallops, and sweet Florida lobster.
245 Front Street; www.sunsetkeyisland.com or (305) 292-5394. Dinner entrées: $27-$54. Reservations required.
On the Atlantic side of town, Louie's Backyard makes stellar cocktails, best knocked back with an order of crunchy conch fritters. I tried every drink on the menu. Though my memory of the rest of the meal is fuzzy, you must get the Island Cosmopolitan, a light drink with a secret weapon: pineapple-infused vodka.
700 Waddell Avenue; www.louiesbackyard.com or (305) 294-1061. Dinner entrées: $29-$45. Reservations recommended.
The most famous morning joint in Key West is Blue Heaven, a place of roaming roosters and dense banana bread.
729 Thomas Street; www.blueheavenkw.com or (305) 296-8666. Breakfast items: $5-$13.95.
Sarabeth's wins on excellent service, great coffee, and an elegant setting with reasonable prices.
530 Simonton Street; www.sarabethskeywest.com or (305) 293-8181. Breakfast items: $6-$10.
Short on atmosphere and long on the slow-roasted flavors of Cuba, El Siboney carries a loyal following. The island nation shows off its Spanish roots with dishes such as ropa viejo (shredded beef) and roasted chicken. All main courses come with buttery bread; yellow rice; a cup of dark, rich black beans; and tender plantains. It's the best value in town.
900 Catherine Street; (305) 296-4184. Entrées: $8.95-$15.95.