The independent spirit of The Keys extends to its restaurants. Don't go home without trying these restaurants' iconic local flavors.

The South's Slice of Paradise
A conch sandwich from Keys Fisheries restaurant in the Florida Keys.
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

The Cracked Conch Cafe: Visit for conch
4999 Overseas Highway, Marathon; or 305/743-2233
Pronounced "konk," it's The Keys' most famous shell. Its tender white meat is found in restaurants from Key Largo to Key West, served fried, grilled, in fritters, and in soup. We love The Cracked Conch Cafe. It's nothing fancy, but it's where all the locals eat, so you know it's good.

Keys Fisheries Market & Marina: Visit for stone crabs
3390 Gulf View Avenue, Marathon; or 866/743-4353
Keys Fisheries supplies Miami Beach's Joe's Stone Crab restaurant with its namesake delicacy. Here you can watch fishermen come in with their hauls and eat crab caught the very same day at the market's restaurant. It doesn't get fresher than that. Just keep in mind: Succulent stone crabs are available only October through May. If crabs aren't in season, order the conch sandwich.

Mrs. Mac's Kitchen: Visit for Key Lime Pie
99336 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; 305/451-3722
This is a tough one because there are so many stellar examples, but we love the tart flavor and smooth consistency of the pie at Mrs. Mac's, the longest-running restaurant in Key Largo. Or, for a new spin on an old classic, try the frozen, chocolate-covered Key Lime Pie on a Stick at Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe (200 Elizabeth Street, Key West; or 305/296-0806). Both places also do mail order.

The Fish House: Visit for Key West Pink Shrimp
102401 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; or 305/451-4665
Native to the waters of The Keys, these succulent crustaceans are available year-round. Their bright pink color is completely natural. And once you taste their freshness, you'll be spoiled for life.

Conch & The Cuban Cafe: Visit for Café Con Leche
1330 Simonton Street, Key West; 305/293-1352
Since Cuba is just 90 miles south of Key West, its flavors can be found throughout The Keys. Order a café con leche (espresso mixed with steamed milk) at this hole-in-the-wall.