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Updated May 10, 2009

 The following are places where I eat and shop and do business in Key West. They didn't pay me anything to list them or even ask me to do it. There are lots of other good restaurants and places of business in Key West, but these are just places I like and go to frequently and thought you might like, too.

Dog and cat info is at the bottom of the page. ArfMeow

Whitfield Jack

Restaurants and Bars: (Click "Visit" to go to web sites if available. Phone numbers are local numbers. Other contact information available on individual web sites)

  • Salute! On The Beach. Beachside dining at a terrific restaurant at Higgs Beach between the White Street Pier and the Casa Marina hotel. This casual dining establishment (bathing suits allowed as well as friendly dogs at the outside tables) is a real surprise. The food is elegantly simple and absolutely delicious -- something to suit everybody. And the Key Lime Pie is the best in town! The prices are what I would call medium and the service friendly, but, because everything is prepared specially for you, plan on a little wait. Have a glass of wine and forget the time. There's plenty to watch going on right next to you on the beach. People wearing the bare minimum, people who should have the minimum bared, young and old, statuesque and squatty -- a wonderful people-zoo with plenty to gawk at and get gawked back at by. There's outdoor covered dining and indoor dining, and the tropical breezes blow all through the restaurant. Salute! (pronounced salu-tay) is becoming the place to go for those in the know. Lunch and dinner. The kitchen closes at 9:30 at night. 1000 Atlantic Boulevard at Higgs Beach. 305-292-1117 Visit
  • La Trattoria. A bustling Italian bistro with local seafood cooked the Italian way and Italian homemade food with a zest to it. Are you in Italy? Or are you in Key West? Who cares. Everybody is laughing and having a great time. The bar is jumping. The waiters are zipping around the room like skiers on a slalom course. I had roasted whole heads of garlic there one night that had to be the best in the history of the world. Trattoria's spaghetti with garlic and red pepper flakes (like the ones you put on a pizza) is my absolute favorite. These folks are masters with the spices and herbs. In the side room is a beautiful, atmospheric, intimate bar called Virgilio's where you'll find everybody who's anybody in Key West . Reservations suggested. On Duval Street near Southard. 305-296-1075 Visit
  • The Rusty Anchor. This is my favorite seafood house, and it looks like a seafood house ought to look: rustic decor, fish nets, crab-trap floats, the works -- even a gigantic saltwater aquarium. Lots of locals go there, and for good reason. The menu has lots of thing to offer, the staff is friendly, the service fast, and the prices reasonable. I almost always order a basket of the Key West steamed peel-and-eat pink shrimp. Ask for them hot with drawn butter. Get a baked potato and corn on the cob as side dishes; or black beans and rice, or great French fries. Wednesday is Roast Beef Night, and you can get a giant, perfectly-cooked slice for a real friendly price. To get there from Key West, go over the Cow Key Channel Bridge heading out of town to Stock Island (adjacent to Key West). Turn right at the second traffic light (Cross Street). In a couple of blocks you'll come to a four-way stop at 5th Avenue (a housing-project is on the left). Turn left and go a long block to the first stop sign (a playground is on the right) Continue on for about half a block and on the left you will see a tall sign saying "Rusty Anchor" -- and on the ground, guess what? A gigantic rusty anchor, a marvelous real one from the good old days. Open every day but Sunday. 10 AM until 10 PM. 5510 5th Ave, (Stock Island) Key West, FL (305) 296-2893 Menu
  • Antonia's. One of Key West's most elegant and refined restaurants in terms of beauty and cuisine. By this, I don't mean stuffy. (I've seen people there in tuxedos and people there in mini-skirts and leather halters.) The food is terrific and the staff is all smiles and helpful advice. The local seafood is out of this world; the Italian specialties are fit for Lucullus himself; and the pasta is fresh homemade. Everything's so good I don't know what to recommend. Just close your eyes and point to the menu. Reserve. Antonia's is usually packed. On Duval Street near Southard. 305-294-6565 Visit
  • BO's Fish Wagon. You don't get any more local than this. BO (stands for Buddy Owen) himself is a local. The square-grouper sandwiches are made with local groupers caught by local fishermen. There are so many local fish nets and lobster-trap floats and curiosities that you'll think you are dining in the middle of a shipwreck. Bo's has great laid-back food (including "hand-pulled" French fries) and the most laid-back atmosphere in Key West. There's even a misting system that cools the air. You're likely to see anybody here --rich, poor, famous, infamous. But none more amazing than Bo himself. BO's is on the corner of Caroline Street and WIlliam Street at the Key West Historic Seaport. It's the place with the tin roof and the palm thatch and the antique truck with a lady mannequin sleeping at the wheel and a couple of well-mannered dogs sitting around waiting for you to fumble a frankfurter. Company motto: "Seafood and eat it!" On Caroline Street near The Waterfront Market. 305-294-9272 Band on Friday.
  • Mangoes. Late night eating under giant white umbrellas surrounded by tropical foliage and a great view of the passing parade on Duval Street. Mangoes has all kinds of dishes that are totally unique -- magical Caribbean things right down to a plain old steak. When most restaurants are closing, Mangoes is just getting going. It's good any time of day, but it's nice to know you've got somewhere to go if you wake up late one night in your chair by the pool and hear your stomach growling at the moon. On Duval Street at Southard. 305-292-4606
  • Chico's Cantina. The best Mexican restaurant in all of Mexico is in Key West. Actually, almost in Key West. Chico's is located just a quick drive over the Cow Key Channel bridge right at the north edge of Key West on Stock Island. This is definitely not Tex-Mex. This is not a Chihuahua chain. The food at Chico's is as close to gourmet Mexican as it gets. Their fried jalapenos in a crispy crust with some kind of out-of-sight white creamy filling will knock you off your burro. Chico's is almost all local, but they make out-of-towners feel right at home. 305-296-4714 Visit
  • Schooner Wharf Bar. Lots of music at this one: local bands, folk, country, rock. It's over on the water at the Key West Historic Seaport where the big sailboats dock. All kinds of people go there, from local dignitaries to local scruffs (friendly scruffs). If you hear something that sounds like an old gramophone squawk in your ear, it's just the parrot on the next guy's shoulder. (To blend right in, wear something you were just getting ready to throw away.) Island specialties. Expert bartenders. My jewelry store is right down Lazy Way Alley on Elizabeth Street, so after a few drinks come on down and test out your credit card. 305-292-9520 Visit


 Shops, Lodging, Businesses, Services, Activities


Key Lime Pie
Salute! On The Beach.
(See listing above) Their Key Lime Pie is unique -- a treat for the tongue and a surprise for the eyes. Delicious, and beautifully served. Much better than the mass-produced key-lime pies sold in Key West.


Three great places to stay:
All three of the following guest houses are owned by friends of mine, which is obviously one reason I recommend them. It just so happens that all of these inns are also very, very special. I'd recommend them to my big sister, who is very, very finicky. I'd recommend them to my niece and nephew, who are not finicky at all, but love to stay in neat places.
Old Town Manor accommodates children 16 or over and welcomes children under 16 at their sister guest house, Rose Lane Villas. Old Town Manor also welcomes friendly dogs. Conch Heritage House accepts children 13 years old and up. Atlantis House, which is small and intimate, welcomes young adults age 21 and older. Look at all three of the web sites and see which inn is the in inn for you.

Old Town Manor. 305-292-2170 Visit

Conch Heritage House. 305-293-0020 Visit

Atlantis House. 305-292-1532 Visit



Seafood Markets
The Rusty Anchor.
This seafood restaurant (featured above in the restaurant section) also has an excellent seafood market. Fresh fish and shrimp brought in daily from the docks a few blocks away. The fish market is on the street behind the restaurant, so drive around the block. Call first to see if the market is open. (305) 296-2893


Gourmet cooking equipment
The Restaurant Store.
If you ask Richard Tallmadge, co-owner of The Restaurant Store with his wife, Cathy, to describe his business, he'll humbly tell you: "The Restaurant Store happens to be one of the best cooking and restaurant supply stores in the world" And he is not just boasting. I, myself (meaning, me, Whitfield Jack, back when I used to cook) have been in some of the great gourmet cooking-supply stores in New York and elsewhere, and this one in Key West is right on par or better. Example: You walk into the Restaurant Store and brag that you've caught a twenty-foot long 1200-pound yellow-tail snapper (their maximum size is really about 33 inches and 9 pounds) and ask Richard what he has to poach it in. He'll politely tell you to poach the fish-story first. Then he'll show you the fish-poacher to fit your modified catch, the fish filet-knife to cut it up, the fish-spatula to serve it with, and the fish platter to serve it on. There's everything imaginable in this wonderful store in the world of cooking, eating, and drinking. And what else is there, except you-know-what? Plus -- right next door, is the best bakery in Key West, and in my opinion (and probably Richard's) one of the best in the world . See "Cole's Peace Artisan Bakery and Sandwich Shop" below. 305-294-7994 Visit


Bread: Best on the island
Cole's Peace Artesian Bakery and Sandwich Shop.
Richard and Cathy Tallmadge, owners of The Restaurant Store, bought this bakery from Kurt Matarazzo, the original owner and baker, some years ago to keep the business from leaving Key West. Kurt, a true artist in the trade, taught the current staff exactly how to make all of his recipes, so the breads are the very same as they were in the beginning. The rye is to die for. The mango bread a delight. No more need be said, except to have the folks there make a super sandwich on this super homemade bread. If you're wondering where the name, "Cole's Peace" came from, Cole is Kurt's son, who at the age of three did the drawing that became the name of the bakery and its logo. How the word "Peace" got in there is something of a mystery: a misspelling of "Piece"? or "Place"? or was it just what it says, "Peace", like a peaceful place? Ask Richard. The original drawing is shown on the bakery website. Open 8 AM - 2 PM Mon-Sat. After that, bread is available at The Restaurant Store featured above. 305-292-6511 Visit


Sunset cruises, snorkeling, wildlife exploration on a beautiful sailboat
Danger Charters. Ecology minded owner-captain Wayne Fox takes you to the Key West National Wildlife Refuge, teaches you kayaking, helps you learn to snorkel and protect our reefs. His two stunning sailboats, a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack 50-footer and a 60-footer, carry only 6 and 12 passengers respectively. This is a guy who knows his business and treats you to a unforgettable experience. 305-304-7999 Visit


Fishing tackle
The Saltwater Angler. Saltwater fly-fishing equipment plus just about everything else in the world of rods and reels. Great tropical clothing and fishing books. Ask Captain Tony Murphy about fly-fishing for sailfish. Not your ordinary tackle shop at all. For the connoisseur. 305-304-7999 Visit


Fast, inexpensive, good, friendly local barber
Frank's Hair Cutting Place.
Open on weekdays and Saturdays part time. Hours variable. Closed a couple of hours for siesta around one. A no-nonsense very lively barbershop at 929 Truman Avenue and Grinnell. Frank gets you in and out of there fast. Doesn't talk your head off unless you ask a question -- then you've had it. Frank tells you a joke. Then howls with laughter. Sets everybody in the shop to howling, too. Somebody else says something funny. And the howling rises to a crescendo. I told Frank that it was the closest thing I know of to having your hair cut in an insane asylum. Frank knows all the local gossip. Might even tell you something scandalous about me. Doesn't believe in telephones. Just take your chances and go by. I've been going there for years. Still have most of my ears. If Frank can make my hair look good, he can do a makeover on Godzilla. Lot's of navy guys, and marine patrol guys, and jet pilots, and local tough guys like me go there.


Glass and Mirrors
Monroe Glass and Mirror.
These are the people you call when you need top-notch custom glass work, either commercial or marine or residential. The service and the quality of the work are excellent. The owner, Joe, and his assistants can supply almost anything in the way of glass -- except maybe a mirror to make me look like Tom Cruise. 316 Simonton St. (Look carefully. It's down an alley next door to the Pelican Poope Shoppe across the street from the big imposing Federal Building. 305-296-6246 P.S. A few days after Joe read this on the internet, he proved me wrong. I got a call from my shop that I had a present there from Monroe Glass and Mirror. I went down and found a beautifully-framed 9-1/2" x 12" mirror that reflected my face very nicely -- considering what it had to work with. Then I suddenly couldn't believe my eyes. There, magically appearing from somewhere behind, or inside, or through the looking glass, was the face of Tom Cruise! Now every morning I shave rich and famous. (Joe can make one of these mirrors for you with whoever you wish hidden in the glass -- a terrific present for somebody you love, or somebody you'd love to be.) Whitfield Jack


Dog and Cat Information

Veterinarian
All Animal Clinic on Stock Island.
Lisa Bramson, DVM, is the boss vet and she's a real professional, as is her associate, Kristen Jensen, DVM. Both of these veterinarians are up to date on their medicine and are conservative and thorough and straightforward. In areas where specialized medicine is needed, there are visiting veterinarian eye-specialists and cardiologists that come periodically to the clinic. Both Dr. Bramson and Dr. Jensen love animals and have many of their own. These are vets that will hug your dog and cat and talk baby-talk to them -- just like you do.
The whole staff is excellent. Hours 8-5 Tues, Thurs, and Fri -- 8-7 Mon and Wed. Call and check for sure. After hours, a 24-hour emergency vet service will answer. 305-294-5255
Visit

IMPORTANT TO PET-OWNERS VISITING OR MOVING TO THE KEYS:
Heartworm disease (borne by mosquitoes) and Erlichia (which can be caused by a single tick bite) are both life-threatening diseases prevalent in the Keys and in South Florida. Be sure to have your dog or cat get a blood test to determine if these diseases are present. Heartworm and Erlichia show few or no symptoms before they get extremely serious. Lots of new visitors here aren't aware of these hazards -- especially Erlichia. Make it top priority to see a vet about the risks. PS: The custom (and the law) in Key West is to pick up after your pet makes a deposit. Every little bit of effort helps keeps drain-off from contributing to ocean pollution.

Would you like a great DOG SEAT BELT SYSTEM? Go to Champion Canine Designs

How about a directory of HOTELS AND MOTELS THAT TAKE PETS?
Join
Take Your Pet The small fee they charge is well worth it.



Key West Dog Park, Dog Beaches, and Dog-Friendly Restaurants.

NOTE: Everybody in Key West picks up after their dog, so take along a plastic bag and paper towels or whatever method you use. We do it to keep our beach privileges in these areas and to keep our water pure. And there's a big fine. And you don't want to embarrass your four-legged beloved. Dogs must be leashed, but if they're in the water or dog park, you can let 'em loose. PS: If you want a really great product for picking up after your dog, go to Mutt-Mitt

CAUTIONS FOR DOGS IN THE TROPICS:
1. Be sure to take along a bottle of cold drinking water for your dog. The hot, humid Key West weather can easily cause a heat stroke even in a healthy dog. Even moderate temperatures, when the humidity is high, can be dangerous.
2. Never leave a dog alone in a car, even with the air conditioning running. A car can easily stall due to the stress on the engine while idling with the AC on, and your dog could die in minutes.
3. Joggers, bicyclists, roller bladers, and skate boarders: Never force your dog to accompany you in the heat. Your dog will run at your pace until he or she drops. It is a form of animal cruelty and absolute stupidity to do this. How would you like to be forced to run along behind a car in the heat with no way to say, "Please stop, I'm so thirsty and tired".

Key West Dog Park. The park is located across the street from the White Street Pier, entrance across the street from the Martello Towers Fort. The larger section of the park is for larger dogs, the smaller section for small dogs. All dogs can be off leash and there is plenty of room for running. A dog fountain is available, and the park has lights and is open even in the early evening. The rules are posted and must be obeyed.
The White Street Pier: If there's a breeze, it's here. Take a nice long walk to the end of the pier and you're likely to find a dozen or so friendly dogs, some of them possibly running loose (which they shouldn't be, because there are often very small children out there). Any new dog arriving at the end of the pier is likely to be greeted by an onrush of all the "regulars", which can be rather intimidating; but after much sniffing and a bit of posturing, the new dog is accepted. Best bet is to keep your dog leashed. Dogs are allowed almost anywhere in Key West if on a leash. And you can take your iguana or parrot or boa constrictor for a walk, too, provided it is sitting on you and not trying to sit on somebody else.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. This beautiful park at the tip of the island allows leashed dogs everywhere except on the beach. Obey the rules or you'll get the boot! There are nature trails with documentation of the plants and trees, and there are peaceful paths covered with soft pine needles (actually not pine-needles, but pine-needle-like miniature branches from the whispering pines {Australian pines} which actually aren't pines at all, but resemble them and make a whispering sound when the wind blows). The whispering pines will whisper to the park ranger if your dog does a #2 and you don't pick up after it. A great place to explore and picnic. There is plenty of shade and a concession where you can buy your dog a hot dog.

Key West Dog Beaches

Dog Beach caution: Beware the stinging Portuguese Man 'o War
Click for photo
These critters look like floating blue and pink oblong balloons and can have a trail of stinging tentacles as much as 20 feet long. They can be floating on the water or washed up on the beach. If you see them, keep your dog away! Fortunately, they are pretty easy to spot and not usually around. But they might be!
Dog Beach #1 at Louie's Backyard Restaurant. This is a primarily a local swimming site with one of the best sandy bottoms in Key West. The beach is tiny, and lots of people take their dogs there. So you'd best like dogs. Located between Louie's Backyard restaurant and the Reach Hotel over on the Atlantic Ocean side of town. There's usually some good snorkeling under the pier at the Casa Marina hotel, just a splash away. YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG.
Possible dog beach #2: The narrow little beach, known as Rest Beach, just to the left as you face the White Street Pier (on the airport side). This is technically not a city-approved dog beach, and you could gently get run off by the local cops, but the beach is mostly concealed from the street by dunes and shrubbery so you're not very visible. The best time to go is late afternoon
The beach has a great sandy ocean bottom and often a sand bar a bit of a ways out during low tide. Far from the madding crowds. Shallow enough for kids. Dogs love it. So you best like kids and dogs. There are picnic tables on the dunes and a nice boardwalk. This side of the beach has a "no dogs allowed" sign, but in all the years I've been going there, I've never been challenged, especially if your dog is out in the water on the sand bar. Then it is completely legal. Carry along a dog-doo bag in your hand while walking on the beach, and if anybody ever says anything (which they won't), just wave it at them, or just look stupid and say, "Oh, I didn't know", and trot over to the White Street Pier where dogs on leashes are legal.

Possible dog beach #3: The beach to the right of the White Street Pier is another possibility, especially late in the afternoon, but only if you keep your dogs leashed and pick up after them. There is a dog-doo bag dispenser with Mutt-Mitt pick-up bags by the sidewalk, which is sometimes full, sometimes not -- so take something with you. You can walk all the way along the water behind the old brick fort, but at the far end where Higgs Beach begins, there is a sign saying dogs are prohibited from going past that point, so you might get run off. But I wouldn't worry too much if your dog is leashed and it's very late in the day. For swimming, walk beside the sea wall behind the fort. The steps down to the water at that location (very slippery, so be cautious) lead to a great swimming place. Shallow with sandy bottom. Especially good at low tide. To find out when low tides occur in this area, go to Tides South Side of Key West. Another way to figure tides in this area is to check the Key West Citizen newspaper for low and high tides at Key West Harbor. Low tide on the South Side will be 30 minutes later than low tide at Key West Harbor. High tide on the South Side will be 52 minutes later than high tide at Key West Harbor.

Dog Friendly Restaurants in Key West: BO's Fish Wagon, Mangoes, Salute! On the Beach all accept well-behaved, leashed dogs. (For locations, see restaurant listings above).



Windsurfing in Key West (one of my hobbies besides dogs and cats) Visit


As I said in the beginning, these are places I like. I've been in Key West for 25 years and have narrowed my favorites down to a few places where I go over and over again like a mule plodding to a good watering hole. There are lots of other good restaurants and businesses in Key West, and this is in no way meant to slight them.

To each his own. Eat, drink, and be merry. Welcome to Margaritaville.

Whitfield Jack


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