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Fine Food Finds in Gay-Friendly Key West

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© Getty Images Pier at the beach in Key West, Florida USA (Photo via ventdusud / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

By Paul Heney, TravelPulse

Mention Key West to someone and they’ll likely talk to you about sunshine or sailing or Hemingway. But this island getaway—that’s ever-so-precariously attached to the lower 48—boasts a nice variety of culinary attractions, too. Here are 5 fun options for your next visit to the self-proclaimed Conch Republic:

1. La Te Dah

We loved this gay-owned spot, which is a combination hotel, restaurant, bar, and cabaret. Visit the restaurant for dinner, when blue lights in and around the dining room—and the adjacent pool—cast a mesmerizing light on the lovely surroundings. Finish with a drink at the Terrace Bar, which looks directly out onto Duval Street, Key West’s main drag. And speaking of drag, don’t forget to check up the upstairs cabaret, with some amazing female impersonator performances.

Try the Island Passion or Red & Gold Beet salad—they’re big enough to split if you’re having a main course, too. There are so many excellent choices here, including the crab cakes, shrimp scampi, and crispy lacquered duck.

2. Cuzzy Bubbaz

This burger joint isn’t the kind of place you’d likely find wandering the streets. It’s tiny, with only a couple of tables outside, and doesn’t particularly attract attention. But you’d be foolish to pass it up, as Jay, the owner, chef, and one-man-show, runs an amazing little food spot. In addition to the mouth-watering burgers, we enjoyed the crab cakes and the shrimp tacos.

The burgers are actually served as three little sliders on pretzel buns, and they’re quite filling. Rounding out the menu is poutine, tuna tartare, sandwiches and a lobster & shrimp flatbread. Even better, the prices are reasonable, something you don’t often see in expensive Key West.

3. Kojin Noodle Bar

We discovered this ramen place when eating at Cuzzy Bubbaz—a gentleman stopped to ask us how the restaurant was, and we chatted about how good the food was. He then raved about Kojin, practically next door, and he told us we absolutely had to try it. So that’s just what we did the following day for lunch.

We liked the yellow curry, which comes with jasmine rice, peanuts and currants, or the house ramen. Service here is quick and friendly, and the owners did a nice job with the limited space—there’s a fun Asian vibe that feels thoughtful and not cheesy.

4. Island House

Island House is, according to OUT Traveler, “the best gay resort in the world.” And while we weren’t fortunate enough to stay at the property, we secured a day pass, allowing us to eat at the 24-hour bar & café—which was incredible. For some reason, I wasn’t prepared for the high quality of food here, but Island House really delivered. You’ll find everything from sandwiches and omelets to Caribbean fare, Mediterranean, and even some Asian favorites. There is a lovely wine list and the desserts will stand up to anything you’d find at a top-notch deli.

The café is poolside and cozy, and you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the action, with friendly locals and guests walking by and chatting. Service is friendly and heavily muscled (the way I prefer it!) and there is a vegan menu available.

5. Abbondanza

Located in a former home, Abbondanza, which means abundance in Italian, certainly does have an abundance of Italian favorites from which to choose. You can’t go wrong with the hearty lasagna, which was flavorful and served in generous portion sizes. Chicken Marsala was done just right, and the desserts are equally feasts for the eyes. A good wine list also kept us satisfied here.

Our only warning here is that parking can be a challenge to find nearby. But it’s located just a block off of Duval Street, so if you’re wandering the southern portion of that thoroughfare, Abbondanza is an easy walk.

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