With a rich melting pot of influences from Caribbean, Southern, and even New England merchants, a fantastic mixture of cuisine has developed throughout the Florida Keys. Blessed with an abundance of fresh fish and shellfish harvested throughout the island chain and a variety cooking influences from these settlers, the islands offer delicious cuisine that showcase a surplus of seafood from the area.
Here is what you should look out for when you visit the markets and eateries around the Florida Keys:
A real delicacy in the region, commercially harvested shrimp come in a variety of sizes around the Keys, typically tasting sweeter. You’ll find a range of preparations, including grilled, sautéed, and steamed, delivered fresh in salads and other dishes, or breaded and deep-fried. Served in a simple butter sauce or more savory sauce presentations, you can’t go wrong with these tasty pink shrimp.
Another popular delicacy fished in the local waters, stone crab is known for its meatier and sweeter taste. Since most of the meat is centered on the claws, the crabs are typically caught and only the claws are taken, giving them a chance to be harvested again and again. Simple preparation of the crab is via steaming or sautéing, and serving with melted butter or chilled mustard sauces are the perfect accompaniment. Other popular preparations include presenting fresh on salads, fried into crab cakes, or added into fritters, soups, or seafood casseroles.
Florida lobsters are different than Maine lobsters in that they typically do not have claws and the season runs all the way from early August until mid-March. Like stone crabs, lobster can be prepared a variety of ways, including steaming, sautéing, and included as a main ingredient to a variety of local dish presentations.
Florida is well known as the “Conch Republic” and treasure their conch seafood and beautiful shells. You will find conch breaded and fried, used in seafood chowders, or inventively prepared into appetizers or entrees depending on the type of eatery.
You can find an abundance of snapper varieties available throughout the island chain, including the popular yellowtail, along with mutton, mangrove, and the ugly hog snapper. Caught in the deeper waters around the Keys, there is a wonderful selection of snapper in almost every restaurant, often offered as the fresh catch of the day.
Other popular Florida Keys fish include large groupers, mahi-mahi, yellow jacks, and tarpons. Most of preparations tend to be done as a steak and grilled, or a simple sauté with a variety of sauces.
Mussels, Clams, and Scallops
Some of these popular shellfish are farmed locally throughout the islands, but scallops are mostly found in the Gulf area of Florida. Preparations for these vary from a simple sauté to breaded and fried, or mixed into a seafood casserole, soup, or stew.
There really is a cornucopia of seafood delights when visiting the Florida Keys and you won’t go wrong in choosing anything locally sourced. Now with all this fresh seafood to choose from, the hard part — as usual — is deciding what to order for your next meal.