Key West: Where to Score the Best Hogfish, Doughnuts, and Shrimp
An inky, flooded road skirts the edge of a trailer park on Stock Island, a square mile swath of land just east of Key West. Two men in rubber overalls stomp through the water, sheets of rain smacking their bright-orange suits. They head toward Hogfish Bar & Grill, a rickety restaurant beside the old shrimp docks. Inside, wooden picnic tables -- topped with local pink shrimp, hogfish, and grouper -- crowd the noisy dining room. And though the weather calls for staying home, Jimmy Buffett's voice coos from the speakers as if everything outside is sunny and warm.
Emily Codik Key lime pie donut at Glazed Donuts
From Miami, the three-hour journey is long -- stretching from Homestead's nurseries to the Seven Mile Bridge to the southernmost point of the continental United States. But the Hogfish is the ideal endpoint, stocked with knickknacks, straw roofs, and fresh, fried seafood. It helps that it isn't dog-eared in any Lonely Planet guide books. That, along with a trailer-dotted trek, provides a semblance of secrecy.
The best destinations always feel like discoveries of your own.
Key West still boasts this arcane charm, and it easily transforms vacationers into residents. Fringed by ramshackle conch houses and loud roosters, the city hooks you. Saunter down Duval Street and nobody will pester you with flyers or lobster deals. Sure, there will be bachelor parties, neon T-shirts, and the occasional fanny-pack-clad grandparent. But along the way, there will also be Apalachicola oysters, Key West Sunset ales, and enough conch fritters to necessitate a dose of Crestor.
Still, despite its perch by the sea, finding local fish can be difficult. For years, the island's seafood industry has declined. The rise of fuel prices and imported, farm-raised seafood has forced local fishermen out of business. According to Florida Keys Weekly, there are only three local commercial shrimpers left in the Keys -- a staggering decline from the 200 boats in the 1970s.
If you know where to look, though, you can still find what you want.