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Best Key West Restaurants to Cook Your Catch

Hook & Cook: Where To Take Your Catch in Key West to Have it Cooked

There’s nothing as delicious, or quite as satisfying as eating the fish you caught today! If you’ve come to Key West on a fishing vacation, you want to share the best restaurants where you can take your freshly caught bounty of the sea and have it cooked.

open air dining area

Photo Courtesy of the Rooftop Café

Rooftop Café
New Island Cuisine
308 Front Street / 305-294-2042
Lunch & Dinner, 7 days

Situated at treetop level overlooking Front Street, this restaurant is aptly named and offers romantic, open air dining with great service and its own distinctive cuisine developed by  Chef Brendan Orr. Chef Brandan came to Key West via Paris, France, with a stop in Miami, and has created his own signature “New island” cuisine with local seafood flavored with Asian and Mediterranean spices and staples.

“Cook your catch” guests can gave their filets prepared in a variety of different ways – if it’s on the menu, they will prepare your fish that way, if you like. For larger groups they will prepare the fish several ways with a selection of sides.

“If a customer comes in with a nice blackfin tuna,” says Chef Brendan, “and wants something done sushi style, we will definitely try to accommodate them.” Chef Brendan Orr grew up in Miami, but spent 4 years in Paris running a small restaurant there before returning to the States and making Key West his home.

The Rooftop Café is also very popular for Sunday Brunch, and if you ever find tile fish on the menu, they make it with a miso glaze that tastes better than it might sound to the uninitiated.

Price for cooking your catch: $18.95. BE sure to call ahead for reservations and let them know you are bringing your own catch.

Watercolor of Camille's restaurant from street

Photo courtesy of Camille’s

Camille’s Restaurant
Casual Gourmet
1202 Simonton Street / 305-296-4811
Breakfast, Lunch 8am-3pm; Dinner 6pm-10pm

Arguably the locals’ favorite restaurant, Camille’s cuisine is as varied as the imagination – the chef’s imagination, that is. The entire menu changes daily to take advantage of the freshest ingredients available, and you can get your catch cooked in any way you like. Key Westers recommend letting the chef decide – your fish will be cooked in several ways. Of course it can be blackened or grilled, but just imagine your fish in a macadamia nut crust, with diced tomatoes, caramelized Vidalia onions in a Key Lime chardonnay sauce, and your mouth is watering already.

If you don’t get to Camille’s for “hook and cook,” you might want to try them for breakfast, the locals’ favorite.  Expect to wait for seating on the weekends for breakfast; it’s that good!

Cook your catch: $18 per person; call for reservations; large parties, no problem!

Pepe's Cafe

Photo by M.-J. Taylor

Pepe’s Café
Steak & Seafood  (B/F/D)
806 Caroline St / 305-294-7192

From the outside this place looks like a hole in the wall – and there is one where you can peep into the patio, actually – but this rustic spot, built in 1909, is one of the most popular restaurants in town for good reason.

There are a few tables inside, but the real atmosphere and best seating is outside.  Pepe’s is a very popular breakfast spot, and if you’re there for lunch, you really should try the Fish Reuben – delicious! Nothing changes except the menu after the sun goes down – the food is great, the portions generous and reasonably priced, and the atmosphere very much “old” Key West.

If you want the “hook and cook” Pepe’s will dish it up for you five ways:

Blackened; broiled; with caper garlic butter; Pepe’s style with a chile rellenos sauce and melted Monterey Jack and Florentine (baked with fresh spinach, seasoned bread crumbs, garlic butter and melted parmesan cheese – “It gets crusty on top,”  says owner Shelley McInnes. “That’s my favorite.”

Pepe’s is also known for their oysters – baked and fresh – and offers them at half price during happy hour from 4-6.  And their margaritas are made with freshly squeezed lime juice. The bar also has freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice on hand.

Hook and Cook: $16-$17.50 per person, depending on the style of preparation with a potato and vegetable of the day – always fresh steamed.  Pepe’s is also a great place for a steak if you have any land lubbers – and they are happy to let you choose several styles of preparation and serve your hook and cook family style.  They’ll make you a fish sandwich with your catch at lunch time, too.

Tiki Hut Entrance of the Hogfish

Photo courtesy of Hogfish Bar and Grill

Hogfish Bar and Grill
6810 Front Street
Safe Harbor Marina
Stock Island / 305-293-4041
Lunch & Dinner 11 am – 10 pm
Sundays Breakfast 9 am

It’s not technically Key West and it’s not easy to find, but this Stock Island restaurant is worth the effort.  Set smack dab in the middle of a marina, this open air, thatch-roofed bar and grill offers a true “Keys” atmosphere.

The “bring your own” price is $13.95 and includes two sides. Choose from grilled, blackened or fried – or have all three and get the fish served family style for your table. That way everyone gets to taste the fish cooked different ways.

The restaurant’s signature dish is a hogfish sandwich and you can’t get a better one anywhere.  For those who are not familiar with hogfish, it’s a delicate, white fish with a sweet, mild flavor. The Hogfish Bar & Grill  is very popular with the locals; in fact it’s one of the few places that will get a Key Wester to cross Cow Key Channel – the last bridge before Key West.  The Hogfish has live music many evenings.

Thai Life Floating restaurant logoThai Life Floating Restaurant
Thai Cuisine
1801 N. Roosevelt Blvd. / 305-296-9907
Wed – Sun 11am-11pm

For something a little out of the ordinary, get your catch cooked Thai style. This floating restaurant at the end of our docks offers authentic Thai cuisine, and will cook your catch a variety of ways – 8 different ways to be exact, and comes with soup, rice and vegetables for $12.95.

The cuisine is not all that’s authentic – floating restaurants are very common in Thailand, both in coastal ad island towns like Phuket, and along the “klongs” (canals) of Bangkok. Thai Life is unique to the US, says co-owner Mike, husband of Chef Dow.

What Else You Need to Know

Some restaurants limit the amount of fish to 1 to 1.5 pounds per person – though some restaurants such as  Pepe’s don’t limit what they will cook for you. You must bring the restaurant cleaned filets, but, don’t worry, you don’t have to clean the fish;  the mate on your charter will have taken care of that. Most of the resort hotel restaurants will also cook your catch, and will happily take your fish earlier in the day for preparation that night so you don’t have to worry about keeping it fresh. No matter where you go, it’s also a good idea to call ahead for reservations and let them know you are bringing your own fish.