SFGN's Best of 2019: Key West

SFGN's 'Best Of 2019' Key West

Here are SFGN's "Best of 2019" winners in the Food category in Broward County.

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Restaurant

Santiago's Bodega
207 Petronia St.
Key West
305-296-7691
SantiagosBodega.com

Santiagokeybestof2019

For owner Jason Dugan, Santiago’s Bodega was born out of a childhood quest for adventure. Since an early age he wanted to open his own restaurant.

Eventually that dream became a reality with Santiago’s Bodega, a tapas style dining experience inspired by Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, where the main character, Santiago, closely links his life's work as a fisherman with his own core values.

“This had to be one of the best tapas restaurant that I've been to in a long time. Everything from the service to the food was fabulous, said Yelp reviewer Jenn B. “Personally I would recommend the sparkling sangria to start off your culinary adventure. The burrata was heavenly and had a yummy pesto with it. The charcuterie and the cheese plates had such a great variety.”

While Stephen Webber added on Facebook: “The eclectic Tapas menu has something tasty for everyone. Try the stuffed dates - great last course as a dessert, the beef tenderloin, the shrimp and chorizo - these were our favorites. It very reasonably priced as well considering the high quality of the dishes.”

For those that don’t live in Key West Bodega’s has two other locations - Orlando and Altamonte Springs.

— JEP

Pizza

Mr. Zs

501 Southard St. at Duval
Key West
305-296-4445
MrzsKeyWest.com  

mrzeybestof2019

Since SFGN began including Best Key West Pizza, Mr. Z’s Pizza has won every year, four years now in a row to be specific.

Mr. Z’s Pizza opened in 2002, and since then it has established locations in Key West and Sanford. But no matter which place you order, customers can say each of Mr. Z’s pizzas have the same quality - amazing.

Their pizza choices include the Tomato Pie, White Pie, Roasted Veggie, Meatball, and Cheesesteak Pizza.

But you have to try their signature Cholesterol Bomb Pizza - the Key West location exclusive that comes with chopped hot dog, domestic ham and, of course, bacon.

Mr. Z’s also serves Stromboli, hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches, and salads.

Besides the Cholesterol Bomb, the Key West location’s menu options differ from the Sanford location with its inclusion of Sausage and Peppers with Red Gravy’ and five dollar Philly Jumbo Hot Dogs.
The Sanford location offers 8 piece hot wings tossed in their homemade sauces.

But, of course, it’s Mr. Z’s pizzas that take the cake. “As far as pizza goes... Whoa! One of the best pizzas I've had on the island. You must try Mr. Z's before you leave,” one Yelp reviewer writes.

-NA

Kept Secret & Burger

Moondog Cafe
823 Whitehead St
Key West
305-741-7699
moondogcafe.com

Moondogkeywestbestof2019

With a name like Moondog Cafe, how can this place still be a secret? The quaint dining spot took home the awards for Best Kept Secret and Best Burger.

“I usually don't take note of ambiance because I'm more focused on the quality of food, but I adored the artsy environment with painted murals covering most of the walls, relaxed lighting, and not loud (which is a nice change from all of the obnoxious bars on Duval),” wrote on reviewer on Yelp.

Moondog is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They offer a broad based menu serving up salads, tacos, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta and seafood. 

They also serve a selection of burgers aptly named “moon burgers.” All of them can be upgraded to organic Kobe beef.

“One of the best Kobe burgers I've had outside of Tokyo,” wrote one Yelp reviewer. “Cooked perfectly to temperature.”

A few of them include: The Moondog (vermont white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onions, pickle spear & magic sauce); The John Wayne
(house bbq sauce, applewood bacon, char-grilled onions, pepperjack cheese); and The Frenchman (crispy onions, brie cheese, roasted honey-garlic jam & arugula). 


— JEP

Activist & Bartender

Ryan A. @ Bourbon Street Pub 
ryanactivbestof2019

In Key West Ryan Acker is known as the “King of Fundraising” and he attributes that to him being named as Best Activist.

This year he also named King of Fantasy Fest because of his fundraising abilities.

All of those who were nominated for that title raised a total of $130,000.

“I really like everything that I do. I orchestrate these things.
But it takes the people in the community to make these things happen. It’s really a team effort all of the way around. I appreciate everyone voted for me. It’s cool.”

Ryan also won for Best Bartender, which surprised him.

“I don’t think it was because of my bartending,” he said. “I just have a huge following. People like to be involved with the various things I do. We are a tight knit community here in Key West.”

He’s worked at the Bourbon Street Pub full time for the past two years.

His specialty? Peanut Butter and Jelly shots, which consists of raspberry Stoli, amaretto, Frangelico, and cranberry juice.

“People love them,” he said. 

People love them, but they also love him.

— JEP

Bar

Aqua
711 Duval St.
Key West
305-294-0555
AquaKeyWest.com

barkeywestbestof2019

Aqua has won Best Bar and much of that, if not all, seems owed to the popularity of its drag shows.

This is the third time Aqua has won for Best Bar.

Aqua holds two inside bars for watching the drag shows and occasional karaoke, then there is the Side Bar, which features the latest dance music and videos, and an outside bar in the back for the more quiet cocktails.

In other words, there is always a perfect space for just your mood.

“The owners and staff at Aqua are excited to be recognized as Key West’s premier club. Throughout the complex we have nightly drag shows at Aqua and the best dance club atmosphere and DJs in the Keys at Sidebar,” said Kimball Ingram, owner of Aqua. “We love everyone because we believe the best nights are inclusive nights. Thank you to everyone who has visited and who voted for us!”

Aqua’s drag ensemble is made up of six performers, known as the Aquanettes. There’s a nightly performance, usually featuring three Aquanettes at a time.

Aqua describes it as “fun, raucous and a quintessential part of Key West life.”

One yelp reviewer writes “Amazing night here. High quality, professional show, great costumes and music, all around fabulous time!”

— NA

Annual Event

Fantasy Fest
FantasyFest.com

fantfestkeywestbestof2019

No annual event pushes the boundaries of creativity or freedom of expression quite like Fantasy Fest, the annual Halloween spectacular held each year in Key West.

Fantasy Fest goers revel in the opportunity to share their over the top costumes while enjoying the dazzling parade and street side parties along Duval Street. With tributes to musical icons, skimpy costumes and a parade of no shame artistic and personal expression, this is the most thrilling Halloween experience of the year. 

Key West comes alive as a veritable playground during this raucous festival of debauchery for the LGBT community. Guest Houses throughout Key West host parties for every kink and culture, ensuring festival goers will enjoy the experience of a lifetime.

Florida Keys tourism officials say Fantasy Fest brings approximately $30 million in revenues to the island chain each year with festival goers enjoying the many local business and clothing optional guest houses.

Harness your inner Gatsby and prepare to enjoy another epic Halloween celebration when Fantasy Fest kicks off its 40th Anniversary celebration with its theme “Roaring 20-20’s and Future Fictions” from Oct. 16-25, 2020.

– JP

Non Profit

AH Monroe
AHmonroe.org

nonprofitkeywestbestof2019

Three decades ago, a group of Key West locals gathered on a back porch to pool their limited resources to confront their shared frustration at the growing loss of life in their community to HIV/AIDS.

With hope and very little resources, five founding board members set out to create an agency on the island that could help make a difference in the lives of their neighbors, friends and loved ones who were traversing the dark early years of the AIDS crisis.

In those trying times, Key West became a natural landing space for those suffering from the disease. Many of whom whose diagnosis had ostracized them from their families, communities and occupations.

AIDS Help (now A.H. Monroe County, Inc.) began with a simple shared mission, “to help people in their community live to see another day.” In the years that followed, A.H. would grow to become more than a helping hand in the darkest of times.

Over its thirty-year span, A.H. has served over three thousand clients and continues to be an anchor of hope for the Key West community.

The Agency hosts a wide variety of charitable work; including case management services, affordable housing, counseling, testing, educational outreach and more.

Their mission of helping people see another day has evolved into a variety of support services which continue to help neighbors, friends and loved ones living with HIV in the Key West community lead long full lives.

— JP

Drag Queen

Maya Montana
dragkeywestbestof2019

For 25 years Maya Montana has been entertaining crowds with her drag performances. And she’s not slowing down any time soon!

She is thrilled to have been name this year’s Best Drag Queen in Key West.

“I am so humbled and grateful that people think I'm deserving of this honor. I've been doing this art form of female impersonation for 25 years and I genuinely love what I do and I will continue to do my best to entertain people and work as hard as possible to deserve this great honor,” she said.

You can Maya at Aqua Nightclub in Key West. The bar has shows 7 nights a week.

“Thank you once again for all of those that voted for me,” she said. “Me love you long time!”

— JEP

Key Lime Pie

Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe
200 Elizabeth St. #A
Key West
800-376-0806
KeyLimeShop.com

kermitskeylimebestof2019

This is the fourth year in a row that Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe has received the most votes from our readers for Best Key Lime Pie. And with 70 percent of the vote our readers are clear on who the winner of this category was! 

It has been long held that the Key Lime Pie was invented in Key West. Ask the customers of Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, and they’ll tell you that owner and founder Kermit Carpenter has certainly perfected it.

But, as Kermit himself said, “Key Lime Pie is only the beginning.” For those not happy with just Key Lime Pie, Kermit’s also offers Key Lime Cookies, Key Lime Salsa, Key Lime Chutney, Key Lime Taffy, Key Lime Jelly Beans, Key Lime Tea, Key Lime Olive Oil, and pretty much anything else Key Lime.

“When at Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe you have to order to the Chocolate Covered Key Lime Pie on a stick,” writes one Yelp reviewer.

We recommend you try the Dark Chocolate Strawberry Key Lime Pie on a Stick!

Aside from making all things Key Lime for Key West, Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe is also a supporter for the Monroe Association for Remarkable Citizens, Inc., as well as The ARC Volusia, DeLand Training Center, organizations that advocate for those with mental disabilities.

-NA

 

Activity For Tourists

Key West Butterfly Conservatory
1316 Duval Street
Key West
305-296-2988 
KeyWestButterfly.com

 butterflykeywestbestof2019

There’s a lot of activities in Key West, but only one features a pair of pink love birds.

Flamingos Rhett and Scarlett reside at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. Named after the famous couple from the epic film “Gone With The Wind,” the flamingos make themselves available to meet small groups daily at the conservatory.

Voted Best Activity for Tourists in Key West, the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is home to more than 50 species of butterflies and 20 species of exotic birds. The birds and butterflies flutter about inside a glass enclosed, climate controlled environment.

Inside the conservatory’s learning center, visitors can watch a 15-minute film about Monarch butterflies’ migration and life cycle and see caterpillars feeding and growing on their host plants. There’s also a gift shop and gallery for shoppers. Artist Sam Trophia created Wings of Imagination – The Butterfly Gallery in 1992 after studying and raising Monarchs as a teenager in upstate New York.

Conservatory hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., gallery and gift shop: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Special orders, commissions and worldwide shipping are offered.

- JMD

Check out all of SFGN's 2019 Best Of's @
southfloridagaynews.com/Bestof2019

or see the Print edition @

SFGN's Best Of 2019: Full Print Edition

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