I love how folks from up north have no idea of the geography of South Florida.
My mother-in-law, who I dearly adore, was visiting to celebrate her birthday and asked if we could go to a little spot in Key West for brunch. After explaining to her that it was a good three-hour drive (she also thought we might go to Disneyworld for the afternoon), I promised her a taste of the Keys for her birthday brunch.
We were meeting relatives from Lake Worth, so we decided on Luff’s Fish House in Boca Raton as a good meeting point and the closest you’ll get to an authentic Key West dining experience.
Luff’s opened in 2017, in a historic bungalow built in the 1920s and specializes in serving fresh seafood directly from the boat to your plate. You can even bring your day’s catch and they’ll prepare it for you. Whether you relax outside under the airy-covered gazebo or sit in the tropically inspired dining room, you will feel like you’re on a culinary vacation. The vibe is laid back, but the service is top-notch: attentive, and knowledgeable. Daily specials and creative cocktails augment the classic menu. Luff’s is a mouth-watering alternative to a trip to the Keys.
Appetizer portions are large enough to share or serve as a light entrée. I was gob-smacked by the amount of fresh seafood in my lobster quesadilla. There had to be at least half a lobster’s worth of delicate flesh nestled amongst the jack cheese, corn, onions, and avocado and sandwiched between two enormous, crispy flour tortillas. I could have done without the chipotle crema topping, which I felt overpowered the dish, but I just scraped it off. Sure, it’s $21 for an appetizer, but it served as my entrée, and I still took three-quarters of it home.
Other starter options include shrimp gumbo, smoked fish-hummus dip, crab-guacamole, tuna nachos, sriracha-honey wings, and fish or brisket tacos. Whatever you do, order a side (or two or three) of the cornbread, the best I’ve ever had!
Sandwiches are served with a choice of French fries, coleslaw, or sweet tater tots. The shrimp po-boy comes brimming with large, battered crustaceans. Other choices include a Mahi Reuben, grilled steak with truffle gouda, lobster BLT, grilled mahi-mahi sandwich, open face chicken Parm, or the Luff’s burger. Salad selections include Greek. Caesar and Southwest, all of which can be augmented by a variety of grilled seafood, chicken, or steak.
The star of the entrée options is the shrimp Parmesan, served atop linguine in marinara, with fresh mozzarella and basil. Again, the shrimp in the dish were unbelievably large and perfectly cooked. If the seafood paella is one of the daily specials, make it a point to sample it. The saffron rice supports a mélange of seafood, all of which are cooked to perfection. Other entrées include penne in vodka sauce topped with an enormous crab cake, coconut curry grouper, seared diver scallops, crab fried rice, seafood fettuccini, and Key West snapper, as well as a variety of fried or grilled fish and seafood. For those who are not fans of seafood, there are plenty of other choices: chicken pot pie, BBQ baby back ribs, and filet mignon au Poivre.
Even if it means taking home half your meal, save room for Luff’s legendary Key Lime Pie. It’s another high-priced item ($12), but easily enough for two or more to share and feel satisfied. Milk chocolate cheesecake and apple pie milkshake round out the other yummy dessert offerings.
It wouldn’t be a tropical vacation without a cold one, and Luff’s offers several unusual brews on tap or in the bottle: Narragansett Lager, Funky Buddha Floridian, Hopageddon Imperial IPA, and Cigar City Jai Alai. Specialty cocktails flow easily. Among them; Endless Summer with bourbon, Amaretto, strawberries, and pineapple sour mix, or I’m Feeling Beachy, with rum, peach, coconut, and “hand-shaken colada.”
Luff's Fish House
390 E Palmetto Park Rd, Boca Raton
Keys in the City
These waterfront spots also offer the Key West experience without ever leaving the city.
Southport Raw Bar & Restaurant
1536 Cordova Rd, Fort Lauderdale
1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale